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, yet I wasn’t connecting with them.

That was almost five years ago, and I’ve found out firsthand 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.


What to Write About

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 or recommend my books to friends.


A Writer’s Book Club

I also send out A Writer’s Book Club each month. I got this idea from listening to Author Valerie Francis interview Book Launch Expert Tim Grahl during their Book Launch Show podcast.

Tim told Valerie she needed to reach book lovers, and writing monthly book reviews was the best way to do 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 or 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 I have to write something new every two weeks for my newsletter. It’s a good habit to get into. After several 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 post.


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 that I don’t feel as lonely when I hear from readers, even though writing is 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 on your own, you must 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 to your email list. If you don’t have an email list, contact 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!

Please note: This article was originally published on the August 9, 2022 Chicago Writers Association blog. 


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