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Many authors I’ve consulted with recently about their book marketing plan have reported that their advertising, across multiple platforms including social media, Bookbub and Amazon, to name just a few, has really gotten less effective, or at least more unpredictable.

If you’re seeing this too, know a lot of factors contribute to these phases of upset, including algorithm changes and increased competition, and even changes in buyer behavior.

But it’s these kinds of changes that make a strong argument for not putting all your efforts into such volatile book marketing strategies. Let’s not forget the the book promotion elements we can control, your newsletter, for starters.

How a newsletter can help you sell more books

Your book marketing plan should always include opportunities to communicate one-on-one with your readers, and newsletters certainly check off that box. And, if used correctly, it can be a great tool to sell more books for the longterm.

But you’ve got to remember, it’s about them, not about you!

Sure, you can share personal details of your life. But keep in mind that oversharing in a newsletter and veering off-point is disrespectful to your reader, and will likely encourage unsubscribes. Your goal is to sell more books, to encourage engagement and to foster loyalty among your followers.

It’s hard to do that if you ramble on about your Aunt Ethel’s 86th birthday party. I mean it’s awesome for Aunt Ethel, but your readers may not care so much. This is probably better shared on Facebook!

It’s harder and harder these days to stay top of mind with your reader. With so much coming at us it’s easy to get lost in the shuffle of everything else they have going on. So keep it super relevant, exciting, and always have something unexpected to share or special bonuses.

What makes a newsletter great

So what does it take to create an outstanding newsletter everyone will want to read? Here are seven simple factors to consider when adding one to your book marketing plan:

  • Know your audience: this is first because it’s most important. Know who you’re writing for and who will be reading this. Make sure the information is relevant to them.
  • Go light on promotion: when it comes to promotional copy in a newsletter, I recommend the 95/5% rule: 95% helpful information and 5% sales copy. Trust me on this. I can’t tell you how many newsletters I delete that are overly self-promotional. If the newsletter/email campaign is good, it will sell you. I know you want to sell more books. Just don’t be so blatant about it that it gets you a load of unsubscribes each time you send out a newsletter.
  • Share focused content: Create one focal point for your newsletter. Each newsletter should have just one goal. Decide what that is and make sure all the content reflects that. Which doesn’t mean you can’t mention 1-2 other things, but keep the focus (the big article) on the main idea. Like with anything, it’s a good book marketing strategy to stay focused and on message.
  • Consider a collaboration: If you’re doing a newsletter, maybe you’re worried you don’t have the bandwidth to fill an entire one yourself, on a regular schedule. So consider collaborating with a few authors who are in your genre/industry and at the same success level you are. Leveraging other professionals’ platforms is a really smart addition to your book marketing plan, and while it probably sounds daunting, it really works and takes a lot of pressure off.
  • Be smart about frequency: Watch this one very closely. The general rule of thumb is that the more frequent your newsletter, the shorter it should be. So, if your newsletter goes out weekly, think of offering just a quick tip or a quick update. If it goes out monthly then it can be longer. Often when it comes to effective book marketing, think “less is more.”
  • Give your newsletter a voice: What I mean by this is give your newsletter a personality. You don’t want a stale, monotone, unfriendly book marketing piece that doesn’t speak to your reader, do you? Show your personality, let it shine through. I like to think that our newsletter has a lot of our voice in it. In order to create “voice” you might want to follow some of the same rules that you do when blogging. Don’t hesitate to share an opinion, viewpoint, stance, advice, whatever. Speak to your reader, not at them.
  • Have a call to action: Make sure that you have a strong call to action in your newsletter. If you have a few calls to action even better. Get your reader to do something. Engage them in what you’re writing, send them to helpful links, offer them bonuses, specials, exclusives. Remember, if they took the time to open and read your newsletter they should get something besides great content. Great links to helpful sites, maybe even a free download, all these things are enticing and will keep your reader coming back for more! By getting them engaged, by pulling them into your message, this is not only a good book marketing tactic but can help you sell more books – because readers may get inspired to share your content or buy your latest book!
  • Don’t sell them fluff: Ok, I know I said seven tips but I couldn’t help but adding a bonus one. (See what you get for reading all the way through this article? That’s what I mean by over-delivering.) Readers want the information and they want it fast. Don’t use a lot of fluff words or extra (and sometimes useless) content just to puff up your newsletter and make it seem bigger. Give readers the information they want in clear, concise language and then send them on their way. Book marketing rule 101: don’t use 10 words when only two will do!

When it comes to the timing of your newsletter that depends on you and your audience. Our newsletter goes out once a month because it contains a lot of content and it would just be too much to take in if we sent it out more often than that.

Also make sure your newsletter is edited. This is a big one. Nothing says “unprofessional” like a newsletter full of typos.

Ideas for newsletter features

  • Tips, marketing, business, whatever your area of expertise.
  • Specials that are exclusive to your newsletter tribe.
  • New books coming out, what you’re working on next.
  • News: what’s happened that’s exciting that you’d like to share?
  • A personal thank you to all of your readers, for reading and maybe sharing your newsletter.
  • And speaking of sharing your newsletter – why not do a contest to anyone who invites 5 of their friends to sign up for your list. Offer them a $5 gift card just for getting five new folks to join.

Getting people to sign up for your newsletter

Now here’s the thing, you do want folks to sign up on your website for the newsletter, but you’re going to have to give them something to get something. That’s called your ethical bribe. An ethical bribe can be the first chapter or two of your next book. It can be a monthly drawing for a $5 Starbucks gift card (it sounds small but folks love gift cards). You can also do a checklist or something else that seems to align with your audience. Using an ethical bribe in the right way can be a solid tool to pull in lots and lots of new subscribers and sell more books!

I recommend signing up for a free account at Mail Chimp or Constant Contact. You can get free accounts up to 1,000 subscribers. So if you’re over that, you’ll have to pay a small fee but it’s 100% worth it. These services will handle your newsletter mailing. They’ve got templates you can use to make some really attractive newsletters and they’ll also handle your unsubscribes.  Don’t email folks manually, even sending to 20 people can get you a host of problems from your email service provider. Most companies take big issue with spamming and if one person complains, it could cause you a host of problems.

Make collecting emails part of your book marketing plan

If writing pieces for other blogs is one of your book marketing strategies, make sure that there’s a note that folks can sign up for your email newsletter (if it’s appropriate and the blogger lets you do this). But outside of that you should always, always do newsletter sign ups at your book signings, book events, and speaking gigs. Never go to a single event without a sign-up sheet.

Creating that one-on-one reader connection is vital to growing your book/brand and career. However, it’s also a great indie book marketing strategy to get in front of your audience, time and time again. When done right, they can become a critical and very effective piece of your book marketing plan. Bottom line, a great newsletter can help you sell more books. We’ve had our newsletter for over seventeen years, and I’d never consider being without it. It keeps us top of mind with folks who have expressed an interest in our services, which is more than most social media can do these days.

If you’re a fiction author, or aren’t sure what direction you want to go with your newsletter just yet, try experimenting with different messages before you land on one that “fits.” In most cases, your readers/fans just want to get your updates. They want to know what’s going on, what’s coming up, and what are you working on now. It’s a fabulous opportunity to open the door to direction communication and sales.  Yes, this takes time and effort but if done right, the pay-offs can be enormous.

Just remember, it all goes back to making it about the reader, and nothing helps you collect emails better than special bonuses and fun giveaways – give them something in exchange for their email address, you really are asking for a lot. I have some ideas for great bonus content in my resources section just below and once you’ve brainstormed some ideas you’ll be pleased to realize you can use them to support other strategies included in your book marketing plan as well!

Resources and Free Downloads

Creative Ways to Plan Author Events

How to Manage Your Indie Author Real Estate, and Why You Should Care

Free Reader Profile Brainstorm Worksheet

Author Marketing Experts

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