October 6, 2016

Self Publishing? What’s Your Newsletter Plan? — Part Three

Stick figure at a chalkboard with text: What's Your Newsletter Plan?

It’s time once again for my monthly guest post over at Janice Hardy’s Fiction University. We’ve been exploring the choices for what path we want to follow in our indie publishing career, and today, we’re continuing to dig deeper into how to implement our chosen path.

My series about Indie Publishing Paths at Fiction University has highlighted some of the choices we have to make and given us a few guidelines.

We first discussed how we need to know our goals because that will help us make the best decisions for us and adapt as the industry changes. Depending on our priorities, we might make different choices for distribution, release schedules, or pricing, which I focused on in the first segment of the series, calling them the where, when, and how much of our decision process.

The second segment of my series focused on how to keep our readers after they finish our book:

We’re currently exploring the specifics of one of the options mentioned in Part One of the Reader Retention Plan above, which is to communicate with our readers via a newsletter. So far, we’ve covered:

Janice Hardy's Fiction University banner

But we could have all the subscribers in the world and still struggle with an ineffective newsletter. That’s because the number of subscribers doesn’t matter nearly as much as the number of newsletters that are opened and read. *smile*

If our subscribers delete our emails unread or just let them sit in a “junk” email inbox, our message still isn’t being heard. That’s why we need to talk about the open rate of our newsletters.

No one can agree on what open rates “should” be—partly because the measuring stick changes depending on the subscriber-gathering philosophy we discussed last time. Theoretically, quality lists should have better open rates than quantity lists.

That said, most people would agree that a single digit open rate isn’t good. For example, an open rate—which can often be found in the statistics section at our newsletter service provider—of 8% means that only 8 out of 100 subscribers (or so—open rates aren’t perfect because of email program variations) opened our email.

So if we need 100 people to take action for a promotion to work, we’d need a minimum of 1250 subscribers—and that’s assuming that everyone who opened our email would read it and then take action. In other words, that’s never going to happen, and we’d really need at least 12,500 subscribers—and likely a lot more.

On the other end, most people would agree that an open rate of 30% or more is good. But again, different philosophies would have different results, so there’s no set cut-off point for determining good vs. bad.

Regardless of those details, chances are that we’d like to improve our open rate. For that, we can try a couple of different newsletter opening strategies.

In this month’s post at Fiction University, I’m exploring our options and the pros and cons for each strategy. Each one follows a different approach we might take to encourage our subscribers to open (and hopefully read) our emails.

Depending on our writing schedule, our personality, our branding, and our subscriber-gathering philosophy, one strategy might work better for us than another. By learning our options—and the pros and cons of each—we’ll hopefully find the right approach for us.

For example, while I usually fall into the “New Release Only” style, I have occasionally sent out a “Miscellaneous Content” newsletter with other news, such as a big sale or my annual Blogiversary giveaway.

I’m careful, however, to keep those extra newsletters rare enough to not make subscribers feel inundated with emails. In addition, my sign-up form specifies that I’ll be sending information about promotions in addition to my new release notifications, so subscribers know what to expect from me.

I know successful authors who fall into every strategy camp, so there’s no “one right answer.” What matters is figuring out what will work best for us. *smile*

I hope you’ll join me at Fiction University for this month’s post!

If you have a newsletter, what strategy have you used to encourage subscribers to open your messages? Why did you choose that approach? Does that strategy match your personality or branding? What pros or cons have you discovered with your strategy? Do you have insights into other strategies or options?

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Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Thanks. My problem at the moment is too many newsletters. I could not possibly open and read them all. Please, authors, do not send out a newsletter advertising your books every week!


[…] Gold asks: what’s your newsletter plan, while Jane Friedman reminds us of the importance of using a call to action in almost everything we […]


[…] Last time here, we talked about open rate, the percentage of subscribers who open our email. This concept of engagement refers to click rate, the percentage of subscribers who click on something in our email. […]

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