Monday, September 3, 2012

Newsletters: Wondrous or Waste of Time?

By Deborah Sharp

I'm wrestling with one of my extremely infrequent urges to send out an author newsletter. I think I have something to say: After coming out with a Mace Bauer Mystery for the last four years in a row, right around this time of year, 2012 will come and go without a new ''Mama'' title.

Two questions are nagging at me:  Does the lack of something new fall under the category of news? And, are author newsletters over anyway?

Friends and readers accustomed to these regular fall releases have been asking, What's up with the Mama? One pal even took to Facebook to speculate whether Mama's author (me) had been eaten by one of the infamous iguanas slinking around southern Florida.  When I was a reporter, I occasionally wrote a  ''Where Are They Now?'' feature -- basically revisiting someone who used to be in the news to see what happened after they fell off the media map. I figured I'd do the same for my fictional family from Himmarshee, Fla. Whatever happened to Mace, her sisters, and their wacky mama . . . ?

But newsletters are a lot of work, and I'm basically lazy (see paragraph above, about how I didn't get around to having a book to release this year). So I've been wondering whether sending out my e-news is worth the trouble. On one hand, I do want folks to know what's cooking with my crew. (Book 5, MAMA GETS TRASHED, will be out in September 2013.) On the other hand, see references to laziness, above.

I'm hardly the first writer to ponder author newsletters. My fellow Midnight Ink'er, Jess Lourey, addressed the issue briefly here at Inkspot way back in 2010. (Her post was a funny one, about worst promotional ideas ever. )

''Unless I only get them once a year and they are for an author whom I love, I don't read them,'' she wrote then.

So, Jess, you have read all my previous Mama missives from Himmarshee, right?

Karin Bilich at Smart Author Sites offers some do's and don'ts in this article about author newsletters . Turns out I already violated the top rule, since I never thought about building a mailing list during the first year or two of book signings and appearances. Dang! I could have had tens of possible recipients, too. I've also never included an excerpt or run a contest, which are another couple of newsletter ''do's.''

Maybe I'll get around to that in this year's newsletter (BTW, sending only one letter a year is a don't.)

If you want to see whether I do or don't, go to my website  to sign up for my newsletter. Scroll down to find the sign-up box on left of page, under my amazingly youthful author picture. Hey, you can always unsubscribe, right? (Including an unsubscribe option is another newsletter do.)

How about you? For or against author newsletters? What do you like about them? What do you hate?


Lois Winston said...

Debra, I have a newsletter through a Yahoo loop. I have under 300 people subscribed to it. I don't send out more than a few times a year. And I don't know how worthwhile it is. Seems every time I send out a newsletter, a few people unsubscribe. With all the social media out there and having a blog, I don't know that newsletters matter all that much anymore. There are plenty of ways for fans to keep in touch with authors these days.

Beth Groundwater said...

Hi Deb,
I did my homework and read all those DOs and DON'Ts about author newsletters before I published my first book. I ALWAYS have a newsletter sign-up sheet at every in-person appearance, and I have an ongoing contest for subscribers: every time 100 more people sign up, I draw a name of one subscriber, who wins one of my books and free mystery books by other authors.

I try to send out 3-4 email newsletters a year through Vertical Response, and I have about 2500 subscribers. Yes, it's a lot of work, but it's a good way to let people know who have bought one of my books in the past when the next one's coming out, what the new cover art will look like, etc.

Oh, and PS to Inkspot readers. If you aren't already on my email newsletter list, sign up here:
I hope you're all signing up for Deb's, too!

Kathleen Ernst said...

Deborah, I do send newsletters, but I wrestle with the obvious issues: how often is too often? The problem is that everyone defines "too often" differently.

I can say that I, like many loyal fans, are glad to know that Mama will return!

Deborah Sharp said...

Hey, there ... thanks for the comments, y'all. I was out of touch the day my post ran, so didn't see these (or drum up more views, either, apparently ;-)
Always good advice and input from my fellow M'inkers.