“What should I send to my author e-mail list?”

mailbox in desert

I see this question often, whether it’s in my inbox or in online author groups.

The answer depends on a number of things, including whether you write fiction or nonfiction, how much time you can devote to e-mail marketing, and whether you’ve got a blog with content that appeals to your target audience.

There’s more to staying in touch with fans by e-mail than figuring out what to write about, though. If you haven’t started the process yet, you’ll find these four basic steps helpful.

Step 1: Add yourself to newsletter lists

I always recommend that you subscribe to the lists of others and study what they do before you create your own newsletter or make content decisions. You’ll see what you like and don’t like and get a sense of different styles and formats.

Don’t limit yourself to authors in your genre. And don’t limit yourself to authors, either. Add yourself to the lists of online marketers, too, so you can see how the pros do it. There will be things you don’t like (including the daily frequency of many of them), but you might pick up a few ideas you like, too.

Step 2: Start building a list

While you’re studying what others are doing and before you finalize what to send your list, you need to start building that list because it can take time to acquire enough e-mail addresses to mail to.

The most important thing to know is that people have to give you permission to send them repeated messages. They have to “opt in” to your list. For information on how to make that happen and some of the resources that will help you, read “Building your author e-mail list” on this site.

As noted in that article, the best and easiest way to start gathering addresses is by adding a form to your website. The form needs to be linked to an e-mail management service (you’ve heard the names before — iContact, Constant Contact, aWeber, MailChimp, etc.). (A couple of those are affiliate links.) Each service offers tutorials that walk you through the process of connecting their software to your website. If it’s over your head, do what I do: Call them or pay someone to do it for you.

Step 3: Determine frequency

Once you’ve started building your list, it’s time to think about how often you’ll mail to them and what you’ll send.

Frequency options include:

  • Occasional or “as it happens.” Some authors prefer this because they’re not locked into a schedule.
  • Quarterly. It’s an easy schedule, but quarterly isn’t frequent enough to be effective.
  • Monthly. Many find this do-able. Try to send it on the same day every month.
  • Bi-weekly. Do you have enough to say to send an e-mail twice a month? Can you sustain that frequency?
  • Weekly. You’ll certainly be top of mind with your list if you communicate on a weekly basis, but most authors will struggle to maintain this schedule, especially those who don’t write for a living.
Kiim Werker

Kim Werker

Author Kim Werker sends her newsletter weekly in part because she needs the routine generated by that frequency.

“I’d feel crushed under the stress of fitting it into a less frequent schedule and wouldn’t end up doing it at all,” she says.

I started sending the Build Book Buzz newsletter on a monthly schedule but had so much how-to information to share  each month that I worried that it was getting too long. I split the content into two issues, e-mailing it biweekly now on the second and fourth Wednesday of the month (if I didn’t carve those distribution days in stone, it would never happen). In between, I send occasional short e-mails offering special deals and promotions.

What combination of information and frequency works for you? Make your decision based on what you think is possible now. You’re not locked into it. You can always make changes later.

Step 4: Decide what you will put in your newsletter

So what do you write about in your newsletter? Let the approach or format you use guide your content. Format approaches include:

  • Occasional pre- and post-publication announcements related to your book, your genre, or your topic. With this approach, you don’t need a regular publication schedule. Information included might be a cover reveal, exciting cover blurbs from influential people, requests for beta readers, news from your genre or industry, review summaries, reviewer requests, scheduled book signings, and so on. Make sure you’re not overly self-promotional. Make your content as reader-focused as possible.
  • Big announcements only. These don’t need a set schedule, either. If you write one book after another, this could work well, and could be a great way to solicit fans for early reviews. However, if you don’t plan to write more than one book, you’ll run out of big announcements pretty quickly and will need to find another reason to stay in touch.
  • Links to your blog postings. If you’re blogging, and especially if you don’t have a blog subscription option on your site, this will be the easiest option. Every time you write a post, send a message to your list with the first paragraph or two and a link to the rest of the post online.
  • A bona-fide newsletter. This is a solid tactic whether your book is fiction or nonfiction. For nonfiction, continue to educate your audience about your topic. If you write novels, send a regular update on your writing progress and include information about other books in your genre so that you’re exposing your subscribers to more of the types of fiction they like to read. For both fiction and nonfiction, include all of the information described in the first point — the occasional announcements.

Because Werker writes about creativity and creative struggles, those topics are usually the focus of her newsletter, The Kim Werker Digest.  She writes to her subscribers as if she’s writing a blog post, often summarizing what she’s thinking about at the end of the week, whether it’s a project that’s gone in an unanticipated direction, a particular struggle with time management, or how it always seems to happen that her son gets sick just as she’s approaching a major deadline.

“I tell my own story,” she says, “but I tell it with an eye on how anyone in any field of work might relate to it.”

The approach you use or the option you select depends on what your list might be interested in as well as what you feel you can sustain.

Just do it

Whether you send out occasional newsy updates or, like Werker, write to your list once a week, work to make sure your content focuses on the reader, not on you and your book. If the focus is always on your books, subscribers will lose interest quickly.

Unsubscribe Graffiti

Remember: They can unsubscribe themselves with the mandatory unsubscribe link at the end of each e-mail just as easily as they added themselves to your list. And while unsubscribes are to be expected, you want your subscriber numbers to be steadily increasing, not decreasing.

You can make that happen by communicating in a way that lets subscribers get to know more about you while sharing information they want to read.

Do you send information to an e-mail list? What do you send?


Get more helpful free book marketing information in the “Build Book Buzz” e-mail newsletter.









Sandra Beckwith is an award-winning former publicist who now teaches authors how to market their books. Three groups have recognized her BuildBookBuzz.com site as an outstanding resource for authors, so you know her advice is author-tested.

Download Sandra’s free “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources” (https://buildbookbuzz.com/gift) and you’ll also receive the free weekly
“Build Book Buzz” newsletter loaded with book marketing tips and advice.

12 Responses to “What should I send to my author e-mail list?”
  1. Susan Weiner, CFA
    April 7, 2015 | 8:10 pm

    Sandy,

    Are you talking about lists that book buyers opt into or ones where you add them because they are verified buyers? I think there’s a big difference.

    My monthly, weekly, and other newsletters go only to those who opt in. For verified buyers, I send them a thank you email with information about my newsletters. After that, I only send big announcements, like my posting an updated list of online links that appeared in my book.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      April 7, 2015 | 8:15 pm

      Susan, as these sentences note:
      [The most important thing to know is that people have to give you permission to send them repeated messages.They have to “opt in” to your list. ]

      I’m not talking about customer lists. I’m talking about lists authors build to stay in touch with their fans.

      Sandy

  2. Mili
    April 8, 2015 | 9:04 pm

    Great post as always, Sandra.

    Being at local fairs I have collected a small list of followers; however, I confess that sometimes I have trouble finding a topic. Some of my followers follow me because of artwork, others do so because of writing, more like to hear what’s coming up… I also work with variety of audiences. My artwork and projects are usually geared towards parents with children and teens, but my educational bits are for students and adults.

    So far, I have been writing mostly news with an artistic gift in every email once a month. This past month I experienced a series of unfortunate events and wrote my tips on handling curveballs life throws at me, hoping to provide inspiration for my readers.

    I confess I have been struggling with emailing my group, because I find it so much easier to just add posts to Facebook and Twitter, but I hope once I’m done with Spring Cleaning to be able to write to my audience twice a month at least.

    Possible Topics:
    – Funny personal anecdotes from my life as an author and artist
    – Progress of my work
    – Word of Wisdom — making a new discovery and sharing with others

    • Sandra Beckwith
      April 9, 2015 | 1:04 pm

      Mili, there’s no question that writing a regular newsletter takes more time and effort than writing a Facebook status update or a tweet, but I hope you can continue to find the time to do a newsletter because it’s essential. It’s quite likely that there’s little overlap between your social media connections and your list subscribers. I’m sure that some of your Facebook friends are on your list, etc., but I’ll bet that not everybody who agreed to receive your newsletter is also seeing what you’re sharing on social media.

      I like all of your possible topics, especially the last one — sharing your discoveries so that others might learn from your experiences.

      Good luck!

      Sandy

      • Mili
        August 28, 2016 | 1:11 pm

        Hi Sandy!

        I’ve been enjoying your daily marketing tips when I stumbled upon this link, but I see I’ve already left a comment. I was in desperate need of advice, but I thought it may be fun to write an update.

        I’m afraid a few of my members have abandoned ship so to speak. Back in 2015, I’ve been focusing so much on marketing that I realised I did not create anything new in a year! Now I’m creating, but as a creator my newsletter content has changed. Also, my first book was a picture book, while the books I’m working on are part of a YA fantasy series (different audience). I’ve been sending emails with my progress updates, artwork, and time-lapse videos. I occasionally write a HOOTs of Wisdom article, but I do not have as many tips, because I’m not making as many discoveries, fantasy fiction I find is mostly philosophical and internal. Therefore, I understand that the audience that stuck for the marketing tips and picture book info is leaving.

        However, I have little luck attracting fantasy fans to my list who would enjoy my current work. Do you have any ideas how to improve my numbers? I was hoping to attract more people to my list by creating fan art of famous fantasy books, but so far all I got are a few more likes on Facebook and Twitter, but no one interested in the newsletter.

        At this point, I’m not sure what I’m doing wrong…

        Thanks in advance,

        Mili

        • Sandra Beckwith
          August 28, 2016 | 3:33 pm

          Hi Mili,

          Think in terms of incentives. First, what free download/subscription gift can you offer your target audience that has value for them? What can you offer that they want? That’s the first incentive to provide their email address. Next, what can you provide on an ongoing basis via email that will be useful to them?

          Sandy

  3. Joy
    April 9, 2015 | 12:58 pm

    I would like to follow Milli’s newsletter. Could you provide a link?

    • Mili
      August 28, 2016 | 1:23 pm

      Hi Joy!

      It’s flattering that you wish to see my newsletter. I’m using MailChimp and the HTML is rather pretty, while the service is free and easy to use. My email content has changed as I’m currently working on a YA fantasy that has me absorbed 6 days out of 7. However, if you are still curious you can join at http://artofmili.ca/MiliFayArtFanClub

      As a fiction author I do not have information that people need, but I do try to provide entertainment: time-lapse videos of digital painting, free artwork, coloring pages, and occasionally discoveries I make as I try to survive as an independent artist with no personal connections in the field. It would be so much easier if I came from a family of artists who have paved the way, but sadly I come from a family of engineers, economists, and doctors.

      Naturally, I was raised to be modest, so marketing and promotion go against the grain. 😊 However, I am grateful to have stumbled upon Sandy’s blog. When I’m stymied I usually find some practical advice here.

      Cheers!

      Mili

  4. singap
    April 24, 2015 | 2:57 am

    hi
    can you provide me more info in details on how can i add myself to newsletter lists, i need more description on this .
    thanks

    • Sandra Beckwith
      April 24, 2015 | 3:03 am

      Singap, when there’s a newsletter subscription option on a website, there’s a form where you enter your name and e-mail address. You can see mine on this page in the upper right.

      Sandy

  5. Mary Elizabeth Nordstrom
    May 2, 2015 | 12:34 am

    My book website was a bomb because I didn’t have or take time to read the directions for using it after my distributor set it up for me. I didn’t have any more mad money to work further with him so it sits there like a sitting duck as a matter of fact.

    In another six months, I may have time to gather more poems and make a new collection for a new first edition. Then I shall definitely want to use your guidance which I find really easy to follow,and I am allergic to instructions ordinarily. My husband is in Hospice care…I have no idea when I can get back to compiling my poems again. Stay tuned.

    • Sandra Beckwith
      May 2, 2015 | 6:32 pm

      Sounds like you’re dealing with a lot of challenges right now, Mary. It will all be waiting for you later, when life seems easier.

      Sandy

Leave a Reply

Wanting to leave an <em>phasis on your comment?

Read Our Privacy Policy Here

Disclosure: A small number of the links on this site are affiliate links. We receive a small compensation for the recommendation if you click through on them and make a purchase. The cost of any affiliate product is the same to you whether you use an affiliate link or not. To keep things simple, please presume that all of the links are affiliate links.