NOTE: This post has been revised since publication due to changes with newsletters.
Downloadable PDF: How to Create a Newsletter
I started my author newsletter in 2016, and I love it! Some authors decide not to do one for various reasons, which is just fine. The decision is up to the author. But first, dispel the idea that it’ll take too much time. Once you create one newsletter to email to your subscribers, you can use that format to make another one in just minutes by reusing the template or copying the entire newsletter. And don't believe that you need hundreds of readers either. You can get subscribers to your newsletter without having readers.
Before You Start:
Set up an email address domain. What is this? An email address domain is special, and it’s just for you. After the @ symbol, instead of yahoo.com or gmail.com, it’ll be your website domain. Such as Chrys@ChrysFey.com
You don't need a website, though. All you need is a domain name. It can be one you've already purchased or you can purchase one when you create your email.
Why do I say to do this? Because personal email addresses from Yahoo, AOL, Gmail, and Hotmail won’t work well. These email hosts make it extremely difficult to deliver mass emails. Many of them may not be delivered into your subscribers' inboxes and could bounce because the receivers' servers mark them as spam. If you don’t get a domain email address, you’re taking a risk of being continuously marked as spam, which will blacklist your email address.
There Are Many Sites That Offer Email Address Domains:
· Zoho.com (free)
TIP: Also consider getting a PO Box to input into your mailing address field. A real address is a requirement to send out newsletters to prove it’s not spam.
Now that you have your spiffy new email address domain for the From Sender Address, let’s get started on your newsletter:
1. There Are a Lot of Email Hosts Out There
Do some research, compare the features and prices, make your choice, and sign up!
2. Know What You Want to Name Your Author Newsletter
My newsletter is called Chrys’ Chronicles. Nora Roberts’ newsletter is Nora’s News. It can be catchy or straight forward. This is also what you’ll put in the Subject Line for your subscribers to see.
TIP: In the subject line, also try to include the month or something catchy.
Example: Chrys’ Chronicles - August or Chrys’ Chronicles - My Battle
3. Have a Banner
Make sure your banner has the same feel and graphics as the banner you use for your blog/website, etc. The banner for my newsletter has sparks on it, and so does my banner for my blog. There are even sparks on my business card! Putting your author tagline on your banner is a great branding opportunity, and adding your books’ cover images to the banner is a great marketing opportunity, too.
4. Select a Design/Layout
There are many designs for newsletters that you can choose from. Think about your personality, your blog/website’s look, and try to find something to match it. Plus, check out the layout (single column, two columns) to see if you’ll be able to include what you plan to share in your newsletter, such as images.
5. Build Your First Newsletter
After selecting your design and giving it a name, you need to make it look attractive. Most email hosts let you easily drag and drop the things you want into your newsletter. So, if you want to add text, select the “text” block, drag it to your newsletter’s body, and drop it where you want it to go.
You may have to fiddle around with these tools before you get it to look how you want it to look. Experiment before you start emailing subscribers.
TIP: Include a short bio (even shorter than your 100-word bio) and your author photo at the end of your newsletter. After all, you’re an author and you want people to know about you. Sometimes, I change my photo for fun.
TIP: Also, add a note at the bottom stating your subscribers’ rights to request what data you have on them and to have that data deleted, which includes having a visible unsubscribe button.
6. Share Features
Include social media share buttons at the top of your newsletter so people can share your newsletter. You want them to be able to do this, because if they do, their followers may be interested in signing up.
7. Follow Features
Add follow buttons so people who have signed up for your newsletter can easily follow you on Facebook, Twitter, etc.
8. Add an Extra Button
Some providers allow you to add a button that subscribers can click on. Add a button linked to your opt-in form. This is a must if you allow subscribers to forward/share your newsletters to people they know.
9. Use Dividers
If you have a lot of content, keep it neat and orderly with dividers. These dividers are black lines that separate things nicely.
10. Put the title of your newsletter beneath the banner, in bold.
11. Include a “Welcome Message” and make it different for each newsletter by updating your subscribers on what you’ve been up to.
12. Save It
When your newsletter looks good and has all the content, save it. You don’t have to email it yet. You can keep it as a draft or schedule it to go out later.
13. Create an Opt-In (Sign-Up) Form
Add your banner to the sign-up form. Include a short message telling people what they’re opting-in to, what they can expect to get from your newsletter, and that their data will be kept private. Then select the information you’ll want to ask subscribers for. Also, activate double opt-in if it’s not already set up. Double opt-in means subscribers will receive a confirmation email. This ensures that someone really did consent to sign up for your emails.
TIP: Keep the information you ask for simple. Obviously ask for their email. If you want a first name, make this optional. That’s it!
14. Create a “Thank You” Page.
Once you save the details for your sign-up form, you’ll be able to design the “Thank You” page. Again, add you banner. Include a header such as “Thank you!” Then add a short message of thanks and a note to remind them to check for the email confirmation. You can also add a clickable gift as an incentive. For my newsletter, I direct new subscribers to my free story, Lightning Crimes, on the “Thank You” page.
15. Put the Sign-Up Form on Your Blog and Website
Use the newsletter’s opt-in form link to create a page on your blog and website (yes, both!) so people can sign up. Title this page “Newsletter” or “Newsletter Sign Up.” This is essential. New visitors to your blog/website won't know you have a newsletter otherwise.
16. Share the Link
Share the opt-in form’s link on your social media and blog to let followers know they can sign up for your newsletter.
17. Create a Badge for Your Blog and Website
If you are good with graphics, create a badge to put in the sidebar of your blog and website. Make it clickable by adding the opt-in form’s link.
18. Add a “Newsletter Sign-Up” App to Your Facebook Page
I know MailChimp has an app that allows you to add it by integrating MailChimp with your Facebook account. If you can’t do that, though, search for “Static HTML – Thunderpenny” in your FB search bar.
· Click on “Go to App” then click “Add Static HTML to a Page.”
· Choose your page and add the app.
· Now your page is a newsletter box. Hover over the app image, click on the little pencil icon in the corner, and then click “edit settings.”
· Change the image. It has to be exactly 111 x 74 pixels.
· Customize the tab name to “Newsletter” or “Newsletter Sign Up.”
· Now click the tab and click “edit tab.” At the top, it’ll say Static HTML. Paste in the HTML code for your newsletter. You will get one at the same time as you get the link to your sign-up form.
· Click “save and publish” then “done editing tab.”
· Finally, go to your page and test out the tab, even test out the form to make sure it works. If it doesn’t, try pasting in the HTML again.
19. Get Subscribers.
A) Post on your blog, website, and all your social media sites letting your followers know about your newsletter. Direct them to your opt-in form.
B) Do a giveaway where people have to sign up for your newsletter to be eligible to win. I do this all the time and get an amazing response. The giveaway could be in a Facebook group for a Facebook party. Provide the opt-in form’s URL for interested people.
C) Do a Rafflecopter giveaway with subscribing to your newsletter as the first option with the most points. When you do this, link to the opt-in form for your newsletter in the Rafflecopter option and have people enter their email address. Include a message stating if they enter their email address, they are consenting to let you manually subscribe them with that email.
D) Pass around a clipboard with sign-up sheets while doing a reading. Interested people can put down their name and email address.
TIP: If you manually enter subscribers, always keep your sign-up sheets as proof of consent. For Rafflecopter, print out an Excel spreadsheet of all entries.
E) Have a sign-up sheet at your table when you’re doing a signing or at a book event. Add a giveaway as an incentive. Tell everyone who comes to your table that if they sign up for your newsletter, they’ll have a chance to win that prize. Have the prize on your table so they can see it. Or you can be technically savvy by using a tablet and having them sign up using your opt-in form.
F) Include a link to your opt-in form in your email signature.
20. Set a Date Each Month to Send Out Your Newsletter
Try not to do it within the first few days of the month because that’s when EVERYONE sends out their newsletters. Yours will get lost in the mix. I send mine out during the third week of the month. But you don’t need to send out a newsletter every month, you can do it bi-monthly instead. Just please don’t send one weekly or bi-weekly. There’s no point in emailing your subscribers that much, and it could result in a loss of subscribers, as they probably get a lot of emails already.
The day your newsletter goes out, go back to your account, click on the sent newsletter, and check out the stats. Some providers show you how many people opened your newsletter, who those people are, how many people unsubscribed or clicked on something within your newsletter, and emails that bounced.
21. Make Your Newsletter Unique and Don’t Make It All About You
You can highlight one of your books but do it in a way that’ll be interesting to your readers. And don’t just use your newsletter to be all me-me-me or my book this, my book that. Give subscribers something more. When I started to share personal stories, I got emails from subscribers saying how brave I was for sharing those things. That meant a lot to me, and it also told me people were reading and reacting to my newsletters.
22. Offer Occasional Prizes Only to Those Who Have Subscribed
You can give it to everyone (if it’s something easily emailable), do a drawing, or first come, first serve by sending you an email. For a year, I gave away a book (different authors and genres) in each issue and had a Google Form for those who were interested in entering to win. Then I randomly picked a winner and mailed that person the book. I included a card and some SWAG as well.
23. Tell your newsletter subscribers your good news first before you share it anywhere else. This will make them feel valued.
24. Share teasers from your WIP or an upcoming book, announce sales and giveaways, share recipes, poetry, and photos from your life. Make your newsletters worthwhile for subscribers.
TIP: Every 6–12 months, examine your subscriber’s list for inactive people who haven’t opened a single email and remove them. This will improve your open rate and lower your subscriber count if your service is free up to a certain number.
After you put in the effort to set up a newsletter and get subscribers, you’ll have a lot of fun writing and sharing to dozens (maybe even hundreds) of pen pals. A newsletter is a wonderful marketing tool, and it’s a way to build a connection with your readers. Enjoy it! I do.