Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Let's Talk Newsletters by Jannine Gallant

After listening to authors talk about their takeaways from various conventions, classes, etc., the one common theme I've noticed is everyone who's an authority on marketing recommends having a newsletter. Do I have one? Uh, no. I've failed miserably at this piece of the promo puzzle. However, that's all about to change. I'm taking the plunge.

Step One: The Mailing List. Here's what I do know...and it isn't a heck of a lot. You need to start with a mailing list. There are several online sites that allow you to collect addresses for free--up to a certain limit. I chose Mailchimp and created an account. Then I followed the helpful instructions they provided to set up the basic form to collect information, complete with double opt-out so you don't get into trouble for coercing people into signing up by mistake. I took the link they provided and added it to the front page of my website. Not so very hard, even for an old dog! I signed myself up, just to make sure it worked. Amazingly (at least to me), it did. I now had one person (me) on my mailing list. And as the weeks passed and I did nothing, that's the only address I did have. (sigh)


Step Two: How to get people to sign up for your newsletter. Obviously doing nothing has no effect...kind of like how your book doesn't sell itself. I decided to offer a reward to get people to sign up. I have a box of beautiful ARCs (advanced reader copies marketing teams send out to reviewers--not the final, final version, but pretty darn close) of BURIED TRUTH. This is the first book in my new series that will release on January 30, 2018. Marketing had leftovers, so my editor sent me a box. (I was thrilled!) Last week I posted on Facebook that I would draw one lucky winner from the pool of people who signed up for my newsletter, to receive an autographed copy. Proud of my cleverness, I sat back and waited for the signups to roll in. Let's just say I was underwhelmed by the results. I now have ten people on my list, and several are fellow Roses who were being nice! (double sigh) Alrighty, then. Obviously, my minimal efforts weren't producing results, so I contacted the marketing people at Kensington and asked them to spread the word through their social media channels about my bribe...er, I mean prize. They were happy to oblige, so maybe I'll get a little more interest. At any rate, now is your chance. Click on this LINK to sign up for my newsletter if you'd like to get into the drawing. As of now, your chances of winning that ARC are pretty darn good! Contest ends on Sunday, Oct. 22nd, and the winner will be notified by email on Monday, Oct. 23rd. Sorry, but you must live in the US to win since I don't do foreign postage. 😞

Step Three: What to put into the newsletter. So, let's assume I'll have a few interested readers eagerly awaiting my first newsletter. Or to be realistic, I'm hoping readers will at least be motivated to open it before chucking it into their cyber trash. That means exciting content to draw their interest. Obviously, I'll tell them about new releases, any books I might have on sale, and any contests my publisher is running. The basic stuff. (yawn) Since I'm a decent cook and make up my own recipes, I'll also be posting an original recipe or two in each letter. But what else? What do you like to see in newsletters? For those authors who already send one out, what do you do to catch your readers' interest? I'm open to suggestions, and I think this is a great forum to share information. Also, if you have some brilliant ideas to build mailing lists, please share. I know people have sign-up sheets at conventions and book signings, but what about online? Any helpful tips?

For more information on my books, check out my WEBSITE. Happy reading!

18 comments:

Leah St. James said...

Ah...newsletters. I don't have many sage words to offer, Jannine. I would say of the newsletters I read, I mostly enjoy getting news of new releases and special deals (like your book give-away). It is a slow and frustrating, process for sure! I hope the publisher's social media clout will bring you some good numbers!

Margo Hoornstra said...

So I just went and signed up then thought maybe I'd already done that. Does Mailchimp let you know about duplicates? As far as suggestions for growing your list and newsletter content...um....eh...hum...well...yeah...I got nothin'. ;-) As always....Best of luck!

Jannine Gallant said...

Leah and Margo, thanks for the encouraging words. FYI, my publisher's push isn't helping. Maybe all those marketing experts are wrong and people don't want to get newsletters! There's a thought... And here I was positive the promise of recipes would have them racing to get in line! LOL (BTW, you hadn't signed up before, Margo, so I'm not sure if Mailchip kicks out duplicates.)

Brenda Whiteside said...

This year, I started something new with my newsletter. Or maybe it was last year. Anyway, I only do it quarterly. I wouldn't want to get one monthly so I'm following what I'd want. I also was putting a personal paragraph in each time but I'm no longer doing that as of now. I went to a workshop last weekend and Marie Force was so adamant about NOT doing that I had to believe her. She asked questions to someone in the audience who their favorite author was and did they know this or that about her. They didn't and they didn't care. She said do everything from news about releases to inside info about your books. Make it fun and upbeat, etc. I also give away a gift every month to one of my newsletter members. I haven't pushed for new members in a while and it's time to do that. Although I do get new members from time to time, I also have drop outs. Large sign ups that are part of some promo like on TRS may net me a bunch but some will always opt out after a time or two. I use Mailchimp too. Good luck.

Alicia Dean said...

What a timely topic! Here are my thoughts...even though the experts and other authors sing the praises of newsletters, I am not on board. I have been in a multi-author newsletter for some time now, along with Leah and Diane. I have found zero benefit at all. We even give away a $25 gift card each month. We barely have any entries, barely have any 'opens'. Personally, as a reader/subscriber, I have zero interest in newsletters, even from my very most favorite authors. The only thing I want to know from them is when their next release is out. I can find that out by following them on Amazon. I did sign up for your newsletter, Jannine, and I will admit, the recipes intrigue me. I promise I'll open yours! :D Another thing that bothers me about newsletters is that there is no interaction. It's like we're speaking into this big void of space and maybe readers are hearing, maybe not, because we don't get their responses. Not to be a negative Nellie, but that's what I think of Newsletters. I hope you have much better luck! I don't have any ideas about content, it sounds like you are on the right track. I think readers like personal, behind the scenes stuff about authors, and you could share about Ginger and your girls, maybe.

One way to get subscribers is through Instafreebie, but it costs $20 a month. There is also Book Funnel, which is much cheaper, but I haven't checked into what they offer. https://bookfunnel.com/pricing/

Anyway...best of luck on your newsletter!

Rolynn Anderson said...

I knock out a newsletter when I have a release or a freebee. Nothing personal...just info about the book (s). I should get a newsletter out more often, but most of my readers are authors, so I hate to bug them. So I have categories in my e-mail list of 'People who have won my books,' 'Other writers,' 'Newsletter sign-ups,' 'golfers,' friends and family. This way I'm able to give a personal/targeted message to each group. I've had a couple people unsubscribe, but since I get the newsletter out three or four times a year, I'm not a pest. At book signings, raffles bring in the BEST newsletter addresses...and website sign-ups are golden! You can do this, Jannine...marathon not sprint....marathon not sprint!

Jannine Gallant said...

Really interesting info, Brenda. I was thinking about including personal photos (like of my dog) in the newsletter. Have you ever seen what Jill Shalvis post about on Facebook? A million pictures of her dogs! I don't get why personal info is a bad thing. Maybe you need to tie that sort of thing to writing, like "views that keep me inspired to write" (insert photo of dog walk in the woods) instead of "this is the view around my neck of the woods." Thanks for sharing what you've learned!

Rolynn Anderson said...

Another point...since I send out my own newsletters, people do respond, a feature I do like.

Jannine Gallant said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Ally. I've been wondering if newsletters help, but all the bigger name authors have them. It must help them, or they wouldn't do it! I thought about putting together a group letter then decided to go it alone. I feel like people's attention spans are very short, and a group letter would never be read to the end. Maybe you have to have a name to entice readers to open your letter. That's a depressing thought when you're trying to build readership.

Rolynn, I know what you mean about not wanting to bug people. That's why I figured quarterly is plenty often. I also don't want to hound authors in groups to sign up. They already know all about my books. I want to reach readers. Easier said than done!

Brenda Whiteside said...

I think your idea is good, Jannine. A photo is always fun and if you theme it, then they expect it. Tie it to your writing and it's even better. I think she meant stuff like where you went for family vacation and who's sick and your trials of taking child to college, etc. But even so, keep it brief. What you mention sounds good to me.

Brenda Whiteside said...

A couple of good comments on personal vs real author and book news. Good stuff. As far as paying for subscribers, I wouldn't. I've gotten big influxes from promos on sites. I always get some of those dropping out because they just did it for the giveaway. Also, the open rate probably won't change. Lots of people just delete without reading. I have about a 43% open rate. I asked my web mistress how to combat that and she says it's just the nature of the newsletter.

Jannine Gallant said...

Brenda, I have to agree, I wouldn't want to read about how my favorite author had to deal with her kid's stomach flu. Although I'm sure you could turn almost anything into a funny story if you're good at that sort of thing! But writing inspiration photos with the changing seasons has a lot of potential. People like pictures. I wondered about the drop out rate when the enticement is a giveaway. (Like my autographed book!) Thanks for the stats on the open rate. At least I'll know what to expect.

Leah St. James said...

Brenda, I think a 43 percent open rate on a newsletter is fantastic! I think the average is between 25 and 30 percent. I'd be proud of that! Instafreebie doesn't make you pay for subscribers exactly, but you pay for them to collect the data and send to MailChimp (or whatever tool you might use). (A nuance, I know.) Book Funnel is around $15/month to capture the addresses, I THINK. But that's where I get stuck--the technical part. I don't have a clue how to get email addresses from promos. Do you mean like The Romance Review...something like that?

Jannine, I think the writing inspiration photos is a great idea!

Margo Hoornstra said...

As usual, you have all inspired me to try harder to create and maintain a newsletter. I will say, I've had a newsletter button on my website for a while, just haven't pushed the sign up, etc. etc. A giveaway is a great idea. My dilemma now is to figure out content.

Diane Burton said...

Mara Jacobs is a member of my RWA chapter and a promo guru (IMHO). She puts out a New Release Alert. I liked that idea so much (no weekly/monthly newsletters) that I adopted it for myself. I will send out a "special edition" for a big sale or appearances. Interestingly, I usually get some unsubscribers right after the newsletter comes out. I include a little bit of news about me or my family. Mostly, I include info about the books.

I just unsubscribed from a lot of newsletters--ones I got after I got a free book (Instafreebie or Book Funnel). I have too much to read. Usually, I'll read the next one before unsubscribing. What irks me most is the posts from those authors who ask if I got my free book, etc. That pestering drives me crazy. BTW, I just signed up for your newsletter, Jannine. And, Margo, Mailchimp (and most other sites--not sure what to call them) will kick back that you are already subscribed.

Jannine Gallant said...

Leah, it hadn't occurred to me to pay for signups. Seems like organic would be much less likely to unsubscribe.

Margo, I've had that button on my site for a month and no one used it. You definitely have to push to get signups. Not that I'm getting many... We'll see how it goes.

Diane, I'd think less is better when it comes to sending newsletters or alerts. I'll probably try to gear mine for the month of a release rather than on a set schedule. Thanks for your insights.

Vonnie Davis, Author said...

I'm late at responding. I had a shot in my retina yesterday and my vision is still wonky today. Yea, yea, I know...I'm always wonky. What can I say. Here's a thought. At the end of your bio, add "To keep up with Jannine's future releases, her dog Ginger who edits her work, and her favorite recipes--Jannine's, not Ginger's, sign up for her quarterly newsletter at _______/ I have over 3000 subscribers. I often offer a free novella to all my readers if they email me and ask for it. Then I load it to Amazon a month or so later at .99 or 1.99 to pad my backlist. I do include personal stuff. A paragraph at most. People have responded that they like reading about my private life. It's a crap shoot...llike this business.

Jannine Gallant said...

Excellent ideas, Vonnie. I need to change my bio on all the retail sites, and my sig line for emails. I like the free novella (or maybe short story) idea, too. 3000, wow! I'm impressed.