Monday, June 6, 2016

All The News That Fits?

HANK PHILLIPPI RYAN:  Okay, be honest. Do you read author newsletters?

I have to admit I get a lot of them, and I always open them, but after a quick glance and a kind of industry-insider assessment--oh, that's an interesting cover, oh, what a nice photo, oh, that book comes out on a holiday, oh, that one seems too long--I delete them.  Well, first, I often reply, just to say hi, and let the author know I'm listening.  (Do I ever buy a book BECAUSE of the newsletter? Hmm. Not sure about that.  Do you? Most authors whose newsletters I receive I'd buy anyway.)  

I analyze the successful-looking ones, too. Though of course, I don't know if they're actually "successful, if "successful" means selling books. Or what does "successful" mean?

J.T. Ellison's is always fun  




and Alafair Burke




and Wendy Corsi Staub

Brad Meltzer's look just like email. And I read every one. I always believe it's just to me. Which, of course, is the point.

It's  a dilemma. I mean, I send them, not many, maybe five a year? Only when there's something to announce. And I work very hard on them, making them interesting, and not too-too promo-y,  and I try to give the reader some valuable or at least entertaining information, and some value-added to thank readers for paying attention. Like a giveaway, or a contest, or a bargain price. 

But is it a good thing? Or a waste of everyone's time?

I did an experiment, too. I wondered if some of mine were going to spam, so I sent some in HTML with graphics and links, and some in plan text, just like an email.  But I heard from a similar amount of recipients with each, so I'm not sure what that proved. (I also realized that a lot of you go on vacation--the moment I send them, I receive a flurry of "I'm on vacation" responses.

I LIVE for the people who write back. That just makes my day. SO lovely to know you are out there!

So Reds and readers, what think about newsletters?
 Do you send them? Do you read them?

JULIA SPENCER-FLEMING: I'll send out "News From the Kill" when I have a book coming out, or if I'm going to be appearing somewhere outside Maine. Often, before a new book comes out, I'll offer advance readers copies, and that ALWAYS gets a good response! Of course, since it's been nineteen months since my last book came out, I'm not sending out many these days... sigh.

I'm ridiculously old fashioned in the way I do it though. I may be the last author who doesn't use a service - I keep all the mailing lists myself and send out any communications in plain text. I mean, I'll use hyperlinks, but it's basically an email from me. 

I DO check out other authors newsletters and I'm always impressed by how professional they look. The question I'd like to know is, do readers prefer the chatty, once-a-month newsletters, or the ones that only have new information about books and tours?

HANK: Yes, agreed! I'd love to know that, too.

DEBORAH CROMBIE: Oh, newsletters! Ack. I started one this time last year with the help of a wonderful friend who has years of experience in PR. We decided we would aim for quarterly. I've sent...two. Partly because I've been so late with my book, and I wanted to send NEWS--and I didn't have any other than, "Still working on book..." And partly because I think the format we set up was a little too complicated, with layout space for multiple articles and photos. What I really want to do is just write a chatty message, so I'll be looking at simplifying. And partly--maybe mostly--because life has just been so busy and I haven't managed to fit it into a routine. Louise Penny does the best newsletter, very chatty and personal, and it goes out every month on the first.

(HANK: Anyone else get Louise's? What makes it so good?) When's your next one, Debs?

DEBS: I promise, all you lovely readers who have signed up, I will send something AS SOON AS THIS BOOK IS FINISHED.

LUCY BURDETTE: Sure I have a newsletter and you can sign up for it on my LucyBurdette.com page. I send it when there's news--in this business, there may be a long lapse between missives! "Everyone" says your newsletter subscribers are your most valuable asset as an author--people who love your writing and really want to know what's going on in your writer's lonely life:). The trouble is, jotting something on Facebook is oh-so-much easier!

One newsletter I especially love is Jenn McKinlay's. It's not so much about her books as slices of real life. But she has a gift for telling these stories, and that makes you want to read her other book stories. 

HALLIE EPHRON: I do send them out... before book launches. Go to my web site and sign up if you're interested and I promise you won't get more than one a year. And it always has some kind of essay or short story to make it worth opening. Sez me.

No, I don't read them. Except for The Hot Sheet (http://hotsheetpub.com/) - Jane Friedman's and Porter Anderson's super smart monthly assessment of what's going on in publishing. I actually pay for a subscription, that's how good it is.

HANK: I get that, too, Hallie. But it's that element of promotion that's fascinating o consider A reader knows a newsletter for an author is a sales tool. And as a result...well. I just keep wondering. And now,  Rhys comes to us from Italy! 

RHYS BOWEN: I send out a newsletter about six times a year, usually when I have something new and important to announce. I use Vertical Response as it's easy to use their templates and manage lists. I send it out to about 7000 subscribers. However, I've found that my Facebook page has much greater impact as I can update daily (and have a lot more followers). 

SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: I don't do a newsletter. Folks, I often don't do Christmas cards, do you really think I'm going to do a newsletter? Um, but should I? Somehow, I seemed to miss this when I was first starting out... Must say, it seems kind of old-fashioned to me. I'd like to think that my web site, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and whatever the heck else I do gets the word out. I don't subscribe to author newsletters, either — is that terrible? But if I like an author, I'll follow her on Twitter, so I'll get my info about release dates there....

HANK: Exactly what I'm getting at, Susan. IS it worth it? DO readers care? (If you're on my list, one is coming tomorrow--with a wonderful offer!) (If you're not, sign up here! http://www.hankphillippiryan.com/contact.php



But for now:
  Is it "better" to do a flat out announcement, with no value added? Or be chatty and tell stories? How about a contest or giveaway? 
 Readers, do you care? What do you love and not love? (Authors! If you have a newsletter, tell readers where to find you!) When a newsletter shows up in your mailbox--what do you do?

72 comments:

Joan Emerson said...

I always read any newsletters I get from Jungle Red writers, but I don’t often respond because I figure you’re all much too busy writing to be bothered with responses from readers.
The only other author newsletter I read every time it hits my inbox is the one from Nora Roberts because I know it will include a chapter from whatever book is forthcoming and I love the idea of having the opportunity for a “sneak peak” of sorts. [Kind of like the “What We’re Writing” from the Jungle Red ladies!]

I appreciate announcements, just in case I’ve missed some upcoming book release; contests and giveaways are fun, but not essential for me to be encouraged to read the newsletter. I have to confess, though, that I enjoy the chatty “this is what I’ve been up to lately” sort of thing that is part of some newsletters . . . .

Kathy Lynn Emerson said...

Back in the dark ages I did a printed snail mail newsletter but it never quite made the transition to email. Possibly because I kept changing names during that stretch. Anyway, now I don't do one at all. Like Susan, I'm iffy on Christmas cards, too. Do I read the ones I get? Frankly, no. Some I never signed up for and consider spam. Others are from writers like Hank and Rhys, whose books are already on my automatic buy list and whose news I hear here or elsewhere online.

Kathy/Kaitlyn

Kait said...

I've gotten as far as getting a MailChimp account but I've never done anything with it. I haven't really figured out Twitter either so I shouldn't be surprised. I do get author newsletters, not too many, and I skim them, but it never occurred to me that I should respond. Nor has one ever convinced me to buy a book. Chances are, if I'm getting your newsletter, I'm already buying your books!

I will be curious to see the responses here from other authors, and more importantly, from readers. It may push me off the fence. Does the world need another newsletter? That is the question.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Joan, how does Nora do it? Is the chapter printed in the newsletter, or is it a link?

Kathy--thank you ! Do you unsubscribe? Or just delete?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Well, I read Christmas newsletters tooo--I love them! But only the ones that are in snail mail, you know?
Kait, looking at it the other way: can it hurt? I don't think I've ever thought oh, this author sent a newsletter so I will Not buy the book. At the least, it's a way to get your name in front of people.

Ann in Rochester said...

Waving at all the authors here! Happy Monday.

People like me are the target group for newsletters, and I read them all. After a while and after many books read, I get to feel as if I know you. And yes, I am pretty sure the newsletters are written for me alone.

I agree with you, Deb, on Louise Penny's, best one of all. A good many years ago I had the pleasure of speaking with her on a CBC radio call-in/interview. She was charming, had more questions for me than I had for her, and from that moment I felt she was my friend. (Doubt she remembers but I do) So following her life thru the newsletters and FB posts is something I look forward to.

The excitement over the birth of Wren made me weep, such an incredible thing is this grandmother shtick. Michael's decent into the dementia of Alzheimer's Disease made me weep. I love reading all your backstories here on Jungle Red. It's like family, really.

I would read newsletters from each of you, but you have to put a link out there, leaving little blue crumbs. Being the quintessential fan girl gives me much joy. I might as well be 13 and drooling over some boy band.

So if you have one, please post a link. I promise to read every single one.

Edith Maxwell said...

Quick comment because I'm late for my sprint! I send out a newsletter about quarterly and I think it mostly affects far-flung friends and family who don't do Facebook. No idea if it relates to sales. I use MailChimp - easy, and still free because I have fewer than 2k subscribers.

But frankly I don't read others' newsletters other than to study, like you said, their format and content. What a crazy business.

Now back to the WIP...

Lucy Burdette aka Roberta Isleib said...

Oh Joan, we're never too busy to answer you guys--it's a top pleasure in this crazy business!

Ann, you are so sweet--the perfect reader and we are grateful to have you here! I will have to go sign up for Louise Penny's...

And here are some crumbs: go to www.lucyburdette.com, look at the right hand sidebar and there's a box to enter your email:).

FChurch said...

The only author's newsletter that I receive to date is Louise Penny's. Other authors are followed on facebook and here, especially. I don't do twitter. Louise's newsletter comes across as a short, warm note from a good friend, as do her facebook posts. I'm often quite cynical, but I feel like she genuinely cares about her readers as more than sales figures. But, do I need to get a newsletter? No. I think the other forms of communication are just as effective--like facebook and here on this blog--I too love the bits of sharing--the photos of Wren, the Harry Potter-themed room--a shot of Louis enjoying his walk.

I wouldn't have thought to respond to a newsletter--but fb, twitter, this blog--these are all places where readers seem encouraged to respond, and like any fangirl, it's always a thrill when an author responds to something you've posted!

Hallie Ephron said...

Ann, we love you! And this is making me feel like I should get on the stick an send one out.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Well this is so nice to hear! And when my newsletters are personal, I do get a lot of reaction. I get a lot of reaction for giveaways, too… Hint hint hint about tomorrow!

If you want to sign up for mine, hooray! Go to my website Hank Phillippi Ryan.com and click on contact. Http://www.hankPhillippiRyan.com

I wonder if Louise will get a big influx of subscribers after this blog!

Susan Elia MacNeal said...

Joan, I think I speak for all of us when I say we're never too busy to answer a lovely email!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

OK, more questions… How long is too long?
Is shorter the better? Do you like recipes? Photos? Doesn't matter if it's fancy and pretty How about if it is just like an email?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

So right, Susan! Reader emails are my great joy!

Kathy Lynn Emerson said...

Answer to Hank: If It's a newsletter from someone I don't know, and there is a way to unsubscribe, I unsubscribe. For you and Rhys and a couple of others whose books I actually read, I usually skim--look at pictures--and then delete. In the past I have reacted negatively to unsolicited newsletters, especially if there was no unsubscribe button and I had to block the sender. In one case, still remembering the author's name a couple of years later, I wouldn't even take advantage of a free book one in series from Kindle. Come to think of it, I don't think I've ever actually signed up for a newsletter, which means every one I get is either because I exchanged emails with the author or because the author appropriated a membership list from somewhere.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

That's so interesting, happy! I don't think I've ever signed up for a newsletter either… That is something to ponder. I do get some from people I've never heard of, again, interesting, since I never thought about their origin.
And fascinating that one was so annoying it made you ignore a free book. Hmm.
I get a lot of emails from PR people, and they often begin with "just wanted to circle back on our discussion " when they absolutely have never talk to me in their life. Sometimes I get so angry I write back and say if you want to send me something fine, but don't pretend we've talked.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Kathy, not happy! I'm really going to have to stop dictating these :-)

Mary Sutton said...

It's actually against a lot of providers' TOS to subscribe someone without their consent and you'll get banned for doing so if they get a lot of complaints.

Yes, "everyone" says you must have a newsletter. I have one with about 600 subscribers (like Kait, I use MailChimp), but I haven't sent one in forever. Because every time I did, the only result I saw was about five people unsubscribing. What's the point? And I don't have any books to talk about or anything. I guess I could let folks know about my short story successes, but... Yeah, the effort seems pointless.

Hank, I get yours. And when it comes I...skim. Sorry. But then you are an automatic buy for me anyway, so it's not like you have to spend a lot of effort selling to me, right? I get a couple others. Same.

Oddly, the one newsletter I read (at least most of the time) is James Scott Bell. And he sends a plain text. I don't thing I've ever bought his fiction, but I buy a lot of his craft books and the newsletter is a nice way to know he's got one coming (speaking of which, I need to pick up his book on voice and Paula Munier's PLOT PERFECT - I keep intending to and the money keeps getting spent on other things, like my kids).

Kristopher said...

First, I have to agree about Louise Penny's newsletter - it is THE best and I always anticipate it each month. I can't say the same about any other author newsletter. Why is that? I think it is because of the unfettered access she gives to her personal life. And this is not something I would expect from most authors. I think it has something to do with the bond between Louise and her books - they really are an extension of her life philosophy, so fans want that entre into her world.

I have never purchased a book because of a newsletter. Like Hank said, the newsletters I get are from authors I would buy anyway, so I do wonder if they are worth the effort. I agree with Susan that in many ways, it would seem the FB, Twitter, etc is serving the same purpose, but I know for a fact there are many readers who are not on those services or who use them in a different way, so that message is not reaching them. (I struggle with the same for my blog's reach).

And I certainly have never responded back to a newsletter, unless there is some request to do so in the letter. I write to many authors, but somehow, replying to a mass e-mail such as that seems like it would be overwhelming for the author. Interesting to know that at least some enjoy when readers do that.

The end result of this message is that I am no help at all. I sign up for newsletters, I scan them, but i am not convinced to buy because of them. What I would say, is that if you don't have anything to say/update, it's probably better not to send one.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Mary, skimming is fine! Thank you! (Love the "automatic buy" label. YAY!)

And I confess to some skimming myself..but I can't just hit delete without looking. I guess I'm just too--curious. Or, perhaps, procrastinating…

Kristopher, I cannot even imagine your mailbox. If you have time, tell us about those "not on Twitter or Facebook" readers.

Joan Emerson said...

Hank, the book chapter in Nora's newsletter is a link to click. The newsletter itself comes from @NoraRoberts.com; the link goes to something called gallery.mailchimp.com . . . .

Marian Stanley said...

Good discussion - thanks, Hank. My comments on the subject for what they are worth.

I do generally skim and enjoy author newsletters unless life is just too busy with other things going on. Then I have to pass. If I'm lucky, I get a chance to go back later.

I would not ordinarily buy a book based on a newsletter, but it may solidify me as a reader with a connection to the author, which I think is pretty valuable.

I also love Louise P's newsletter - it's brief (no one has time for long), not overly promotional, and is both personable and personal. Her candor about her husband Michael's cognitive issues and struggles with Alzheimer's resonate with me on a personal level.

I also read Jim Jackson's newsletter, which I think is quarterly, in part because he is an excellent photographer and usually has some nice shots of wildlife in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan or around Savannah, his winter home. (I realize that's an individual skill we can't all aspire to in our newsletters!) He also offers practical tips for fellow writers in many of his communications. Jim is the president of Guppies organization right now.

I am not a foodie and, sad to say, always skip the recipes. They just remind me of how boring I am about food.

I do have a mailchimp account, but haven't used it, though I originally had intended to do a quarterly newsletter. I used to have a column in our college newspaper and have written for a number of newspapers - so I enjoy this form of communication. However, so far I have found Facebook such a good way to interact that I am not sure if I'll do a newsletter.

Finally, a good friend of mine said to me - "Oh God, please don't do a newsletter! I'll want to read it and I'm already swamped with newsletters!" Oh dear. She doesn't know what she could be missing. (I think.)

So - my two cents. Thanks for a thought-provoking column.

Katie Baer said...

Let me add to the chorus of praise for Louise Penney's newsletter. I read it--and savor it--because it seems authentic. Yes, she's promoting her books and tour events, but the main thing that comes through is that she is a real person with a real life--with all its ups and downs (plenty of downs lately as she documents the struggles with Michael's Alzheimer's). She manages to write an author letter as if she's writing to you, personally. She gives readers a sense of going behind the scenes in her life, as well as her providing a glimpse of her writing process. As Kristopher put it so well, her letters seem an extension of her philosophy, which, to over-simplify-- is that decency will out.

So, yes, I think Louise Penney writes her newsletter to reach out to and solidify her fan base, but she also communicates who she is as a human being--one you definitely are glad to know.

Gram said...

Here's another vote for the newsletter of/from? Louise Penny. I do get a few newsletters, but have gone more to FB. I do love these blogs.

Susan said...

I rarely sign up for author's newsletters, but the few I do get I skim. And I don't think I get any currently that include recipes, but I would welcome them. After all of today's comments, I will be RACING to sign up for Louse Penney's, since I adore her books and have apparently been missing something wonderful!

I was really taken aback by Hank's reference to enjoying readers who write back, because I tend to hold back from that kind of thing for fear of coming across like a crazed fangirl. (Ann in Rochester pretty much perfectly summed up my feelings on that whole issue.)

I guess as I reflect on my experience, the one thing newsletters (and Facebook and blogposts) may do is take me across that invisible line from a kinda-fan to a true-blue fan. If I've read a little of the author's work and liked it, but then get the chance to see a lot more of who that person is and what makes him or her tick, it can move them to my "automatic buy" list.

Rhonda Lane said...

I signed up for a lot of author newsletters because, ever since I started blogging in '08, just to see how authors handle them, because I'd always heard, "Ya gotta have a list." (That should be a song title for a number in a musical about the digital age, right?) Facebook IS easier, if for no other reason than that's where everyone is already hanging out while they touch base with old classmates and farflung relatives. The problem with FB is, if you have a page, FB insists you pay to get your post seen, unless you're get mega creative with humorous memes or pet pictures, for "organic" shares and likes.

I like Brad Meltzer's newsletter, too, because it feels as if I'm hearing from a friend. Brad's most recent newsletter reminded me rather subtly I hadn't picked up his book before this one comes out. He didn't say anything, but I realized, "Hey, did I get around to reading that one?"

Newsletters not yet mentioned ...

Craig Johnson's newsletter is fun, kind of postcards from the road with a free short story he sends out every Christmas Eve. I think those short stories make up his Longmire anthology WAIT FOR SIGNS.

Outside mystery, I like Kristan Higgins's newsletter which has a recipe is also chatty but with attractive graphics. Kevin Hearne's includes a featured "Meat of the Month" written in the voice of his protagonist's talking Irish wolfhound Oberon.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Marian! Congratulations on your new book! I always wonder about the recipes--I read them thinking--wow some people are so talented...

Susan--I love to hear from readers . For me a newsletter can be the beginning of a conversation!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, agree, Rhonda, Kristan Higgins' is somehow very special. It's authentic, I guess, just like she is.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Gram and Katie--and they are very short, actually. The personal part at the top, the the book news and reviews and links. Hmm. But she is a treasure and that comes through.

Kristopher said...

Hank, as you know, because of the book review blog, I have lots of interaction with readers. For the blog, I promote my posts on Twitter, Facebook, and via e-mail notification (if people choose to sign up for that).

I have looked into each of these methods to see what is reaching people. By far, Facebook is the most successful for me. But when talking with my e-mail followers, many of them are older folks who are not on social media and have no interest in it OR they are middle-aged folks who while they are on Facebook, they tell me they use it mainly to stay in contact with their family in distant locations and don't follow entertainment posts.

So there are readers out there to be captured via other methods. There is not a conference that goes by where I don't have someone come up to me and say that they have not heard of my blog and that they are so excited to start following it. So they either discovered me via the paper swag on the tables, or because I moderated a panel, or because I was introduced to them by someone who already follows BOLO Books.

So, my thinking is that a newsletter does potentially reach a different audience, but it will be up to each author to determine if there are enough readers in that category to make the time/effort worth it.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, there's just so much communication these days--we are bombarded! But Kristopher, your anecdotal evidence is fascinating.

Do we all think we're getting more or fewer newsletters these days?

Deborah Crombie said...

This is SO interesting! Lucy, I just signed up for Jenn McKinlay's newsletter. I realized the only newsletter I subscribe to is Louise Penny's. I do a couple of email-type newsletter that I did NOT subscribe to, and I delete them.

There's a subscribe link on my webpage, and my thinking was that there are readers out there who don't do Facebook or Twitter, and would like a little more personal look at what's going on in my life, as well as news on upcoming books and tours and conferences.

Ann in Rochester, you are the very best kind of reader and we adore you!!

Cyndi Pauwels said...

I know we as writers are "supposed" to have a newsletter, but with social media's immediacy, I just don't see the point. Quite honestly, I find newsletters to be a waste of time. The (very!) few I follow are - as noted above - from authors I'd likely read anyway.

And I know I'm not alone in signing up for those newsletters/websites/etc. which require an email address by using a throw-away account that I hardly ever look at.

Pat D said...

I tend to read most newsletters. Those from authors not too known to me I'll skim. I agree that Louise Penny and Craig Johnson's are great. They make it personal and full of news. I also enjoy Sabrina Jeffries'; she includes snippets of books, contests, historical information, and so forth. Facebook postings are enjoyable too. My favorite has to be Karen Hawkins when she posts Real Life Adventures with HotCop (her husband). Communication or lack of between married couples can be pretty darned funny to read about.
I do not reply to newsletters though. It never occurred to me. I thought the purpose was to get news out, not encourage correspondence. I do love your email responses Hank. You make me think we could meet up for drinks sometime, they are so personable.

Deborah Romano said...

From DebRomano:

I do read them. I haven't responded to any because I just assumed that responding to a newsletter was not an option. (I thought a response would go off into cyberspace!)

For around a year I have been receiving a newsletter that I don't remember signing up for. The author's name is not familiar to me. I think it's possible she was a guest on JRW and that I signed up after reading her blog post. Anyway, last week I received another newsletter from her, announcing a new book. Sounded intriguing so I ordered it for my Kindle. I am enjoying it!

Deb Romano

Deborah Romano said...

From DebRomano
Forgot to say I do read and enjoy Louise Penny's. I've never met her or corresponded with her butt feel as though I know her and Michael.
Deb

Lisa Alber said...

Hank! What a timely Reds post, hah! Having just sent out a debut newsletter, I'm wondering about all of this stuff too. For over a year I wrestled with whether to send on or not and finally thought, Why not try it and see? Can't hurt. But quarterly at most. (If curious: http://www.lisaalber.com/contact)

So, we'll see how long I last. The trick seems to be, like writing our novels: finding our newsletter voice. So I'm going to play around, and see what I see. I agree that the personal aspect is nice--an anecdote, a slice of the writer's life, something personal.

One of the trickiest aspects for me is the opt-in. I receive newsletters that I didn't sign up for, and I know there are people I sent my newsletter to that didn't sign up for it, per se ... But I think from now on, I'll only add people to the mailing list who actually do opt-in.

So then the question becomes: How to attract people?

I HIGHLY recommend Mad Mimi for newsletters. It's so easy and they've got great customer support.

(And I too will be signing up for Louise Penny's newsletter. :-))

Julia said...

Newsletters for news may be a remnant of the past. When my first book was published back in '02, I had a paper newsletter that I mailed out! Imagine that today. News and daily life, most people get from Facebook/Twitter/Pinterest, etc. The best thing about the newsletter format is that it can be saved and forwarded - so, great for special offers and notices of appearances.

I suspect if you can't do something like Louise's, which are like getting a chatty letter from a friend, they should be restricted to actual news - "The book is coming out!" tour information or giveaways.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Cyndi--a throwaway account! Whoa. Wonder what's in there--and who else got your name from it?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Thank you Pat D--love to!

So fascinating to hear the lure of personal stuff. So ... Hmmm.

Leslie Budewitz said...

All so interesting! I too love the chatty newsletters that combine personal bits with book news. I send mine roughly seasonally and when I have a new release -- I always say, I will never be organized enough to spam you! It's honestly a lot of fun to write them -- I feel like I'm writing my readers personally, a long letter like we used to write. (Yes, I totally adore FB, but letters -- ohmygosh, letters!) And when a reader responds, oh, my heart goes pitter-patter!

Do the newsletters sell books? Impossible to say, but they form relationships, and that's what sells books. Living where I do -- in NW Montana -- I don't have as many opportunities for library events and other public gatherings as some of you, so this is a bit of a substitute.

You can subscribe to mine on my website, www.LeslieBudewitz.com. This link should take you directly to the signup form http://eepurl.com/gI6JH

(By the way, using my lawyer voice here: It is actually illegal to sign people up for an electronic newsletter without their permission, whether you use a service like Mail Chimp or send it in standard email form.)

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

DebRo--well some lucky author is going to be very happy to hear that.

And Lisa Alber, yes! And that is exactly what I was thinking-- our newsletter voice. Exactly. And what comes naturally is different for everyone.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Interesting Leslie! But people can give you their emails for that purpose, right?
I once had a signing with another author and suggested we have one email signup sheet and she refused, insisting on having one that was just hers--if I wanted one that was just mine, she said, fine.
I said but if people understand it's for both of us it's fine--why make them sign up twice?--but she refused.

Leslie Budewitz said...

"Interesting Leslie! But people can give you their emails for that purpose, right?"

Oh, yes, absolutely! And I think a shared signup sheet is great! Tracy Weber and I did that when we did a joint B&N event in the town where we both grew up -- "Hometown Girls Kill People for Fun" or something like that. From an author's perspective, no downside -- you get to introduce yourself to other authors' fans, and they to yours, and they're not going to stop reading you because they like this other author's personality and books, too, right? (I think your co-signer was a stick in the mud.)

Cyndi Pauwels said...

Hank, it's an old Yahoo email that I look at only rarely. It comes in handy for those must-give-an-email situations that I don't care to establish a relationship with. If that makes sense.

Celia Fowler said...

Louise Penny does send out a wonderful monthly newsletter. It's nice to get a slice of life from an author or hear about upcoming books or book progress, or just what is going on with them at that time. Louise touches on her books, book tours, her husband Michael & their dog Bishop, their recent move and settling in -- it's just the right length, has pictures, ad you really feel like you're hearing from a friend. Nelson DeMille has a funny newsletter, and I always enjoy it.

Elizabeth Heiter said...

This is a fascinating discussion. As an author, I do send out a newsletter - I only send them when I have something new, like a book release or some kind of special deal or announcement to share. With every newsletter, I get reader replies (which I do love!) and the feedback seems to be that they enjoy the sneak peeks of the books before they hit anywhere else, as well as the personal news the most. (Sign-up is at www.elizabethheiter.com/contact.html )

I've run a few contests where the way you enter is signing up for the newsletter, but I never, never add anyone who didn't sign up. It bothers me when others do that to me, so I consider it a big "no no."

I agree that the newsletters probably are primarily reaching really dedicated readers, the ones who will likely buy the books anyway, but those are the authors whose newsletters I sign up for, too. It gives me a reminder about when books come out when life gets crazy and I might otherwise forget.

Another author newsletter I love and always read? It's yours, Hank! They're so chatty and fun, and it's like sitting across from each other and talking over coffee.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

I do, too, Leslie. :-)

Hi Celia! OH, nelson DeMIlle is a hoot--maybe I'll head over there and sign up.

Hi dear Elizabeth! Yes, I do appreciate the reminders--it is helpful when life goes by so quickly. DO you like to for website, or to a certain bookstore? And how do you even have TIME to do a newsletter??
And aw, Elizabeth, thank you! xoxoo

Leslie Budewitz said...

That we all love Louise's newsletter -- sent on the first of every month, new book or not -- tells us how important that relationship-building aspect is. She's thinking of us year-round, not just when she has a new book out. We all know authors who poke their heads up only at release time and ignore their readers the rest of the year, and that's okay, life is busy, we understand, but those may not be the authors we rave about to our friends and recommend to our readers.

Anonymous said...

Since you've asked, I'll warn you that I'm opinionated about author newsletters, lol. I'll confess that I'm fairly fickle about newsletters. If I come across an author that says something interesting on a blog or even has a fun giveaway, I'll sign up. If I get the first newsletter and it's a thinly disguised sales letter, or just completely out of my reading genre, I unsubscribe.

I appreciate that authors have to promote and market their books and that doesn't bother me, just don't call it a newsletter if there's nothing personal in it. I'm pretty lenient on what counts as personal. Photos from your vacation work for me, for example, or even your latest book signing. Just a couple of lines talking about the weather where you live will do in a pinch, pretty much anything that would not appear in an ad for your books.

When you mention your books, I prefer that you promote just one book or two and maybe one friend's book. My eyes glaze over if I have to read about your latest four books and the releases of four of your best friends's books, for example. If you have won a book award since the last newsletter, I love hearing about that.

The only person's newsletter I can't resist that I've subscribed to long-term is Vicki Lewis Thompson's. Her newsletters are fairly short and chatty and she usually promotes a couple of her books. My favorite part is she will ask for a quick answer to a short question and she gives you a personal email to answer to. It may not be true, but I think hitting "reply" on a newsletter email probably goes into the virtual dead letter box. Vicki seems to genuinely want to hear from me and will ask something like "Do you like cowboys or businessmen better?" I hit the link and answer for a chance to win a modest gift card. I've never won but she generally responds with a quick message, "I prefer businessmen too!," for example.

Vicki's latest question: Do you prefer the couple's exchange of wedding cake to be neat or messy? I answered and she sent a quick, cute response of a few words.

Like Leslie, I'm in the boonies and don't get much face-to-face with authors so I thoroughly appreciate my little tidbits with Vicki, whom I've never met. I was recently at the romance book aisle and didn't end up buying, but Vicki's latest release called to me and would have been the one I would buy. I still might!

In my opinion, it's pretty sad to assume FB takes care of all communication needs, especially since my news feed is sketchy and I see some news 12 hours late or not at all . Do you feel the same about getting a FB invite to a party as getting a mail or emailed invitation?

Not to come across as harsh, but it takes effort and cash for readers to find authors and buy their books these days. Authors are by nature writers and more of them are asking readers to write reviews and talk up their books, etc. So it doesn't seem too much to ask an author to send a "personal" note to readers occasionally, to attract that additional sale or ten.

Climbing down off my virtual soapbox now. :) (Trotting over to subscribe to Hank's newsletter. Wonder what she's giving away?)

Cathy Shouse

Lisa Alber said...

I love your response, Cathy. Very insightful.

Mary Sutton said...

Anonymous's answer (is that Cathy? I can't keep track) makes me think. I don't HAVE any books to promote. I can talk up my friends' books and talk about the weather. I'm borderline uncomfortable talking about my personal life (Well, too personal - I don't care about talking about my garden, but posting vacation pictures? None with people in them, probably.).

Yet I hear all the time (and heard it again at the Pennwriters conference in mid-May): the time to start all this is before you have a book out. But what the heck do you talk about? What could readers possibly want to hear from an as-yet unpublished writer? As I said, I can mention my two short story acceptances and that's about it. Do you really want to hear about my writing progress when you can't - as yet - read that WIP?

I really do want to know. Really. Color my completely flummoxed about topics.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Cathy, that is SO thought-provoking. Thank you! And for my newsletter at least, if you click reply, it comes directly me! So--click!

Leslie, that is a lovely way to look at it--so a months newsletter can be a bond, not an annoyance. It just has to be very thoughtfully done. Very interesting…

Mary--the writers journey is a terrific topic. Your ups and downs on the road to publication? Things you;ve learned? what ou wish someone had told you? .SIGN ME UP!
Then we'll all get to share your success.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

FROM ELLEN BYRON: (who attempted many times but had a captcha situation..

I do a bi-monthly Cajun Country newsletter. I always include fun links to Louisiana and New Orleans events, recipes, and section called "Your Louisiana Library," where I share books about the area that I love. Of course, I also include info about my books, of course. I do find that when I get newsletters, I skim the parts that are only business-related.

I try to make my newsletter a useful tool for anyone who's interested in the area, first and foremost, and a sales tool secondarily. This may be bass-awkwards, but I feel like if people enjoy the newsletter on its own, it may motivate them to check out my books. And I love Cajun Country so much that it's a pleasure to share anything I can about it.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Ah ha, Ellen. Value added. Great idea! But it sounds like a LOT of work….

Anonymous said...

I just read your newsletter, Ellen. It arrived a day or two ago and I enjoyed it, how unique it is! Cathy Shouse

Amanda LeRougetel said...

Yes, Louise Penny's newsletter is excellent - it's chatty, regular and it gives an inside sense of Louise's world. That's what I want from an author's newsletter. I don't want to have promotions thrown at me; I want to get to know the author better. That might mean something about you personally or it might be about your writing process or it might be about your characters or the story line you're developing. Regardless, I want to feel connected to you, the writer; otherwise, the newsletter is more like an advertising flyer, and I'm not really interested in getting those in my email box.

Elizabeth Heiter said...

Hi again -

Hank, I do both. We have some good chain bookstores close to me (including BAM and B&N) and Aunt Agatha's is about an hour drive. And then when I'm too swamped to leave my house, but I still want books for some 2 AM reading after I tire of writing, I order online.

As for time to make a newsletter, I'm not sure! But I use MailChimp and it's pretty easy, so it doesn't usually take me too long (and I like that I can schedule them!).

Elisabeth said...

Adding another voice to the Louise Penny newsletter praise. Hers is the only author newsletter that I receive, so I have no comparisons.
But, I never never ever read the "reveals" of her next novel that she includes. I hate hate hate knowing too much about a new book from an author whose work I know well and whose new book will soon be in my hands. Reveals just spoil my reading experience.
After that rant, Jungle Reds will not be surprised that I skip "what we're working on now" weeks. 🙃

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Oh ,Elisabeth, that is SUCH a good insight! Ah ha. And that never crossed my mind. Hm.

Amanda, connection rather than promotion. That is a perfect way of looking at it. So you'll accept/embrace the promotion, if the personal side is compelling enough. So valuable.

Elizabeth, I typo'ed. I meant LINK to. xoxo Is that what you answered? (Who's on first…?)

Keenan Powell said...

I read the newsletter only if the author links it on their FB page. I sign up for a bunch but my super duper spam filter is stopping them before they even hit the computer. Frankly, thinking about it and then taking the time to think to look for them and then white list them doesn't seem to fit into my schedule.

I want to know what books you're working on, when the release dates are, where you're going so I can tell my friends/relatives in that area that you'll be there and the little chatty stuff like what you recently read and liked, even the occasional recipe, is nice too.

Elaine Klingbeil said...

I have a hard time with the newsletters. There are so many! And usually I have read the news on Facebook, as that is my main go-to place. Please don't feel bad that I don't read them all. Also, I guess I thought most of the newsletters would have a do not reply address that they are sent from. I didn't know I could reply to them. See you on Facebook!

Elizabeth Heiter said...

Hank, to answer your question, I link to my website. If I'm talking about a new book, I'll link directly to the landing page for that book, which has all the standard bookstore buy buttons. 😄

Edith Maxwell said...

All this today has been so helpful. I have been including only book news - but personal news and recipes seem like a big draw for readers. Thanks for initiating the topic, Hank!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Keenan, the spam filter is a big problem. I know my newsletter gets caught there--once, I fear, because the subject line said "Gift for you! " And once because it was "Celebrate with me." Grr.

Eliane, mine, at least, take replies. happily. But you are so right--some say "do not reply." I think that's so sad!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Yes, good plan, Elizabeth! That's what I do, too.

Edith, yeah, SO fascinating, huh?

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

And may I just say--it is SUCH a pleasure to know you all. I am touched and honored, every time. Thank you. See you tomorrow--for CARA BLACK! And a wonderful offer of a gift for you!

Kathy Reel said...

I've been with the grandgirls today, so I'm coming in very late. I think I'm signed up for all of the Reds that have newsletters, and I do skim over them, but I come to the blog here everyday, so sometimes a newsletter is rather superfluous. I do get Louise's newsletter and enjoy her chat to her readers, making it seem more like a blog sometimes. I do like to get news about publication dates and event dates and places from newsletters, and like Edith mentioned, personal news is interesting, too.

Susan, I think your FB posts about all the backstories of WWII, especially the women, would make good newsletter material and might reach people that aren't on FB.

And, Hank, I feel really silly because I didn't know authors wanted you to respond to the newsletter. I guess the authors, like you and the other Reds, that I always read are part of my normal communication on FB, so I didn't think to respond to the newsletters.

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Well, I wondered where you were today, Kathy! Xxx I don't know about other authors--but I think it's great! Xxx

Norma Huss said...

Yes, I read newsletters - some more completely than others. I often click on links and/or follow through on suggestions they make.

Daniella Bernett said...

Reds,

I don't do a newsletter. I know a lot of people say that it's important for authors to have one "to help get the word out." However I barely have time to work on my books, what with working full time and my parents' health issues. You're all probably going to laugh, but I'm not tech- or social media-savvy either. I had my website for several years, but I only started my Facebook and Goodreads pages in the months preceding the release in 2015 of LEAD ME INTO DANGER, the first book in my mystery series.

I do subscribe to Lauren Willig's and Daniel Silva's newsletters, which come out a few times a year, but that's it. I admire all of you because you are so much more adept at the "marketing" aspect of being author. I wish you could give me some advice.

Carol Pouliot said...

Thanks so much to all the Jungle Reds for this post. My first book is coming out in the fall and I've been wondering about the impact a newsletter might have on selling books. I decided that I'm not the newsletter type so I'm just not going to do one. I have alternatives on my upcoming website which I hope will stand in well for a newsletter. Fingers crossed.