For the last five years, smart writers and self published authors who wanted to market their books started with a website and a blog. Engaged readers would read blog posts on a regular basis, adding comments and becoming part of a community. As the internet population becomes more fractured and stressed for time, peoples' attentions are harder to get and keep. Even with RSS devices posting blog snippets on home pages, it's become easier for readers to ignore your posts, keeping you and your books far from their attention.
One place everyone still frequents multiple times a day is their email box, so savvy writers are beginning to take advantage of the captive audience that email provides. But far from creating the hated spam that fills our daily email, writers are creating email newsletters that replace or augment weekly or monthly blog posts and keep readers interested in their books and personalities.
How to Set Up a Newsletter
Like most other book book marketing problems these days, someone has come up with a solution you can take advantage of. Email marketing companies such as MailChimp or Aweber allow your fans to sign up for your newsletters in seconds. Once you have a mailing list, most sites are free for the first few thousand addresses, but when your fan base grows larger you'll have to pay for sending out newsletters every month.
Branding is as important in newsletters as in every other piece of marketing today, so make your opt-in page and thank you page with the same header as your newsletters.
What to Write
Of course you want to let your readers know when you publish a new book, but if that's all you ever write in your newsletters you're going to bore them immediately. Readers want to feel like they're insiders when they sign up for a newsletter. They want information no one else is going to get. Decide on a theme for your newsletters and stick with it for every issue. Give your fans an inside look at your crazy life, send out humorous cartoons every week, post interesting clips from your current work in progress as a teaser each week, or whatever else you think you can sustain for a long period of time.
Newsletter Advantages Over Blogs
Writers who have been blogging for months or years may consider simply connecting their blog posts to an email server, doing double duty with one piece of writing. The problem with this method is that a true newsletter is different from a blog post. A blog's main goal is to get new readers along with spreading information, while the newsletter's purpose is to keep current fans entertained, engaged and updated. Newsletters can include specialized content, such as giveaways, that you may not want to give to everyone who drops in to your blog.
With a newsletter, your fans are guaranteed at least the opportunity to read your communication regularly. It shows up in their email box without any effort on their part. With blogs, they have to rely on remembering you're even there, and clicking on your blog every week or so to find your newest posts. Newsletters are more personal than blogs, and satisfy a reader's need for inclusiveness, for feeling like an insider, in a way that a blog will never do.
Time is at the core of this marketing strategy, more than anything. Fans who have started to feel like insiders will expect their next glimpse into your world on a regular basis. Figure out how often you cam commit to writing, whether it's weekly or monthly, and never deviate from that schedule. Getting their interest and trust is hard enough; getting it back once you've broken that implied promise is just about impossible.
Keep the Faith and May the Force be with You!