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Point of View: Building a Great Newsletter

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When I first started my author newsletter, I didn’t really know what I was doing.

I thought I was a newsletter vet – after all, I’ve been running them for other parts of our business for years and years. But many of the things that worked in a travel newsletter just didn’t translate to my author work.

So I took the spaghetti approach – I threw everything up against the wall and waited to see what sticks.

I did an ongoing story post called the Weekly Fix, initially taken from some of my existing short stories, and then written as a serial tale that eventually became The River City Chronicles.

I tried my hand at writing how-to and opinion columns with my Point of View feature, which continue to this day (and which you are hopefully happily reading right now).

And I started my Author Spotlight feature – where I invite author friends to stop by for an interview and to show off their latest work. I’ve now done more than 350 of these now, and love hearing from my fellow authors – how they write and why, and all the little interesting things about them.

There have been other ideas too, some of which worked for a bit, and some of which fizzled out almost immediately.

Over time, the look of my newsletter has evolved too. The tool I use – Mailpoet for WordPress, has gotten better with time, and so has my use of it as I refine my template. Now I include a fun new graphic in the header every week – sometimes these are cool spec fic images, and sometimes they directly relate to the theme of my POV column.

I’ve also added author book swaps, where other similar authors share their books in my newsletter and let me tell their readers about mine in theirs. And I’ve started keeping readers up to date on my writing progress.

It’s a process:

Try something, see if it works, and discard it if it doesn’t.

Sign up for other author newsletters and see what they do.

And listen when your readers suggest something.

My own newsletter has become a community and a personal affair, a way for me to chat directly with my readers. Folks seem to appreciate it when I am frank and open with them, talking about the things I am passionate about.

And they crave hope.

Every author has a brand, whether they create it intentionally or not, and that brand should be as much a part of your newsletter as the photos and words in it.

Mine is diverse, hope-filled sci-fi and fantasy, and my weekly newsletter reflects that. It’s a part of what I write in this column, a part of my own books, and quite often in the books and other links I share.

Oh, readers also love free books – eBook giveaways, signed hard copy contests, and even themed book bundles. 😉

So how do you build a great newsletter? I’ll get back to you when I figure it out. * grin * I’m still hard at work on the best formula.

But a good start is creating your own unique reader community that matches your brand, and nurturing it with whatever you add.

To my writer friends, what are your secrets to a great newsletter? What do your readers most love to see?

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