Monday, August 10, 2020

To Newsletter or Not

 Q: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? 

- from Susan

I think I started mulling over the newsletter idea after the publication of my second Dani O’Rourke mystery. I was getting good reviews, my publisher had done a Book Bub deal that resulted in 5,000 copies of the e-book being purchased in two days (for the princely sum of 99 cents) and I had briefly moved up to about 14 in Amazon’s mystery ranks. I was on the way! Surely, I had readers who were longing to hear from me.

A few authors I knew were investing in the tools to do their own newsletters. The most popular do-it-yourself software at the time was (and may still be) Mail Chimp, which promised to move all of your fan contacts into a mailing list just like that. And the design elements of a newsletter were a snap. The caveats I heard were pretty basic: you must allow people to opt out after the initial newsletter you send them; and you had to write often enough to become a habit with readers but not so often or so blatantly promotional that you annoyed them.

My first problem when I tried Mail Chimp was that I didn’t have my contact content in the right order for that magical conversion. The second was I didn’t have a big list of contacts who were readers and wasn’t sure the bulk of my contact lists were remotely interested in this aspect of my career. I talked to a tech guy who could do the work for me, he thought, but for big bucks. But when I sent him a sample of the raw data, he threw up his hands. Every name would need to be manually reentered in Mail Chimp’s software. I gave up.

Over the years since then, I have received many scores of unasked for newsletters, have opted out of almost all of them because they weren’t interesting or were highly promotional and/or self-admiring. And, today, who has time to read newsletters? We’re bombarded with information, ads, promotional material, catchy blogs, and good content 24/7 on every conceivable platform. Interactive blogs like my favorite, Jungle Red Writers, capture and support reader participation, which is more fun than the passive act of reading a newsletter.

I read and look forward to two newsletters: Louise Penny’s, which always seem to be written from the heart, and which offer readers an flattering invitation to get to know an intelligent, emotionally open writer. Louise has millions of readers and fans, and the warmth she offers comes back at her in waves. The other is by another enormously popular author, Rhys Bowen, who also happens to be a close friend. She, too, speaks authentically about her books, her research, her travels, and her interactions with readers, and, like Louise, has interesting content to share. 

Have I lost the opportunity to build a stronger base of readers and fans by not doing a newsletter? Possibly, and I’m sorry about that. But my own feeling is that for most of us authors the newsletter age has come and gone. Instagram is the new newsletter. Facebook is the easiest way to gather and share book information and ideas with readers. 

My blog mates may disagree vehemently with me, and I look forward to reading their experiences. Maybe if my foray into Mail Chimp had not been such an epic fail, I would look at this differently. 

A little shameless promotion: 
This from an Amazon review of DRESSED FOR DEATH IN BURGUNDY

It was such a delight to dive back into this world that the author has created with characters that I've grown to actually care about. I love the little details that the author adds to each book that makes you feel like you are actually there while reading. I just found myself so completely immersed in this book that I was almost sad to see it end.”

1 comment:

Paul D. Marks said...

Getting a newsletter set up can be a pain, as you mention, Susan. It's always hard trying to get something going and running smoothly. And like everything I think they have pluses and minuses. But they're kind of fun to read...for the most part.