If you’re an indie author, you probably already know the importance of an author newsletter for building your platform, connecting with readers, and selling books. If you’re new, let me tell you!
This guide to creating an effective author newsletter covers:
- What is an author newsletter?
- What are author newsletters used for?
- How to write an author newsletter
- What to include in your author newsletter
- Tips for effective author newsletters
An author newsletter is a consistent email campaign sent to your readership. They’re often used for updates, keeping communication open with your platform, and monetization.
What is an author newsletter?
Newsletters are an important piece of any author platform, but especially for indie authors. Connecting with readers means more book sales, reviews, clickthroughs, and merch buys.
Newsletters go right to your readers’ inboxes–right along with important work emails, updates from friends, and “Chris put your order in the oven at 7:35 pm” alerts from Domino’s. When someone signs up for your mailing list, they’re inviting you into their life on purpose, and that’s a powerful thing.
What are author newsletters used for?
Newsletters and mailing lists are probably the most important marketing tools for authors, because they’re the only part of your author platform that you fully control. Social media isn’t yours!
You own the contact information you’ve collected for your mailing list. Social media follows don’t belong to you, and they can be taken away in a second. A mailing list subscriber means that someone gave you their name and email address, at the very least. They’re trusting you with that, which means they trust that method of communication and are ready to listen.
This makes newsletters your strongest marketing facet.
How to write an author newsletter
This is a great video overview by an author for how she writes author newsletters that actually get opened, sell copies of her books, with some tips for doing it yourself.
What to include in your author newsletter
So what should you actually include in your newsletters? Here’s a list of common categories of content you’ll find in an author newsletter. Can you think of a category not listed here? Let us know in a comment!
1. Author Updates and News
The main purpose of an author newsletter is to keep your readers up-to-date on your books and writing.
This might include upcoming book announcements, new format availability (like the launch of the audiobook), platform changes, event dates.
For example, here are two bits of news I included in one of my last author newsletters: an expansion from one-person to a team for various service offerings, and a livestream event on Twitch. These are two things that are relevant for my audience to know, and they both have call-to-actions, headers, and images, which we’ll touch on later.
2. Personal Updates
If someone subscribes to your newsletter, they’re probably interested in you as a person! If your personality is attached to your author platform, remember to personalize the newsletters. You could include general life updates, behind-the-scenes peeks at the writing process, photos of your pets–whatever makes sense for your platform.
Anywhere you can inject personality into your promotions, you should!
3. Promos and Sales
Let your audience know about special offerings and limited time deals to make sure they have an opportunity to act on it! For example, I often run week-long promotions where my ebooks are 99 cents, so I make sure to tell my newsletter about that. Or sometimes I’ll include exclusive newsletter-only deals, like 50% off of a certain service from my website.
4. Affiliate Links and Merch
An easy way to monetize your author newsletters is with affiliate links. You can also include your own merch, if you have it. A good rule is to only promote something to your audience that you really believe is a good product.
Here’s my “writing favorites” section from a recent newsletter. I mentioned a notebook, pen, and drafting software that I genuinely enjoy and recommend to my friends all the time, then used affiliate links to monetize.
I also use newsletters to announce new merch in my shop—
Monetization can turn your newsletters into a great stream of income on top of it already being an effective marketing and platform growth strategy.
5. Newsletter Swaps and Collaborations
A great use of newsletter space is dedicating it to another writer. A common practice authors use to grow their audiences is with a newsletter swap. A newsletter swap is when two people dedicate spots in their newsletters to the other person. Swapping spots to promote each other’s platforms is mutually beneficial to share each other’s audiences.
For example, my writer friend and I both have short story collections. We can do a newsletter swap by adding a section to our next newsletters with something like, “If you enjoyed my short story collection, here’s another from a great writer in the same genre!”
That swap would make sense for us, since we both have an audience interested in short story collections.
If you’re just getting started building your mailing list, you can start newsletter swaps with your writer friends and similarly-sized creators. As your list grows, you’ll be able to use your numbers, open rates, and other stats to pitch a newsletter swap to larger creators with bigger readerships.
6. Gifts and Fun Things
One way to keep people subscribed to your mailing list is to offer them value. While they might enjoy updates on you and your books (and maybe even the monetized recommendations we talked about), it’s still nice to include something just for them!
I’ve sent my mailing list writing prompts, goal-setting templates, exclusive short stories, and tons of other gifts. I try to include exclusive access or a downloadable in every newsletter I send, and my open rate is much higher than the industry average. When setting up your newsletter, try brainstorming gifts to offer your readers!
I’m including branding as a newsletter element because it’s important to see your newsletter as a part of your platform, which means using your branding consistently. Here’s a great example of a strongly branded newsletter from Gloria Russell:
As you can see, Gloria’s brand is pretty cowboy-centric. From the short story collection cover, the yee-haw selfie, the greeting (Howdy!), and the verbiage throughout, Gloria provides a consistent vibe. That’s great for branding! If you removed all names and identifying features from this newsletter, I would see it in my inbox and still know it was from Gloria.
Those are the common elements you’ll see in a strong letter. Which ones you include depends on your platform and goals. You might need to experiment with a few different methods to see what your audience reacts best to.
Tips for Effective Author Newsletters
The content of your newsletters can be whatever you’d like! But here are a few general tips for optimizing your letters for readability and open rate.
1. Segment your lists
If it makes sense for your platform, consider segmenting your mailing lists. For example, I have three–my main newsletter, my “reading” list, and my “writing” list.
My biggest list is my monthly newsletter–this goes to everyone who wants to know what I’m up to, so it’s a wrap-up of the entire month of my content creation and updates.
The “reading” list is for people who might be interested in the things I write, so they get things like project updates and sneak peeks. The biggest funnel for my reader list is my Twilight Rewrite videos, because those viewers can opt in for a PDF of the edited version.
Since those videos have less to do with writing than my others, most of the viewers who opt in from those aren’t actually writers, so my writing content isn’t going to appeal to them as much.
And finally, my “writer” list is for other indie writers who want tips, resources, and writing opportunities.
I plug this newsletter on my educational writing content with an incentive aimed toward writers (like right now, I’m using a list of writing prompts) so that the emails I collect for it will be people interested in that content.
Splitting my audience into segments helps me to give people more relevant content. Some people don’t want my personal and platform updates, and some people are exclusively readers or exclusively writers. This makes crafting my newsletters more focused and much easier.
2. Make sure you have a Call To Action
Almost everything you include in your newsletter should have a CTA (call to action). Ask yourself why a piece of information is important to give to your readers. What do you want them to do with it?
Announcing a new service? Link to a sign-up form, maybe with a discount incentive.
Including a cover reveal? Make sure you ask your readers to preorder the book.
If you show them a picture of your dog, you can link the photo to your Instagram.
Putting together a recommendations list? Connect affiliate links for readers to buy!
4. Don’t be too wordy
For the same reasons we want clear headings–your readers are more likely to click the next newsletter if they know you aren’t going to waste their time. Make sure you read over and edit every newsletter for clarity and conciseness to keep your readers subscribed.
5. Write to an “ideal reader”
Just like we talk about for writing books–create an ideal reader for your newsletter, then write to them. It will make your letters more personable and human, and you might even have more fun writing them.
6. Send test emails and check your links
There’s nothing more embarrassing than a typo or a dead link in a newsletter, so make sure to send a test email to yourself and a couple of pals for one last readthrough before you blast it to your entire mailing list. And don’t forget to check the links!
7. Optimize for inbox opens
There are a few different ways to help your emails go to inboxes instead of spam, and there are things to do to encourage your readers to open emails.
Here's what you can do to increase your author newsletter open rates:
- Select the option to send confirmation emails. Inboxes favor emails if the user has confirmed that they subscribed to the newsletter. Most mailing list services should give you the option to include a confirmation email.
- Personalize the emails with first names (this means collecting those first names in your newsletter signup forms)
- Use accurate, interesting subject lines. Never lie to your readers! You might be able to use a misleading subject to get more clicks, but it’s not going to work twice.
This is very easy to do in ConvertKit, the primary software we recommend for email list management.
8. Make it readable
Readability is an important aspect of a good newsletter. Using clear headings with strong keywords will let your readers glance over the sections of your newsletter to see which bits appeal to them enough to read. It also gives your newsletter a more organized look.
You can also use an email service with templates to quickly design attractive and easy-to-read newsletters. If you haven’t chosen a newsletter service yet, I use Flodesk! When I switched from the old service I was using, my newsletters got way prettier and super quick to write.
Need a little more help? Coaching and guidance? Check out this free training to learn more about our School & Community for Authors!
Now we know what author newsletters are for, what they’re used for, what content to include, and how to write great ones! What will you include in your first letter?