I've known Liz Fielding online since I first joined Twitter in 2011, and was thrilled when she accepted my invitation to write a post on newsletters. Thank you, Liz, and over to you!...
Liz Fielding on Newsletters:
I began writing before the digital revolution. Before the explosion of romance titles and women’s fiction hit the market after the Bridget Jones phenomenon.
Back then, there was only one major publisher of romantic fiction; the shelves of every book store and supermarket were loaded with them and they sold in millions. Three or four dozen new titles appeared every month and then were gone, thereafter only to be found in charity shops.
Do you remember those bookstores? Waldenbooks, Borders (with their wonderful Romance Experts) and the revolving shelf in every Mom and Pop grocery store and newsagent?
Marketing by authors was almost non-existent – it was all about the publisher “brand” — and it was expensive, especially if you were based, as I was, in the UK. No web pages, no email, no social media.
If they did it at all - and I did - it was snail mail. Sending out bookmarks, postcards and maybe advance reading copies to stores and book reading groups.
Times have changed.
Now there are only Barnes and Noble and supermarkets to move the big numbers of books and all of them are cutting back on shelf space. At the same time publishing has exploded and it’s not just the new titles appearing by the thousand every month. The long backlists of all those authors (mine included) are now back in the market competing for the reader’s dollar.
Discoverability is the buzzword, marketing is a necessity for any author hoping to get noticed and the newsletter is at its heart.
I did start a newsletter some years ago – a very dull thing using Yahoo. No header, no pictures.
A couple of hundred people signed up (incredibly they’re all still with me) and I’d occasionally send out a newsletter. These days, when there are fewer and fewer stores carrying genre romance, when the possibility of an impulse buy along with the groceries is becoming ever rarer (you have to see the books to get the impulse!), the author’s newsletter list has taken on the core role in getting news of your latest book into the hands of a reader.
I asked my lovely web designer, Ally Oop, to create a newsletter for me at MailChimp to match my website, Facebook and blog pages. You can have up to 2000 subscribers for free. There are additional benefits for paid membership. I transferred my existing list, posted clearly visible sign-up links everywhere, then set about building up my numbers.
There is only one way to do that. You have to offer people an incentive.
Everyone who signs up for my newsletter gets a free digital download of one of my books. I use one of the backlist books to which I regained the rights and published digitally and I use a Smashwords coupon which is reclaimable anywhere in the world. It costs me nothing.
I have built up a following on Facebook by giving away copies of my books — negotiate with your publishers for extra copies for promotion — and occasional other treats.
Once in a while, to coincide with Mother’s Day or a holiday, I create a special prize which is only for my newsletter subscribers and post a picture on Facebook.
This is enticingly bigger; chocolate, a cute toy, socks, a notebook, a scarf – something you make yourself is especially nice. I also cross-post on Twitter and on my blog. I might spend a few dollars to boost it on Facebook.
People are busy and once you’ve got your subscriber, you have to keep her. More importantly, give her a reason to open your newsletter.
Again offer them an incentive. A regular draw for a signed book and other goodies. Something related to your book is good.
I’ve written a series of books around a group of sisters who have an ice-cream events business. I found some great socks and little erasers with an ice cream design which are lightweight for posting internationally. Sarah Morgan has made her Puffin Island series into a brand.
Share scenes that had to be cut from the book because your editor thought they were too hot or maybe write something that develops backstory (an incident from the past that gets only a passing mention in the book). Maybe offer a link to a spin-off short story that other people (who foolishly don’t subscribe to your newsletter) will have to pay to download.
You could invite a limited number of people to be part of your Author Club. Offer advance copies in return for an honest review. Carole Matthews, who writes books with chocolate in the title has her Chocolate Lover’s Club.
Make your subscribers part of your team so that they are invested in your success. Even better, make them feel special — they see your new cover before anyone else, get sneak peaks of the book you’re writing and little extras available nowhere else.
When you’re promoting your latest book, make it fun, not hard sell — write your newsletter as if you're writing it to your best friend. That said, make sure you have solid buy links. This is the era of instant gratification and if your reader has to hunt you down on Amazon or iBooks or Nook she may be distracted by another book on the way. And even if she doesn’t buy, Amazon will be alerted to her interest and send her one of those “you may like” promotional emails to remind her.
While the number of newsletter subscribers is important, it is the link clicks to the book that will send it flying up the charts.
If you’d like to sign up for my newsletter (and get a free download of The Bride, the Baby and the Best Man), you can do it here.
Thank you, Liz for writing such an interesting, and informative post (and for all the lovely photos too)! Find out more about Liz in her bio, below:
Multi-award winning author, Liz Fielding, has more than 15 million books in print. Her latest, The Sheikh's Temporary Princess will be published in Harlequin "Romance" in February 2017.