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?