Monday, May 04, 2009

Newsletters

I appreciate so very much those of you who regularly read Random Jottings. I try to remain true to my original description of the site: “A Christian writer’s random thoughts about writing and life in general.” I enjoy writing it (most of the time) and have gotten to know many of you better through your comments and our email exchanges. But some of you have asked when I plan to expand past my blog and my web site, and offer a newsletter. Funny you should ask, because a newsletter is part of that elusive thing publishers call “platform.”

My web site was started to give a more in-depth look at the story behind my non-fiction book, The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, and remind readers of my speaking ministry in the areas of grief and loss, a ministry that continues. Now that my novel, Code Blue, is due for publication early next year, the web site is being redone to reflect these changes. As soon as Code Blue is available for order, I’ll have a click-through that will allow visitors to purchase it.

What about a newsletter? For the answer to this, I did what I often do. I asked friends who were established authors. Their consensus is that a newsletter should be more than a pitch from an author asking people to buy their books—these get ignored or deleted. The newsletter should have value. It might offer interviews, writing tips, information that will grab the attention of the reader.

Here’s what DiAnn Mills told me:

"I am not a blogger. Once a month I blog for www.bustlesandspurs.com, and it's always difficult coming up with a topic.

"On the other hand, I enjoy composing my newsletter. My goal has always been for the content to appeal to writers and readers - and not focusing entirely on me. I view my newsletter as a gift/letter from me to them.

"Through the newsletter, I've gained online friends and added fans to my writing. I know this, because I receive reader responses stating so. I've also acquired more teaching venues at writer's workshops and speaking events across the country due to the newsletter. I've also met fans at book signings and writing conferences who introduce themselves.

"It is definitely worth the time, effort, and expense because I receive immediate feedback. The contests are another way to engage the readers.

"The above points are the advantages.

"The drawbacks? Keeping the content fresh and new. I also have a few key people who add image tips and life coaching tips, so I need to make sure I have a steady supply. Also the author interviews need a little planning. But actually I don't see any drawbacks."

Brandilyn Collins has this approach:

"One thing that helps make a newsletter successful is to make it about more than just you. I designed Sneak Pique to support Christian fiction in general. Even those who don’t like to read suspense can subscribe to Sneak Pique to read everything else it offers. Only the first section, with a few bulleted points, is about me and my books. The rest of SP (1) offers a contest, with three winners each month receiving a book, (2) runs a list of new Christian fiction releases in all genres within the previous two months, and (3) answers readers’ questions about Christian novelists, giving an “inside scoop” look into those authors’ writing.

"I do think Sneak Pique has helped me sell books and keep in contact with my readers. However it’s only one thing in a long list of marketing efforts that I do. It’s hard to pull out any one aspect of an overall marketing plan and quantify how well it works in terms of sales.

"I have an assistant who puts the newsletter together for me. She uses Ezine to disseminate the emails. My newsletter/html assistant is Gayle DeSalles of Word Count. She does newsletters for numerous Christian authors, and it’s not that expensive. If you think you can’t handle the time on your own (remember it requires learning Ezine or some other software), do ask Gayle for her pricing schedule.

"We put out Sneak Pique every other month. It’s the same format each time, so plugging in the new information I personally have to write (like Brandilyn’s Bits) takes less than an hour for me. Then I just send it all off to Gayle. After it’s sent to subscribers Gayle puts up the latest issue on my Web site. In this way readership exceeds subscribers."

Other authors who responded echoed the sentiment that a newsletter should edify, rather than just sell books or the author. This is a refreshing change from most of the world, where the motto seems to be Et ubi es meum. Just so you don't go scrambling off for your high school Latin text, I'm told that translates roughly as "And where is mine?"

I’m still thinking about a newsletter, and when/if it does come about you can get it by leaving your email address in the box provided in the right-hand column of this newsletter. Thanks for dropping by.

1 comment:

Timothy Fish said...

I have avoided e-mail newsletters, primarily because I don’t like getting e-mail newsletters, with few exceptions. For the most part, if an e-mail message doesn’t require me to provide a personal response, I would just as soon not have it in my inbox. The other reason is that most of my best thoughts are already on my blog, my website or the church’s website and I can’t seem to think of anything that exceeds the value of what I am already putting out there.

A few years ago, I was the editor for the newsletter of a pro-life organization. It required the better part of a day. I imagine that if I were to come up with something that I considered newsletter quality, it would require about the same amount of time.