Last week, we kicked off a blog series on author newsletters with “Why You Absolutely, Positively Need an Author’s Newsletter“. If you missed it, check it out! You can also add your two cents about what you love and hate about author newsletters here.
The 4 Content Types
When I first decided to start an author newsletter, I had no idea what to talk about. I didn’t do author visits. I didn’t have any upcoming books to announce (yet!) and I didn’t have any classes to try to drum up business for. So what the heck would I put into a newsletter?
I decided that my first step would be to figure out what other authors put into their newsletters. I was already on several authors’ lists; I subscribed to a dozen more, eager to see what other authors–authors of all types–had to say, how they said it, and how often. The result? I found that most email newsletters fall into one of four content-based categories.
1. Chat & Conversation
Many–most?–of the newsletters I reviewed include some content that’s simply…chatty. I think it’s similar to the letter from the editor included in the front of many magazines, a personal note that makes a connection between the author and the reader. Check out this punchy missive from bestselling children’s author and entrepreneur Katie Davis:
Maybe it’s a stretch to call this a “section”, since it’s usually pretty short, but I think it’s worth pointing out because all the best author newsletters took time to make the reader feel so comfortable and casual, the author might have been sitting down with you at the local coffee shop to chat over a cup of java.
Take-home: An author newsletter gives you an opportunity to make a more personal connection with your audience.
2. News & Updates
Some author newsletters focus on sharing news and updates. They may focus on personal news, things like upcoming appearances, writing progress, or publishing announcements. Others focus on curating news and information that will interest their readers. Take Shane Parrish’s newsletter, the Farnam Street Weekly. It’s a mash-up of excerpts from his blog, book reviews, and blurbs for other interesting articles around the web:
This type of information roundup is the tried-and-true form for companies that specialize in information, such as Digital Book World (DBW). Their newsletter highlights current news related to the digital side of book publishing:
Of course, that’s not really an author newsletter. This kind of news overview is tough to pull off if you’re a one-pony shop, but many authors use news items to round out their newsletters. Rather than attempting to cover all relevant news items, they highlight a few articles or blog posts they think their readers will find particularly helpful.
Take-home: If you need content ideas for your newsletter, consider including links to news relevant to your readers.
3. Tools & Resources
One of my favorite types of newsletters content is also one of the most straightforward: a short-but-sweet list of recommended tools and resources. Until recently, most of Jane Friedman‘s newsletters took this format, introducing readers to online tools and resources to help writers succeed in the digital era. Here’s a screenshot from her April 2015 newsletter:
Of all the newsletters I read, hers gets the record for most-forwarded-to-Evernote-for-later-reference!
Take-home: Sharing tools and resources you’ve vetted is a great way to provide your readers with content they can use.
4. Recycled Content
Many authors’ newsletters consist primarily of excepts from their most recent blog posts. Sometimes they even include entire posts, delivered direct to the reader’s inbox. Author and blogger Lacy Boggs‘ weekly newsletter contains the complete copy of her latest info-packed blog post:
The newsletter doesn’t only contain recycled content, though. It also includes a list of recently posted articles (with links) and occasional advertisements for upcoming classes or webinars. (Click the image to see the complete blog post or click here to view her archived newsletter.)
The folks over at CoSchedule deliver excerpts and graphic teasers for several different posts in their newsletters, an approach that makes sense for a blog that publishes several articles a week. Here are screenshots of 2 different sections of a single CoSchedule newsletter:
They also include a list of links to recent posts plus a list of links to other useful, non-CoSchedule articles–and, of course, a call to try out CoSchedule’s WordPress calendar plug-in for yourself. (Click the image to view the “How to Make Writing for Social Media…” post or click here to view their archived newsletter.)
Take-home: Short on time? You can still create an author newsletter–with “recycled content”.
What’s YOUR Type of Author Newsletter?
You’ve probably guessed by now that there are as many different types of author newsletter as there are authors. That’s because your newsletter will reflect YOU–your individual voice, style, and values. At the same time, good newsletters tend to have some things in common.
Here are some guidelines you can keep in mind as you consider what type of content your newsletter should include:
- A newsletter gives subscribers the opportunity to get to know you a little better. Let your voice show, whether by including a note to readers or in your tone as you introduce the different elements of your newsletter.
- A newsletter is also your opportunity to show subscribers how well you know them. Show readers that you understand their needs by including content that helps them to solve problems and makes their lives easier.
- Trying to come up with information your readers will find useful? Consider adding a short list of insanely helpful tools, online resources, or article links from sites other than your own website.
- If you have a blog, your newsletter is a great way to make sure subscribers don’t miss any posts. Include post blurbs or excerpts to drive traffic back to your website. They have the added value of providing you with ready-made newsletter content.