Author Newsletter Content

It’s been over a year that I’ve been sending out an author newsletter. I used to get so nervous on my content and had a touch of paralysis on whether to send it out or not.

Now, I’m a little more confident, but still wonder if I’m on target. I subscribe to lots of author newsletters, trying to see which interests me most, but each one of them is so different. I’ve learned what I don’t like in a newsletter, but still have questions:

Are my subscribers reading mine? Do they like the content or are they expecting something different?

To answer these questions, I created a survey and asked my readers what they like, hate, and wish was included. I sent this survey out in my monthly newsletter and incentivized survey completion with a $20 Amazon Gift Card prize given away to one lucky respondent. Here’s what that newsletter looked like.

Overall, I received 535 responses to my survey. 🙂 This is what my readers had to say:

  • 52% have read at least one of my books
  • 50% appreciate that my stories are clean, while 30% don’t care, and 9% only will read clean stories (I recently had two subscribers upset about an anthology I was in that wasn’t clean. My story was, but the other author’s stories weren’t. It made me realize who some of my readers are.)
  • 59% like a monthly newsletter while 19% like every other week and 17% would like weekly (Other authors do weekly and say it works great and is what their fans want. I was curious, as a more frequent newsletter would allow me to participate in more group promotions.)
  • 71% of my readers enjoy fantasy books, 70% mystery, 56% romance, 56% science fiction, and 20% would read anything I wrote. 😊 (I love you!) I didn’t realize how many mystery readers I had.
  • 50% are happy with a diverse newsletter while 25% would like one tailored towards their favorite genre
  • 59.4% like a subject line that has a peek to the content while 32.5% enjoy a consistent one so they know who the newsletter is from (Mine used to all say something like: April’s “Hidden World” Newsletter. I recently changed this to try to get higher open rates, and was wondering if readers missed it. It appears this was a good change.

Of what I currently put in my newsletter, I learned my readers are most interested in my new release updates, followed by updates on my writing progress & stories. Group promos & contests, and other author books are the least favorite, but still 54% say they enjoy this section.

I then asked the survey respondents what would they like to see in my newsletter that’s currently not there. The most requested was fun stories about my personal life that ranked in at 47.5%, followed by sneak peeks & excerpts and exclusive content such as character interviews or deleted scenes. Hearing about book sales and the life as a writer also had quite a few votes. The least votes came to hear about what I’m blogging about and a serial novel.

Then I read everyone’s comments, which is where you get the best feedback. Here’s some of my favorites that I’ll be incorporating into newsletter revisions:

  • More on Zoo Animals!
  • More on where you get your inspiration
  • Too many promotions at the end of the email
  • Table of contents
  • Don’t need to include all categories every month
  • Advanced reader copies of books

Overall, this was a fantastic exercise to do with readers. I learned that I’m currently on target with content, but still gave me some tweaks I can do to improve my newsletters further. To see how this all came together, take a peek at my April Newsletter where I started to make some changes. More to come.

Thanks for reading!

–Joy

Feel free to share any author newsletter experiences you’ve had. I love learning from each other.

Free Books! (And How To Organize a Group Promo, Part 2)

First off, check out this promo I coordinated.

Need Something FUN to Read

With the September 12th release of my new novel, The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives, I needed to build up my mailing list with readers who’d be interested in that story. To do so, I wrote a short story hook, titled The Stellar Life of a Superhero Wife. Now, I had to get this story in front of the right readers…turns out I need more Chick-lit/Cozy Mystery readers on my mailing list. (As many of my subscribers are Science Fiction / Fantasy / Paranormal Romance.)

Back in February, I had put together a promo and blogged about it HERE. Since then, I’ve learned so much. I wanted to write a simple step-by-step guide to anyone wanting to coordinate their own promos to gain newsletter subscribers. This is not perfect, but its all the wisdom I have, so far.

(Key principle: Participating authors send their newsletter subscribers and social media followers to a common landing page where many books are available for free. When these visitors download the book that interests them, they accept that they are subscribing to that author’s mailing list.)

Three to four weeks before the giveaway (Plan):

  • Pick a genre. I’ve heard there is so much more success using a specific genre to grow the exact readers you want.
  • Select your goal number of books. I like to stay around thirty. I’ve heard twenty is a good number, too. I’ve seen/participated in super, mega promos with a ton of authors…which is great for driving traffic, but find that the books with the spectacular covers, or best placement gain the most downloads.
  • Select your promotion length. Again, I don’t know what’s right. Many do just a weekend (this works great for 99 cent book promotions). Others do longer. I like to include two weeks (three weekends.) It also gives enough time that I can resend my newsletter to non-openers.
  • Select your platform. I’ve seen Instafreebie, Book Funnel, and MyBookCave all being used. Since I’m an Instafreebie subscriber, I’ve been using that route. MyBookCave is free though, and if you’re just getting started and/or am on a budget, this may be a great place to start. They also host the page, so you don’t need to do any website design/maintenance.
  • Design a graphic to represent the giveaway. I find recruitment is easiest if authors can visually imagine what the giveaway will be like, but this step probably isn’t needed.
  • Create a sign-up form for participating authors. I use google forms and it’s super easy! Make sure you capture the following: Author email address, link to their freebie, their agreement to share in their newsletters and on social media, and anything else you’ll need to coordinate. (I like putting book descriptions on my landing page, so I ask for this too.)
  • Begin to recruit your authors! I belong to a few Facebook groups and a simple post will create a lot of interest. Search for Facebook groups for Instafreebies, MyBookCave, BookFunnel, AuthorPromo, etc. If you need help on where to get started, let me know.

Two to three weeks before the giveaway (Coordinate):

  • If you have ten authors, email instafreebie (if that’s the platform you’re using) and ask to be featured in their newsletter. I haven’t heard that they’ve said no yet. In your email, tell them what genre you’re giveaway is promoting and how many authors you have so far.
  • Send your author team a welcome email with everything you know so far. I like to have a Headtalker campaign going to make it easy for the authors to post on social media.
  • Build your promo page! I host it on my blog. I have a special page titled “promo” (i.e. www.joynellschultz.com/PROMO that I host these on. I take down the old and put up the new when I’m doing a new promo. I start the page with the promo image…then a sentence or two…then a sign up for the visitors to receive notification of future promos…followed by each author’s book cover image. I don’t know if just the book covers or the book covers plus a quick blurb are better. Me, as a reader, prefer it when the blurb added, so that’s why I do it that way.  For WordPress, I need multiple books across the page, so I make columns. (I learned how to do this here) Then I simply go to the authors giveaway link and right click on the book cover and “copy image address” then paste this directly on my wordpress page. The cover automatically pulls over from wherever it’s hosted. I then change the link to be the individual authors giveaway page. I like to work on this page slowly as authors sign up. That way it’s not a chore.

A few days before the giveaway:

  • Send the authors a final email, asking them to check their links along with everything they need to know: Promo Dates, Landing Page Links, Promotion Requirements (i.e. they need to send it out in their newsletters, since this is key, and post on social media.) I like to write up some sample posts for twitter (maybe Facebook) to keep things easy. Send out promo images. Also, I just started a sign up for future promos to keep the recruitment part easy.

During the giveaway:

  • Sit back and relax. You’ve done everything already. You could touch base with your authors again, if you like.
  • Don’t forget to hold up your part of the deal. Send to your newsletter. Promote on social media.

After the giveaway:

  • Perhaps thank the participants. Invite them to future promos. Provide them with stats, if you have any.

This method can also be adapted for other types of promos. For instance: Need to gain some Facebook followers? You can coordinate a group of people and use a program like Rafflecopter or a Facebook hop. Want to grow some Kindle Unlimited Page Reads? Promote 99 cent books to new readers? You can do an almost identical setup as above.

Phew.

What questions do you have?

1000 True Fans – New Subscriber Email Sequence (Week 3)

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As I already hit my initial goal of 1000 mailing list subscribers in this 1000 “True” Fan blog series, I’m focusing on growing some TRUE Fans from this list.

May’s focus is creating a mailing list subscriber sequence.

So far, I’ve sent out quite a few welcome emails to new subscribers (um…like 1300 emails to multiple lists I’ve set up.) But, has it been successful?

It depends how you measure success. Right now, I think it’s too early to tell, but here are some of my wins so far:

  • Open Rates: My standard monthly newsletter was obtaining open rates of 34%. I’m seeing open rates for these welcome emails at over 45% now…and some lists pushing 65%. (My welcome series are segmented based on how the reader found my list. Organic subscriber vs free sample vs free short stories.)
  • Unsubscribe Rates: I don’t think unsubscribing to the welcome series is a bad thing. It helps me trim down my list to supportive readers. It keeps costs low and that is the purpose of the welcome. Overall though, my unsubscribe rates have been much lower than when I put these people directly into my monthly email list.
  • Click to Free Book Rates: Over half of the people that open the emails are clicking for the free book. My fingers are crossed that they read it and become fans.
  • Passive Sales of my other Books: There is definite increase in sales for my books whenever I send a newsletter out. This highlights the fact that a book won’t sell if nobody knows it’s out there.
  • Newsletter Subscriber Engagement: Here’s a good one. In my final email going out next week, I’m going to have a link to click to become part of my VIP Advanced Reader Team. That’ll really show me if the welcome series was a success.

So, as I continue my journey of creating a welcome email sequence, I’m on week 3. Since last week, I gave them a link to a full novel, I’m not contacting the subscribers this week. I’ll follow up again next week with the final email in my sequence.

A few things I’m learning in this journey:

  • I’d say a welcome series is needed in mailing list growth. I can see how people who sign up may not even remember who you are by the time your first email hits their inbox.
  • Manually sending welcome emails is a lot of work! Especially if you’re managing multiple lists. This process needs to be automated. (And both Mailer Lite and Mail Chimp has tools for that.)
  • Subscribers are fun, and I love their engagement. I love it when they reply to an email…so if you receive a newsletter, don’t hesitate to make it a two way method of communication.

To get updated on this process, you can check out WEEK 1 and WEEK 2 here.


For those of you following my newsletter subscriber growth, here’s how I’m doing so far:

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 2319 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 106 people since last week.)

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 If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

Please share your thoughts. I love input!

1000 True Fans – New Subscriber Email Sequence (Week 2)

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As I already hit my initial goal of 1000 mailing list subscribers in this 1000 “True” Fan blog series, I’m focusing on converting mailing list subscribers into TRUE Fans.

May’s focus is creating a mailing list subscriber sequence.

This past week, a fellow author asked me how many of my 2000 mailing list subscribers and twitter followers are “true” fans.

That’s a great question. How do you measure this?

Let’s break it down:

Mailing List (2200 subscribers): The best way I can tell is how many clicks my newest novel received when I emailed out this list.  I emailed 1500 people…500 opened the email…42 clicked to by my book…though, I had over 100 sales over the two days and 14 sales of my previous book that day.

Twitter (2000 followers): I’m not seeing much luck here. I believe I have about 50 people that follow me that truly want to hear what I say. The rest are people shouting “buy my book” to whoever will listen. I’m not judging. I did that too.

Facebook (400 followers): I have gained a lot of followers from advertisements and cross promotions, but at least 100 or so family and friends. My guess is about a fourth of these are fans, so perhaps 100?

Blog (550 followers): I don’t know. 550 followers, but how many will actually read this? Plus you have people that check in from time to time that don’t have wordpress and don’t click “follow”. I have about 30-50 names I recognize due to consistent interaction.

So to answer the question…a conservative guess of how many “true” fans I gained since starting this journey January 1st…perhaps 200?

So, not even close to 1000 yet. What dose that mean? We keep moving forward.

Okay, the point of all of this.

I started adding up my reach. 2100 mailing list…2000 twitter…400 facebook…500 blog = about 5000 people, though a lot of my “true” fans are duplicated in various places. That’s a lot of potential readers! How do I convert these people who have a mild interest in my, my book’s genre, or my writing journey to hard core fans?

That is the million dollar question. Of course, it’s to give them what they want.

So, as I continue my journey of creating a welcome email sequence, I’m on week 2.

Last week, I sent out an email to thank my potential fans for downloading the 10% sample of my book (Blood & Holy Water), told them a little bit about me, and offered them another story free. My results? 48 of the 75 opened the email, 28 downloaded the second free book, and 4 bought the full Blood & Holy Water novel (Woo Hoo!) (I did have 2 unsubscribes)

This week (actually, today), I sent out another email out to that group, making sure they got the download okay, asking them if they liked it, and giving them more information on me. We’ll see how it goes. Here’s a link to that newsletter.

To see week 1 of creating a subscriber welcome sequence, click here.

I’m still sending these out manually, as it gives me more control as I figure out the best way to craft this welcome.

Next Week: I’ll update weekly on results of the emails.


So…how’s my progress going on my way to 1000 true fans?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 2213 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 321 people since last week.)

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 If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

Please share your thoughts. I love input!

1000 True Fans – New Subscriber Email Sequence

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Moving forward in this 1000 “True” Fan blog series, I’ll be focusing on converting mailing list subscribers into TRUE Fans. I’m changing the formats of these posts to be a bigger project each month, rather than lots of little ones.

May’s focus is creating a mailing list subscriber sequence.

The other day, I had a brilliant epiphany. I know, the information is out there in magical internet-land, but for some reason I was missing the BIG PICTURE.

Your mailing list serves MULTIPLE purposes, and you need to leverage it to meet the intended purpose.

First, it’s a great way to communicate with your fans. Keep them entertained, let them know about new releases, and to interact. (This was what purpose I had saw in my mailing list up to his point.)

BUT, it has a few more purposes too.

  1. Gathering a list of active readers and informing them of who you are and what you have to offer. What makes you stick out from the crowd? (Okay, it’s selling yourself some…)
  2. A continuous flow of new subscribers/readers gives you a new audience to showcase your older novels to.

What I had been doing wrong is lumping all my subscribers into one master list and sending out the same Monthly Newsletter to everyone. I needed to change my thinking. In reality, I have two groups: established fans and potential fans.

Now, knowing this allows me to tailor my content to fit my audience. I had seen a lot about a welcome email series to new subscribers and finally understand the purpose. It’s  like speed dating. I know, terrible analogy but you get to meet a lot of people quickly, and determine who matches with you.

I gain mailing list subscribers in two ways:

  1. Organic sign ups from the backs of my books, blog, and social media. These readers are already interested in what I have to say, so the welcome emails series can be different.
  2. Readers who sign up in exchange for receiving a free book or sample of my book. These readers have probably never heard of me before and are just checking things out. The great thing about these readers is they are ones who are at least interested in the genre I write.

So…With this all said…

This Weeks Mission: Creating and sending out new subscriber sequences to convert casual signups to fans. (Bonus goal – people who don’t enjoy my writing style will have many opportunities to unsubscribe, which keeps my newsletter service free…or as cheap as possible.)

When I researched a subscriber email sequence, many people state having a five part series. If everyone has a five email sequence, I’m sure it’s the best option…but…I still feel this is too much for me getting started. I’m opting for a three part welcome, all tailored to how the reader joined my list.

For instance, today I sent out a welcome email to 75 subscribers that downloaded a 10% Sample of Blood & Holy Water. Here’s the three emails I will include in my welcome series:

  • Email 1 (Today): Titled “A Thank You & A Free Book” that thanks them for joining my list, says that I cannot give Blood & Holy Water away free at this time, but do have another Fantasy story they could get for free called “Quick Escape, Fantasy Tales.” I also threw in a P.S. that Blood & Holy Water is 99 cents for a few more days. (Click HERE to actually see the newsletter)
  • Email 2 (Next Week): Titled “Another Free Book” where I check in with them to see if they got Quick Escape okay. It will also offer them another one of my books free, Love, Lies & Clones. (I coordinated a “free” day through Kindle Select to coincide with this email going out. That way I don’t violate any contracts I’m in.) (I’ll post a link to the actual newsletter when I send it out next week.)
  • Email 3 (Following Week): Titled “Want More of my Books Free?” where I ask if they’d like to join my Advanced Reader Team. (I’ll post a link to the actual newsletter when I send it out.)

***Note, the goal is to somehow connect with the subscribers. The emails need to tell a story and not be all sales-y.

Here’s another idea for a mailing list welcome series (obtained from this website: http://nicholaserik.com/mailing-lists-for-authors/):

  1. Immediate: Welcome (e.g. what to expect) + Your Free Book (give them a link to the free book)
  2. Day 3: Free Book #2 (if you have another – don’t send them all at once) or Ask Them if They Got Book #1 Okay/How They Like It
  3. Day 10: Free Book #3 or Ask Them About Their Favorite Books in the Genre/Recommend Them One
  4. Day 17: The Next Paid Book in the Series (or Box Set), with retailer link/cover + small backstory/blurb
  5. Day 25: Ask Them to Join Your ARC Review Team or Ask Them to Review the Free Book

Note that most welcome series are automatic, triggered the day a reader signs up for the list. I’m doing mine manually right now, to carefully review what’s going out before it’s automatically triggered. It also helps me review results.

My plan is to create a different welcome sequence for each of the freebies I’m giving away and one for my organic subscribers. I’m still working on all this, but this month should prove to be loads of fun!

Next Week: I’ll update weekly on results of the emails.


So…a summary of how last week went, for those of you who are following this journey on a week-to-week basis.

Review of Past Week (Mission 16: My Own Domain): Fail?

I only had a slight increase in my newsletter open rate…and dished out $85 to do it. This next year, I need to investigate cheaper web hosting and personalized email addresses.

So…how’s my progress going on my way to 1000 true fans?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 1892 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 125 people since last week.)

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 If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

Please share your thoughts. I love input!

1000 True Fans – Domain Upgrade?

 

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April’s focus in the 1000 “True” Fan blog series is SMALL CHANGES.

This Weeks Mission: Is having your own website domain worth it?

Since I began blogging over a year ago, I’ve stuck to the free web hosting at wordpress.com. My site address has been: http://www.joynellschultz.wordpress.com

I don’t know if you know this, but I’m super cheap. I couldn’t see spending the money on my own domain.

Now, I’m facing two main issues that had me debating if upgrading my web address to http://www.joynellschultz.com (dropping the wordpress.com) would solve.

  1. I’m only having a 35% newsletter open rate. I’ve spent all this time and energy building my mailing list, and I’m having many people I know say my newsletters are going into their junk folder. Is it because I’m sending these from my free gmail account?
  2. Does having a wordpress site look unprofessional? I have two books out now and have a few more on the horizon.

So, I looked at the cost of having my own domain…only $35.88 per year through WordPress. No problem. I thought that was worth it…

BUT, what I didn’t know is that you don’t get your own email address with that. You need to pay another $50/year.

Okay. It’s an experiment. I’ve been told having my own domain and email will solve my newsletter open rate…So I got out the credit card and paid the extra $50.

How did spending $85.88 help me?

  1. My newsletter open rate: Guess what? With the new domain email address, the open rate was EXACTLY THE SAME! Though, different people saw this email versus the last one. I was disappointed, but have a few ideas to fix it up… I can resend the important newsletters from the second email address to hopefully reach the non-openers. Also, having my own domain allows me to use a cheaper mailing list service when it’s time I need to pay for it.
  2. Professionalism: Without a doubt, having your own site looks more professional.

Other things…I’m excited to have more tools available through WordPress by having my own domain. I cannot comment on them yet, but hopefully I can speak intelligently as to the benefits as the year goes on.

 


So…a summary of how last week went, for those of you who are following this journey on a week-to-week basis.

Review of Past Week (Mission 15: Novel Back Matter): Success!

I finished up a prequel to Love, Lies & Clones and added a link to it at the end of that novel. You can read about how this went HERE. Next up: In May, I’m trying a “FREE” day on Amazon to get some downloads…and hopefully people will read the novel and sign up for the newsletter when they finish. Fingers crossed.

So…how’s my progress going on my way to 1000 true fans?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 1767 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 132 people since last week.)

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Next Week: As you can see, I’ve met my goal of 1000 newsletter subscribers. As we move forward through this year, we’re going to start focusing on converting these subscribers to actual “true” fans. My subscriber numbers may actually go down in the next months.

If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts. Do you have your own domain? What benefits does it bring you?

1000 True Fans – Novel Back Matter

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April’s focus in the 1000 “True” Fan blog series is SMALL CHANGES.

This Weeks Mission: Newsletter signup in book back matter

I know how important it is to have a newsletter sign-up link in the front and back of your published novel with a goal of capturing readers to join your mailing list. With my new novel, Blood & Holy Water, I’ve tried something new.

Right after “The End” it says this:

If you enjoyed this novel, a prequel to the next story in this journey can be found in the short story collection, Quick Escape: Fantasy Tales. (The prequel is titled, Bitten.)

You can download this collection free by signing up for Joynell Schultz’s newsletter here: http://eepurl.com/ccWKDn

I took a chance, as I have never seen this before…

Well… Since implementing it, I’ve had 26 sign-ups from the link in the two weeks since publishing this novel. That’s 26 people who read my novel and wanted more. Now, we’re getting closer to “true” fans.

So, this week, I’m working on a prequel to Love, Lies & Clones as well…and adding a similar offer in the back of that novel. It will now be my norm going forward: A little bonus to readers who want more when finishing a story. Also, I’m going to try a “free” day for Love, Lies & Clones, so I was hoping, at the very least, to at least gain subscribers by giving the novel away free.

 


So…a summary of how last week went, for those of you who are following this journey on a week-to-week basis.

Review of Past Week (Mission 14: Website Popups): Epic FAIL!

I added a pop-up to my website, to capture mailing list subscribers. I had one sign-up within an hour of turning it on, but after some help from blog followers, I turned it off before 24 hours had passed. The annoyance to my readers and the potential penalty google search engines give pop-ups, I decided it wasn’t worth it.

So…how’s my progress going on my way to 1000 true fans?

Drum Roll…Ready?

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 1635 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 152 people since last week.)

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Next Week: Is it worth paying for your own domain name/email address?

If you want to get caught up on 2017’s journey to find 1000 fans, check out the 1000 “True” Fan Landing Page.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.