Blogging from A to Z: Newsletters

Blogging from A to Z is a month long challenge to post every day of the month (excluding Sunday) using a different letter of alphabet. This month I'm sharing unusual book marketing tips as part of my Marketing From The Edge Series.

This goes hand in hand with a mailing list. You do have a mailing list, right? If not, please stop reading this, go to MailChimp and create a mailing list widget you can add right to your website. Even if you don't know how you'll use this list yet, it's never too early to start building it.

Okay, so one of the best ways to stay in regular contact with your mailing list is through Newsletters. Unfortunately, too many writers shy away from them because they don't know what content to include. There's a whole other set of authors who send them, but are under utilizing their effectiveness.

They key to newsletter content is to keep in focused on what your readers want to see. A rundown of your writing life is one way to fill up a page, but is that really what your readers are interested in?

Here are a few ideas for regular features to include that can help improve the number of subscribers who actually read your newsletter.

Book Review
This doesn't need to be a full review if that makes you squeamish. Just add a cover photo and blurb for all the books you read last month. Or just your favorite three. Most readers will find it fascinating to learn what their favorite authors are reading. It makes you look more like a real person and allows the reader to get to know you better. Plus, it's just good karma to help promote other authors.

New genre releases
New books are released by the thousand every week. Include a list of the three releases you're most excited about that fit into the same genre you write in. You could also highlight any book to movie adaptations that you're excited to see. It benefits you to keep readers engaged in your genre, especially when you're in between book releases. Plus, more of that karma is always good.

Progress Report
Briefly let readers know where you are on different projects. Many readers are fascinated by the behind the scenes details of book publishing, but they don't need to know everything. Give a status update on your current drafts, such as 50% done with first draft of a new secret project, working through line edits on new book, etc. Keep this brief and be sure to name books by their title (with release date in parenthesis) if you know it.

Blog Highlight
Go back through all your blog articles from last month and pick the one with the most page views. Include a link to the post with a line or two introduction. You can also single out your favorite blog comment for the month. This is a great way to give a little love to a fan.

Share a look at your calendar for the upcoming month. Be sure to include links to any events you'll be attending. You can also note any guest posts or interviews you have coming up.

If you encourage fans to send you question through your blog or website, this is a great way to increase interaction. Post the question and your answer for everyone to see. This will encourage other readers to send their questions because they'll see that you do answer. You can invite readers to send their questions at the end of each answer.

It's okay to talk about yourself, but don't force this. Keep news limited to information that's actually newsworthy. This can be new book deals, special deals, foreign editions, sales records, or anything else that can highlight your books without sounding trivial.

By including regular sections that aren't always Me, Me, Me readers will be okay when you hijack the newsletter during your release month to talk all about your new book. They will be excited to learn about your new book because you've built a strong relationship.

Just because you aren't going to focus  on your books 100% of the time doesn't mean you have to hide them in your newsletter. It's perfectly okay to show your books with a buy link in the side bar or at the bottom. That way your books are still present without turning your newsletter into one big advertisement. 

If none of these ideas strike your fancy, don't be afraid to ask your readers what they want. The purpose of the newsletter is to engage your readers and increase exposure to your books. If they don't open your email, you won't accomplish either of these goals. Give your readers what they want and they'll give you fans in return.