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Email Newsletter Marketing for Novelists: The Basics

I've been asked about this before and a reader (who is also a writer) just asked again in email. So I'm answering here in hopes it'll help some of you who write books. I believe that any novelist who is online and has books coming out in bookstores should be doing this.

Always keep "free" in mind. People pay for their internet service, they pay for books they buy, they pay for all kinds of things. In your newsletter, bring free to them. Free information, free screensavers, free stories, free advice, free cool stuff, basically.  My friend Christine Feehan calls them "goodies," and I like that term.

Check out Christine Feehan's newsletter at some point at http://www.ChristineFeehan.com -- she runs it really well and has all kinds of freebies there.

1. Go set up a newsletter in one form or another via Yahoogroups, Topica, ConstantContact or any number of other services. My advice is: if you have a very limited budget, use Yahoogroups.com and then later on, take your group to a paid service. On Yahoogroups, make sure you check off the choice to make it an "Announcement" group. If you're a programming whiz, you can set up your own on your computer. I just have no idea how to do that.

For a more professional look, a paid service is the way to go. I use Topica.com's paid service. It can run more than $100 a month at times, but it's worth it to me. I've heard ConstantContact.com is good, too. I'm sure there are several good ones out there.

You can also use an RSS Feed, post your newsletter at your site, and people can "Subscribe" there. I just haven't done that, so I can't quite advise anyone on it.

Subscribe to my newsletter at http://www.DouglasClegg.com and you'll see how Topica's paid service delivers it to you when the next one arrives. Plus, you get some goodies.

2. Put a sign-up form on your website with a "Please subscribe to my free newsletter..." and then add any additional text you want to put in there. My advice is offer them something free -- a chapter excerpt, an original story to read, a reprint, a screensaver...something a reader might want from a writer.

3. Decide how often you want to put out the newsletter. I used to think it was better to send it more frequently, but I've come to the conclusion that the fewer that go out per year, the better -- unless you genuinely have things to offer your subscribers all the time or have events they need to know about often.

I used to send the newsletter out weekly, but truthfully I didn't always have much valuable information (although for awhile there, I did have a "get a free bookstore gift certificate" contest each week). Now, I only send out an email newsletter when I have specific news, offers, or upcoming events. When a serial novel runs for my subscribers, the newsletter will go out frequently. At other times, it will go out when a new free ebook goes up, when a new novel is announced or comes out in the stores, or when an event's happening I think readers will want to hear about.

4. Do not sign people up to your newsletter -- ever. Even if they ask. Instead, show them where to sign up on your website so they can do it themselves.

5. My advice -- ignore if you wish -- is to make your newsletter as appealing as you can to anyone who hears about it.

It is your communication channel to the people most  likely to want to hear from you regularly about your writing -- these readers are important to you.

My experience is that they're a good group of readers, too, and as you hear from them over the years, you'll learn a lot about them from what they tell you about their lives and the books they're reading. And you'll have valuable insight into how readers approach your fiction.

5. I don't care if you have 10 subscribers or 100,000 -- no matter how large or small your subscriber base is, it'll keep growing over time so long as you treat them well and don't abuse the privilege of writing to them now and then. Each reader is important.

6. Keep your list clean. What this means is check for bounces, disabled accounts, old email addresses that are effectively "dead," because someone changed their email service, etc. Most paid services have an easy way to do it, and I suspect that yahoogroups.com has a way to handle this, too.

7. Do not abuse the subscribers. Do not send bulk invites from your Facebook to them. Instead, send a newsletter and let them know you're on Facebook and you'd like them to Friend you there. Do not ever use your subscriber list for anything other than sending them the email newsletter -- exactly what they've given permission for you to do when they subscribed.

No tricks, no abuse, no sharing your list with anyone.

All right, this is just a basic outline of setting up an using an email newsletter -- free to your subscribers -- to get word out about your books.

Go subscribe to various writer's newsletters to see what they're doing. Some of the writers are very personable and chatty, others simply announce a book when it comes out with a brief, nice note. Still others get elaborate.

The more valuable the information you offer readers, the more subscribers you'll get. I offer free ebooks, stories, screensavers, contests -- and as of the summer of 2009, a new serial novel called The Locust.

Once I announced the new serial, suddenly my subscriptions jumped by several thousand.

And I'd like it to jump even more, so please subscribe to my newsletter at http://www.DouglasClegg.com -- you'll get instant access to the V.I.P. area of the website, which includes free ebooks, novels, stories, screensavers & more.


Douglas Clegg



( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 8th, 2009 02:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much for this!
Mar. 8th, 2009 11:57 pm (UTC)
You're welcome. This is just a basic outline of getting started with a newsletter. I hope to add another article at some point in the future that might have a bit more depth.

Thanks for reading it.


Mar. 8th, 2009 02:46 pm (UTC)
Good list. I'd like to add one: Do not embarrass yourself or your readers by begging them to buy multiple copies of your latest novel because your contract with your publisher is in danger. I've seen authors absolutely humiliate themselves with this shameless begging, and have shared laughs with other writers over such behavior--usually within hours of the newsletter being sent out. And when the same authors do this newsletter after newsletter, I find myself looking forward to each issue for all the wrong reasons.
Mar. 8th, 2009 11:56 pm (UTC)

I feel bad when a writer does that. My experience is that human nature is such that nothing makes people run away more than the whiff of desperation.

Ultimately, the writers who do that are trying to use sympathy and pathos to create book sales. Not a wise approach. I'm getting to the point where I think the best practice is simply to present your work and the opportunity to find it and not worry about whether anyone buys it.

My goal these days is to break down the barriers using the internet so that any potential or actual readers can decide for themselves if my fiction is something they'll want. All I can do is be myself and when necessary, get out of the way.

Thanks for the post. Shameless begging has never worked in any situation I've ever seen. And you're right -- it usually leads to the exact opposite reaction in someone who reads it.


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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