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Apart from time and desire, why should a writer (either published or unpublished) consider starting an e-newsletter?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:
- “4 Newsletter Basics for Authors” by Adrienne Crezo (Writer’s Digest)
- “Author Newsletters: 6 Tips for Smart Strategies” by Jami Gold (Jami Gold’s Official Website)
- “Blogging, Marketing & Social Media: Three Rules I Break and Why” by Angela Ackerman (Writers Helping Writers)
- “Email Newsletters for Authors: Get Started Guide” by Jane Friedman (Jane Friedman’s Official Website)
- “How to Grow an Amazing Fiction Readership” by Kristen Kieffer (She’s Novel)
- “Why I Sign Up to Your Email List” by Jordon @ Simply Adrift
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)