Monday, September 18, 2017

Author Newsletters — Part 3: Choosing Content

By Valerie Comer

Welcome back for Part 3 of my Author Newsletter series. We’ve already talked about Getting Started and Finding Subscribers. Today we’re going to dig right into the nuts and bolts of newsletter content.

1. What Do I Say?

Choose a main topic/goal for every email. This keeps each letter shorter and more focused. If there is one clear call-to-action, you are more likely to see measurable results than if you casually mention ten things without giving clear links. This might mean sending shorter emails more often. I’ve experimented with this through 2017, and found it worked well. I focus my mid-month email on the newest release from my multi-author Arcadia Valley Romance series, and my late-month email on what’s new in my own writing. No one has complained of hearing from me too much.

Choose your subject line carefully. Words like ‘free’ and ‘sale’ can trigger spam filters, so avoid them if you can. Make your subject line fairly brief yet compelling. This is an art in itself. Look carefully at author newsletters you’ve subscribed to. Which headlines make you want to click? Which are easier to ignore?

Choose your pronouns. Instead of “I’m sure you’re excited about my new book!” try “Are you excited about the next book in the Christmas in Montana Romance series?” Keep “I” and “me” and “my” out as much as you can, especially in the first few paragraphs. Sure, they signed up because they want to hear from you. Sort of. But really, they want to know what’s in it for them. Like all of humankind, they care about themselves more than they care about you, or anyone else.

Use your own voice. That conversational tone you use while writing your novels? That’s the one your readers want more of. If your author voice is very formal (for historical novels or nonfiction, maybe) then mimic it for your letters, too. Make sure there isn’t a disconnect between the two sides of you.

Use a simple, single-column template. In Part 4, we’ll talk more about analyzing your stats, but for now, know that roughly half your subscribers are reading on mobile devices. If you’re curious what your emails look like that way, open one of yours on your phone. It can be quite eye-opening… or eye-crossing.

Break up your email visually. Use images. Add your book covers when it’s a new release or sale. (Tip: you can make them clickable on any service provider.) Add a meme sometimes. Help readers scan by using headers, bold, and/or colors. The main font should be simple, black, and larger than you think. Remember the mobile devices!

Include clear pre-order and/or purchase links. Your fans subscribed because they want to know about your books. Don't make them hunt for this information. Mailerlite has customizable buttons for calls-to-action. “Click here to buy Better Than a Crown” was on a recent button.

Still unsure what, exactly, to write about if you don’t have a book release every month? Here are some ideas. You can choose several and rotate between them, even.

• A devotional
• A recipe
• An interview with another author in your genre
• A book giveaway (yours or someone else's)
• Book cover reveals
• Invitations to Facebook launch parties
• Requests for input, like naming a character’s pet
• Excerpts of your current WIP
• Research tidbits
• Events
• News

I’m sure you can think of even more topics!

2. How often do I send?

Not so often that it feels like spam, but not so rarely they forget who you are. Quarterly is good if you are traditionally published or don't have a lot going on. I increased mine to monthly when I went indie, as suddenly I had a lot more to talk about! And, when the Arcadia Valley Romances began releasing in January, I went to semi-monthly with no complaints.

3. Can I run contests?

Yes, you can, but be careful! Legally, you cannot require a purchase to enter a contest. You also cannot use reviews as a contest entry, as rewarding reviewers in any way is against Amazon’s TOS. When giving away a book about a blueberry farmer, I invited subscribers to “hit reply and let me know your favorite way to eat blueberries.” (In muffins… no surprise there!)

Tip: Find a few bestselling authors in your genre, and subscribe to their lists. Pay attention to the content, the frequency, etc. Do you see value in these emails? What could you do better for your readers? Feel free to unsubscribe once you've learned from them. No one will mind.

I hope this gives you some ideas of what to write in your newsletter. What ideas can you come up with for content? Any questions about today's topic?

This is the third in a four-part series on author newsletters that I’ll post in 2017. Click for Part 1 (Getting Started) and Part 2 (Finding Subscribers). In the final episode, I’ll cover how to track your statistics.

Valerie Comer's life on a small farm in western Canada provides the seed for stories of contemporary inspirational romance. Like many of her characters, Valerie and her family grow much of their own food and are active in the local foods movement as well as their church. She only hopes her creations enjoy their happily-ever-afters as much as she does hers, shared with her husband, adult kids, and adorable granddaughters.

Valerie is a USA Today bestselling author and a two-time Word Award winner. She writes engaging characters, strong communities, and deep faith into her green clean romances. Visit her at


  1. Very useful, Valerie. I hadn't seen your others so I'm going to look the first two up. I've been toying with changing to MailerLite and you've encouraged me in that direction. Thanks.

    1. I've found Mailerlite to be both intuitive and priced well!

  2. Thanks for this, Valerie, I appreciate your in depth approach! I've been sending a quarterly newsletter for the past year or so - it seemed really weird to send one prior to publication, but there is always content that can be included that will appeal to (potential) readers, like sharing about similar genre films or books we enjoy, photos that give glimpses of where we live, etc etc.
    I appreciate the comment about the 'free' word used as a spam filter trigger, and that about focusing to a particular call of action. Methinks my quarterly newsletter will need to become a little more frequent!

    1. Quarterly is on the edge of usefulness, but it's better than sporadic or annual! Yes, there's always something that can be shared.

  3. Great tips as always. Thanks, Valerie. I love the format of your newsletters - they are fun. And having one clear call to action makes them quick and easy to read.

    1. Thank you so much for being a subscriber! I appreciate the feedback. :)

  4. Thanks so much for this information! Great timing as well as I'm getting ready to switch newsletter providers and your advise is spot on!