Your books are published, you’re building a social media presence, and you’ve got an official author website and/or blog. You’re rocking it! But…do you have a newsletter?

I know what you’re thinking:

What? More book promotion I have to do? When will I have time to write the next book??

But keep reading. It’s worth starting a newsletter, and it needn’t be a big time investment.

First off, what is a newsletter exactly?

Glad you asked. A newsletter is when you add a form to your website (or blog) where visitors can sign up (opt in), thus agreeing to receive periodic email messages from you. Their names and email addresses are compiled into a mailing list, and you can then “broadcast” a message to your entire list at once.

What you write in those newsletters is up to you. If you’re an author, the people who sign up are going to be fans, probably fans who’ve read many of your books and enjoyed them enough to hunt down your website and give you their email addresses.

Think of your newsletter subscribers as your inner circle. What cool things can you do to reward them for being fans?

At the very least, you can let them be among the first to know when you have a new book coming out. Maybe you can even give them coupons for discounts or let them take advantage of a low initial ebook price (i.e. you might sell your novel at $2.99 for the first couple of weeks before raising the price to $4.99).

What’s in it for you?

Okay, you’re thinking, you could start a newsletter, and you could give things away, but why? How is that helping you sell books if you’re just writing to people who are already fans?

First off, as I mentioned, a newsletter is a way to let your core fans know when you have a new book out. More than that, having the emails of hundreds of readers can give you the power to get a bunch of people buying your new releases at once.

Savvy independent authors have used their newsletter subscribers to shoot their latest books to the tops of the bestseller lists at Amazon. This gets their books noticed by lots of other people (who aren’t newsletter subscribers and just happen to browse the bestseller charts, looking for new books to try).

Sending newsletters out to your fans is also a way to keep your name in their minds, something that can be especially useful if you’re not the most prolific writer. They’ll probably be more likely to recommend your books to friends if you’re able to stay on their radar. Otherwise, they might forget all about you in the interim between publications. And if they forget about you, they won’t remember to keep an eye out for your future books.

Always remember, it’s easier to sell to an existing fan than to convince a new reader to try your work.

Now that I’ve convinced you (even if I haven’t, please nod your head and grunt an affirmative so we can move on), let’s talk about how to set up a newsletter.

How to start a newsletter

The basics are to sign up with a newsletter service (they’ll send out the message for you and keep all the addresses in a secure database) and add a sign-up form to your website or blog (or both). The process will be a little different depending on who you go with and where you host your blog (if you want to install it on a blog), so I’ll keep things basic.

Sign up with a newsletter service

There are free ones out there that are perfectly fine if you’re just getting started (they can get you pretty darned far, actually!), though the tradeoff is that you’ll usually have advertising or something like inserted at the end of your newsletters. For an indie on a budget, that’s probably not going to be a problem.

I’ll mention the provider I use first and then another one I’ve heard authors recommend (mine costs money, but the other one has a free option that’s available for those with less than 1,000 subscribers).

The service I use is Aweber, and the main reason was that I already had an account there because of the day job. They’re the gold standard when it comes to mailing list providers, but they’re pricy at $15 a month and offer more services than we generally need as authors (Examples include click tracking, the option to host multiple newsletters, and the ability to create series of scheduled “broadcasts” that can go out automatically to a new subscriber at intervals. They also have a huge selection of video webinars to educate you on marketing with newsletters).

If you know right away that you’ll quickly reach 1,000 subscribers, or if you have multiple pen names and want to easily manage newsletter lists for each under one account, you might check into Aweber.

If not, here’s another option:

YMLP (Your Mailing List Provider) has a free level that might very well do everything you need. As I said, you can have up to 1,000 subscribers and send up to 25 emails a month. For many authors, that may be plenty. (I’m not anywhere near 1,000 subscribers yet myself, though I hope to be by this time next year!).

Add a form to your site/blog

Both of the services I mentioned have form-creation wizards. You can pick out a background and what fields you want people to enter (name and email should be sufficient), and it’ll give you a snippet of code to place on your site.

How to insert that code will vary, depending on your blog platform, but for WordPress, I created a new “text” widget, pasted the code into it, and added it to my sidebar (I’ve done this on Blogger and Typepad, too, so I imagine it’s possible everywhere).

How do you get people to sign up for your newsletter?

The cool thing about being an author is that people searching for your website are probably already fans. They’ve read your books, and they’re interested in learning more about you or perhaps when the next book comes out. You shouldn’t have to sell them too hard on your newsletter.

That said, you can do the tried-and-true internet marketer’s method of acquiring newsletter subscribers: give something away for free to folks who sign up. Perhaps a short story or some kind of special fans-only extra? It’s up to you.

That’s all there is to starting a newsletter. It’s much easier than formatting an ebook or editing your manuscript or any of the other things you’ve done as an author!

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