What Do You Think?: E-Newsletters by Writers (Plus, A Quick Survey for You)

One of the most talked-about outreach tools for writers today is the email newsletter (or, e-newsletter). In fact, “start a newsletter” has been among the most suggested advice I’ve heard at Writer’s Digest Conference for the past two years – from authors, publicists, and publishing professionals alike. It seems valuable, especially since other writers have found success with them. Yet despite all the positive buzz, I’ve hesitated to create one.

Why? Well, up until now, it hasn’t been a priority. I’ve had enough going on that starting an e-newsletter would have taken time away from blogging and (more importantly) novel-writing. But now, with a slower blogging schedule and edits on the WIP’s third draft coming to a close, I have time to give it serious thought.

So, what are the benefits of an e-newsletter? What cautions should we keep in mind? Plus, I’m offering readers – yes, YOU – a chance to help me decide whether I should start my own e-newsletter and what content I may want to include. More details on that shortly.

The Benefits of Having an E-Newsletter

Apart from time and desire, why should a writer (either published or unpublished) consider starting an e-newsletter? Here are a few reasons:

  • It helps you grow your readership and build your author platform. What if potential readers stumble upon your website but aren’t on social media? (Yes, those people exist.) An e-newsletter offers another way for readers to not only follow you and your work, but get to know you better as a person.
  • It allows you to connect directly with readers, and on their time. While social media is a great way to connect with potential readers, your Tweets and status updates never stay at the top of their feed for long. An e-newsletter, on the other hand, pops into subscribers’ inboxes at regular intervals and has a better chance of reaching your audience regardless of when or how often they log in.
  • It can feature exclusive content that readers won’t find elsewhere. Sure, you can link to recent blog posts or share news about your writing, events, books, and other products or services like you would at your site. But an e-newsletter is meant to be an “insider’s club.” You can recommend books you’ve read recently, share personal updates, and include other things that don’t appear on the blog. In other words, it’s a space where you serve a slice of your life to subscribers and offer valuable information (educational, entertaining, or engaging) to them.
  • It’s more reliable in the long term. With new social media sites popping up every year, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to use them effectively for growing our audience or for networking (much less keep up with all of them!). E-newsletters, however, will reach your audience every time. People may fall out of love with Facebook or Instagram, but they’ll keep their email for much longer.

What Should Writers Be Careful of With E-Newsletters

At the same time, writers should be mindful of certain pitfalls when creating e-newsletters:

  • Avoid overloading your e-newsletter with too much or “valueless” information. People get LOTS of emails every day. As much as you want subscribers to be excited about your e-newsletter, you also need to have realistic expectations about how much time they’ll spend reading it. (Hint: It might only be a couple minutes.) Therefore, keep your e-newsletter easy to read and relatively short (800 to 1,000 words), and include information that’s of value to readers.
  • Find the right frequency – for you as well as your subscribers. Advice on how often to send e-newsletters varies widely: weekly, bi-monthly, monthly, quarterly… All of these frequencies have their pros and cons. Do it too often, and you might fatigue your subscribers (and yourself, if you have trouble maintaining that schedule). Do it sparingly or on an irregular basis, and readers might not remember who you are.
  • Respect your subscribers’ email addresses. When people sign up, never assume they’re also giving you permission to share their email address or send them spam or other emails. News alerts on rare occasions are fine. But if you blatantly use those email addresses for anything else, recipients might unsubscribe or block you out of anger for abusing their trust.
  • Be honest about what subscribers are signing up for. In addition to respecting their email addresses, state upfront that readers can sign up for such-and-such, then stick to that promise. This will help maintain a positive relationship with your e-audience and encourage them to keep following you for the long run.

Should I Start My Own E-Newsletter?

Perhaps I shouldn’t worry about validation here. If I want to start an e-newsletter, why not start it, right? I’ve signed up for MailChimp and started tinkering with their drag-and-drop templates. I also know that, if I do launch an e-newsletter, I want to test it to ensure it works and get feedback on the content and appearance. (Let me know if you’d like to volunteer for this.)

Yet I keep asking myself, “Would people be interested in subscribing to my newsletter?”  If I go forward with this, I want it to be something that subscribers will enjoy and find worthwhile.

As I announced 2 weeks ago, I’m foregoing series such as Time Flies (offline updates) and Recent Reads (book reviews) now that I’m blogging only once a week. Maybe a newsletter is one way of keeping that content “alive.” Subscribers can find out what I’ve been up to apart from writing and not feel left out from social media or miss any series they used to see here.

A Survey for Readers Regarding E-Newsletters and Their Content

This is where you come in! Below you’ll find a five-question survey about author / writer e-newsletters. Most of the questions are single-answer or multiple choice, so this will take only a few minutes to complete. The point is, I’d like your feedback regarding interest in an e-newsletter and what you might want to see in it. I won’t be able to incorporate all suggestions if I do start one, but this will give me a better idea for a direction.

Also, if you have your own e-newsletter, Question #5 will give you a chance to share your experience and any “words of wisdom” you might have. 😉

This survey will be open through 8:00 pm Eastern on Thursday, November 3rd. If you read this post after the November 3rd deadline, feel free to share your responses in your comments instead.

EDIT – 10/13/16: I’ve received comments that the original survey was acting funky or wasn’t cooperating with users. It should be fine now. Sorry about that!

Looking for More Information on Author / Writer E-Newsletters?

Check out any of these posts for additional tips, tricks, and wisdom:

What are your thoughts on author / writer e-newsletters? If you subscribe to any, what do you enjoy most about them?

To anyone who participates in the survey: Thank you so much for your input! And if you’re not feeling bashful, feel free to share your answers in your comments, too.

Original photo credits: Tim Evans (banner)

20 thoughts on “What Do You Think?: E-Newsletters by Writers (Plus, A Quick Survey for You)

  1. I’m not sure about this one. If a writer doesn’t have any kind of social media presence – no author FB page or no blog, then I think a newsletter might be a really good idea. However, I personally intend for my blog to be the place where I will give regular updates/cover releases/writing progress when I’m published. I’ve been working quite hard to build up my particular ‘brand’ and will continue to do so. I like the blogging atmosphere and have noticed that a fair number of authors do maintain their blogs and use them as their main platform, admittedly with varying degrees of success. But it’s all about engagement, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d definitely announce things like cover reveals, release dates, and factual information / updates on here if and when they happen. But like I’d said, I got rid of some monthly blog series to accommodate my reduced schedule (e.g., no more Time Flies, so there will be very few personal updates here from now on). So I was curious to know whether people would want to see some of those things in an e-newsletter instead.

      I agree, engagement of any kind is important. And it’s interesting to see how different authors (or as-yet unpublished writers) use the “tools” that are available to them online. Some blog; others stick to social media. In the end, I guess everyone uses what works best for them – and probably what they have the time and energy for. But either way, I don’t think I’d want to give up blogging, even when I’m a published author. The “niche” may change over time, but I’d always like to have a place to share news, thoughts, etc.

      Thanks as always for your feedback, Sarah. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re welcome and I’m coming from a completely personal standpoint. I tend to read blog articles more readily than emails, as emails tend to feel for like work and blogs feel like pleasure…

        Liked by 1 person

  2. I filled out the survey! If you had a newsletter, I’d definitely sub – and I think once a month is a pretty reasonable cycle. I subscribe to quite a few author newsletters at the moment, so due to the number I receive I admit I only check out the ones with big news and skim quite a lot of the others. Subjects I love: writing progress, release dates, cover reveals, author appearances, ebook deals, special announcements, etc. Hope that helps! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mogsy! What you said here rings true about my own feelings about e-newsletters: I don’t always check them out because of all the other emails I get daily. But if it has content that subscribers might be interested in, then maybe they’d be more compelled to open the newsletter when they receive it. And thanks for the additional recommendations of items to put in mine.

      Also, I noticed your in-survey comment about the survey acting funky in spots (e.g., not allowing multiple choice where indicated). A couple other people mentioned it, too. That’s weird, because the Google Form indicates “multiple choice” there. :S So I changed a few things, and it should be working as intended now.

      Like

  3. Definitely a thought-provoking post. I’ve been avoiding the idea of an e-newsletter mostly because I feel I don’t have the time or energy right now to devote to doing it right. If I ever do get around to it, I know which post to refer back to you 😉
    But I’m subscribed to quite a few author e-newsletters and it’s great to be updated on the journey of fellow writers. Each is so unique, because each exudes their personality.
    All I know for sure is that, if you did have an e-newsletter, I would definitely sign up for it ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Same here. I figure once I’ve had time to put together the newsletter template (which has proven challenging… but I think it’s just me, because things like putting together newsletters don’t come naturally to me).

      Anyways, thanks very much for your input, Faith!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I sub to many newsletter but not author ones. However, if you decide to do a newsletter, I would subscribe, especially if you decide to include a little of the posts you’ll no longer post on here. I think once a month should be good.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It’s very helpful reading everyone’s comments/thoughts on the subject, and being aware that readers have full inboxes and therefore limited time to open newsletters. I feel that I’m getting a better handle on writing newsletters now. I don’t know if I’ll send monthly or every two months instead though.
    I can’t wait to read your newsletter and follow along, Sara! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, E. 🙂 We’ll see what happens. Life’s been busier than I expected over the past few weeks, so I haven’t done much work on the newsletter lately. I think I’ll continue watching the survey results and decide from there.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m a little torn over this. I guess, in the age of Twitter and Facebook and other social media, newsletters seem very outdated? I don’t really see the merit in providing for an exclusive few in a newsletter what an author could post on their blog or Twitter for a more widespread audience. For artists or companies that have ticket sales to advertise or coupon codes to share, that kind of thing makes sense, though!

    Liked by 1 person

    • ^^ And while I see the benefits of having a newsletter, your comment here echoes some of the feelings I still have about its necessity (or, rather, when one is necessary). The only point I’d make, though, is that my social media time is very limited, so I tend to miss out on announcements unless I go directly to an author’s / person’s Facebook or Twitter page, or I get the news from someone else. So I guess do hear about things one way or another…

      Thanks for your input, btw!

      Like

  7. I’ve also considered doing a newsletter, but like you I’ve been unsure of the content. I feel like if I had a book to promote and such I could do insider release stuff, but I’m not quite sure what to do. I see it’s so highly recommended, but it’s a bit daunting to try to take on. XD

    storitorigrace.blogspot.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s the interesting thing about e-newsletters. A lot of professionals recommend it, but writers / authors themselves seem to have mixed opinions about it. I guess it boils down to whether you want to do a newsletter, and what your vision is for it. I actually haven’t had much time to continue tinkering with the MailChimp template, so I think I’ll wait and see what other responses I get from this survey first.

      Thanks as always for commenting, Tori. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That’s a very comprehensive article (and thanks for the links at the bottom, I’ll check them out 😉 ).
    To be honest, as much as everyone says newsletter is a must, I have mixed feelings about it.
    I find that most authors send it too often and the information is nothing I couldn’t find on their website/social media. I’m one of those grumpy people who don’t like having her email clogged and who prefer to choose what they’ll read and when. While I can go on anyone’s site or social media whenever I choose to do so (even reading two weeks back like I recently do with blog posts), the newsletter leaves me no choice on when I view content. And from my experience, whenever I check my email but have no time to read whatever “just” came. I won’t read it until the next “inbox cleaning” spree.
    But I’m ranting. To be honest, I hear a lot about marketing perspective of a newsletter, but I always wonder what are the actual readers’ feelings about them. How many authors do they subscribe to, how many do they really read, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ^^ Your points in the last paragraph are exactly why I wrote this post and included the survey in the first place. Because as much as I can see the benefits of having a newsletter, I also see the negatives, including from my own “reader’s perspective.” And I’m struggling to reconcile both sides.

      So it’s great to know your thoughts on this, Joanna. The overall range in answers has been interesting so far, too. But in the end, I have a feeling time is going to be the biggest factor in the end. For example: If I don’t have a lot of time to create a newsletter template, I can’t expect to have much time to maintain the newsletter, right?

      Liked by 1 person

      • I’m with you when it comes to that struggle. I’ve been thinking of a newsletter as well, but as you say: time is what makes the decision for us. Some people have it all: active social media, daily posts on their blogs, newsletters, etc. – but they often don’t have a book finished. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  9. I definitely think a newsletter is a great idea. I’ll admit that normally I only scan over the newsletters I get and read only what interests me since I don’t have time to read them all carefully, but if the content and formatting is good, I think I’d certainly enjoy your newsletters. =)

    Liked by 1 person

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