August 9, 2022
by Kristin Oakley
For years people told me to start a newsletter. After all, I had written and published two books and had over 400 people on my email list. I thought periodically sending a book release announcement or information about an upcoming author event was enough.
Then I took a mastermind class with marketing guru Dan Blank of We Grow Media. Dan couldn’t believe I had so many people on my list and yet I wasn’t connecting with them.
That was almost five years ago and I’ve found out first hand why publishing a newsletter is valuable for writers.
Newsletters Build Relationships with Your Readers
Years ago, like most debut novelists, I assumed that marketing my books meant begging people to buy them. I planned not to be too obvious as I begged, and sent out pretty email announcements and fantastic giveaways, but it still felt like begging. I hated it.
After joining Dan Blank’s mastermind group I could see I was completely wrong. Marketing has nothing to do with begging. Instead, marketing is building long-term relationships with readers. The best way to cultivate those relationships is for readers to get to know you as a person, and the best way to do that is through a newsletter.
Of the over 100 newsletters I’ve published, only a handful blatantly encourage people to buy my books (although there’s always a link to purchase), and selling isn’t the main thrust. Instead, I share my writing life with readers.
In 2017 I took Dan Blank’s advice and created a newsletter. My goal was to help my readers understand my writing process. I wrote about hiring a cover designer, writing captivating first lines, researching caves and escape rooms, and what an editor does. I kept my readers engaged by asking questions and conducting a poll on which of my cover designs they liked best. I made sure to respond to their comments and included their choices in my newsletter.
Through my writing life newsletter subscribers have learned about my struggles with writing and editing, experiences while attending conferences and teaching workshops, and research adventures and discoveries about my characters. Readers who become invested in my stories are more likely to buy my books or recommend them to friends.
Tim told Valerie she needed to reach book lovers and writing monthly book reviews was the best way to go about it. Valerie calls her reviews Valerie’s Book Club.
I’ve titled mine A Writer’s Book Club because I add a paragraph explaining how the book has influenced my writing. The books I review are generally in the same genre as my current work in progress—a young adult dystopian/thriller—but may also include any book that strikes my fancy. I started this just a few months ago and have received comments from readers who tell me they’ve loved a book as much as I have. A bonus to doing this kind of newsletter: I can write my reviews well in advance.
Newsletters Get You into The Writing Habit
I’m a relatively slow writer. It takes me days, even weeks, to develop ideas and then more days or weeks to shape them. My first book, Carpe Diem, Illinois, took me six years to write. Its sequel, God on Mayhem Street, took four and a half.
But for my newsletter, I have to write something new every two weeks. It’s a good habit to get into. After a couple of years of writing newsletters, I’ve determined that publishing them every other Friday morning works best for me. Now I make sure I have something to publish.
Feeling a Sense of Accomplishment
Meeting my newsletter deadlines gives me an immediate sense of accomplishment. A deadline means I’m not waiting years to send my writing out into the world; I’m now doing it twice a month, and the more I write the easier the ideas flow.
Immediate Feedback from Readers
Every week I hear from at least one person who has read my newsletter. It’s wonderful to get that instant feedback. Readers tell me how much they enjoy hearing about my writing process or say what they liked about a book I’ve reviewed. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see who is touched by my words.
Another bonus is I don’t feel as lonely when I hear from readers, even though writing is such a solitary pursuit.
Making Connections to Influencers
Because my newsletter goes out to both writers and readers I often hear from writers who edit publications, run conferences or blogs, and invite me to offer a workshop or write for their publication. These connections have been invaluable and have led to more opportunities to reach additional readers. I’ve paid this forward by interviewing influencers and publishing those interviews in my newsletter.
These interviews include author Christina Clancy, Laurie Scheer, Co-founder of New Nature Writers, as well as award-winning screenwriter Rebecca Williams Spindler, and my gifted editor Tim Storm.
It’s Today’s Marketing for Writers
Gone are the days when publishers market authors’ books. Instead, whether you’re traditionally published or decide to go it on your own, you have to have a marketing plan and a good deal of marketing know-how. At a minimum this means a professional-looking website and an email marketing service such as Mailchimp.
Through writing my newsletters I have learned how my website interfaces with Mailchimp, and I now understand SEO (Search Engine Optimization), Keywords, Meta descriptions, and what a Featured Image is.
It was scary for someone semi-computer literate and I’ve made many mistakes, but my laptop hasn’t blown up and I now understand how it all fits together.
For those tough times when I’m completely lost (and those are becoming fewer and fewer), I turn to my website and marketing guru, Celeste Anton, at Dandelion Web Marketing.
So, I encourage you to start your newsletter and send it out to your email list. If you don’t have an email list reach out to people one-on-one, tell them about your shiny new newsletter, and ask if you can add them to your email list. Once you get started, you’ll be glad you did!
Sign up for my newsletter and receive the free short story which inspired my soon-to-be released series!
Kristin A. Oakley, a popular presenter at Let’s Just Write! An Uncommon Writers Conference, is the author of two award-winning suspense thrillers, Carpe Diem, Illinois and God on Mayhem Street. She teaches writing workshops, has critiqued manuscripts and has helped writers hone their agent pitches. Kristin is writing a soon-to-be released young adult thriller series called The Devil Particle Series.
She reviews books and writes about being a novelist in her bi-monthly newsletter, available at kristinoakley.net.
Kristin Oakley is a Chicago Writers Association board member.
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