Monday, February 20, 2012

What's in your newsletter?

A key part of becoming a brand name is regularly sending out information of interest to customers. In the realm of authors, a newsletter is an essential tool to connect with your readership and to keep them apprised of news in your world. Here are ten easy tips to get you started.

1. Use a template. Having a standardized format for content delivery helps ensure you don’t omit important information. Select a name for your newsletter that is recognizable. It can be as simple as “News from Maggie Toussaint” or you might take a different slant like my friend, JL Wilson, whose newsletter is titled, “As the author learns.” Decide upon a font and determine the number of columns. For longer newsletters, page numbers and table of contents are helpful features. Images engage readers, so sprinkle them liberally throughout the newsletter.

2. Start with a brief personal message. A greeting at the start of a newsletter sets the tone, personalizing the message and engaging the recipient immediately. Seeing their name in the newsletter gives you another moment of reader interest and creates the impetus to keep  reading. Many utilities offer this personalization feature, or you can create a simple macro to plug the names into the space after “Dear”. Alternately, a global word such as “friends” might be employed for the less technologically savvy.

3. Deliver your news. Tell what’s new in your world. If you have a new book coming out, announce it here. Engage the reader with details and heighten the anticipation. Provide an update on your current books to ensure readers have a second chance to learn about them. Highlight any recent success of former books, such as a contest win, which helps readers feel good about their purchases.

4. Announce your appearance schedule. Booksigingings, talks to local groups, conferences, online activities (blogs, chats, workshops) are of interest to your readership. Remember to point out any media appearances on radio or TV. Provide links to interviews in print media and ezines. If you have an upcoming blog tour, mention stops on that tour and provide links.

5. Expand your focus to the larger picture. Provide a value-added bonus for your readers by sharing interesting insider information. Topics might include market news, bookstore news, e-readers, an interview with an industry professional (agent, editor, bookseller), etc.

6. Offer your opinion. This could be tied in with the larger picture, but it should be clearly labeled as your opinion. By taking a stand on a market-related issue, you have another chance to connect personally with readers and become viewed as an expert. The goal here is to win readers and not alienate them.

7. Include an article about author’s life. Readers want to know how authors get their ideas, how they write, how much they write and so on. You might illustrate a point of research or highlight a marketing hook on your upcoming book release to keep the focus on your new product. Alternately, this section might list your recent blog subjects with permalinks to the original posts.

8. Offer a glimpse into the products you use/read. If you’ve read or reviewed a good book lately, let your readers know. This helps further establish you as an expert in your field.

9. Share an unrelated interest. If you actively help a cause, such as Brenda Novak’s work with multiple sclerosis, a brief mention is appropriate. Alternately, if you have an amusing pet or hobby or love to cook, this is a good place to mention it in an engaging way. The idea is to continue to engage the reader, to further establish you as a friend.

10. Provide contact information. Make sure you give readers a way to connect with you. You could limit this to an email address, but in this day of social connectivity, providing your user names for Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and other social media will help you stay connected to readers between newsletters. At a minimum, include your website and blog addy.

Above all, your newsletter should reflect who you are as a writer and a person. Keeping in mind that no one has time to read an encyclopedia, ensure your content is written in an engaging style and is to the point. There is no gold standard for length in newsletters, though shorter is perceived as better from the sense that readers will read the whole thing. If you find you have ten pages of content for a quarterly issue, consider putting out a one-pager every month.

Your goal as a newsletter writer is to provide value and drive product interest. A good newsletter will appeal to the senses and keep them coming back for more.
Maggie Toussaint
mystery and romance author
Death, Island Style and Murder in the Buff coming in March

18 comments:

  1. I keep toying with a newsletter, but in the end give it up. I learned from my Sell Sheets, that many people don't open attachments of any kind--either they don't want to, don't know how, or afraid to. (like my sister--she won't open anything in an attachment, even from me.)
    So, I like one that appears as an email, like yours...but can't seem to figure that out, either. Maybe some day.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's funny how people still view attachments as the anti-Christ. These days you can get a virus without an attachment, but I understand how prejudice works. Once something is perceived as a threat, it stays that way, even if the falsehood is debunked.

      I transitioned from an attachment email to one that shows up in the body of the email for the same reason. I want to make sure folks see it. I rely on bright colors, pictures, and text to hold their attention. If you want to learn more about my system, please email me privately.

      Delete
  2. Great common-sense advice for all those with a newsletter, Maggie. I'll bookmark this for the day I decide to get on the newsletter bandwagon.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Sometimes the most common-sense things are hard to round up when it comes to newsletters. People think it has to be this big wondrous edition, when it's better if its frank talk from you to a friend. I like having a list of options when I sit down to write up my news. But still, I manage to forget something every now and then.

      Delete
  3. Maggie, great items for a newsletter! I love creating mine, but sadly, I've been so swamped, I haven't been able to put it out on a monthly basis so I'm going to drop to a quarterly basis like you've got. I'm prepping it now to release in March. Thanks so much for sharing your ideas.

    Smiles
    Steph

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Steph, Your newsletters are terrific, but I can understand about life getting in the way. I'm on a quarterly basis for that very reason.

      Delete
  4. Thanks for such an informative post! I've been toying with the newsletter idea, but haven't done much with it. I did sign up with MailChimp? Is that what it's called. MailChimp?

    It seems like a lot, but I need to draw in more readers, so I'm thinking of adding a contest every month like Janet Evanovich does. It can't be anymore expensive than advertising...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kate, My friend Diana Cosby holds a contest every month. It's a good idea - that's twelve more copies of your book in circulation every year. Considering how books get passed around, it's a great way to find new readers.

      I don't use MailChimp, but it sounds interesting. I use a utility called Vertical Response. You pay a modest fee for the emails you send out. I think right now its something like 1000 emails for $15, and you can import your distribution list into their system, so there's no retying all that stuff. I like Vertical Response because it gives a "Constant Contact" kind of appearance for a fraction of the cost. With a quarterly schedule of issues, it only costs me about $15 to put out a high quality issue with images and links.

      Delete
  5. I swopped from sending out a dedicated email 'Newsletter' to using Mailchimp after I bought a new laptop. I found it a steepish learning curve, but now I've decided on my format and bookcovers I use that as a base and just change the text. It's free until I reach, I think, 2000 recipients (I should be so lucky!) and gives reports on openings/click throughs.

    What I need to get on top of is getting readers to sign up for it.

    BTW, Mailchimp being in the Cloud and not on my HD was a godsend when a corrupt Windows installer meant I had to return the laptop to factory settings at the weekend. I still haven't got my mail client Thunderbird up & running, so it will be Cloud for emails from now on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Linda, Mailchimp is new to me, but it sounds like it is working for you. I also like having my newsletter utility "off-site" as I have been caught unaware by hard drive crashes too. I'm glad to hear you have discovered an easy way to get your news out. It makes all the difference in the world, doesn't it?

      Delete
  6. Hi Maggie, this is great info. I haven't done a newsletter yet, but am printing this out for future reference. Thank you!

    Alison Chambers
    www.alisonchambersromance.com

    ReplyDelete
  7. Excellent points, Maggie, and thank you for the reminder that it's time for me to send my next newsletter.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Fantastic post! Clear and concise. Thanks for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  9. I love how colorful your newsletter is, Maggie! I also use Vertical Response. Great host.

    ReplyDelete
  10. This seems not only easy to follow but that key component - endlessly repeatable. How nice that the creative heavy-lifiting can remain focused on the story!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hi Maggie -- Very useful information! Thank you. I keep toying with the idea of starting a newsletter, but so far lack of time has kept me from doing it.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Maggie,
    Excellent information, thank you for sharing. I have several newsletters I enjoy for the reasons you stated above. Have a super day! *Hugs*

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for visiting Mudpies.