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How to Set Up an Email Newsletter for Authors

Hands up if you’ve heard that you need an email newsletter as an author?

Is your hand still up? While you might have heard you need an email newsletter, you might not have the first idea about how to set one up, or even why people would want to hear from you in the first place.

Well, I’m here to tell you, you still need one. No matter how niche, how early you are in your career, it pays to set one up early. I’ve been sending email newsletters for over ten years, for both my personal businesses and professional work. While social media and marketing tools can change out of your control, being able to contact people directly who are interested in your work is a valuable tool.

The big question: Why do you need an email newsletter as a writer?

It’s common enough advice, but email subscription lists are the one thing you mostly control. You send an email, it lands in someone’s inbox and hopefully they’re nice enough to open it and read it. There’s no magic algorithms involved.

The other thing is, people actually want to hear from you. You might not be a super famous writer, but there are probably people who are interested in what you’re doing. Even if it’s family, your school friends, your work colleagues – people are impressed when you say you’re writing a book.

You need to build this list of supporters early so that when you do publish that book, get that short story out there, run a kickstarter, they’ll support you. There’s so much talk on the internet about building audiences and selling products, but I really hate the corporate speak about it.

Email newsletters are a chance to build relationships with people and genuinely let them know how you’re going, and get support from them. When I recently sent out an email about an awards shortlisting, I got a few emails back congratulating me. And I’ll tell you what, I was super encouraged!

So how do you set up an email newsletter?

The first thing you need to do when setting up an email newsletter is select an email newsletter provider. There are plenty of options out there with varying degrees of automation. A few options are:

  • Mailchimp – I use Mailchimp as it provides a straightforward email newsletter service with templates and automation. Free up to a certain level of subscribers.
  • Campaign Monitor – Campaign Monitor offers flexible drag and drop templates as well as audience segmentation. Starts at $9 per month.
  • ConvertKit – ConvertKit offers a lot of automation and integrations with different apps, so it might be a good option if you’re selling e-books or creative products. $29 per month, but offers some different plans for creatives.

There are plenty more options out there, but sometimes it’s easier to pick one and simply start. Once you’ve selected your email newsletter client, there’s a couple of things you’ll need to do before collecting email lists.

Set up a list

It’s important to set up your lists properly, otherwise you’ll spend hours sorting them out later down the track. The main thing to decide is what information you’ll collect. I find First Name and Email is enough. If there is other information important to your business, include that too. I always add my own email so I can make sure it goes through when I send it.

While I’m not a lawyer, and this isn’t legal advice, there are some important things to know before you start adding emails:

  • In Australia you need to abide by the Spam Act. This means you need to gain consent before adding people to your list, include a mailing address where people can contact you and make it easy to unsubscribe.
  • Respect the privacy of your subscribers. Don’t resubscribe people who have unsubscribed, don’t give out email addresses from your list and don’t sell them.
  • If you might potentially be collecting emails from the EU, you’ll need to be aware of GDPR laws.
  • Laws are changing all the time, so stay aware of the latest developments. Make sure you check laws relevant to your country.

You also need to decide whether your list will be double opt-in or single opt-in. Double opt-in means that people need to confirm their subscription to your email newsletter, which means you have additional confirmation that someone has consented to your email newsletter. Single opt-in means they sign up once and are added to the list, there’s no extra step.

Set up a PO Box

It’s a requirement in Australia that you include a mailing address on your email newsletters. If you don’t have a business address or don’t feel comfortable adding your home address to public emails, the best thing you can do is set up a PO Box. They’re not expensive and can be quite useful later down the track if you get business mail.

Pick an email newsletter template

Now for the fun stuff! How is your email newsletter going to look? The great thing about most email newsletter programs is that they have drag and drop editors, so you don’t need to know a line of code. But if it’s your first time doing an email newsletter, it’s easiest to pick a template, fill out your information and go. I use a Mailchimp template which I’ve adapted to my own colours.

But how do you actually get people to sign up to your email newsletter?

When you first start out, you usually don’t have any email subscribers! How on earth do you make that list grow? Whatever people might tell you, you can’t add people to a mailing list without their explicit consent. And whatever you do, don’t buy email lists! That’s a big no-no.

The first thing to do is to set up a sign up form. You either create one to embed on your site in Mailchimp or your email service provider, or use a secondary service. I use OptinMonster to add email sign up forms to my website.

Here are some tips on how to grow your list:

  • Post a link to your sign up page on your social media and ask people to sign up.
  • Send a personal email to your friends and family directly with a link and tell them that you’re just starting out, but you’d love it if they subscribed to your newsletter.
  • Take a sign up form (or tablet) to events and ask people to add their name to the list if they’re interested in getting updates.
  • Add a sign up form at the end of your blog posts and potentially a pop-up on your site using an app like OptinMonster or Sumo.
  • Create an opt-in giveaway like a free short story, e-book or how to guide, and send it to people who sign up for your email newsletters.

And what, pray tell, do you put in your email newsletter?

First up, this is not the place to put your constant sales pitch for your amazing self-published masterpiece. We all get gazillions of emails trying to sell us stuff ALL THE TIME. And I’m the first person to hit unsubscribe.

The emails I love the most are ones where people are authentic about their creative processes and trying to help people. I feel like I get to know the person behind the email newsletter, even though we’ve sometimes never met. Be real, be raw, and yes, you can talk about your books and stories, but don’t let that be the only thing you do. Keep your tone true to you – write it how you’d talk to a friend.

Some ideas of what to include in your newsletter are:

  • Writing tips and tricks
  • Links to blog posts
  • Book reviews or books you’ve enjoyed
  • Progress updates on your writing
  • Awards news
  • Short stories you’ve had published
  • New books and announcements
  • Giveaways
  • Personal updates or news (depending on how comfortable you feel sharing your personal life)

It would be remiss of me not to put a link to my email newsletter, so you can sign up below! Sneaky hey…

I hope this guide has helped you to set up your author newsletter! If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments below.

Featured photo by rawpixel on Unsplash