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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Author Newsletters. Yes? No?

A few years ago, author blogs were touted as the next best thing for authors to engage with readers. Now it’s newsletters. It seems every author has one. I fear, as with anything, over-use can make a good thing turn sour. I’ve experienced author newsletters as an author who sends one out and as a reader who’s on several author mailing lists.

I’ve had a newsletter for the past several years. I enjoy writing it, and I hope my subscribers like reading it. As a TV junkie, movie buff, and a cooking enthusiast, I include a movie/TV review and a recipe in every issue. Sometimes I run contests and giveaways. I have a small core group, my base as it were, who have been with me since the beginning. I thank them and value them. There are authors who have thousands of subscribers. I’m in awe of them and wish them the best. I’m happy with my small, loyal group, and I hope they continue to stay with me.

There are several providers an author can use. Several are free up to about 1,000 subscribers. I use Constant Contact, which is not free. As a totally non-technical person, I find them easy to work with, and there’s telephone contact for any problems I have. I negotiated a special price with them so I don’t feel obligated to get a newsletter out each month. When I paid a higher price, I felt I had to get something for my money and put out a mailing monthly.

To increase my subscriber list, about a year or so ago, I joined a multi-author promotion that gave away a Kindle and other cool prizes. Readers had to agree to sign up for author newsletters as a condition to entering the contest. I got about 100 additional subscribers, which made me happy. In my first newsletter after adding all the new people, I held a contest where I gave away a pretty bracelet. One of the new subscribers won it. As soon as she received it, she unsubscribed. That hurt. I took it personally. I know I shouldn’t but I did. I realized how naïve I’d been. Some readers sign up for newsletters just to win things. Read on for my experience as a reader who did just that.

Many of my new subscribers from that first promotion unsubscribed or didn’t open my newsletter. I was disappointed, and hoped I’d have better luck with another promotion. I joined a campaign that promised a large number of new subscribers, and got close to 1,000. Woo Hoo!! Right? Not so much. Ninety-eight percent of those new sign-ons either promptly unsubscribed as soon as they received my first newsletter or never opened it. However, because my total number of subscribers went over 1,000, my newsletter provider charged me more. I paid a lot for readers who didn’t want to hear from me. Another hard lesson learned.

Now when I join author promotions, it’s not to get newsletter subscribers but to get followers on Amazon and Book Bub. I want subscribers who like my books and want to hear from me. It’s not about the quantity of subscribers but the quality.

As a reader, I’ve entered contests in which I had to sign up for author newsletters. OMG!! I didn’t know what I was in for. I had a better understanding as to why all those new subscribers I added didn’t open my newsletter or unsubscribed. My inbox was suddenly inundated with emails from authors I’d never heard of. Some of those authors sent an email daily, sometimes several times a day. Monthly is good, not daily. All of the emails were constant promotion. As an author, this flooding of newsletters worries me that readers will get disgusted and turn off to newsletters from all authors.

When I started getting all these mailings, I wanted to support my fellow authors. Knowing how hurt I get when subscribers don’t open my newsletters, I opened every one. It seemed some days all I did was read newsletters. It got so out of hand I finally had to start unsubscribing. My newsletter list is now down to a manageable few from authors I actually want to hear from. Some of those who have unsubscribed from my newsletter stated the reason as they get too many emails. I can certainly relate.

On a side note, something I learned from getting this abundance of author mailings, is that I now know what “dark romance” and “dub-con,” (short for dubious consent) mean. Several times daily, I’d get ten or more emails from various authors with raunchy subject lines that made me blush. These were promotions for dark romances with dub-con. Out of curiosity, I bought one to see what all the fuss was about. I wish I could have stayed blissfully ignorant. I couldn’t delete those emails quick enough after that. I assume the authors dropped me from their lists as I don’t get any more of their emails. Not knocking Dark Romances. They’re popular now, and apparently lots of readers want them. Not my taste. On the plus side, I’ve bought books I’ve really liked that were promoted in newsletters from authors I’d never read.

I’ve stopped entering contests where one of the requirements is signing up for author newsletters.

Now, just to confuse things, there’s something called GDPR. From the internet: The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) (EU) 2016/679 is a regulation in EU law on data protection and privacy for all individuals within the European Union. It addresses the export of personal data outside the EU.

From what I understand, all of us authors who have newsletters must send out a compliance letter to our subscribers to ask if they want to continue to be on our mailing list. We must get a positive response either way. This regulation applies only to members of the EU, but many of us authors have readers who live in Europe. And we could have readers who live in the United States but are citizens of Europe. Non-compliance means fines up to $20,000. My newsletter provider has a form letter to use. I haven’t sent mine out yet, but I’m starting to get them from others who have me on their lists.

For you authors, how do you feel about newsletters? Do you see a bump in sales whenever you send one out? Do you think they’re here to stay or will lose favor due to over-use?
 For you readers, how do you feel? Do you subscribe to author letters? Do you get too many? I’m very interested in hearing others’ thoughts.

If anyone would like to sign up for my newsletter, please go to my website at There’s a button that will take you to the signup form. I promise I’ll send out my mailings monthly or less.

For anyone who has read my Facebook posts, you know I’m a crazy cat lady. I’m having a sale on an anthology of fun, quirky short stories, each one featuring a feline or two.

A TASTE OF ROMANCE-Two chefs cook up romance in the kitchen.

A CAT'S TALE-A clever cat with her own agenda conspires to reconnect a couple.

PLUMBING FOR LOVE-Grandma's plumbing problems bring a handsome plumber into a young woman's life.

A NEW BEGINNING FOR MELISSA-A family wedding offers a woman hope for a better future.

THIRD TIME'S THE CHARM-A runaway cart and a runaway cat bring two people together.

MY FANTASY PIRATE-A sexy pirate steals a woman's heart at Halloween.

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Until next month!


N. N. Light said...

A great question and I basically share your same feelings, Cara. I send out a monthly author newsletter and in it, I try to have it be fun and not all book promotion. I talk about writing, reading and a giveaway or two. As an author, I feel pressured to have a newsletter but at the same time, I don't get much interaction or feedback. I have a 55% open rate which is above the average so I must be doing something right. As a reader, I tend to unsubscribe from author newsletters who send out too many newsletters. I love learning more about an author's life and what they're working on than constant book promo. I think, if I were to offer my advice to authors, do what works for you. If you get more response by sending out weekly newsletters, then do it. If not, tweak it until you get the right amount. :) -- MRS N

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, N.N. Great advice.

Vicki Batman, sassy writer of sexy and funny fiction, blogger at Handbags, Books...Whatever said...

I've done author promo things and get lots of subscribers, but like you, I want only those who care. So I hold another contest, they respond to me and I then subscribe them. After, I do a small giveaway. I want those subscribers to be the people who care about me as an author and by exchanging the emails, we get to know one another. It is a ton of work and I don't regret doing this.

Tina Donahue said...

I actually loathe all promo. Not sure what works and what doesn't. Sometimes this works, then it doesn't. Sometimes that works, then it doesn't. I can't figure it out.

With so many authors and so many books and so much promo, I think most people (myself included) simply block it all out.

If I see an interesting (or gorgeous) cover, I'll read the blurb. If the blurb is intriguing, I'll read the first couple of pages. If I get past that, I'll get the book.

No author has ever been an auto-buy for me. Frankly, I don't get the concept. I adored A Handmaid's Tale (best book EVER). However, I didn't like Atwood's other books and don't read her on a regular basis. The same is true for Stephen King. I stopped reading him years ago. I've liked two of Dean Koontz's books (Intensity and Odd Thomas - both spectacular), the others were fair or downright awful IMO.

An author could promo the hell out of a book, but if it doesn't grab me within seconds, I'm not buying.

Cara Marsi said...

Vicki, what a creative idea. I never thought of contacting the new subscribers before I add them to my list. I've had people unsubscribe saying they never asked to be on my list. They'd apparently forgotten they signed up as part of a contest.

Tina, I'm with you about the promo. I hate it. I know authors who are genius at marketing. It comes naturally to them, and they are very successful at selling books. I look at the cover first also, then the blurb. I have several authors I love but I don't always buy their books. Sometimes they have a book that doesn't interest me. I don't have any author on auto-buy either.

Melissa Keir said...

I hate newsletters and didn't have one until this past year, when I heard they were the be all and end all for being an author. I didn't subscribe to any author's newsletters, even authors I auto buy. Why? Because I don't have time to read about things other than the book I bought to read. Now I haven't done much sending out of newsletters. I am hit or miss on sending them out and with the changes to the EU (which also affects our blogs), I am hesitant to keep sending out one.

Cara Marsi said...

Thanks, Melissa. I started a newsletter for the same reason you did. As I said, it hasn't worked out for me as I'd hoped. Now with the EU thing, there may be many of us who decide to give up our newsletter.

Paris said...

I will subscribe to newsletters of authors I truly enjoy reading and want to be informed about their next book. That said, I've noticed that lately, more of my newsletters are opened if I mention a prize or giveaway but I'm not sure that translates to sales. Promotion and what works and doesn't work is still a mystery.

Joanne Jaytanie said...

I agree with you 100%, Cara. Readers enter giveaways and sign up for your newsletter then promptly unsubscribe when they get your next newsletter. I had a 15% unsubscribe last month. Everyone says newsletters are the way to build your readership. I loathe them. I wish we could find one reliable promo option.

Cara Marsi said...

Paris, I'm with you about wanting newsletters from those author I enjoy. When I have a contest I have a much bigger open rate. A subscriber emailed me to thank me for a contest. The next month I didn't have a contest and she unsubscribed.

Joanne, I think newsletters were probably good promo at first, but now there are too many, especially the ones that are sent daily. I think readers have newsletter burnout. If I could predict the next big thing, I'd be rich.

R. Ann Siracusa said...

The amount of e-Mail I receive is so overwhelming I can barely get through my mail, much less read things. I don't even read the newsletters from author's I like, because I get the same information through other means (without trying, it seems). My problem with many of the newsletters is the constant self-promotion. I would rather read about the author's insights on some topic of the day or aspect of writing ... more substance. Good article.

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