I’m on the road today in Oakmont, PA at the Mystery Lovers Book Festival. Chances are I’ll meet a lot of people and some of them will sign up for my email updates. To stay in touch with readers, I use a private Yahoo group to which no one else can post. It’s a clunky solution. However, it doesn’t cost me anything and it’s not offensive to the people who’ve opted in.
I’ve also been on the receiving end of quite a few author electronic newsletters. I end up deleting and/or unsubscribing from most of them. Often, they’ve come without an opt-in; someone has harvested my email address and assumed I’d be interested in his or her story. Wrong-o.
But there are some missives that keep me reading. I don’t care a whit about photos, graphics or other layout issues (of course, legibility is a plus). For me, the biggie is content. The newsletters I like best are those that include something beyond the author’s ego — professional tips, interesting tidbits, reasonable personal revelations . . .
I tend to send out my own updates infrequently. Often, I don’t get it together to send them out on a regular basis. And I never send just to stay in touch; I have to have something important to say. You see, I hate getting spam and don’t want my efforts to be considered as such.
My updates are personal, about my writing life, what I’m up to and hope to accomplish. I assume that every single person who has opted in wants to know this information.
Lately, I’ve been doing something different. In my last update, I sent a short selection from The Socorro Blast featuring a character that didn’t make it into the final book. I loved this guy, Byron Hicks, loved everything about him. Only problem was . . . he didn’t have anything to do with the story.
My update readers really enjoyed getting something that no one else had seen. I adored the fact that Byron could take a bow, that he had an audience after all.
Today, let’s look at author newsletters:
What kinds do you like? Despise? Got examples?
What do you feel is important to include?
Heck . . . are they even worth doing in the first place?
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I’ll try to check in on the conversation today. If I can’t, I’ll respond to any comments on Wed.
I do a quarterly newsletter to people who sign up, both on my website and at various events. Quick and dirty, it gives information about what’s happening with the books, any news I may have and my tour schedule, which is what I assume they’re interested in hearing about.
John Connolly has one of the best newsletters out there, simply because there’s so much of him in it. I figure if I can give a little of me and the right info, it will help, rather than hinder.
Hope you’re having fun!!! How was Malice?
Pari, I don’t have the guts to unsubscribe from those that show up unsolicited. I just know that the author will see my “unsub” request and remember it. So I quietly delete … delete … delete.
“The newsletters I like best are those that include something beyond the author’s ego — professional tips, interesting tidbits, reasonable personal revelations . . .”
Me, too. I was having a conversation with the publicity folks at St. Martin’s about Internet marketing, and we agreed that the important thing about having an Internet presence is to be “an interesting guy who writes books” rather than “that guy who’s just here to flog his latest.” To that end, I try to post “non Dusty” content on the blog and on the FB group I established (J.D. Rhoades’ Gang of Hellions).
Another thing that’s gotten a good response is asking my readers research questions. Since the latest WIP involves a hurricane, I asked Hellions to e-mail me their true hurricane experiences. I got a huge number of interesting stories and tidbits back, some of which I’m using.
Best part about doing it that way? It’s FUN.
J.T.,Malice was great. I’ll try to write about it for next week.
I like you’re newsletter, btw. I’ll check out Connolly’s when I get home.
Yeah, Louise,We always are so nice, not wanting to alienate anyone. But, maybe I’m just getting crochety . . . if I don’t ask to be included on your list, why should I put up with your spam? It was uncivil, disrespectful, to sign me up w/o my permission in the first place.
J.D.,Great comment. I love the idea of asking research questions . . . just brilliant.
I think that’s going to be the next important step authors take in communicating via the internet . . . finding authentic ways to engage readers and potential readers rather than having every single communication smack of veiled marketing techniques.
Audiences are getting so much more savvy, it’s important to respect that.
Pari: a sentence I read the other day stuck with me: “people don’t want to be marketed to, they want to be marketed around.”
I’m just about to send out my latest e-newsletter, so this was incredibly timely for me!
It’s a very fine balance between letting your ego roam rampant, and knowing that if, on occasions, you don’t blow your own trumpet, nobody else will blow it for you. I genuinely want to keep people who’ve expressed an interest up-to-date on the latest news, but hate coming across as the big ‘I am’.
Love the idea of asking research questions, though, Dusty. That’s a cracker.
Pari at the Festival of Mystery today:http://www.oldbeeg.com/online/FoM82.jpg…and with her sister:http://www.oldbeeg.com/online/FoM90.jpg
Hi Pari!Can’t wait to hear all about Malice!
“The newsletters I like best are those that include something beyond the author’s ego — professional tips, interesting tidbits, reasonable personal revelations . . .”I think that sums it up perfectly.If I’ve signed up for an author’s newsletter, it means I’ve enjoyed their books enough to then be interesting in hearing what else they might have to say about things – whatever they might feel comfortable talking about. Maybe a fun story about an event they’ve just been a part of, and a picture of two. If its too dry and only concerning the business of publishing, I lose interest. If a newsletter comes out only once a year to tell me the date of the next release, I lose interest.
I don’t especially want to see someone’s newsletter pop into my mailbox every week, Quarterly seems just right to me, although if something exciting has happened in between and the writer wants to send out a “Breaking News” edition, that’s fun too.
And I love Dusty’s idea about engaging his readers the way he does. That’s very clever, and very nice, I think.
It must be awfully tough for some of you to toot your own horns, and I hate that for you. But Pari, as a reader I’d like to encourage you to do it. Done well (and I know you can do it well), we readers want to hear it.
Hope this helps the teeniest bit.
Dusty,That comment sums it up. I was just at the Festival of Mystery here and the authors who seemed to be most successful were those who were truly authentic.
Zoe,That balance is critical. And I do agree that we have to blow our own horns, but sometimes it feels like a blast rather than a blow. When that happens, I usually delete the newsletter before I have a chance to send it.
B.G.,What an absolute joy to see you. I can’t thank you enough for coming.
Kaye,Thank you so much for your comments. I think that your guidance is a wise, wise thing. I know it’d be a good idea to send on a consistent basis, but the promise I make to readers is to ONLY send when I’ve got something of real interest for them . . . and for me.
“the authors who seemed to be most successful were those who were truly authentic.”
Yeah, once you can fake that, you’re golden.