I know, I know.
You saw the title of this post and thought, “oh man. Here’s Toni again, going on and on about mailing lists.”
Since I know so many of our author friends are short on time, when you grab those precious 30 minutes for book promotion, you want the biggest bang for your buck, right?
But, you still have some questions. I totally understand — this isn’t a cut and dry topic! There’s one especially big question that runs through your mind over and over…
The Big Question
You have a problem. You know that, in order to build a relationship with your readers, you should email your list more often than it takes Pluto to orbit around the sun.
When you send out those infrequent updates, after all, you’re bound to get one or two responses that ask “who in the world are you? How did I get signed up to your list?” Or, even worse, you get no response at all — and your open rates are abysmal.
It’s not that you want to neglect your fans; that’s not it at all. Instead, writing updates goes more like this: you sit down to plan an email and think…
“I don’t have anything to say.”
After all, if you don’t have an upcoming release or exciting news to share, what are you supposed to write about?’
And that’s the biggest question that goes along with figuring out mailing lists.
Well, begone blank-email paralysis! Keep reading for twelve email update ideas that will keep you busy writing and connecting with your readers for a long time to come…
12 Things to Email Your Fans About (and They’re Actually Kinda Fun)
An Exclusive Excerpt
Even though excerpts are everywhere these days, I know there’s a juicy part of your book not shared somewhere on your website or elsewhere on the interwebs. Send it out to your readers as a thanks for allowing you into their inbox!
A Sneak Peek
When you receive your book’s cover, proof copy or edit, share a piece of that excitement with your readers. Send out an email with a photo of your achievement and let them feel a piece of your pride (and be part of the publishing process)!
Ask for Reviews
Your best resource for reviews of your work is right in front of you: the pool of fans who have signed up to receive your updates in their inbox. Don’t hammer them by asking every week, but pick a mental goal (maybe once you sign up 25 or 50 new fans) and send a friendly review request.
Find Beta Readers
Hearing an early opinion of your work is priceless, and the best source of folks to beta read your work is your mailing list. Share the elevator pitch of your WIP and ask for a few fans to give it a read!
Reveal Your WIP
Speaking of WIPs, an email update is the perfect place to reveal what you’re currently working on. Yeah, a blog post is awesome, too, but give the readers on your mailing list a sneak peek!
Share a Character Profile
If a reader loves your work enough to receive your updates, I guarantee they’d be interested in knowing the backstory behind one of the characters in your novel. Did one of your characters change roles during the writing process? Or perhaps one of your more colorful characters had an interesting inspiration? Share those process-oriented tidbits with your readers!
Link to a Blog Post
This may surprise you, but many of the folks who receive your emails won’t also religiously read your blog. So, if you have a special post, share it with them in an email. If you can add something extra to the content (like a story/reason behind why you’d like them to read it), it makes the email even more special.
Ask for Feedback
Know this: feedback from your readers is GOLD. Being able to have a conversation directly with a fan of your work offers you all kinds of potential in terms of getting their opinion (and, as a bonus, makes them feel like a part of the writing process). Whether it’s an excerpt, elevator pitch, cover, or personal update, asking for reader feedback is a great way to build your relationship.
Dish Behind-the-Scenes Gossip
Did you interview a world-renowned nuclear expert when writing your novel? Or maybe took a day hike to a particular setting so you could describe it perfectly? These types of fun details and behind-the-scenes scoop are perfect to share with your readers! Even if it’s something more mundane, getting a peek inside how a novel comes together is exciting.
Give Away Worldbuilding Bonuses
This idea is especially useful for the sci-fi and fantasy folks among us: share your drawings, maps, fictional language, schematics and other extras that serve to build up the “world” of your novel. I always think of Lord of the Rings here — it was such a joy to look through all of the maps and appendixes after I finished reading the book.
Rewrite a Scene from Another POV
I have a confession to make: I’ve read Twilight. Phew, I said it. While I didn’t continue with the series after that first novel, I was still interested to read a chapter that the author released from another character’s perspective (side note: it was MUCH better and less whiny). I’ve seen other authors do this with excerpts or even whole books, but you don’t have to go that far — a paragraph or single scene will do nicely!
Dig Into Your Personal Archives
Remember the good old days when you had boatloads of time to…you know, write? I bet you have bits and pieces of unfinished work lurking about in the far corners of your hard drive. Ever wished you had a use for them? Well, now you do! Even though they might not be as polished as you’d like, your fans will enjoy and appreciate seeing these unpublished bits and pieces in their inbox.
A Bonus Tip: Focus, focus, focus.
While those ideas should get you started on the road to writing email updates you’ll actually enjoy, I want to share one bonus tip that will make your email-writing much less overwhelming: for each email you write, only share one thing. One idea, one call to action, whatever.
Speaking from personal experience, keeping my emails short and focused has helped me send them out more often (and with better results when I do). Moving from newsletter-type to letter-type emails is one way to do this, but I know you can make it fit into whatever design you use!
Now, I want to hear from you: How often do you email your list? Have you ever struggled to think of things to send out? What’s the most fun/creative update you’ve sent? Which one got the best results?