Tag: newsletter


My Well Runneth Dry

 More than 300,000. That’s how many new titles were published in the U.S. in 2013, according to UNESCO figures reported in Wikipedia. Add in all titles published in a year and the number doubles or triples. That’s a lot of books competing for readers’ attention. Authors have to create ways to gain notice. In this modern, social media-connected world blogs, newsletters, and Facebook pages have become standard ways to build a platform to attract readers. Posts and newsletters, brief pieces offering readers writerly advice, funny or poignant stories about the writing life, and insights into how one’s work speaks to the human condition, come out more frequently than novels or short stories. They require frequent trips to the creative well. Once in a while, the well runs dry. An idea for a blog post hits you then you remember you used the idea six months ago. You stare at the blank newsletter template and realize you have no news. You’ve already described your writing process, your inspirations, your journey to publication, your tips for completing a first draft. You’ve got nothing but a deadline. What do you do? The blog has to be posted, the newsletter mailed. A goats in sweaters video or cute cat photos won’t cut it. You pick up your pen or pull your laptop closer and borrow a page from Seinfeld; you write about nothing. Or you find an idea you’ve used in the past and rewrite it until you’ve said something new. You keep going, writing about nothing or reworking old news, until you’ve got a few hundred (possibly rambling) words that you didn’t have before. If you’re lucky, you’ll figure out how to tie what you’ve written to a picture of a goat in a sweater. How do you overcome a shortage of new ideas when confronted with a looming deadline?

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Author Newsletters. Just another part of writing.

These days, authors don’t merely write books, they also have newsletters. Do you need one? If you are scrambling to finish a manuscript, edit another one, and promote yet a third, you may think, NO. Not another obligation. But a newsletter can be both useful and fun. It goes directly to ‘your people’. Your top readers. They want to hear from you! So stop procrastinating and write one. DON’T think of it as an email. Think of it as communicating. A few basics: Use a mail service such as Mail Chimp. This will keep your list clean, and perform the due-diligence required by law for unsubscribe options. Don’t get hung up on the term Newsletter. Think of it as a personal message. This will also inform the content. Prepare for writer’s block when the cursor hits the page. This isn’t fiction. Your heroine isn’t going to speak and take over the story and get you to the end of the newsletter, ahem, personal message. It’s all YOU! Take a moment and think about what’s on YOUR mind right now. Are you preparing to launch the next book, recovering from a launch, starting the next installment in a series? Have you read a bunch of great books, attended a conference where you met hundreds of readers, taken a trip to research your work? What’s going on in your life that informs your work? Are you cooking recipes from a 100-year-old cookbook because you’re thinking about an Edwardian mystery, or digging holes for trees because you are trying to take a mental break from writing? Tell your readers about it! What would you write to a best friend who lives too far away to see in person? Now take out the really personal bits (you know which ones they are) and leave the tone and remainder of the content in. A handy formula: Why are you writing in the first place? What does your audience need? That equals your ideal content. (Hint: you are likely targeting readers, not writers. Even writers are opening Lee Child or Louise Penny’s newsletters as readers.) Frequency? No easy answer here. Too much and you are spammable even to people who want to like you. Too infrequently, they forget who you are and the email scrolls by unread. We are back to the formula. Why are you writing in the first place? What does your audience need? That equals your ideal frequency. Give it a try. You can always adjust, improve and if necessary pause and start all over! Either way, stay in touch with readers. They are your tribe. Stay connected. 

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