The second in a two-part series on email newsletters. Read the first article, The best email marketing service for authors.
The most important thing about writing a newsletter is ensuring that your content is relevant to the people you’re targeting.
The easiest way to do this is by asking yourself two questions that your subscribers will ask when they get your newsletter in their inbox:
- So what?
- What’s in for me?
If you answer these questions BEFORE you write your newsletter, you’ll find people opening your emails.
Even better, you can design an email newsletter template that ensures you tackle these questions before you send them off to your subscribers.
The template we use abidemi.tv has subscriber profiles and insightful metadata to ensure our newsletter remains relevant and on-target to our subscribers, and profitable for the business (you can order your own here).
Newsletter ideas for authors – what to write
You’re an author, so it’s more than likely than your subscribers are fans of your work. I know some people will be uncomfortable with this, but readers like to engage on a personal level with authors. But you don’t have to overshare. You could send what are called ‘Seinfeld’ emails, which are based on the show that’s famously about nothing.
For an author, Seinfeld emails could be about your writing process, what you’re working on, or even, a day in the life of a part-time author (you’ll be surprised by just how many people find this fascinating).
And if you’re working on a book you can make those Seinfeld emails work for you by asking your subscribers to pre-order it.
If anything, it will incentivise you to finish the book (nothing like paying customers to keep you on your toes).
1.Make sure you have a content schedule
They might be a pain to plan in the beginning, but your life will be so much easier when it’s done. That way, you know exactly what you’re writing in every newsletter.
Ideally, your content schedule should cover everything from your blog posts and social media, to your email newsletter.
Here’s an example of the annual content schedule we use at abidemi.tv:
Every piece of content (videos, blogs, emails, social media) that we produce goes into that schedule.
(By the way, this is just a 1/3 of the schedule. The full screen version is pretty detailed, because it needs to be for our needs).
The great thing about such a schedule is that it’s a live document, so we can adapt it as necessary, so it’s totally flexible.
2. Do blog-to-email newsletters
You could also save time and energy by killing two birds with one stone. Set up a blog-to-email service via your email newsletter provider, and they’ll get your blog posts in your subscribers’ inbox every time you update your blog.
In most cases, they’ll get an excerpt in their inbox with a link back to your website, so you effectively kill two birds with one stone: traffic to your website and content for your newsletter.
3. Take inspiration from trending topics
Find out what’s trending on the news and social media, give your own take on this, and boom, you’re done.
This also helps to reveal more of the person behind the ‘author’.
4. Answer questions from your subscribers
One of the things I like to do is ask questions from my subscribers and answer those questions in my newsletter.
Chances are that, if someone asks you a question, others have probably wondered the same thing.
Try not to spread your net too wide when you ask these questions, otherwise you’ll get questions ranging from, “What colour is the sky where you live?”, to “Why are your books so depressing?”
Rather, steer your subscribers towards questions that will help you create better email content, or even, help you build a credible author business.
For example, you could ask if they would be interested in paid, ‘exclusive’ author events and what activities would make these events memorable and worth their while.
5. Have clickable subject lines
For those who don’t know what clickbait is, it’s subject lines like; “You won’t believe what this woman did to get people to respond to her emails”, and then people open the email, only to close it down and report you to your email service provider for sending spam to their inbox, three seconds later.
The result? A warning from your provider, and in a worse case scenario, suspension or deletion of your account.
It sounds extreme, but you have to remember that your email provider also runs a business, and it’s in their interest to keep their reputation intact. The last thing they want is to be reported to their regulator for supporting and enabling spammers.
So, that’s the lecture over. Back to clickable subject lines.
The key is to keep them:
- short and sweet
- human e.g., Has this ever happened to you?
- story-based, e.g., What I’ve learnt from writing a book about my life
- personal, by using personalisation tags. Most email providers provide short codes for this, eg, *FNAME* or %FIRSTNAME%, which is replaced with the subscriber’s first name when it’s sent out.
6. Split-test your subject lines
Sometimes offered as a premium service by some email newsletter providers, it’s a great way to find out the type of subject headings respond to.
Essentially, you send out your email with different subject headers to a certain number of people (or percentage of subscribers) on your list.
After a short testing period (usually 24 hours), the email with the subject header that gets the most clicks is then sent to the rest of your list.
This is great for one-off emails, but might be a bit tricky to pull off if you’re doing blog-to-emails, in which case, I would advise you to go through your email reports. They should show you the deliverability rate for each email newsletter you send and the percentage of people that click through to open it.
The reports should also give you a sense of the type of subject headings that people like; these are the emails that they open.
Add some urgency to your subject headings, especially if you’re launching a product or promoting an event, like your book, or book signing
7. Keep It Simple, Stupid (KISS)
It is more than likely that your subscribers will be reading your newsletter on their smartphone, so they’ll be scanning your email.
Make it easy for them to read by using short paragraphs and sentences. Remember, nobody has the time or inclination to wade through 4-line deep sentence, even if the writer is Shakespeare.
8. How often should I send my newsletter?
How long is a piece of string?
The answer: it’s entirely up to you. Consistency, not frequency, is what matters. If all you can manage is a monthly newsletter, then start with that, before moving on to bi-weekly or weekly sends.
A newsletter is a great way to keep in touch with your readers and also build your author platform. Hopefully, these tips have given you lots of ideas on what to write and how to keep your subscribers engaged.
Get the same email newsletter template we use at abidemi.tv.
Its email metadata helps to keep our newsletters focused and relevant to our target audience, and the business profitable. And it can do the same for you.
Also published on Medium.