There’s nothing in your marketing arsenal that works as well as an author newsletter.
Your author newsletter is made of people who have read your work and enjoyed it enough to want to know more about it. This gives you an advantage most other forms of marketing don’t: more control over sales.
Advertising is more like cold-calling. People probably don’t know you, and they likely haven’t read any of your work. They’re going out on a limb by downloading your book (unless it’s free and they’re not risking much in downloading). The people on your newsletter already know they like you.
But there’s an issue with newsletters a lot of people don’t consider: low open rates, low click through rates (CTR), and unsubscribing. One way to improve CTR is to engage your subscribers and keep them happy. To put it bluntly, don’t always be in sales mode.
No one likes the constant “buy from me!” attitude on social media, and they don’t like it when it shows up in their inbox. They’re trusting you with their email address, don’t abuse it like so many other lists do. So how do you get people opening your newsletters and engaging with you? As an author, you have a lot of options.
Show you care
They are your fans! Show them how much they matter to you. Authors treat their fans well. They love meeting fans, and they love reading great reviews of their books. It’s time to pay it back.
But how do you show your newsletter audience that they matter to you, and you appreciate them having signed up? You can always send out a newsletter telling them how much they matter, but we also want to ensure your readers to open your correspondences. The more often they open, the more often they will see a new release or sale and take the desired action.
How do you get them to open? Offer things other than releases and sales. You probably don’t want to give away freebies unless you’re doing it in exchange for a review or to boost your ranking/audience. If you email your list with offers for free books, you’re training them to wait for those emails instead of buying when you want them to. Instead, if you see that an author in your genre is running a free promotion and it looks like a great book (or you’ve read it and loved it) let your newsletter subscribers know! They will likely appreciate the heads up.
Another great way to get your subscribers to open your newsletter is to give away gifts now and then. An epic way to know who is opening and to get them to click through is to have them sign up for a raffle. Then you’re rewarding those people who open your newsletter and take an action.
This raffle doesn’t necessarily have to be for a gift card. It can be a gift that jives with your genre or one of your books that you know fans will love. If you do send a gift card, why not personalize it a bit more and send them a gift card to one of your favorite shops. This way you’re giving them a gift and allowing them to know you a bit more by seeing some of your favorite things.
Ask them for help
By asking your newsletter subscribers for help, you give them a sense of pride that they’re helping an author they like. This is advantageous to authors because you guys get stuck on stuff like crazy. Of course you do, there’s a boatload of things you have to work through. It’s exhausting! Rely on your newsletter subscribers; they are your fans.
Ask them for help if you’re unsure of your blurb. Ask them for feedback on a cover. Ask them for help figuring out a scene. Heck, if you’re stuck on what to write next, ask them what they want to read (or give them a choice between a few ideas).
One thing my friend likes to do is offer a raffle and whoever wins gets to name a secondary character in his next novel and gets a mention in the acknowledgments. That’s a double whammy of warm, fuzzy pride feels.
A great thing about asking your newsletter is they are your audience. In the distant, ancient past, dusty tomes would tell how much money executives used to spend on market research. But you have all the market research you need sitting on your newsletter list!
With a touch of your fingers, you can get feedback from your target audience on what works for covers and blurbs that will help boost your sales because they are a sample of your larger market and know what it loves!
Ask them for reviews! Stop spending hours beating your head off the wall and searching endlessly for someone to “please review my book! For the love of all that is holy, REVIEW MY BOOK!” You have people right on your newsletter list who are eager to read your work.
If you’re giving them books in exchange for an honest review, you both win! I would suggest segmenting your reading list and cultivating a cache of reviewers you know will follow through for you. Go for a sizable number of subscribers on that list because the more reviews, the better. Just don’t make it your entire list, because you also want to rake in some cash from your work.
Another suggestion is to use bookfunnel to send them a link where they can download the review copy to their device instead of sending out a few hundred files that are so easily pirated.
Dos and don’ts
Do make sure you respond to them. When a reader takes the time to send you an email, responding to them goes a long way. My friend has a fan who he’s been talking to on and off for over a year. That builds a great relationship with your readers. You know what else it does? Increases the likelihood that they will sing your praise to others because you feel like (and may become) their friend.
Do ask them to figure out why sales are slow. Of course, don’t ask them, “hey, why ain’t you buying?” Try to ask questions about how you can improve your work. Like we said before, they’re your target audience. If you need help, ask them for it! Just be ready to accept constructive criticism. It could be something as simple as needing a light copyedit, tweaking your cover, or rewriting that dreaded blurb.
Don’t give away your books for no reason. Always have a plan in place. While giving away a copy here and there (by using bookfunnel, so no one steals your work) is fine, giving away a lot copies for no apparent reason isn’t accomplishing your goal of raking in cash! If you’re going to give away a lot of books to your newsletter subscribers, plan a freebie run so you can make the most of it and get those downloads in to retailers.
A newsletter is an important part of all businesses. For writers, it serves a purpose far beyond sales. It gives your platform a solid base to reach your readers. Newsletters are constant and give you near-immediate access to your audience. If Facebook and Twitter were to vanish tomorrow (or, you know, change up your reach on a whim and make you pay to access your audience), you always have that newsletter in your back pocket to get to your readers.