[Before we start, have you followed 10 new people yet?]
Talk Directly to Those Who WANT to Hear From You
Why are we talking about newsletters today?
One of the problems with social media is that it casts a wide net. Everyone from everywhere is scrolling and watching. You never know who is paying attention so you never know if what you’re saying is being heard.
Think about placing a billboard on a busy freeway.
Yes, a TON of people will see it.
But are they the right people?
I mean, what do you know about those people? They have cars, or know someone with a car well enough to be in one. Or they take public transportation which means they have someplace to go. You don’t know their age, their reading habits, their preference for Italian food. Nothing other than they are driving on that road. You don’t even know if they’ve looked up and read the sign. Is it worth spending time and money to get the attention of these strangers? Sure there are lots so even 5% of those numbers is probably a high number. But dang it’s a lot of work.
Now think of sending invites to a party at your house. Maybe you send 10, or 100, or 1,000. Of that, maybe you get 50% of invitees that end up attending. Or maybe it’s 25%. Yes, it’s a smaller pool of people. But the people who attend know you. They have read the invitation, they know what they are getting into. And they like you enough to set aside time to attend your soiree. While this pool of people is certainly smaller, they are already on your side. They are the right people.
Why am I telling you all this?
Social media is the billboard.
A mailing list is the invites to your house party.
If you’ve never thought about creating a newsletter, have a seat.
If you have a mailing list that you send a newsletter to, it’s to people that WANT to hear from you. They have willingly agreed to it. Why would you invite people you wouldn’t want at your party? That’s the equivalent of wasting time and money shouting in the void trying to talk to anyone that will listen rather (a billboard) than to the RIGHT people that you want to hear your message (your personal mailing list).
Today, DAY 9, we are not just thinking about creating a newsletter. I have made the executive decision that we will create one! We aren’t going zero to sixty right now, don’t panic. We aren’t writing it right now. Today we are going to spend time brainstorming what your newsletter should be about, and how often it makes sense to send it.
If you already have a newsletter, another GOLD STAR FOR YOU! You aren’t off the hook, though, as today you’ll analyze how you’ve been approaching your newsletter. Have you, or when was the last time you applied the below WHO WHY WHEN WHAT HOW questions to your newsletter readers? Read through the rest of this and make sure what you’ve been doing has been the best approach. You can also spend time looking into potential new templates or services, since technology and offerings have bound to have changed since you started. If you’ve done all of the above recently, get yourself a treat and accept this virtual high five! Alas, you still don’t get the day off, though, lol. I’d like you to come up with a short newsletter to send TODAY to touch base with your subscribers. Give them an update on your writing journey or fun and random “Today I Learned” or send them a video greeting to brighten their day. Tell them you just wanted to say hi and hope they are having a great day!
If you need stats on why I am insisting on a newsletter, here are some:
According to marketer Karen Ferriera, studies show a newsletter gets 50 to 100x more click-throughs than a FB or Twitter post. Gaining new followers on either of those two can be 5 to 25 times more expensive than retaining the people you already have on your mailing list. I am 100% certain that is because your mailing list is full of “your people,” ones you don’t have to keep convincing to like you. They already do, or they wouldn’t (continue to) be on your list. Mailmunch.com says with 2,000 email subscribers and 2,000 Facebook fans and 2,000 followers on Twitter, a tweet will get you an average of 40 views, FB pages get you 120 views…and 435 people will open your email.
So…that’s why we are looking to create a newsletter.
We first need to take a few steps back. Let’s start with: WHY do you want an email list?
Grab your handy notebook and start a new NEWSLETTER heading. Write down the reason WHY you want a newsletter (not just because “Bitsy told me.” You need your own internal motivation.)
Spoiler alert: your “why” is ultimately to build your brand and ultimately sell your books. BUT—this is important—the very second it starts feeling like a blatant commercial to buy buy buy, they will abandon ship and you’ll be left with one person, your Aunt Mary, who would never unsubscribe because she loves you so much and also because she doesn’t know how.
As emphasized by Catia Shattuck’s article in Book Cave, “Remember that while you can use your newsletter to sell more books, the main part of your newsletter shouldn’t be selling your books. Your newsletters allow readers to get to know you, and then, just a small note about a new release will result in them buying your book. If you just use your newsletter to advertise your books, you will lose subscribers.”
Your “why” should really be engagement with your audience. Or interaction. Relationship building. All of those lead to sales. Eventually. A quick sale isn’t what we are after right now.
WHO we are talking to?
In that notebook, describe in detail WHO your newsletter audience is, or who you want your audience to be.
- Who reads your books — and/or who is responsible for buying them? The clarification is important; I write picture books for 4-8 year olds, but it’s parents–mostly moms–that buy the books. I am not going to write a newsletter to 4-8 year-olds but to parents of them. YA might be tricky as they are minors, so maybe you want to consider a newsletter to librarians and book buyers?
- How are these people signing up for your mailing list? That might affect or limit who your newsletter audience is. If you think your list of indy book sellers will max out at 10, it might not be a great place to spend your efforts, and you should think of a different audience. (Alternatively you can spend a lot of time and energy and maybe money trying to figure out how to reach that audience and get them to your social media outlets and signing up for newsletter.)
Once you figure out who you are talking to, you can starting thinking about WHAT you’re gonna talk about and WHY.
In your notebook, brainstorm 10 newsletter ideas and things you are comfortable writing about or researching, WHAT you think your audience would enjoy hearing about. Under each idea, make note of why you would write about that topic.
I have one writer friend that has a 4x/year newsletter that talks about where she’s held visits, what books she has coming up, awards or recognition she’s rec’d, etc. While it sounds self-serving, it works for her because of how many books she has out and how full her calendar is, not to mention it’s likable, engaging, and well written. If you are pre-published this broad appeal might not work well for you. Think about what you would say to your audience that is something they want to hear. What will it take to give them a newsletter worth reading?
- What do you know or could you talk about that would be of interest to that audience?
- What “felt/need” can you speak to? Tips for overwhelmed moms or moms of twins? Librarians looking for diversity and representation in picture books? Writers of a specific genre or age range looking to become better writers?
In the above example of my prolific friend, her audience appears to be anyone that has purchased her books and might purchase her books in the future, and in that one newsletter she effectively speaks to moms, fellow writers, librarians, PTAs, indy book sellers, and bulk book buyers all at the same time. She has been doing this for a while; it is not her first rodeo. You can work your way up there–pls do not attempt this with your first newsletter. I think at first you need to narrow down your WHO and WHAT in order to perfect your voice before broadening out.
If your brain froze on WHAT your newsletter might be about, here are a few tips on getting the o’ creative juices a-flowin’:
- Try a mind map to visualize your ideas and see how they connect. Online mind-mapping tools include MindMeister and XMind.
- Free associate: write down any words or phrases that come to mind, no matter how random they may seem. This can help you to come up with new and creative ideas.
- Take a break. Sometimes the best way to come up with new ideas is to stop thinking about it. Walk away. Go for a walk, listen to music, or do something else to relax and clear your head. The reason so many good ideas happen in the shower is that we stopped stressing and allowed our minds to go back to their normal state of creative flow.
Now the WHEN.
You need to decide WHEN. How often will you send it? Monthly? Seasonally? Around major holidays? Think about often you are sent newsletters. You know the difference between too many too often (annoying!) and not often enough (forgetting they exist until you see it in your inbox).
Know that your timing can be fluid. I want to share a super short and simple newsletter from a cookie bakery that I just got, that floored me with its thoughtfulness and kindness. It came out of the blue, not on their usual schedule. Tell me this doesn’t show they care about their customers!
If you can get to this level of connection with your subscribers, you have won!
Back to your list. Take a look at the list of ten ideas you wrote down. How viable are they? Prioritize them. Given that list, what makes the most sense as to how often the newsletter should go out? Hint:
Weekly is too often, I don’t care how charming you are.
Once a year is not often enough.
Find your happy medium.
Now comes the elusive HOW.
…as in, how will you gather emails, and how will you mass mail/send out the newsletters you write? That will take a bit of looking into that you don’t need to decide now, but will def take time to nail down. How will you send the newsletter out? What service will you use? Tomorrow we’ll talk about email capture services, which is actually a slightly different beast than newsletter distribution. You might find a solution that does both. You’ll need to figure all that out before going to proverbial print.
Recap: You need a newsletter, stats say. What will be the Who, What, When, Why, Where/How for yours?
Now get to thinkin’! Write down all your thoughts. Plan on making changes to these thoughts and plans. nothing is in stone.