Friday, June 1, 2012

What to Put in a Newsletter by Jennifer Hudson Taylor

Over the past 2 weeks I've discussed reasons you need a newsletter and some services you can use to create and distribute it. Today, I want to talk about what to put in your newsletter.

Your newsletter should not be a repeat of everything you're already offering on your website/blog and/or other social media accounts. It should be an extension of what you're already providing.

For instance, you need to offer your newsletter readers something they won't find anywhere else, and give them a bit of special treatment for subscribing to your newsletter and allowing you to drop info into their personal inbox. Below are some tips in how to do this.

  • Save some of your news and announcements for your newsletter. Later, you can post those announcements on your blog and social media sites. Reward your newsletter subscribers by giving them the chance to first hear the news. 

  • Offer some contests and giveaways to newsletter subscribers only. For instance, for any new subscribers between one newsletter and the next, automatically go into a drawing for their choice of a free book. This means I give a free book away each quarter. I've also offered free Celtic CDs when my Celtic books were released.

  • Connect with readers on a personal level. Share a little of you with them. Share a photo of you and your family enjoying a vacation, an outing, something special that you might not have posted anywhere else. Outside of your writing, what have you been up to lately? You do not have to go into private details, but what info would you share with a friend you might run into at an event? Someone you haven't seen in a while, but you only have 2-3 minutes. This is how you should communicate with your readers. 

  • Be real with your readers. Again, you don't have to go into details, but what snippets of challenges have you been facing that you can share as a testimony with them? No one has a perfect life, and people need to know you are real and that you aren't hiding behind your computer status updates. This will help you connect with them better. Are you celebrating 5 years being cancer-free after a battle? Are you recovering from an accident?

  • Make news announcements and updates. Post your book covers, video book trailers and new photos. People want to know if you have something new coming out, if you have a short story in between your longer works, if you have an article that was recently published elsewhere, or if you're going to be in town near them. However, don't make this your main news. This info should be as an inclusion. 

  • Post at least one new article. Keep it short and relevant. By relevant I mean it should be related to something in one of your books, your research, or a life experience. 
You can always subscribe to a few author newsletters, save them in a file folder in your email, and compare them by taking notes on what you like about them and what you dislike. This will help you form a strategy plan for your own newsletters that will suit you and your readers. 

What prompts you to subscribe to an email newsletter. Is it free giveaways? Interesting content? What prompts you to unsubscribe?


sally apokedak said...

Thanks for this. Very helpful stuff.

I love creating newsletters--I use Mail Chimp for the SCBWI newsletters that go out for my region--but since I'm unpublished I have no reason to put out a personal newsletter.

I've been thinking of offering a newsletter on my blog that would be made up of reviews on MG and YA books and I've been thinking about putting that out twice a year--spring and fall--and choosing a winner for each edition. The winner would get a book bag filled with the books reviewed, or a kindle loaded with the books reviewed.

I thought this would be a great way to build a subscriber list and when I do get published I can put in a plug for my book. I think you could do this for a couple of hundred dollars a couple of times a year and that seems like a pretty decent way to collect names and addresses for people who love MG and YA books.

The thing that has held me back is that I read something about giveaways and gaming laws. Do you know where I can find out about sweepstakes laws or do you know if there's a dollar amount we don't want to exceed in our giveaways?

I will sign up for giveaways for authors I don't know or I sign up for newsletters from authors I like and want to keep up with. I never unsub, but I do delete plenty without reading.

Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor said...

Sally, You have some great ideas flowing and I hope you'll be able to put some of them in motion. Yes, I've heard of the rules and I thought I wrote a blog post on it a few years ago when it was a hot topic on one of the ACFW writing loops. After checking, it doesn't look like I wrote a post on that topic as I had thought. You can Google the topic and see what comes up. Each state has different laws and each country does as well. When I hosted my big contest for Highland Sanctuary's release, I compared several contest rules by large companies who have attorneys on retainer and modeled mine after theirs to stay within the guidelines.

sally apokedak said...

Thanks! I did Google after I commented. (Sorry, I'm on pain pills for a bad back this week, so not thinking too fast on my feet.) If anyone else is interested, I found that if I keep the prize under 600 and if I don't require anyone to friend or follow me, it looks it won't be a problem in any state.

Amy Sullivan said...

Thanks for this thought out post, Jennifer. I haven't created a newsletter yet, but I've been thinking about it!