Starting a Newsletter Serial Novella

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For about a year, I’ve been wanting to write a serial novel for my newsletter where I release one or two chapters of a new story at a time. I had gone so far as polling my newsletter subscribers to see if they were interested (which the majority of the respondents said they were.)

I had two big barriers to doing this…

  1. Finding the time to write something extra with all the stories I already committed to and fitting this in with the work I do at my family zoo business.
  2. My Newsletter only goes out monthly — that’s a lot of time to wait between releases.

But this summer, I’m in need of sending out a weekly newsletter due to all the new material I have coming out and other commitments. I thought it would be a great time to try this serial newsletter idea.

So, starting today and running until the end of August (or mid-September, depending on how the story goes) I’ll be releasing a weekly newsletter filled with one or two chapters of my current work in progress, The Superhero’s Husband.

This story is not written yet. I’m writing it as we go with hopes of receiving feedback from readers. I did take a day or two and outlined it with quite a bit of detail — which is needed for clue planting as all my longer stories have elements of mystery.

I’ll update you in a few months… My fingers are crossed that this is successful!

To see how I introduced this concept in my newsletter, click HERE.

To read the first chapter of The Superhero’s Husband, click HERE.

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.

1000 True Fans – 14000 Readers in 10 Months.

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Wow!

Ten months has passed since I started my quest for 1000 True Fans. I was diligent in posting until an accident with my father had my life flipped upside down. Behind the scenes, though, I still plugged away, trying to grow my mailing list.

In these ten months, my mailing list grew to over 14000 readers…and is still growing, but, at the same time, I’m working on cutting out people that appear that they’ll never be a true fan. I want to maintain an ACTIVE list that sits around 10,000 subscribers. (Why 10,000? Purely a balance between being effective…and cost effective.)

So, of these 14000, how many are true fans?

Honestly, not that many…but enough. When I send out an email, only about 30-40% of the people open it…and 7% click on any links. So, of 14,000 people that’s about 4500 opening the email and 1000 clicking something…but mostly freebies/giveaways.

A good test of my true fans is to see how many of my newsletter subscribers clicked the link to purchase my latest new releases.

  • I sent Witch or Treat out to about 4000 subscribers. Of these, I had 211 click the link to purchase on Amazon.
  • I sent The Secret Lives of Superhero Wives out to about 10,000 subscribers, and I only had about 100 clicks…but many of my true fans are on my advanced reader team or ordered it on pre-order. All in all, I sold over 500 books in the month since it’s been released. (Still not at 1000 true fans.)

So, on this journey for 1000 true fans, this is what I’ve learned so far.

Your best fans come from slow, organic growth. Patiently waiting for people to read your books, fall in love with your writing style, and join your mailing list (or follow you on BookBub/ Facebook/Etc.)

  • I get a few organic sign ups every day…and that’s because I have stories out there. The more I publish, the more signups I receive. I adore little notes on how they fell in love with some of my characters or love my book.
  • The key here is to ensure joining your mailing list is visible in your printed books. I have a nice page in the beginning of the book and another link at the end (see the graphic I posted below.) I also have links on my Facebook page, website, and amazon bio about all the ways to follow me.If you enjoyed... (3)

Participating in anthologies, has been more effective than I expected in extending my reach. I have spurred a lot of new interest in my Superhero Wife World through my short story published in Witch or Treat. This brought me a lot of exposure to fans who enjoy stories like mine. I have another short story coming out in 12 Days of Christmas which I hope brings similar results. I’d love to have a full novel in a box set someday.

Participating in freebie giveaways is not a bad thing, as long as you don’t allow dead weight to sit on your list & cost you money. (When I say “dead weight” I mean those that use false emails or a separate email account they never use to redeem freebies. I love anyone who opens my emails, whether they click or not.) What I like about having some stories out there for free, is they attract readers I wouldn’t have run across any other way. I classify these giveaways into two groups: Individual downloads where a reader is interested in your book specifically and downloads the story or group email collection where a reader enters a contest to win free stuff and all the hosting authors receive the email address.

Either way, these are much faster ways to grow your list…and some, like the huge multi-author group email collections, can get you up to 5,000 emails in a few months. I was in a Science Fiction & Fantasy paperback giveaway this summer that brought me 5000 subscribers, but note, of these, only 1100 are still on my list…and of these, only about 300 have ever clicked a link. BUT, don’t discredit this. It’s a wide net, but if I end up with 100 true fans from this, I’m happy.

These mailing list signups that come from freebie giveaways are are like like running sand through a sifter. Most of the small grains pass through, but when all the dust settles, you’re still left with a few good pebbles…or fans in your sifter. Most of my Advanced Reader Team has come from this method, and they are wonderful to work with. I also have some close fans that sprung from a few freebies. Also note, many people sit on your list and haven’t had time to read your stories yet. Most of the time, they open an email here and there, and I appreciate the casual interest.

Another tip is a good automation/welcome series can help trim out some of the sand that is passing through. I send a three to four part series and if someone doesn’t open any of them, I send them one more titled Have you been receiving my emails? from a different email account. If nothing is opened, I remove them from my list. If they open the one from gmail, they get added to my “send from gmail only” list.

My frustrations!

Even with this solid mailing list, many of my emails to “true” fans are filtered out by the readers’ email service. Google throws them in their “Promotions” tab while other services filter them to spam because they’re from a mailing list. Its frustrating not to be able to contact my loyal readers.

To overcome this, I’m focusing more on growing different social media channels instead.

Facebook is my favorite, so I’m trying to use it more. I have twitter, but don’t find much engagement. Facebook has been good to me. I’m diversifying my posts to add more variety and interest. Check out my page HERE. I started posting about my life running a zoo. Cute/Fuzzy animals always gets some attention. What I don’t like, is Facebook still filters out who see’s your posts…unless you pay to promote it.

Also, I’m trying to grow other services. With each new release, BookBub sends an alert to my followers. Amazon does the same thing, so I’m trying to get my readers to follow me on these two platforms. (Shameless plug: Follow me on BookBub HERE and Amazon HERE.)

In Summary! (I know, this has been a long post.)

My goal is to filter out the dead weight on my newsletter and add in quality subscribers. What I’m learning is it’s a never ending process. New people in, old people out until your left with a tight list of loyal followers.

The best followers come organically…and the best way to get these is simple: WRITE MORE BOOKS AND BE IN MORE PUBLICATIONS!

Thanks for following my journey! I’ll update again when I learn more. If you’ve been following my growth, here’s how my audience has changed in 2017.

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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.

Do you have any tips for me? I’d love to hear!

I’d also love to answer any questions you have.

 

1000 True Fans – Extending Your Reach

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Happy June!

We’ve been at this 1000 True Fans project for over five months now. I’m changing the structure moving forward to one big project per month. (With only one post to go along with it.)

I’ve been measuring my fan growth by my mailing list growth, but not everyone is a fan of mailing lists. In fact, many people HATE email, but it’s clear in novel marketing that an email list is critical to sustainability and growth, but there are other ways to reach people…and different people than those who don’t mind being on a mailing list.

  • Facebook page likes
  • Twitter followers
  • Good Reads follows
  • Book Bub follows
  • Amazon Author follows

All these help diversify your message. Even if some of the people overlap, and appear on your newsletter as well, you’re just extending your reach. An important advertising principle: People need to hear something seven times before the act on it.

So…How do I grow my reach with the above?

With a similar method to mailing list growth. There’s no easy answer as it takes work.

Here’s some simple steps to grow the above.

  1. Ask people to like your social media/author pages. I have it on my blog, in my newsletter, email signature, and links on other social media as well. This does bring me some followers.
  2. Focus on consistency with posting on twitter (pre-scheduling some posts) and facebook too. (I’m up and down with this, but am adding pre-schedule posts to my monthly calendar.)
  3. Cross promote with other authors specifically for social media growth. Similar to how I’ve been using a free book giveaway and participating in multi-author giveaways to grow my newsletter, you can do similar things with follows. There are many authors out there looking to grow their reach as well. I found one to participate in for June, I can’t wait to see how it turns out. Here’s what it looks like that you can win $100 by participating. To find these authors, you need to watch Facebook author groups or coordinate your own. Another way is to guest post on other’s pages. Facebook parties/takeovers. Blog tours. Participating in a contest (using a service like Rafflecopter) is another option.
  4. Paid advertising. Using Facebook/Twitter Ads, Amazon giveaways, etc. I know that whenever I run a Facebook ad to promote a new release, a side effect is a whole bunch of page likes.

What ideas do you have? I’ll be trying these out during June and will report back on my progress in July.


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

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 3371 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 1000 people since last week! I did it by participating in a group giveaway where we all share the signups. I expect a high unsubscribe rate as they pass through my new subscriber email automation, but perhaps some will turn into true fans.)

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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.

1000 True Fans – New Subscriber Email Sequence (Week 4) – Building an Advanced Reader Team

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Today our focus is on building an Advanced Reader Team.

What is an advanced reader team? A group of your “true” fans who want to read and review all your books (or most your books). These are your super-loyal fans who give you feedback when you mess something up and leave reviews to help other readers decide to purchase your book. In exchange for this help, you agree to give these fans your book(s) for free.

So…as I’m creating and sending out a welcome email sequence for my newsletter, I want to formulate a second list of the readers who wish to help me out with reading and reviewing my novels.

Yeah, I know. If I give my books away free, will I be losing sales?

Maybe. But I’m doing this with faith that word of mouth and extra reviews will help grow my audience in the long run.

Plus, I love giving my fans stuff. I can’t help it.

So, to manage this, HERE is the final email I’m sending out in my three part welcome series. (It won’t go out until next week, as I wanted enough time in between that some people may have read or at least started the free stories they downloaded…plus I’m spacing it due to the Memorial Day Holiday, assuming people will be too busy to read their email.)

To help manage my Advanced Reader Team, I created two google forms (Feel free to check them out or use them to sign up. Did you catch that subtle hint? Yeah, not very subtle.)

  1. General sign up for my Advanced Reader Team. Click HERE to see it.
  2. Book request form. Click HERE to see it.

This may also help answer the question I blogged about a few weeks ago…how many of my followers/subscribers are true fans. We’ll see how many advanced reviewers I receive.


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 has been creating a mailing list subscriber sequence. To get updated on this process, you can check out WEEK 1WEEK 2, and/or WEEK 3 here.

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

Current Mailing List Subscriptions: 2371 fans / 1000 true fans (Up 52 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.

Do you have an Advanced Reader Team? I’d love to hear your thoughts on an appropriate number of readers/reviewers.

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!