Spread the Word: Do Authors Need an E-Mail Newsletter?

Sunday, January 30, 2011

After you start publishing work, after you begin building a following of readers, you realize you need to stay connected so you can inform readers of what you're working on or offer writing advice or promote your latest book.

Now, you may be wondering what the best method of communication may be. You've got a website, you promote your work on Twitter and Facebook. Maybe your blog allows for an RSS feed. Do you also need a newsletter?

Before you starting penning a periodical, several questions need to be addressed. What reasons drive your desire to begin a newsletter? Who will read your newsletter? And perhaps the most important question of all: Why should readers peruse your publication?

Why Start a Newsletter?
Obviously, an e-mail newsletter can help you stay in touch with readers and grow a larger circulation base. Do newsletters give all writers and genres a boost?
  • Non-Fiction writers - experts on the topic they write about - benefit from this type of promotion. By offering articles, breaking news, and links to other information regarding your area of expertise, readership will increase. In many cases, cross-links with other websites draw additional readers.
  • Fiction writers use a newsletter to update fans about the latest news: book or article updates, blog posts, book tours, speaking engagements. Some authors offer book excerpts or links to video or podcasts.

Who Will Read Your Work?

Determining your intended audience will help you decide what type of content to include in the newsletter. Plus, defining your readership helps you focus on places to find potential readers.

Once you've defined who your audience will be, you need to ask why this audience will want to read your updates. Are they looking for specific advice on the topic? Do they want general information about books, articles, blog posts? Are they interested in personal information?

Sometimes, a writer may try to cover all bases. Trust me, as an avid reader of newsletters from several of my favorite writers, their publications don't always contain the information I'm most interested in. But that may be okay, too, since it forces me to check out their websites.

Formulate a strong mental picture about the type of newsletter you want. Play with several different design ideas. Make a list of potential articles. These strategies provide focus for you and the kind of information you plan to impart to readers. I scoured my favorite writer newsletters and found the following items:

  1. Top-# lists
  2. Features
  3. Reviews
  4. Q & A
  5. Guest Writers
  6. Classified

What Elements Haven't I Considered?

Think you've thought of everything? Think again. Here are a few other considerations:

  • How often will I publish a newsletter? Weekly? Monthly? Only you know for sure how much information you'll have to make a newsletter a worthwhile reading experience.
  • Will I write every article? Depending on the scope of your publication, a newsletter can be a time-consuming project. Can you afford to pay others to write for the newsletter?
  • Should I offer a premium subscription or should my newsletter be free of fees? Once again, the size of the project may point you toward the best answer for you situation.
  • Does the publication need a copyright? Good reasons exist why you should copyright you work: a copyright establishes public record, copyright registration is necessary before filing an infringement lawsuit, and in some instances, a copyright lawsuit victory can include attorney fees and court costs. (No, I'm not a lawyer and I don't play one on TV, so you may want to double check with your legal counsel prior to filing a copyright.)
  • What service should I use to distribute work? Some of the most commonly-used programs include Yahoo Groups, Constant Contact and Aweber. Sure, other distribution systems exist. Best advice is to ask fellow writers what does - and doesn't - work, based on their experiences.

Still interested in starting a newsletter for readers and potential audience members? E-mail newsletters make great promotional tools. But, a newsletter also requires a time investment. Make a decision that works best for your writing situation.

by LuAnn Schindler. Check out more of LuAnn's work at her website.

Photo by LuAnn Schindler


Kristi's Book Nook said...

This is a great post. For 2011 I decided to start a newsletter for my blog http://kristisbooknook.blogspot.com I promoted it for a month prior to actually creating one and sending it out. As a result I got some followers. I genarally am chicken when it comes to things on writing. But this is one of those times i put my toe in the water and it was good. Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Allen said...

Wonderful ideas! This is not something I had really thought about before, but its worth taking into consideration for the future. Thank you for the great advice.

Sarah Allen
(my creative writing blog)

LuAnn Schindler said...

Thanks, Kristi and Sarah.
I'm considering it for the future, too.

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