Everyone knows how crucial a successful mailing list is. Unfortunately, many writers are at a loss for what to say. They can write an entire book only to be stymied by email content! Others give it their best shot, but their subscribers won’t open the email. Even worse, they click the dreaded unsubscribe button and sever the relationship entirely.
Writing a good newsletter and keeping subscribers doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Try these do’s and don’ts to get started on the right foot and make your efforts count.
DO: Provide value to your reader in every newsletter.
If you don’t know what they’d find valuable, go to www.answerthepublic.com and search a relevant word that you know a lot about. It’ll show you the questions people are asking about that word. For example, I write about funeral topics. If I search for the word “funeral,” it might tell me that people want to know how much funerals cost, why we do funerals, the history of funerals, fun funeral options, etc. I choose a question and write a post that answers it. It’s useful and relevant to my audience. Value!
BONUS: the more value you give on a regular basis, the less sketchy it feels to ask for something later. Expert Tammi Labrecque recommends a ratio of three “gives” for one “ask.” You do not need to sell products in every email. Instead, sell yourself (not, like, literally. Cultivate a fandom)!
DON’T: Send an email for the sake of sending email.
If you have nothing valuable to say, you’re wasting your reader’s time. It’s annoying, and likely to provoke an “unsubscribe” if you do it too often. I only send mine once a month (if I had time, I’d consider sending two per month). I save up my content so my emails are meaty and worth sitting down to enjoy. Note: that infrequent schedule goes out the window around your publication date.
DO: Keep a running list of topics to mention in your next newsletter.
It might be a funny thing that happened last week, progress you made, a cool website or book. It might be so small that you’d forget by the end of the month, but those little tidbits add up and you can use them. When you sit down to write your newsletter, you’ll have some ready built “flavor” to supplement your main topic. It’s a nice, organic way to let your personality shine through without feeling forced.
DON’T: Forget that your audience is ever changing.
Remember the people who joined recently? They’re new to the party and aren’t up to speed. Don’t assume they know what you’re talking about, so provide a little reminder/reference. I’ve signed up for newsletters and unsubscribed because I was lost about who the author was and what they were talking about. Maybe include a roundup or summary of important things. Use a consistent tagline or image that reminds people who you are or what you write. Don’t rely on someone’s knowledge of previous newsletter content. If they’re confused, they’re uncomfortable… and they’re leaving.
My confidence in an author diminishes if I see constant typos in their communications. Make it easy to read too. Break up the text into chunks. Use headers and sub headers so I can skim past things if they’re not relevant to me. Be mindful of your color scheme. Most people are reading your email on their smartphone, so it needs to be easy to see. Add elements that make it look professional (like your header, footer, and logo). Add little personal touches so I can get to know the real you. I don’t want to read something that was written by a robot.
DON’T: Start creating newsletters without subscribing to other authors’ mailing lists first.
Make notes on what works, and perhaps more crucially, what doesn’t work. I’ve spent a lot of time researching newsletters and have seen examples, both good and bad. I’ve modeled my own after someone else’s that I admire. Happily, that author later subscribed to mine and recently sent me a message with enthusiastic praise. Nailed it!
If you’d like to get an idea of content and design, you can see my archive here without having to sign up for my mailing list. Clearly my content is tailored to my niche, but you can get ideas and apply them to your own genre. See my past newsletters here: www.LouisePachella.com/archive.
If you make mistakes, learn and grow. Do better in the next one. If you set up your welcome sequence or other automations a long time ago, periodically update them to reflect your new knowledge and design skills. Your recent emails may look fantastic, but a new subscriber’s first impression will be based on your shabbily done first attempt at a welcome email. Fix it.
Want more tips? I highly recommend the book Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque. Read it and get writing!
Louise Pachella is a funeral director, embalmer, and fledgling writer. She’s currently writing her first nonfiction books (Embalming For Amateurs: The Casual Reader’s Guide to Dead Bodies and Funeral Fun! Adult Activity & Coloring Book), but spends a great deal of time researching and procrasti-learning instead. Learn more at www.HisAndHearsePress.com.
We're back! So the hiatus went a little longer than planned, but we're back in action again!
Check out the first episode of Season 2, Ep. 62, now!
Welcome to the 2nd Season of the PublishHer podcast! We've got some great content heading your way in our second season – book writing, publishing, and marketing tips from authors, coaches, publishers, service providers, and more!
In this episode, host Alexa Bigwarfe gives a run down of exciting events that have happened since the podcast went on hiatus in February, fun exciting programs happening in the upcoming weeks and months, and what is to come in Season 2!
It’s the moment you’ve been waiting for: we are ready to share our list of speakers for the 2022 Women in Publishing Summit!
Choosing the right speakers for the Summit each year takes months of planning. We want to make sure we’re always addressing the latest concerns writers and industry professionals are talking about, and there are SO many amazing women who apply to share their expertise each year. It’s a tough decision, which is why we want to thank all of those who served on our Selection Committee this year!
Speaking of gratitude, we are particularly grateful that our featured speaker, Robin Cutler, agreed to join us this year! Read on to find out more about Robin, as well as information on some other exciting presentations and where to find the schedule!
Meet Robin Cutler.
Robin has been a force within the publishing industry throughout her career. She’s spent time in transformative roles at USC Press, Amazon and Summerhouse Press, leading to her position creating and leading the development of IngramSpark.
After finishing her mission of building IngramSpark into a publishing powerhouse, Robin joined LMBPN Worldwide Publishing as President, and became the CEO of How To Publish Books.com, a consulting service for indie authors and publishers.
In addition to all these accomplishments, Robin has served on the board of the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) from 2014-2018, and she frequently appears at industry events. You may have heard her speak at Book Expo America, Frankfurt Bookfair, London Bookfair, SFWC, and NINC, for example, and we are delighted she’d adding the Women in Publishing Summit to that list!
Robin brings a huge amount of experience in indie, trade and academic publishing, and her expertise in everything from content creation to distribution will all inform her Summit presentation, entitled, The State of Publishing: Challenges, Innovations and What’s to Come.
Check out some Summit highlights.
Day 1 of the Summit will, as it has before, focus on the craft of writing. From writing dialogue that works to making sure your thriller delivers thrills, we’ll talk about fiction writing. And from writing a children’s book that grabs agents to how to create a self-help outline, we’ll give writing tips that work for EVERY genre of book.
Day 2 is going to be about the publishing process and covers the process of working with agents and publishers, as well as how to self-publish your work. We’ll talk book covers, working with editors, sending out queries, distribution and so much more!
Day 3 will dig into marketing, and no matter what kind of book you’ve written, you’ll find tips galore. We’re offering sessions on growing your email list and your author platform, promoting your book on Amazon, creating social media plans (and making sure you have great graphics for those plans!) and developing your brand. This day is jam-packed with ways to market your book.
Day 4 covers the business of being an author. We are all small business owners, even if that’s not what we set out to be. We’ll get into monetizing platforms like YouTube, building a speaking career, putting out collaborative fiction collections, building great author websites, booking podcasts, understanding SEO and so many other great ways to make a living as an author.
How can I find out more about the Summit and the speakers?
You can find all the info on the speakers we’ve announced and when you can see them right here.
And if you haven’t already purchased your ticket, there’s still time! Grab yours by clicking here and join us for what is going to be a PHENOMENAL 4 days of learning together!
Growing an author email list is hard, but it’s also one of the most important things any indie author can do to impact success. So many methods require major investments and months of time to see results. But there’s one tool I recommend to my friends and clients that can make that tough job easier: BookFunnel. It’s a multi-purpose indie author tool that can move your email list forward without breaking the bank or demanding massive amounts of time.
Because I recommend it so often, I’m really excited to announce that BookFunnel will again be joining the 2022 Women in Publishing Summit as a Bronze Sponsor! Damon and his team add so much value to our Summit content – his sponsor session last year was a knockout! – and they have continued to turn out great results for our clients and friends over time.
What does BookFunnel do?
BookFunnel does a few different things that, when taken together, can help transform your author email list AND your sales:
BookFunnel gives you a place to send readers to check out an Advance Review Copy (ARC) of your book.
BookFunnel lets you create an all-in one sales landing page that you can customize with links to buy on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Kobo – AND with the ability to also link directly to your direct-sales website, to maximize your book profits.
BookFunnel allows you to store and create landing pages for your audiobook sales and giveaways as well.
BookFunnel connects you with other authors to share links to free copies of your book or even to the sales pages for your book through their special “group promotions.” (More on that in a minute!)
All you need to do is upload your interior files (for giveaways/newsletter promos) and cover, add some promotional text, set the links up and go. It’s an easy-to-use, straightforward site, no matter what your tech experience is.
While the landing pages are great, it’s the group promotions that make BookFunnel special. By bringing you together with other indie authors looking to expand their audiences, you create themed promotions giving away a copy of your ARC or finished book in exchange for each reader’s email. When every participating author shares the link with their own already-established newsletter list and social media audience, the promotion of ALL the books reaches hundreds – even thousands – or new potential readers every time. If you’ve done your job by getting a great book cover and writing a compelling hook for your promotional text, you’ll be growing your email list before you know it.
Promotions are usually themed around genre or subject matter, and you can create your own promotions, too! It could be for romance books, kids’ nonfiction books or books set in the South. Whatever you think will energize a community of readers to check out your promotion.
BookFunnel also offers sales promotions that work much the same way, but they direct anyone who clicks on your book to a sales page. These promotions can really have a big impact combined with a special sale price.
Of course, this isn’t the only way you can use BookFunnel to grow your email list. Damon blew our minds this summer with his suggestion to use it to host bonus material for your book. That short story about your characters celebrating the holidays? A prequel chapter you cut for length? An additional chapter to your nonfiction book reflecting on recent news development? You can send readers of your published work to BookFunnel to collect this cool, free bonus material and capture their email addresses for your list. It’s a genius workaround to the problem of not knowing how to get in touch with all those folks who read your book on Kindle Unlimited or buy it through other booksellers.
What kind of author is right for BookFunnel?
At the end of the day, I think BookFunnel is right for any indie author who’s ready to grow an email list! It is particularly good for authors in genre fiction (romance, mystery, scifi & fantasy), but every genre has active promotions happening at any given time!
How can I learn more about BookFunnel?
Check out their most recent webinar with us belowand head to their website to see how they can help you grow your email list! Click here to visit their site.
It’s with great thanks that I introduce our friends at Pub Site, the premiere website solution for authors, are again joining us as a Gold Sponsor for the 20222 Women in Publishing Summit! Their support for a space of our own, as women in this industry, is a reflection of their commitment to an inclusive, accessible publishing industry.
I’m looking forward to welcoming my friend Fauzia Burke and her husband, John Burke, back to our conference this year. Since the day I saw Fauzia speak at BookExpo, I’ve been a huge fan of her transformative take on how authors can use their websites to grow their writing career. I’ve been privileged to see that happen in real time for my clients and friends using Pub Site in the intervening years.
The ease and elegance of Pub Site, quite simply, just works.
And in a world where so much doesn’t, I’m glad to share more about them with you!
What does Pub Site do?
In short, Pub Site works with authors to build functional, beautiful, smart websites that move their career forward.
That can happen several ways, depending on each author’s unique needs and wants. A variety of proven and specialized templates are available, or Pub Site offers custom design to create the website of your dreams, so you don’t have to worry about it.
Authors need different things on their websites than baseball leagues or jewelry stores or news sites. They need functional e-commerce, clear space to share creative content, places for landing pages and more. They need to have strong visual language and branding that tells potential readers what this writer is all about. They need to connect to all the important social sites, of course. And they definitely need clear, strong calls to action to get on the newsletter list.
Pub Site understands that. Fauzia has spent her whole career in book publicity and marketing – she’s built her company around knowing what authors need. Pub Site isn’t trying to sell you a template made for a realtor or a stone mason or a teacher. They’re giving you the opportunity to build a custom website for a working author that will attract ideal readers, aid in your marketing and become your digital home.
What kind of author needs Pub Site?
It’s long been my opinion – and my clients can confirm this! – that every author needs a website.
And I also think that there are very few folks who are better served by mucking around learning a new technical skill set when they could be perfecting their book. Every spare minute we have as authors should go first to making sure our book is everything it should be, so that every step we take in marketing is a step towards a successful book.
So unless you love web design or are truly committed to an ultra-low cost process, spending some money on your website is a very smart bet.
Pub Site offers both a semi-DIY option for those who want to flex their creative muscles and get involved in the hands-on work of the website, AND a done-for-you option. I’ve had clients successfully use both, because Pub Site’s team is supportive and helpful at every turn.
How can I learn more about Pub Site?
Head on over to their website to see if Pub Site is the right online home for your writing career!
How many newsletters did you delete from your inbox this morning? No judgement. We all do it. You subscribe to someone’s newsletter and then…eh.
It’s a vital part of marketing in almost any industry, and it’s a massive sales driver for most authors.
But did you know that there are writers out there who are making an actual living from writing newsletters, separate from any book revenue?
It got even more popular during the pandemic, when a lot of writers felt pressured to hustle and the publishing industry slowed. I’ve heard from a lot of you over the last year or so: what about Substack?
So let’s get into it! What about Substack for authors?
What’s Substack anyway?
Substack is simply an email list platform, but it’s built specifically as a monetized subscription model. It has all the traditional things a decent email platform has – analytics, list management tools. And yes, you can have a free newsletter on Substack. But the model is built to make taking payment easier.
Writers set the price, but most subscriptions run about $5 per month, or $50 per year if you pay at once. But there’s also quite a few niche topics (investment advice, etc.) that command higher subscription costs. It’s not a huge amount of money on its face, but the most successful people on the platform – most of whom aren’t exactly Kardashian-level famous, but more cultural figures, academics, authors and journalists – have thousands of subscribers, so it does add up, even after Substack takes about 10% of the revenue for their fees.
There are other services that do similar things like Ghost (an open-source, nonprofit version that’s very interesting to me), Patreon, Campaignzee (part of MailChimp’s products) and Buy Me a Coffee. But right now, Substack has a lot of momentum with authors.
I polled my team to see if they were Substack subscribers.
Nancy: I have been reading Roxanne Gay’s newsletter for a long time, and I get it on Substack. She’s amazing, and it’s one of my very favorite emails to open. I also subscribe to Book Post, which is a really smart book review account.
Sarah: I’m a longtime subscriber to author/The Toast co-founder Daniel Lavery’s content, and he recently moved from Patreon (another subscription service that isn’t specifically for writers) to Substack. I also get Agents and Books, which is about publishing and working with agents.
Why are writers using it?
The idea here is that monetizing a newsletter is an attractive option for folks who want to produce content that is wholly independent.
For journalists, it’s become a refuge from the corporatized newsrooms with low salaries and overwhelming workloads. A newsperson can do longform reporting in an environment that isn’t worried about appealing to broad audiences or offending advertisers…and they can also write with a strong point of view.
For authors, it’s a place to share work that’s personal, outside your usual genre, bonus scenes you’ve worked on, character sketches. It could even be a place to try out serialized writing. In a team chat about the serialized opportunities presented by Amazon Vella (read our blog post about that here), Nancy pointed out that author Katie Conrad has been using Substack to write a cozy story about a witch and her cat, Saffron and Bear.
Plus, you’ve probably noticed that social media has gotten a whole lot noisier lately. People are tuning out, and passive reach has been declining for years. You have to pay to get people to look at your content, and when you spend the money on an ad, you want to know that ad is going to a place that’s going to contribute to your bottom line. So why not send your ad to a paid product like Substack?
What does it take to do well on Substack?
The biggest challenge for anyone who’s interested in making Substack a true revenue stream is that it requires a huge amount of list building, just like any other email marketing you’d do.
Sure, the reward is more direct here – getting subscribers is going to immediately pay off, you don’t need to wait for them to buy your book! – but if you’re not known to your audience, they’re not going to pay $5 a month to get to know you.
Even if you already have a good email list with engaged readers, stats suggest that about 10% of them will convert to paying subscribers. And Substack doesn’t really help you find new subscribers through the platform unless you are already a top performer.
So my advice to anyone looking to try Substack out is:
Keep offering your free newsletter because it remains one of your best marketing tools; these folks already love you. Consistently messaging the fun you’re having on Substack with your subscribers, but also continuing to provide value to your free subscribers is a great way to convert more and more to your paid model. You can do both on the Substack platform.
Develop a strategy to promote your Substack on social media. This model doesn’t let you step away from social media, friends – in fact, it's one of the best ways to grow your audience. Think of social media as being a customer funnel bringing folks into your subscription.
Make this work your best. When you ask people to pay for your newsletter, it needs to be as good as a newsletter as your book is as a book.
Even though your work needs to be “worth it,” one of the main things people like about paid content like this is that it’s giving them access to something special. Being personal or casual is something many subscribers enjoy and look forward to seeing in their Substack subscriptions.
Make sure you’re publishing regularly. Weekly is ideal, but some writers do a few short pieces a week.
So should I start a Substack?
If you already have a big email list OR if you’re willing to spend the time, effort and money (especially ad spend) towards growing your email list, go for it!
If you’re looking to Substack to be a supplemental income at most, and you’d like to connect with your readers in a new way or with new material, go for it!
There’s really no downside…unless it takes you away from your other writing goal of publishing your books, of course!