The decision to have a newsletter was not an easy one for me. I didn’t come to it naturally. At first, I resented spending the time and moola sending out something I wasn’t sure anyone was going to open, let alone read. My webmistress really pushed me to do it, saying any writer worth his or her salt had one. I like salt, so I relented.
Three years ago, she began to build one. And it was an immediate disaster. The first model used SSL, I believe. If I don’t have the right name for this, it’s because I’ve blocked it out. The bad taste of it stays with me. The newsletter, itself, wasn’t actually written by me, but used info pulled from blogs I was steadily writing at the time. It was supposed to be effortless, even going out to a designated email list at a pre-designated time.
It didn’t work. Sometimes it would go out but without any information attached. Just a banner with an image of me and Tugger the Cat would show up in their emails. Other times, it would go out containing bits and pieces of Gobbledygook, not one straight word. But most of the time, it didn’t go out at all. Meanwhile, I was paying for all of this through the schnozzola.
After three months of this nonsense, I started writing them in real time. Then I was in real trouble. I had no idea what to say. Just buy my books sounded a little too blatant. And for whatever reason, I couldn’t be amusing or witty in these newsletters I was writing to a bunch of strangers. Neither informative nor entertaining, the newsletters laid there like a lump. My readership dropped off significantly. It wasn’t unusual for me to lose five to ten people a month. I was desperate.
I was ready to abandon the whole idea of a newsletter and save myself 35 bucks a month in the deal. I happened to mention my decision to Julie Smith, who not only is my publicist, but a fantastic writer, herself. She was totally against the idea of not doing a newsletter, claiming this was the only way to reach out and truly get to know your readers. Hmmmm. You mean, a newsletter is something more than just buy my books?
I should also mention, in the meantime I had been reading other newsletters, from writers like Camille Minichino and Cindy Brown. These are authors whose work I not only admire, but who have newsletters I found myself reading from top to bottom. I discovered something amazing. They not only engaged the reader but wrote about stuff they were interested in. And it had an intimacy about it, like writing to a penpal.
Armed with the idea of getting to know my readers, I became more chatty in my newsletter and even asked questions. I started receiving emails back from them filled with tidbits about their own lives. I came to know many as more than names. I learned some of their stories. They became not just readers but friends. Not only did the email list stop declining, more names were added.
And they are all really neat people. I like them. I’m happy to write to them, to share something from my life, a joke, an anecdote, or even a book I recently discovered they might be interested in reading. Sometimes I mention my own books, but not often. I also found out, incidentally, most of them do buy my books, but not because I hawk them about it, but because my style fits into their reading pleasure.
This writing a newsletter is so win-win.
5 thoughts on “A Newsletter: To Have Or Have Not by Heather Haven”
I had the same reluctance regarding a newsletter. I did one, but it came out sporadically. I then decided I really had to make an effort to publish the newsletter once a month. Then I thought, well, two people can come up with interesting things to say easier than just one. So I corralled D. Z. Church into doing the newsletter with me, and I think it has worked well.
This is quite an eye-opener. I get lots of newsletters but have no interest in adding that to my list of marketing duties. After reading this I may have to rethink that. Thanks for sharing this.
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You bet, Susan. It was a painful time in my writing career. Glad to share something so maybe someone else won’t have to go through what I went through!
Heather, I had the same problem when I started putting out newsletters. I’m not chatty, I don’t like talking about myself. I had a gossipy grandmother growing up and I don’t like to spill anything. My newsletters go out when I am doing an event, have a new book, or a special. I start with a paragraph about the weather or what I’ve been up to in my writing life, then I give the info about whatever. So my newsletter fans get a newsletter from me 6 or 8 times a year. That’s it. The people who like my books, can tell I’m not someone to sit and shoot the breeze or write a long newsletter. It’s just me and that’s what they get. I loose 5-10 each time I send out a newsletter, but that’s fine by me. If I can get below 5000 my newsletter won’t cost so much. 😉
I enjoy reading about other authors and their lives in their newsletters, but it isn’t my style. Great post!
PS: I send out newsletters to my review team and audio reviewers when I have a new book/audio for them to read and review.
And the lesson here, Paty, is know thyself! And you obviously do! Good for you. It took me a while to get there, newsletter-wise.
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