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.