Sunday Musings #18 – Newsletters, your marketing superpower

Posted on Jun 18, 2017 in Blog, Sunday Musings | No Comments
Sunday Musings #18 – Newsletters, your marketing superpower

Hey guys,

Wow it’s been a while since the last musings! Lots going on with the family, a big vacation and getting back into writing took their toll. But we’re back, and continuing with the Sunday Musings book marketing series.
A quick flashback to the last two sessions: we talked about the importance of a great author website, and how to get one. If you want to check back, here’s part one and part two!

In these posts you learned that the number one priority for my author website is to get people to sign up to my newsletter, and today we’re going to look at:

  • Why newsletters are such a powerful marketing tool
  • How to get people to sign up for your newsletter
  • How to design and use them, with examples from MailChimp
  • How to determine the best frequency of sending (surprise: less is not always better!)

There’s a lot you can do with your newsletter, and in the spirit of Sunday Musings I want to show you the most important points to get you started without overwhelming you. So let’s get some newsletters out there!

Newsletters are your marketing superpower

E-mail has been around for so long now that it really can be considered “old media”. Every time a new communication paradigm comes around (hello Google Wave, hi there MSN Messenger, good morning Slack), the “end of e-mail” is heralded.

But so far, e-mail is still here, and it’s alive and kicking. It’s easy to use, and literally everybody has an address. Some of its properties make it an ideal tool for marketing:

  • You can talk directly to your audience.
  • You can collect addresses of people that are actually interested in your content.
  • People are much more likely to look at an e-mail than some online ad they are encountering.
  • Once you have people on your list, contacting them is basically free.

Talking directly to your fans, and for free? How awesome is that! Newsletters really are your superpower when you want to get news about new releases or deals you might have out to your audience. It’s no surprise that newsletter services like BookBub or BookBarbarian have become such cherished marketing tools for authors (and why Reedsy includes “You don’t have a mailing list” in their “8 Book Marketing Mistakes to Ban in 2017“).

The biggest mistake you can make with your mailing list is not having one. This should be your top priority – start collecting those addresses!

Get out of my dreams, get onto my list

To be able to talk to your customers, you have to first get their address. You need them on your e-mail list, for which they must sign up (be careful – only proper sign up and opt-in ensures that you are legally allowed to send mails to people on your e-mail list – more on that below).

Mailing lists are hosted by mail list providers. Three well-known providers are MailChimp, ConvertKit, and Drip, but there are many others. I’ve happily been using MailChimp which I think offers plenty of functionality for the needs of an author, but if you want more options to manage or automate the mails to your customers, then take a look at ConvertKit or Drip.

In Musings 17, I showed you how you can draw attention to your newsletter by featuring it in a popup or in the sidebar. Now, let’s see how to get your visitors to click and then sign up.

The sign up form

When a visitor clicks on your newsletter popup or the sidebar, they are led to a sign-up page that features a form to enter their mail address, name, and whatever other data you might like (the less they have to enter the easier for the visitor).
Mail list providers will help you with HTML code that you can simply integrate in your page.

Here’s what this looks like on (I use MailChimp as my provider):
Mailing list signup form

The code for this example is simply copied from MailChimp’s Embedded SignUp Forms.

Give me a reason to click – the lead magnet

Once you have a sign up form up and running in your website, you will need to give your audience a reason to give their e-mail address to you. They don’t quite know what to expect from your newsletters, so many will be hesitant to be spammed from yet another source.

One proven way to increase your sign up numbers is a so-called lead magnet – something of value to your audience that you are willing to give away for free! For a fiction author, the most obvious choice would be a book that introduces you to the audience, shows your strongest skills and leaves them wanting more.

Good choices for fiction lead magnets could be:

  • A collection of shorter stories or novellas. This gives your audience a great overview of your work, and also doesn’t require as big a time commitment on their side.
  • A novel that starts a series. Not only will your readers get a free book, but if they enjoy it there’s a whole series they can grab!
  • Multiple series starters. If you have multiple main series, you could even put the first novels of two or three series together in your lead magnet.

As long as you’re delivering value to your audience, they’ll give your newsletter a try.

The sign up journey

Having the sign up form is only the fist step. Your audience will go through a series of steps during the sign up journey which I will show for MailChimp.

First, they’ll be getting a mail to confirm that this is really their e-mail address. Again, point out why they should click (the free e-book 😉
newsletters your marketing superpower confirmation mail

After they have confirmed their address, there are two follow-ups: a website that is opened in the browser, and a final welcome e-mail. In my setup, both are identical to make sure that the important information is received.
newsletters your marketing superpower final welcome

Things to include in your welcome mail:

  • Say thank you! Someone wants to be in touch with you, show them that you appreciate it!
  • Point your new follower to where they can get in touch with you (Facebook, Twitter, etc.)
  • Use this opportunity to let them know what you’ve been up to lately, like latest releases.
  • And of course, give them the link for their free download!

Once they follow the download link, they reach a page on your website where the promised book is available.
newsletter your marketing superpower mailing list lead magnet download page

Potential for more sophistication and follow up

You can do so much more with your mailing list then just sending a regular newsletter to the whole list. The main topics here are Segmentation and Automation.

Segmentation means that you try to deliver information in an even more tailored way to your audience. For example, you could ask them in your newsletter whether they like their romance sweet & cosy or hot & steamy, and then segment your list by who clicked on what. This makes sense if you’re writing very different genres or styles under the same pen name. Or give a download link and remind everyone that hasn’t clicked on it yet…
Another example is segmentation by time of sign up: only send certain info to subscribers that didn’t get it before, or vice versa: to send something again to make sure the information is received.

Automation is a tool that helps you to get in touch with your audience in certain intervals. You could contact new subscribers after a certain period of time to check whether they received the book, and ask them to leave a review if they’ve enjoyed it. Another potential use is sending information in chunks, like an e-mail course or a book in installments that are received every week.

If you want to dive deeper into these topics, MailChimp, ConvertKit and Drip are all great starting points.

Talking to your customers with the actual newsletter

After collecting your first addresses, it’s time to announce your latest product, event or whatever else you’ve got going on to your customers! Let’s see what to look out for when designing the newsletter.

Consistent messaging and design

As discussed in Musings session #15, consistent messaging is key. Re-use your tagline, your author photo, your logo, your website colors in your newsletter.

When someone gets your newsletter, they should feel right at home. MailChimp makes this easy by allowing you to define a template, and then reusing this in every newsletter.

Elements of the newsletter

An author newsletter can follow some basic principles to deliver value, keep their audience interested and get them to read to the end (and maybe even click on one of the links).

  • Tell a story. Don’t just sell your latest product. Telling something about yourself, or about one of your books or characters, shows that there’s a person behind the newsletter and keeps the readers entertained.
  • Deliver value. Every newsletter should bring a fresh set of valuable information. Release dates, information what’s on offer and outlook to further installments are some things that readers are looking forward to.
  • Have exclusive goodies for your followers. Being on your list should feel like an exclusive club, so you should reward your club members with goodies only they have access to: early peeks at covers or first chapters, free e-books, signed paperbacks – go crazy!
  • Include calls to action. If you want your readers to click on a buy link or like something on Facebook, make sure to clearly communicate it. Highlighting of the important links also helps.
  • Multiple opportunities for your customers to get to your product. Of course I want my audience to click through to my books’ purchase pages, so I put links into the text and behind cover images. I also summarize all links at the bottom to make it as easy as possible.
  • Images. Definitely include images. Authors are lucky – they have great looking book covers, so use them in your newsletters! But consider image size – MailChimp has a handy feature to resize images if they are too large.
Frequency – to spam or not to spam?

The right frequency for your newsletter is a tough question as no one wants to spam their audience. But after trying different strategies and being very careful for a while, I’ve now come to some simple rules:

  • Don’t pack too much in one newsletter. At first I sent at maximum one newsletter per quarter, which led to very long mails – with the result that not many people landed on the links towards the end. I rather now keep it a bit shorter and send another mail out later on.
  • Send when you want your audience to act. This goes hand in hand with the previous point – big newsletters with much time in between also means that release dates, giveaways and so on might be too far in the future or past for your audience to react – either the main buzz is already over, or they’ll forget about it. So send when something is happening – this way you’ll service your readers best!
  • Don’t worry too much about unsubscribes. That was my biggest fear – that I’ll annoy my audience and they’ll all unsubscribe. But it hasn’t really happened – increased frequency actually also increased subscriber retention. If your readers regularly get interesting and valuable news, they’ll be more likely to stay on than if they got one surprise mail once a blue moon.

Legal nitty-gritty

I briefly mentioned it before – make sure you follow the legal rules of e-mail marketing. Of course I’m not a lawyer, and this is not legal advice and heavily depends on the country you’re operating from or in, but there are some basics everyone should consider (and MailChimp and other providers also help you with their templates):

  • Use a process with clear opt-in and confirmation of the e-mail address. This ensures that only people get on the list that want to be there.
  • Include your contact information in every mail you send. In the EU, that means a physical address for your author business, as well as your website and e-mail address.
  • Make it easy to unsubscribe. Every e-mail must have a link to unsubscribe.

Deeper and deeper down the rabbit hole

E-mail marketing is a topic you can spend a lot of time on. In this Musings session, you got an overview of all the basics an author should consider when starting out with their e-mail list, but there is so much more. A fantastic starting point is the free e-book “Email the Smart Way“, by Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income fame as well as his tutorial on how to start an e-mail list.

And now get on to setting up your mailing list! Happy mailing!

Writing tip of the week

Today’s writing tip is actually two from the folks at Reedsy. The first article deals with a topic we generally don’t like to think about: what happens when someone plagiarizes our work or otherwise infringes on our copyright, and how we can protect our work from it. In-depth explanation that’s easy to follow and debunks some myths along the way – you can stop mailing your manuscripts to yourselves!

The second article tackles a relatively new form of advertising that’s been getting a lot of attention lately – of course I’m talking about Amazon ads. Two case studies give you actionable takeaways for fiction and non-fiction authors, and there’s even a free course that introduces you to Amazon ads. Thanks, Reedsy!

Fiction read of the week

This week’s fiction read recommendation is “Noah Can't Even“, by Simon James Green.
I loved, LOVED every calamitous moment of this YA novel! I haven’t LOL’ed like that in ages. Okay, sure, some of the plot reads like a soap opera–but sometimes it really does feel that way growing up. Noah was a fun protagonist to read and gives the story heaps of awesome energy.

Seriously refreshing. Fast-paced and fun. <3 <3 <3 Also, British. Awesomely British.

Bits & pieces

So there’s been quite a bit going on since the last Musings, so here’s the very short run down in bullet points 🙂

  • My gay romance collection, “Briefs“, now has three additional novellas!
  • My contemporary gay romance series, “Enemies to Lovers” is now available as brand new paperbacks, as well as an e-book box set (including four novels and one bonus novella).
  • Scorpio Hates Virgo“, book 2 in my sweet & light-hearted contemporary gay romance series “Signs of Love”, is coming September 1st, as a Kindle / KU e-book and paperback!
  • For my Italian readers, book 3 in the “Enemies to Lovers” series is now translated & available: “Quello che non vuoi“.

And last not least, there are currently two freebies, so get them while they’re hot: “The F-Words” (book 4 in “Enemies to Lovers”) and “Quello che non sai” (Italian, book 1 in “Da nemici ad amanti”)!

Books and resources mentioned in this bulletin:

  • You can get a free e-book by signing up for my newsletter
  • Disclaimer: All links to books in this article are affiliate links, which means I receive a small percentage of the purchase price if you make a purchase using these links. There is no additional cost for you if you purchase the books via these links!

Session #17 – how to build a great author website (2) (book marketing series)

Leave a Reply