Creating an Author eNewsletter Is a Good Thing

Author Regina ClarkeGuest Post
by Regina Clarke

Should you write an eNewsletter if you are a new indie fiction writer with only one or two books up on Amazon? Absolutely. But who is your audience — not counting family, close friends, and your parrot, dog or cat — if no one knows you exist yet?

Don’t worry about that.

Send it to the people who do know you and their feedback will help you hone your skills in both content and style. In the meantime, you can work on becoming familiar with the tools you need to create an eNewsletter effectively, like using MailChimp to format and distribute it (never use plain email), getting your website more polished, finding ways to grow your email list so you have more readers, and setting up Twitter and Facebook pages to showcase your books. So many experts are out there to help in doing all of it without charge, and the process involved is more fun than work (though it does take time).

But why do this at all? Because an eNewsletter is a way to establish relationships with present and potential readers that go beyond the sales and promotional side of the business of writing. Those relationships will become the foundation of your public experience as a writer, and they help establish loyal readers who want to know all about you. Good readers are fans. An eNewsletter gives them access to your world. More than that, an eNewsletter is a great way to allow your name and brand to get noticed by word-of-mouth, which is the fast track to recognition, more than reviews and interviews can ever provide.

Wouldn’t a blog achieve that for you? It can, if you know how to bring a lot of traffic to it, and some writers choose that route, but maintaining a blog is far more labor-intensive, for it needs daily attention. By contrast, the eNewsletter only needs to show up in people’s Inboxes on average every two weeks, giving you breathing room and time to write more of your fiction, which is, after all, the top priority.

A lot of advice exists online about what to put into an eNewsletter, with current trends suggesting a minimalist approach — text-oriented emails that give some updates on the latest book’s progress or a new release, a podcast the writer has developed, report of a review for a book, or a book signing the author is attending. For established fiction writers (and especially for nonfiction writers), this text-only approach works, because they already have a reliable fan base with readers who know all about them. If you’re a new writer, however, it’s unlikely you have podcasts, book signings, and reviews lined up yet. What you put into the eNewsletter, therefore, benefits from a lot more diversity of information and from a more visual presentation, especially by adding color, external links, and even a thematic approach. You bring a unique energy to the eNewsletter that can hold the interest of anyone who reads it.

The thematic approach works very well. For example, I have an eNewsletter I send out bi-weekly and I use the same format for it each time, but all the information changes according to my purpose. The format is this: a notice or update about my writing; a photograph of an evocative landscape that is added from a friend’s portfolio or Creative Commons (with permission rights); a spiritual thought or quote; a painting that is in the public domain (anything painted before 1923); after that, excerpts from my work-in-progress, whether that is chapters from a novel or a short story; next, an organic recipe; and the last item is always an image of some ancient man-made monument like Stonehenge or Petra or a city beneath the sea!

So using that same format, in a recent issue I included all things Irish as the theme, since I had written a novella based in that lovely country. I included some words in Gaelic, scenes from the medieval illuminated manuscript of the Irish Book of Kells, a famous recipe for Irish soda bread, an ancient Neolithic site in Ireland, and an external link to Irish fiddle music. In the midst of that I gave links to the excerpts of my writing and my comments about the storytelling perfection the Irish still hold. The entire page only takes a reader a few minutes to scroll through, but the images linger in the mind.

If you are writing an eNewsletter to sell a product and nothing more — well, this method won’t work very well. But if you write fiction, the eNewsletter can easily be an extension of your inner voice by revealing both the unique outlook that is your own and the storyteller you already are.


Regina Clarke is the indie author of mystery, fantasy, and science fiction novels, and she has published short stories in print and online magazines. She has a Ph.D in English and then, strangely, ended up for far too long as a technical writer in the corporate world. She now lives in the Hudson Valley region of upstate New York, not far from where Rod Serling grew up, which she likes knowing. You can learn more about Regina on her website and her Author Central page.

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13 thoughts on “Creating an Author eNewsletter Is a Good Thing”

  1. The challenge with a newsletter for most indie authors is the lack of news. If an author does signings, attends conventions and retreats, appears on panels with other authors, and participates in a wide variety of events, or is very prolific, then s/he has news for the newsletter.

    Like news releases, the news letter needs something of value for readers; in the absence of news that may impact those readers, the newsletter will have a long row to hoe.

    Malcolm

    1. Hi Malcolm–

      The focus I am describing is one intended to provide contact with people when the author is still aiming and working toward results that will eventually include signings, news releases, and sales rankings. The motive is to establish a camaraderie and a fan base first. A newsletter is a way to create an email list that is the single most important tool to get the author noticed. Without an email list, the author is just waiting and hoping for sales. The newsletter is a proactive way to communicate. You begin to create a persona for yourself as an author. It matters–you are giving readers a reason to look you up. Your newsletter can talk about why you chose your themes, your characters, your plots. It can also give details about your interests. It gives the reader more than a “Buy Me!” message, which never works alone. It is, in a way, being willing to make the effort before a recognizable reward has shown up for doing so. Maybe you could call it an act of faith. For sure, making the effort shows both a commitment to the writing and an engagement with the readers who are out there waiting to find you. One thing is certain–creating a newsletter only helps–there is no downside to it. It becomes part of your path.

      1. Most of us buy most of the books we read without subscribing to any author newsletters whatsoever. So, I don’t think sales are dependent on having one. If the newsletter doesn’t have any real news in it, those getting it will soon become bored because there’s nothing in it for them.

        I would definitely want to have a busy enough and/or varied enough author’s life going before I started such a project.

  2. me and mailchimp have come to an understanding, I won’t go and try and do a newsletter and it won’t frustrate and confuse me beyond all reason. I have yet to figure out how that blasted system works. I know it SHOULD be easy but for me it isn’t.

    1. It is a bit confusing initially. Part of the reason is the way their Help menu works. But once you get it in order, it is really fine. And free!

  3. Great post, Regina. Thanks.
    I’m doing the Mailchimp thing, but only quarterly. Don’t want to annoy my subscribers, and as
    Malcolm says, don’t have a huge amount to say. Sad innit? 🙂

    1. Hi KJD–

      We are so often arbiters of what we think people want to read about us. In some ways writers are a shy tribe! No one gets annoyed by interesting newsletters, and that doesn’t have to be just updates on how successful a writer is (that can backfire, sometimes, actually). It is lovely you send it out four times a year. Just think about maybe doing it once a month, if that is within your comfort zone.

      Regina
      If inclined send me the link and I will be glad to read one of them.

      1. Thanks Regina.
        Actually, I’ve had a total rethink lately and have decided to send out a monthly newsletter. I’ll keep it short and sweet and hopefully, interesting.

        I’ll be sending out the next NL whit s/e. Check your inbox. 🙂

        BTW – I always point out the UNSUBSCRIBE button on Mailchimp to avoid annoying people.

        Nice aren’t I!

  4. I know I should do it. I used to try to do it about once a month. These days I put it off probably more than any other task I face as an author. I have a terrible case of Email Newsletter Writer’s Block.

    1. Hi Sandra–

      It is what we all wonder about–that feeling we have nothing to say–even though as writers we have more to say than most! In the end, if we can, it matters to trust ourselves, to just know we do have something to contribute that can be informative and fun no matter how short the newsletter might be. It is like entertaining people you know–you want to make them smile or think or feel something. There is no required agenda except that as a writer you want to engage their attention. Adding a photo you like is fine. A story about how Amazon printed your book title in duplicate on the sales page and how willing they were to fix it is actually interesting if you want it to be. An anecdote about why you grow only white roses (and thus why they appear in your books) is equally worth reading. Whatever makes you feel good to think and talk about–that’ll transmit to the readers. The info is always positive.

      And there is nothing to say that after we get great book sales (often because of our email list) we don’t still try to keep the friendly newsletter tone because it represents us just as much if not more than our formal profile. People are always asking well-known writers personal questions–they love to know the details. The same is true for writers who are beginning to write or who are already on the road to their dream.

      Regina

    1. Hi Candace–

      It is a grand way to go. So many ideas do come, and fast. The newsletter theme approach also gives us an awareness of how to create a theme in a purposeful way–more fodder for the book writing… 🙂

      Regina

  5. As an Indie author with two published novels and working on my third, I grapple with the idea of a newsletter. What do I say? How much information should I give to my audience? Suppose they get bored? How often do I send a newsletter? Your blog has helped me gain some insight into this process. I love your idea of a theme and including photographs.

    Thank you – Denise Rago

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