You might associate newsletters more with the local school or church group than with modern marketing, but you would be wrong to do so. Newsletters are not just those irritating bits of folded paper you find buried under your mail: they can also be a highly effective marketing technique.
What is a Newsletter For?
A newsletter is a way of keeping in touch with your audience. That might include readers wanting to keep up with what you are doing and find out about new projects, fellow writers interested in what you are doing, and people working in the publishing business. A newsletter should be there to get you more readers and sales, help you make useful and supportive contacts and perhaps to help you get an agent or publishing deal.
How to Get Started
Your newsletter should be sent by email – hard copies are not likely to be useful and will be expensive (even if you have addresses to send them to). There are some specialist newsletter publication and distribution services around, some of which are at least partly free. Mail Chimp is one, but there are others. You can use them to put together an eye-catching newsletter and to send it. You could also put together a newsletter using desktop publishing software and send it from your email account, but generally, using a newsletter program will look more professional.
In order to be able to send your newsletter from anywhere, you will need email addresses to send it to. You can put a notice on your blog asking people to sign up, and send a message to your blog subscribers. Look through your contacts and find relevant ones, though it is good form to ask them before adding them to the list. This should give you an initial base, but keep working on building it up – whenever you make a new contact, ask if you can put them on the list.
This should – for a writer – be the easy part. However, if you already have a blog, you might be wondering what you can put on your newsletter that makes it different and relevant. Unlike a blog, a newsletter does not lend itself to opinion pieces, but to short items of news and links to your website and blog to drive traffic to them.
A newsletter should contain news about anything you are working on or have just finished. That can include writing projects, but it can also include related events like research trips, press meetings, launches, meetings with other writers, literary events…there is likely to be much more that is relevant than you think. Even seemingly mundane things like an office move or your struggle finding business insurance could be interesting if you can find the right angle (something like the way practical problems can get in the way of writing might work well, for example). If you really are struggling for content, then perhaps you should be doing things that are noteworthy enough to create content from them? If you aren’t getting out to local literary events or attending writing groups, why not? Doing these things will not only help you find more material, they should be a good source of contacts and may help you improve your writing too.
Structure and Schedule
How often you send your newsletter out will depend partly on how much you have to put in it. Quarterly is a good start, but aim for monthly if you think you can without sending out lots of filler. Remember that the aim should always be to get people to read your books – and that is going to mean that they need to visit your website and blog. Make it easy for them by linking to relevant pages wherever you can.
Some newsletters can be mostly headlines with a short paragraph, linked to a longer website article. That can work well in terms of getting you traffic, but as a writer, your audience will probably expect a bit more actual content in the newsletter itself. Make sure you do not go too far in the other direction and end up with long blocks of text. Break it up with pictures, lists, text boxes with samples of your writing, links to literary events and news, and even interactive features such as polls.
Your newsletter should be fun, interesting and eye-catching. Readers love to know more about their authors, so let your personality shine through while still sounding professional.
Sarah Kent is a freelance writer offering advice for individuals and small businesses on marketing tactics and tools. She is keen to offer practical and useable hints and tips that are effective and yet don’t cost the earth.