I hear writers talking all the time about building their enewsletter subscriber list. Build a subscriber list, the thinking goes, and you’ll sell more books.
Except it’s not that simple. These authors are focused on only the first half of their job: attracting new subscribers to their list.
They’re missing—often, completely neglecting—the other half: pleasing those subscribers once they get them.
Are You Too Focused on Numbers?
Holding a giveaway where you gather a long list of new subscribers may feel exciting in the moment. But how excited will you be when most of those subscribers unsubscribe? Or ignore your enewsletter completely, letting it collect dust in some unchecked inbox?
Dead weight on your newsletter may boost your numbers, but that doesn’t help you much. Those who aren’t regularly opening, reading, and clicking aren’t doing anything except giving you a false sense of how large your email list is.
It’s only by pleasing subscribers that you have any hope at all of ever selling anything to them. That’s because most people need to know you and the value you can deliver before they’ll be willing to part with their hard-earned money for something you created.
You have no hope of establishing that relationship if you don’t keep them opening and reading on a regular basis.
It Starts with Targeting the Right People
First, you have to be sure you’re targeting the right people when you’re building your list. (I’m assuming you’ve established your niche—if not, check out this post.)
However you’re reeling in new subscribers—through a freebie, giveaway, or other dangled carrot—the more that carrot fits your readers’ needs, the more likely they will be to stay with you for the long term. (We’ll talk more about newsletter carrots in a future post.)
In other words, if you write cozy mysteries, it’s not going to help if you join a multi-author giveaway where the rest of the books are in the horror genre.
A report on vacationing in the most famous cozy mystery settings—or even in your favorite cozy mystery settings from your books—might work out great.
3 Ways to Please Your Subscribers and Keep Them Coming Back
Think about how often you open an e-newsletter and READ it. Or click on a link to check it out.
Most likely, there are fewer than five that earn this special place in your life.
That’s because we’re all busy. Managing our email inboxes is just one of a zillion things on our to-do lists. Your subscribers are in the same boat. They’re looking for any reason to dump your email from their inbox so they have one less to deal with.
Not only must you avoid giving them that reason, but you must also give them lots of reasons to keep opening and reading. Yours has to be one of the few newsletters that earn that top spot in your readers’ lives.
How do you do that?
1. Give Them Something They Want
Too often authors fail to focus on that age-old question when it comes to their e-newsletters: “What’s in it for me?”
That’s what your reader is asking. If all you do is talk about you—without relating to them—they’re likely to leave pretty quickly.
Again, think about what you are looking for in your newsletters. Most likely, it’s one or more of these things:
- Helpful information
- Something funny or entertaining that will brighten your day
- Awesome deals you wouldn’t find anywhere else—on something you want
This is where a blog can come in handy. Every time you have a new post—if your posts offer readers something they value—alerting them to that post in your e-newsletter is one way to give them helpful information.
You can also alert them to other posts you’ve found that you think they would be interested in. Share some news that affects your niche, or alert them to a deal on a piece of equipment they may regularly use.
The key is to provide value to your reader. Go beyond talking about your latest book. In general, fill 80 percent of your newsletter with things meant to benefit your reader, and only 20 percent with self-promotional material.
2. Establish a Connection with Them
People stay on a newsletter list for several reasons. One of them is that they feel some kind of connection with the person who’s sending it.
You can help establish that connection with every newsletter you send. Write it as if you’re talking to a friend. One of my favorite newsletters is from Nick Stephenson of “Your First 10,000 Readers” fame. I often open and read his newsletters just to see what crazy story he’s sharing that day.
Nick is very good at taking stories from his life and turning them into valuable takeaways for his readers—all while talking in a way that makes you feel like he’s chatting away with you.
Of course, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. One, stay professional. You want to treat your reader like a friend, but obviously, keep some boundaries in place.
Second, remember to always think in terms of what your reader needs, not what you need. This is not the time to rant about your crazy editor, for example—unless you have some valuable lesson to share at the end of your rant that will benefit your reader.
Protect yourself—you don’t know who most of your readers are or what their intentions are. But sharing a few safe details or stories that help them to get to know you a little better will increase the odds that they stay with you over the long term.
3. Surprise or Delight Them Now and Then
A couple of writing friends of mine regularly give something away in their newsletters. They do this frequently enough that their readers feel compelled to open their newsletters “just in case” they may find some sweet giveaway there that they want to enter.
What to give away? You’re limited only by your imagination. Free books, reports, prizes, swag, quote cards, recipes, special graphics, coupons, and more will work. You could also hold a contest and award the winners.
Another way to surprise and delight is to include photos of your subscribers. If you recently went to an event where you met up with some of them, snap some selfies and then be sure to give those subscribers a shout-out.
You can also ask their opinion about something and then include quotes from some in your next newsletter.
The general idea is to regularly provide value, but now and then, provide a little more just to make your readers happy. That way they’ll be more likely to stick around.
Are Your Subscribers Still Reading?
I have several subscribers that have been with me since I started the Writing and Wellness e-newsletter in 2014. I love reviewing my audience data and seeing that most of those subscribers are highly rated—meaning after all this time, they’re still opening and reading my e-newsletters.
These are your most valuable readers by far, so do all you can to keep them coming back!
“The bottom line is that a newsletter can help you make more sales and reach more readers than any other marketing technique,” writes Catia Shattuck for Book Cave. “The key is to build an audience over time. Remember, you’re in this for a lifetime, not just a few months. Happy emailing!”
Note: Get Colleen’s free report on finding your blogging niche plus free chapters of her award-winning books for writers here!
Colleen M. Story is a novelist, freelance writer, writing coach, and speaker with over 20 years in the creative writing industry. Her latest novel, The Beached Ones, released from CamCat Books on July 26, 2022. Her previous novel, Loreena’s Gift, was a Foreword Reviews’ INDIES Book of the Year Awards winner, among others.
Colleen has written three books to help writers succeed. Your Writing Matters is the most recent, and was a bronze medal winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards (2022). Writer Get Noticed! was a gold-medal winner in the Reader’s Favorite Book Awards and a first-place winner in the Reader Views Literary Awards (2019). Overwhelmed Writer Rescue was named Book by Book Publicity’s Best Writing/Publishing Book in 2018.
Colleen frequently serves as a workshop leader and motivational speaker, where she helps attendees remove mental and emotional blocks and tap into their unique creative powers.