Should You Have an Author Newsletter?
Updated: Oct 22, 2021
“Should I have a newsletter?” is a question I am asked by authors all the time, and I go back and forth on this one. There are so many ways for an author to have a presence in the world, so for a while, I wondered the same thing, Should you?
In all honesty though, the answer is yes. And there is one major reason for this. Your email subscriber list is completely yours.
Social media is a great tool for getting new readers and making your books known, but social media is a fickle thing. As algorithms and content rules change, you can suddenly start reaching fewer readers or being straight up blocked. This is especially true for romance authors who can get knocked for “inappropriate content” on social media a lot *cue eye roll*.
I am in a group with one author who is constantly being blocked for twenty-four or seventy-two hours on TikTok. Other authors in the group find themselves being shadow banned, so they aren’t technically banned, but their videos don’t get hardly any views because TikTok hides them and pushes them away from viewers. Do you know how many shirtless men there are on TikTok? Why are their videos with a picture of a shirtless man getting flagged? I know they are all super frustrated, and I get it!
Beyond this, Instagram is constantly changing their algorithm. There are very few ways to truly grow consistently on Instagram these days.
The kicker though is that if you ever lose your Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, or Facebook account, then you lose all your followers. You lose everything that has been established through that account, which is honestly horrifying.
That’s where your newsletter comes in. You want an email list to have your readers’ emails because you will always have a way to get in contact with your most loyal readers. They are those who have gone beyond following you on social media and want to hear from you directly. Your email list is yours, completely yours, and you never have to worry about losing it. You own it exclusively.
On top of that, the people on your email list are those who are most likely to be converted from browser to buyer. They’re the most likely to see you have released a new book and immediately buy it.
And all of that is why I always tell authors, “Yes, you should have an author newsletter, so you can build your email list.”
What Content Should You Include in Your Newsletter?
The content of your author newsletter should really be up to you, and your content may be ever-changing. Like I said, your newsletter is all yours, so you can do what you want.
This is probably the most obvious use of your newsletter. You should keep your readers updated about all your new releases and anything pertaining to them. You can share your cover reveal, share the blurb with readers when it’s ready, and let your readers know when pre-orders start. Then, the day of your book release, send out a big announcement to your email list.
If you have a book signing coming up or you are going to participate in an online event, let your readers know! Those who are subscribed to your newsletter are the readers who would love to be part of these events.
If you have a price drop of your book, a sale on your website, are offering signed copies, or are doing a giveaway, tell your subscribers about it. Any sort of special you are running on your books (or merchandise, if you sell any) is great to let your subscribers know about because they will likely jump on the opportunity.
The people on your email list are those readers who love your books and want to know all they can. You could send them character profiles, giving them little details about your characters that may not be in their book. What do they like to read? What’s the character’s favorite podcast? If they could only eat at one restaurant for the rest of their life, what would it be?
If you like to make playlists or Pinterest boards for your books, you can share these with readers! Let them feel the mood you imagined while writing the book. This is content you already have put together and can easily share.
Serialized Newsletter-Only Story
Maybe there is a side character in one of your books that everyone loves. You could write their story in a serialized format for your newsletter subscribers. This is something you should only undertake though if you are sure you can commit to finishing the story, or if you already have it written.
Note: If you’re interested in exploring this option, I talked about figuring out if serialized writing is for you at the end of my Kindle Vella blog.
Share About Yourself
One of the reasons your readers sign up for your newsletter is because they love you. They love your work, your creativity, and all that great stuff. So, tell readers some about yourself. You don’t have to tell them everything, but you could let them know what you’re currently reading, if there is a goal you’re working towards, or maybe something funny happened to you recently and you want to share it. All of these little things are a way for you to forge a deeper connection with your readers.
A lot of voracious readers (especially of romance) want to be authors as well. They will follow their favorite authors closely in hopes of growing the kind of skill you already have. So, if you want, you can share some writing tips for those aspiring writers who are reading your newsletters.
Blog Posts/Podcast Episodes/YouTube Videos
If you have a blog, a podcast, or a YouTube channel, guess what? Promote it here! Share every new post, new episode, or new video, so your following knows right away that you have new content for them.
How To Set Up Your Newsletter
Luckily, setting up a newsletter is relatively easy.
First, you choose your email marketing platform. Some really popular options are MailChimp and Constant Contact, though there are so many out there. Your website host will often have an email marketing option too; for instance, Wix has Ascend. Don’t be afraid to do your research and figure out what will work best for you.
Next, you’ll add a subscriber opt-in form to your website. You will create your opt-in form from your email marketing platform. I recommend not asking for a lot of information, so you don’t turn off potential subscribers; name and email address are plenty. After you’ve created the form, your email marketing platform will likely give you a link or code to add to your website, and then your subscriber opt-in form will be part of your website!
Note: If you’re having trouble figuring this out, check out the help section of your specific email marketing platform, or search for a YouTube video on how to add a form from that platform to your website host. For instance, you might search “add Constant Contact subscriber form to SquareSpace website.”
The next step is to decide how often to send your newsletter to readers. The general time frame is weekly or monthly. I don’t recommend sending anything more than weekly because you don’t want to bombard readers. Of course, you can throw an occasional extra newsletter in there if you have a special announcement or if you’re running a sale.
Most email marketing platforms should have design options for your newsletter, or you could create something through Canva. If you would rather have someone else design your newsletter for you, you could look on Fiverr for a designer who can create a reusable design that will be compatible with your chosen platform. Your newsletter can be minimal, or you can have a special design that matches your website or logo.
Now, you just need content. Any time you think of an idea, write it down or jot a note in your phone. Keep a list of what you’ve read recently and what you thought of the books. When inspiration strikes, write down what you can, so you have a constant stream of content.
How Can You Grow Your Email List?
After you’ve decided to start a newsletter, decided on what content you want to include, and got your newsletter set up, now it’s time to grow your email newsletter.
You can let your social media followers know you now have an author newsletter they can subscribe to on your website, but don’t post about it all the time. Show them the kind of content they can get through your IG story, or share a quick post about getting to know you better through your newsletter. It’s better to show readers the fun things they can get from subscribing rather than just asking them to subscribe.
Your books are the main way you get in front of your readers. So, you should let readers know at the end of all your books that you have a newsletter and they can sign up on your website. This is especially great with digital books! You can just add a link that readers can click as soon as they are done reading your book and pop right over to your website to sign up for your newsletter.
Another way to grow your newsletter is to offer an email freebie to new subscribers, which means that when they give you their email address, you give them something free in return. This is also called a lead magnet or, at times, an ethical bribe (but I don’t like this term because I don’t think you’re bribing anyone, you’re just thanking them for signing up for your newsletter). This can be a digital download or a discount code to purchase your books with. I don’t recommend making it a physical item that has to be shipped because this will just become an extra hassle for you. You would have to worry about the shipping costs and possibly running out of stock, and readers may not want to give you their home addresses.
If you have other authors who you are friends with or work with, you can arrange a newsletter swap. Basically you and another author can promote each other’s books on each of your newsletters, so hopefully you will get new readers and new subscribers. Another option is to actually write each other’s newsletters, almost like a takeover, so the other author’s readers can get to know you too and be motivated to buy your books and join your mailing list.
Newsletters are a great way to stay in touch with your readers and keep them in the loop between book releases. They’re a great benefit to you as well because then you have a list of your readers that is completely yours, and you don’t have to worry about losing them.
The best part about newsletters is that you don’t have to make them super long and intense. Most people skim newsletters and pick out the information they believe will be the most useful to them. It’s not another major project you have to undertake. Instead, you can make it a quick task to help you keep in touch with your readers and grow a deeper connection with them.
Jane Friedman, “Email Newsletters for Authors: Get Started Guide.” April 3, 2020. https://www.janefriedman.com/email-newsletters-for-authors/
Amy Pennza, “How to Make an Author Newsletter.” https://www.nightowlreviews.com/v5/blog/articles/romanceauthoruniversity-how-to-make-an-author-newsletter-by-amy-pennza