Friday, August 14, 2020

All the News That Fits

Talk about newsletters.  Do you or do not have one? If you do, how often do you send it out? On what venue? How did you get your newsletter list? If not, why not and how do you contact your readers instead? Are there any authors whose newsletters you think are particularly good?

by Paul D. Marks

Some people swear by newsletters. They say that’s the best tool for marketing. And I think they are a good thing. I have one called PostMarks (clever, huh). And if you’d like to sign up for it you can do it here or at the end of this post or just go to my website: There’s other “fun” stuff at my website, too, like my weird encounter with Cary Grant, my encounter with Gene Kelly and the time I pulled a gun on the cops and lived to tell about it.

My newsletter logo.

I had a column in a small paper called PostMarks some time back so I stole my newsletter title from myself. But you know what they say, great artists steal, bad artists only borrow. I guess I’ll have to sue myself. Why not, it seems to be the national pastime these days.

I don’t send it out on any regular schedule. I do try to send it out about 4 to 6 times a year on average, particularly when I have something noteworthy to mention, like a new book or short story coming out. But I don’t send it out for every little thing that comes up like a new interview or guest post (like my recent post at CrimeReads).

I try to make the newsletter interesting and fun and more than just selling and BSP. It contains various sections. There’s a greeting, with a little news. Then a Current News section that talks about any new books or stories I might have coming up (or out). Sometimes it might mention interviews I’ve done or that are coming up as well. But then we get to the fun stuff. There’s a section on La La Land (Los Angeles). Anyone who follows me on Facebook knows I post a lot of pictures and articles about L.A. and in my newsletter I talk about various aspects of L.A. history. Often the topics are tied into L.A. locations in a novel or story of mine, so there’s sometimes that link. But sometimes they’re not related to my work. L.A. history is fun. In one of the recent newsletters, before The Blues Don’t Care came out, I talked about the gambling ships that used to lay off the Los Angeles coastline, just outside the 3 mile legal limit because some of the action in Blues takes place on one of those ships. From the feedback I got people found that fun and interesting.

An excerpt from my newsletter

Then, there’s often a section called Noirville, which can deal with noir aspects of my writing or just noir in general, maybe a little talk about a film noir that I like. In one of the recent newsletters I talk about the Nat King Cole song The Blues Don’t Care, from which I borrowed the title of the book and ask the question “can a song be noir”? There’s also a What’s Next section, which should be obvious as to what it’s about. And the penultimate section is usually Dog Tails where I talk about whatever critters (not necessarily just dogs) we have at the time and post pictures of them. And then The End of the Line, a farewell. Of course, there’s also ways to get my books, links to Amazon and also to my social media. So it’s a full deal. Doing the newsletter can be a little labor intensive, but it’s also fun.
Here’s a link to one of my recent newsletters if you’re interested: June 2020 PostMarks.

Dog Tails :-) 

The venue I use is MailChimp. There might be other places out there. I’m not really familiar with all of them. And I don’t really remember why we chose to go with MailChimp. Maybe ’cause my wife likes the chimp logo. And I do like MailChimp. It’s fairly simple to use and it’s free if your list is under 2,000 people.

As to how I got the list of names, there’s various ways. When I meet someone I often ask if they’d like to sign up for it, I mention it when I’m speaking. And in the days when we did live events (remember those days?) I bring a clipboard with my newsletter signup sheet. I’ll just ask people if it’s okay for me to sign them up. And I let them know I won’t bother them too often, just a few times a year. No one wants to be bombarded with 20 emails a month.

I also recently added a popup to my website so that if people subscribe to my newsletter they can download a free copy of my novella Vortex. Unfortunately, it hasn’t really increased my subscriptions, but it was worth a try.

One of the questions above is, “If not, why not and how do you contact your readers instead?” Well, even though I do a newsletter it’s not the only way I stay in touch, of course. I have my website. I blog here and at SleuthSayers. I get interviewed in print or on radio or podcasts. I do events, though these days they’re all virtual on Zoom or Skype, etc. I did the book launch for The Blues Don’t Care on Facebook, and it was more successful than I’d imagined. There’s a whole host of ways to contact people and stay in touch and get the word out, including: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and a host of others, but you have to limit yourself or all you’ll be doing is social media.

So, like with anything, newsletters have their pluses and minuses, but overall I think they’re a good way to stay in touch with friends and fans (I have 3.2 of the latter).


And now for the usual BSP:

I want to thank Living My Best Book Life for this great review of The Blues Don’t Care. Here’s an excerpt and a link to the full review.

“𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐁𝐥𝐮𝐞𝐬 𝐃𝐨𝐧'𝐭 𝐂𝐚𝐫𝐞 by @pauldmarks is a mysterious historical fiction set in the WWII time period. It tackles topics like corruption, racism, and many others that we are still facing today. I was taken aback by Paul D. Marks's talented writing style. This story is powerful and Paul did a wonderful job developing his main character, Bobby Saxon...

…I was captivated from the very start. This author tackled so many subjects that few care to bring up. The detail of the story gave me an insight on all the injustices in the 1940's. I appreciated the heart of the story; a person chasing their dream and never looking back. Bobby Saxon is a well-developed character that was able to learn, grow, and hone in on his craft. There is a main secret of Bobby's that I didn't see coming. This is such a fascinating historical fiction that I thoroughly enjoyed!”

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Anonymous said...

I love your newsletter, Paul! The reason I often hear for having an email list is that it won’t go away, while social media could. I send mine quarterly, more often for breaking news. Angela M. Sanders has an interesting newsletter. It’s heavy on vintage fashion and living, but a good example of presentation. I detest those pop up forms for signing up, although I understand that they’re successful.

Dietrich Kalteis said...

Thanks for the tips, Paul. You've got one of the best newsletters around.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you, Maggie. I’m glad you enjoy it. And uh oh, we just recently put a pop up on my website… I’m not familiar with Angela M. Sanders. But I’d be curious to see her newsletter.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Dietrich! Glad you like it, too. And glad you could find some useful tips in the post.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Your newsletter sounds intriguing. I've heard from other writers that sending them out increases sales which is a good thing. No, I haven't tried it yet. But maybe someday.

Cathy Ace said...

Excellent post - and I have signed up :-)

jake devlin said...

Some great ideas there, Paul. I used to send a monthly newsletter, with news, a puzzle (with a prize), a philosophical quote and some other stuff I've now forgotten. When the European Union added their restrictions, I had to have people sign up again and lost about 70% of the subscribers. But it gave me a reason (excuse, actually) to end the monthly chore and go to just occasional newsy emails, around four or five a year. Sometimes there's a brief spike in sales, more often not. But I do have more time to make up weird stories.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Jacqueline. The thing is it can’t hurt to do a newsletter (I don’t think). The only thing is it can take some time to put them together. So it might worth trying one out some day.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks, Cathy, on both counts. I signed up for yours earlier this week, too.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thanks for your comment, Jake. That’s a bummer about losing 70% of your people. But they’re probably the 70% that wouldn’t open it anyway. I think doing one monthly would be too much for me to handle and I think we’re on the same wavelength at a few a year. Yours sounds fun with the puzzles and quotes and all too.

Vinnie said...

Your newsletter sounds interesting, Paul. I have one as well, which I send quarterly, using Mailerlite rather than Mailchimp. It's less expensive. During my off months, I change my account to the free version to save additional money. Overall, I think newsletters are effective marketing tools. I have approximately 4000 subscribers, all presumably people who are interested in crime fiction. My list came via contests and direct sign-ups, either at book events or via my website.

Paul D. Marks said...

Thank you for your comment, Vinnie. I'm not familiar with Mailerlite, but will have to check it out. And 4000 subscribers is great! I'll sign up for yours, hope you'll sign up for mine.