Email Newsletters by Tracy Krauss
With so much hype on social media, it might seem like email is outdated. Guess what? Email is still the most reliable and controllable place for you to market your writing. Should social media be part of your platform? Yes. But don’t neglect email. It’s the best way to communicate directly with your audience.
I’m assuming that you already understand what a platform is and why you need one. In simplest terms, it is exactly as it sounds: a stage from which to share your writing. It’s about getting your message out to the people who care, which is where an email newsletter comes in.
I’m not talking about sending emails on Outlook or Gmail. That won’t cut it. They have rules about sending out too many large group emails and these will be blocked as spam. Instead, you need an email subscription provider. I use Mailchimp, but there are others like AWeber, Constant Contact, Infusionsoft, ConvertKit and many more. Many are free, but sometimes you do get what you pay for. Do some research to see what will work best for you.
Once you’ve signed up with a provider, they will show you how to generate a sign-up form which you can then embed on your website. If you don’t have a website, that is another whole conversation! (A website is, in my opinion, the other essential component of any platform.) Put your sign-up form on your social media accounts, your blog, in the back of all your books—basically everywhere you can think to put it. Don’t be afraid to email it directly to friends and family, too, as a way to get started.
Just splashing the sign-up form everywhere isn’t going to get a lot of traction once your ‘peeps’ have signed up, however, so you need to make a compelling offer to encourage your target audience to sign up. (“Get my news” or “Sign up for my newsletter” are not very compelling.) Address a need or a want. Let readers know what the benefit is to them. One good strategy is to give something away in exchange for an email address. Lead magnets—or reader magnets—such a free e-book are very popular, but if you don’t have one of those, think of something else of value that you can create: a short story, a recipe collection, an excerpt … There are tons of things that you can give away in order to entice people to sign up for your email list. Think about what your audience would enjoy and go from there.
Once people sign up, make sure you have a way to deliver the goods. When I first started, I did this manually for each and every subscriber. While this works, it can soon become time-consuming and very cumbersome. If you store your freebie somewhere in the cloud (I use Amazon S3, but there are many other storage solutions, including on your website as a pdf) all you need to do is include the link in your first welcome email, which by the way, should be totally automated, another feature of your email provider once you have an account.
Getting people to sign-up is just the beginning, though, isn’t it? The next two questions are “How often should I email?” and “What am I supposed to say in these emails?” Various experts recommend emailing your list once or twice a month for fiction authors. You don’t want to bombard people with too many emails or appear spammy. Any less, and they may forget about you. Nonfiction authors can email more frequently because their target audience tends to be narrower and more engaged by default.
I’m going to cover the second question in detail in the next post. In general, however, you are trying to build a relationship with people. You never want to come across as sleazy or salesy. Instead, you want to earn their trust. In short, if your emails are always pushing the next book, it might turn some people off. Engagement is about building relationships and making real connections. Be helpful and people will notice. Keep it short and simple but remember, you are trying to build a relationship, not just ask for sales. If you work on building trust, engagement and adding value, when it comes time to ask for help, people are more likely to respond.
Next time we’ll talk more specifically about what to say and when. See you then!