Building an email list may be the most powerful tool in any writer’s arsenal – especially independent authors. In this episode of the Writing Momentum podcast, Chris and Gena discuss how you can create a newsletter, why a “simple” newsletter is often preferable, and tricks they’ve learned to improve its success.
Episode 13 Transcription:
[00:00:13].730] - Gena Hello, and welcome to the Writing Momentum Podcast. We're so glad you're here. We are going to talk about something today that we're pretty excited about. Chris, what are we going to talk about today? [00:00:27].670] - Chris Well, Gena, today we're going to talk about newsletters because so many of you have discovered this podcast because you're part of our newsletter. [00:00:36].290] - Chris And if you are. [00:00:36].980] - Chris Thank you so much. We just love the fact that you're reading the newsletters we sent out. We hope they're helpful. And we kind of know they are because honestly, we get a really good open rate. A lot of you, you love what we're sending out. Probably helps with sending out a bunch of free stuff. Right. And a bunch of it's been fun. And I think we just try to be ourselves in it, which we're going to talk a little bit about in this episode. But we also have noticed that a lot of authors don't have newsletters. And I think that's a huge mistake, especially after we've gotten ours off the ground. We've seen our newsletter has been just hugely helpful to building our author ship. Right. And our author business, getting to stay in touch with people and that sort of thing. But it hasn't always been that way, has it? [00:01:19].620] - Gena No, it has not. And before we get into the pitfalls and what we have done wrong so that you don't have to make the same mistakes that we did, I wanted to find what a newsletter is because when you say newsletter to me, my mind goes to those little pieces of mailers that you get in the mail that are junk mail that trifold and then half fold. It's basically like two pieces of paper that are half folded and then trifolded and they're mailed through the post office. And that is not what we're talking about. That is an old I'm probably dating myself here, but that is an old way of thinking about newsletters. Newsletters today are emails that you receive from companies, organizations, individuals that really can be as simple as an email itself, just a simple email. But there is a point to it. [00:02:23].320] - Chris Yeah. And a lot of you, if you've received newsletters from businesses, you know how they are. They look like little mini catalogs, right. Or like they point to a blog or something like that. And sometimes they look very corporate. And Gena and I tried that. Right. When we first were starting with our Writing Momentum newsletter, we were like, oh, yeah, we're going to make it a really cool newsletter that's going to have a whole bunch of stuff on it and a bunch of links to things about writing all over the web. And that'll be cool. And it'll be like this great resource and we sent it out and we found out that pretty much no one read it right. No one was opening, no one was clicking on any of the links. And we realized it's because that's not what our audience wanted from us, was it? [00:03:03].640] - Gena Yeah, that was a curated newsletter. We were curating stories from around the web. And let me tell you. There was a lot of work that went into those [00:03:12].920] - Chris A lot and the whole thing crashed and burned all that work and it was for nothing. [00:03:17].290] - Gena So we simplified. And that's why this issue of this podcast is called Don't Be Afraid of a Simple Newsletter, because that's what we found was that simpler was better for us. Now we know other industries, other businesses that use a curated newsletter or they use something much more elaborate than what we are now using that work well for them. I'm trusting that they're working well for them. They hold seminars on why they work so well for them. [00:03:46].860] - Chris And we attended some of the seminars, didn't we? [00:03:48].790] - Gena We sure did. We bought into it at the beginning, but we have found that an email newsletter with a simple one message per issue succeeded much better. [00:04:00].510] - Chris Yeah, I think part of the reason is because it doesn't feel like a newsletter and it really isn't. I mean, when we email our audience, if you will, when we send out an email newsletter, really all we're doing is sending out an email just from us, right? It's just an email, but it is sent out to a lot of people, but it's just a simple email. Hardly ever do we ever put any fancy graphics in there. In fact, we got away from doing all that stuff and right now it's just kind of like, hey, we're just typing out an email, we're sending it out to the people who said yes, they want to hear from us. And it makes for a much clearer understanding of our message. And it seems to ring true a little better, doesn't it? [00:04:42].620] - Gena I think it does. I think it helps people understand who we are, but it also keeps the message very clear. I mentioned that the newsletter has one message, so we're not talking about a lot of different things. We're not talking about how we're feeling, what we're doing, where we're going, and how we're doing something, which is what our curated newsletter had more of. It had tech information, it had marketing information, it had latest news releases from around the web. And what we found was by keeping it simple, people were very clear about why we were emailing them. [00:05:21].270] - Chris They knew it's not that we don't include those things today. We might still go ahead and send out an email about some story we read or about some new products we have coming out, new book or something like that. But the point is we're not trying to be all things for all people in there right? We're just going ahead and saying, hey, this is what we want to tell our audience about this week. And if they are an audience that is interested in what you're saying, they're going to go ahead and keep their subscriptions going. They're going to open it. And just as an example, our emails, we talked in one of our earlier podcasts, I think it was episode five. We talked about how we tripled our email open rates. Well, we did several things that helped those open rates open. But one of the things that we did was we just started making things simpler, right. We just started being more real and that really helped. [00:06:16].110] - Gena And by simple, we were more real. But we were also very specific about why we were sending it out each time. And I think that's the one thing also that is so important is consistency. Knowing that your readers and your viewers can know what to expect. But they also know when to expect. They know that every week they're going to get something from you or every two weeks. I wouldn't go beyond every two weeks when you start a newsletter. I wouldn't go beyond every other week if you can, once a week. But I also wouldn't go every day. I personally don't like it when I get tons of emails from places I will unsubscribe pretty quickly because I don't have time for that. So I want there to be a good reason why people are contacting me. [00:07:05].050] - Chris Yeah, that's exactly right. And you don't want to overburden people, you want to make it just enough. And we found for our audience, for those of you who subscribe to our newsletter, you tend to like hearing from us about once a week. The other thing that everyone seems to really like is just hearing the authenticity in our voice. Right. In our old newsletter we tried to have this more of kind of a newsy voice, right. To say, hey, here's what's going on in the world. Now. We just write the newsletters. They're just fun. They're totally us. We might crack a joke or a pun in it. We might just whatever we want, we just be ourselves. And that authenticity, it really comes across. So for you it might be a little silly or it might be more business. It's whatever your voice is, it's different for every person. But what you want to do is just make sure that yourself comes out in that email. [00:07:53].630] - Gena Well. And I would keep that in mind. Also, if you are writing specifically think about who your reader is and we do have a sheet on our website, I highly recommend it is identifying your reader and we can put the show notes down below. We can put a link to it. But identifying who your reader is and thinking about that person. So that when you're writing your newsletter you are considering who it is that you're writing to and why they are reading what you're sending them. So if you're writing about overcoming grief, then you're going to have a totally different tone in that than someone who is talking about having fun with your teenagers. Those are going to be two different audiences, and they're going to have two different messages and two different tones. And that's really what I'm talking about is your tone of your newsletter. [00:08:50].440] - Chris It depends on your personality, too. [00:08:52].140] - Gena You want your personality to come through when it doesn't ring true, it comes across so clearly. [00:09:01].030] - Chris Yeah. So here's a key thought to remember, your newsletter is not about sales. [00:09:07].330] - Chris Right. [00:09:07].630] - Chris It's about building a relationship. You want to build a relationship with your audience. Something that we have started to do that we really like is we ask our audience questions and ask them to respond. And we make sure that everyone who responds to us, we respond back to them. Right. We want to build a relationship back and forth to really get to know the people who were emailing and who enjoy hearing from us. And we enjoy hearing from them, too. And it's made some really great connections. So just remember that it's about relationship first. And really, if you've taken any of the marketing courses that I've done before for authors, you'll hear me say, it's not about marketing. Marketing today is about building a relationship. And that's really what it's all about. [00:09:47].870] - Gena But the effect or kind of the overflow of that relationship is that if you have a book that you're trying to sell, if people really connect with you and they're getting your newsletter, there are going to be sales. And so I always think of that line from Arrested Development if you've never seen the TV show Arrested Development. [00:10:12].180] - Chris Great writing, great writing, Chris. [00:10:14].290] - Gena And I have laughed many times with that one. But there's at one point when the dad says there's money in the banana stand. [00:10:21].240] - Chris There's always money in the banana. [00:10:23].140] - Gena And of course, the banana stand burns and they discover that what burned was actually money that was lining the walls. And I bring that up because newsletters are an important part of the marketing of your book and of the branding of you as a writer. And we've even heard from and met authors who don't have large lists. But they have said, I know when I write a book that if I can get it to my list, I will make money on my book, period. And they know on what they can expect. And they do not have large lists at all, but they have enough that they are full time writers and full time fiction writers or nonfiction writers, whatever. [00:11:11].800] - Chris Yeah. We know someone who sends out emails. She has under 1000 people on her email list, and yet she's making six figures a year largely from that audience, because they're a very dedicated audience. So don't think that you have to have an email list of 20, 30, or 40 thousand people before you can make a difference. Yeah, I know some of the gurus out there, like, they all have that and they encourage you to get big, big numbers. We believe the tighter your email list is. Right. The smaller it is, the more there are people who really want to hear from you, the better off you'll be. [00:11:42].170] - Gena Well. And it also will get into this with another podcast, but it does also help you with deliverability of getting your email into their inbox rather than their spam folders. [00:11:53].460] - Chris Yeah. [00:11:53].960] - Gena So we'll talk about that in another one because that's more the technical side. But what do you recommend, Chris, for the person who says, I don't have an email list yet, I don't even know where to start. What do I do? [00:12:06].910] - Chris Yeah. So most authors that I work with and I help them with their websites, we start by using a software called it's an online app called Mailer Lite. Okay. If you've ever heard of MailChimp, it's kind of like MailChimp, but MailChimp is really not the way to go anymore. Most people like moving to Mailer Lite because Mailer Lite allows you to have 1000 people on your list before they start charging you anything. So it's a free way to start an email list. You can maybe go for a year or so before you ever have to start paying for it. And it's so easy to use. It's one of the easiest platforms I've ever used. We'll have the link for that in the Show Notes. It's called Mailer Lite. A lot of authors who are a little more established and they want to do some fancy stuff. They use ConvertKit. Convertkit has a lot of power behind it. It's a little more difficult to use in Mailer Lite because of all that power, but it's also a very solid solution. And then Gena and I personally use an app called Getgist, which will also put the list of that in our Show Notes. [00:13:08].220] - Chris And we like it because not only does it have some of those fancy features for about the same price, but it also has a little bot that goes on your website that you can chat in with people who stopped by your website. And it'll let you email back and forth. And I use that all the time. Whenever someone stops writingmomentum.com and has a quick question. [00:13:27].460] - Gena So, Chris, I'm going to put you back on the spot. Can you recap for us today? [00:13:31].800] - Chris Sure. Okay. So here we go. So we talked about how Gena and I crashed and burned with our curated newsletter before, because what we discovered was that just wasn't what our audience wanted. What our audience wanted was just to hear from us. So now we just send out general, simple emails, which we call our newsletter because we send it out on a regular basis. And that's what's important is to be consistent. Right. Send out an email on a regular basis. That's more important than wowing your audience. Also, you want to be very authentic. Your voice, your tone is important. It's better than being perfect. Just be yourself and remember that this is all about relationship. Marketing today is about relationship. It's not about trying to sell them with everything you've got. But that said, if the people on your mailing list are dedicated to you, generally, if you let them know you've got a new book coming out or something else, you'll end up getting a lot of sales because of that. So it definitely benefits you to have the mailing list. And then I put some links of some apps that we like in the show Notes, namely Mailer Lite, ConvertKit and Getgist. [00:14:38].310] - Gena So there you go. Thank you so much for joining us on this episode of Writing Momentum for Don't Be Afraid of a Simple Newsletter. If you have any questions about newsletters, about what we're doing, about the journey that we've gone through with crashing and burning to discovering some insights with that, please go ahead and email. If you can go to writingmomentum.com. We do have a form there that you can fill out and we get those. We answer them personally and we are happy to hear from you. And until next time, we hope that your writing always has momentum and that you will rate, review and subscribe to this podcast. We're so thankful for the people who have found it valuable. We are getting feedback from people all the time telling us that this is helping them in their writing journey. We definitely want that for you. And again, if you have any questions, something you'd like us to talk about on this podcast, be sure to send that to us at our writingmomentum.com. And until then again, we hope your writing always has momentum. [00:15:49].710] - Chris See you next Wednesday.