I’m back with my Author Resources series and this week, we’re talking about newsletters! How to build them, what to put in them, how to grow them! Everything you wanted, and some that you didn’t want, about newsletters! If by the end, there’s still something you have questions about, please feel free to message me, email me, leave a comment, sent a carrier pigeon… I love chatting and helping however I can!
CHOOSING A MAILER Platform
The first thing you have to do when you start setting up your newsletter is determine what platform you’re going to use. As with everything, you have a few options.
Here are a few of the most common platforms, but these are by no means the only ones out there.
- MailerLite (this is the one I use)
- Constant Contact
Again, these are not all of the newsletter platforms in the world. But these have good reviews, and more importantly, have free plans that can easily get you started. They all have similar features regarding functionality, but to help you choose the one that will be best for you, look for the ones that will integrate with your website host. This will make it easier to add a popup “Subscribe Now” thing on your website.
Once you sign up for the platform of your choice, play around with the features! Most of them will have a tips/help/FAQ section that walks you through how to do things on the site. USE THESE. I cannot tell you enough how helpful they are.
Integrating YOUR MAILING PLATFORM and YOUR WEBSITE
Now, if you have a website, you may want to integrate your mailing service platform to your website. That’s cool. I do it, most authors do it. It means you have that cool (annoying) little pop-up when people visit your site to pester them to subscribe. It’s awesome.
I’ve not tested all of these, but I know for a fact that MailerLite, Klaviyo, and MailChimp have an “integrations” section on their websites that will walk you through how to integrate your site.
Don’t want to integrate? That’s cool too. You can always collect emails directly from your website and then move them over to your MailerLite platform periodically. It’s a few more steps, but not difficult, and if you’re not tech savvy, probably easier than figuring out integrations.
GROWING YOUR Mailing List
Okay, you’ve got your newsletter platform set up to physically be able to collect emails. Now, how are you gonna get people to actually give you their email addresses? That, my friends, is the key. You need to give the people something in exchange for their emails.
This is called a reader magnet, or a newsletter magnet, or a lead magnet, or about 80 other different things that all mean the same thing: You give me your email, I’ll give you something cool in return.
If you’re on my blog, you’re probably either a reader or an author or both. So for ease of clarity, I’m going to refer to what we’re doing here as a reader magnet. You’re trying to get readers to give you their emails so you can tell them about your cool book stuff.
But what can you give them in return? Lots of things, actually. Here’s a few ideas of what you can use as a reader magnet:
- Excerpts from your upcoming book (first chapter or two)
- Extended bonus scenes from a previous book
- Bonus content from a different POV from a previous book
- A novella set in the same world as a previous or upcoming books
- A novella completely unrelated to your previous or upcoming books
- Letters from your characters from a previous book
- Interviews with your characters from a previous book
I could probably go on for a while, but I’ll stop there. Long story short, you can make whatever you want as a reader magnet. The purpose of this magnet is simply to get people intrigued enough to give you their email addresses.
If you’re panicking right now and saying, “But Jess. I don’t have any of those.” Breathe. You still have options. You can also draw readers in with the promise of what your newsletters will contain.
What does that mean? Tell them that your newsletter will have weekly updates of your progress on your WIP, and then share teasers or scenes you’re working on in the newsletter. Tell them that you’re getting character art commissioned, and then share it first in your newsletter.
No matter what route you go, you’re very unlikely to get emails without giving something in return. So take some time and figure out what it is you want to offer.
DELIVERING ON YOUR MAGNET
Okay, you’ve figured out what you want your reader magnet to be. Now, how are you going to actually get it to the people who sign up? Again, you have a few options.
Depending on your platform of choice, you can simply edit the “success! you signed up!” message to include a download link for your magnet. Or you can house the magnet on a hidden page on your website (meaning, it’s not on the menu bar) and have the success page direct them there. Or you can direct them to a BookFunnel link to download in the format of their choice.
If all of that sounds terrifying, you can simply each week, collect all your new subscribers and email it to them manually. I wouldn’t recommend the last one unless you have a lot of free time, but I do want to offer as many low cost and low tech options as possible.
MailerLite and Klavyio specifically (I’m not as familiar with the others), allow for very easy additions of links to your success pages. They also allow for something called automations. Meaning, when someone puts in their email, it’s going to automatically send them an email with content of your choosing to welcome them to your list. You can add your magnet here, easy peasy!
If you’ve read this and you’re still freaking out. Be calm. Email me. I’d be happy to assist!
WHAT TO Put In YOUR NEWSLETTER
Now comes the all important, “What the heck do I even put in a newsletter?” Have no fear, I’m gonna walk you through that too!
Short answer to that question: You can put whatever the heck you want to. It’s your newsletter, after all.
Longer answer to that question: Treat your newsletter like you’re telling your mom or your best friend everything that’s happened since you spoke last. I know, that just led to more questions. Hold tight. I’m getting to the point, I promise.
Your reader is going to care about these things. I know it may seem like you’re talking to a wall when you’re writing your newsletter, but you’re not. Treat your reader as your friend who wants to know what you’re working on. If you would tell your best friend, you can put it in your newsletter. Readers want to know you as a human.
Now, I’m not gonna just leave you hanging. Not my style. Here’s a list of content ideas:
- Updates on your life – did you get a new pet? did you move? did you get a new tattoo? what’s going on in your life right now outside of your book?
- Updates on your book – did it get sent to editing? did you finish a rough chapter? are you getting character art made? how’s your cover coming along?
- Something fun – share something fun that’s happened in your life, share a recipe you really liked, share a funny meme or a quote that made you smile
- Something valuable – did you learn a huge lesson on writing or publishing? share it! did you learn something big about life in general? share it!
- Something “in world” – this means sharing something that’s related to the world you’ve built in your book
- Recipes for food or drinks in the book
- Advice column from a character
- Newspaper articles from your town
- Journal entries from a character
- Currently reading – readers want to know what you’re reading too! share it! these can be genuine recommendations, a place for newsletter swaps, or a mix of both
No matter what you choose to include, you can have all the freedom in the world. If you want it to be more formal and focus only on your book and updates? That’s totally fine. This is your newsletter, I’m just here to give ideas.
FORMATTING Your NEWSLETTER
So, you’ve got content ideas. But what order should they be in? Think of your newsletter as an upside down triangle. The longer your newsletter is, the less people are going to read it all the way through. You want the most important stuff FIRST.
You’ve got a preorder up? First thing you should talk about. Cover reveal? First thing.
After that, keep ranking in order of importance for you. The things you want people to see the most need to be first.
And then, at the end, wrap everything up in a nice bow and leave any special gifts or links. I like to occasionally throw in a giveaway in the very last line of a newsletter, just to reward those peeps who read through my entire rambling.
Like everything else, this is yours though. Format it how you like! But add pictures. I cannot tell you how fast people will close out of a newsletter with no images.
Really quickly, we’re almost done I promise. Let me go through a few things that just didn’t fit in any of the above sections.
It doesn’t matter, but you need to be consistent. People should be able to expect when they’ll get something from you. Is that once a month on a certain day? Once a month on the full moon? Once every two weeks on a Tuesday? On the 1st and 15th of every month? It doesn’t matter how you do it, but it needs to come out consistently.
Start with once a month, and if you think you can do more often, then go for it! But don’t leave people hanging thinking they’re going to get something from you and then nothing shows up.
I mentioned them earlier. This is when you promo an author’s book in your newsletter, and they promo your book in their newsletter. They’re a great way to get your book out to a broader audience, especially if that other author is in your same genre. But do you need them? No. You don’t.
I feature books in my newsletters, but they’re a combination books that I’m genuinely reading or have read and enjoyed and swaps. That’s not to say newsletter swaps are bad or disingenuine. They’re not and they’re actually really helpful. But you don’t have to do them, so don’t feel pressured to.
Okay, that’s all folks! Kudos to you for getting through this beast! I hope this helps you in your newsletter journey!