Tuesday, March 31, 2009

FOR WRITERS: Starting a Newsletter

When I do any sort of marketing, I always think of the Mutual Benefit. If I ask a reader to buy my book, I’ll benefit from the sale and they’ll benefit by being whisked away on a romantic adventure. If I ask a bookseller to stock my book, I want them to know that I’m promoting it to readers, so that they’ll sell it and benefit from stocking it on their shelves. If I ask a publisher to buy my manuscript, I want them to know that I’ll promote it so that we sell more books and they benefit from having me as an author.

The benefit of having a newsletter is that an author can keep her name in front of readers and build a fan base. But how do newsletter subscribers benefit beyond finding out when the author’s next release is? After all, they can just wait until it hits the shelves.

I always consider that people’s lives are as busy and hectic as mine, so there should be some reward, or promise of a reward, for them to go through the extra effort of signing up for my newsletter.

So I do contests. It’s a great way to advertise your newsletter, and it promises a Mutual Benefit to those who go to the effort to join.

I love doing contests. I always have one running on my website. My series revolves around Merlin’s Relics, which are a different jewel for each book, so I offer jewelry as a prize. I love buying jewelry, even if it’s not for me, and I love getting the emails from the winners who are always so happy to get sparklies. :} Because of the value of the jewelry, I ask those that enter to make a little extra effort. Currently I have a viral marketing contest running and if you’re curious you can check it out on my site. I bring this up because whenever anyone enters one of my contests, they agree to be automatically signed up for my newsletter. After the contest is over, I take the entrant’s emails and add them to my newsletter (I currently use Yahoo Groups, which provides free newsletter/loop services. Just go to Yahoo.com, sign up for a free email account, and click on the option to start a Group.)

But whenever I have a new release out, I always run a newsletter subscriber contest. If you sign up for my newsletter, you win a ‘magical’ jewel. I choose a random winner from all my subscribers, so that my current subscribers benefit as well. Launching a new contest is a great way to advertise your new release. Ask your publisher to include it in the bio of your book. Ask them to advertise it on their website with just a link to yours. Send announcements to your writer’s groups, yahoo loops, forums, Myspace friends, etc. And remember, you’re not asking for anything, you’re providing a Mutual Benefit.

Make sure that you have a newsletter sign up link on the HOME page of your website, and as many other pages as possible.

And I should point out that your reward doesn’t have to be extravagant. Giving away a signed copy of your current release, or even one from your backlist, can provide enough of a benefit for readers to go to that extra effort. I often offer this for my private contests. I also offer a free short story for signing up for my newsletter. I give my subscribers the hidden (secret) location of the link to it that’s on my website.

You should also consider the benefit to your readers for continuing to subscribe to your newsletter. If they change their email address, you want to make sure they want to go to the effort to subscribe with their new one. I already mentioned one above, but I also run private contests for my newsletter subscribers only. I always send sneak previews of my books to my subscribers first before I release it anywhere else. They’re special and I want them to have the benefit of being the first to know anything. And I should mention here that I’m careful to limit the number of newsletters I send, usually only one a month, although when I send excerpts of a new release, there might be four in that month, as I send each as a short read. I then remind my subscribers that if they only want to know about my new releases, which is twice a year, then they can choose the option of ‘special notices’ in their subscription options (And I make sure that I only send a special notice for a new release.)

You want to keep your name in front of your readers, but you don’t want them reading their emails and groaning “Geez, not her again.” :}

I know I could have probably just said to run a contest to advertise your newsletter, but I’m hoping you find it helpful in your future promotions to consider the Mutual Benefit when you’re launching a new program of any kind.

Oh, and my benefit from writing this? I enjoy helping other authors; it always makes me feel good. And I avoided doing my taxes for an hour. (Once you start thinking about MB, it’s hard to stop.)

My very best wishes,


Lisa Logan said...

Great ideas, Kathryne! Thanks for posting this.

I like to include a free excerpt and some other useful information in my newsletters, in hopes of making it something readers look forward to.

I occasionally offer my current release as a prize, but I've heard it isn't recommended. People then will put off buying the very title you're trying to push. So I mostly use alternative prizes instead.


Author Kathryne Kennedy said...

Sorry for the late reply, Lisa, I just now saw your post. You might consider offering a title from your backlist in your contest. Even if they own the book, it's nice to get one autographed by the author.
Nice to hear from you, and thank you so much for your comment.
Best wishes!