December 1, 2016

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

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

As we’ve mentioned in previous posts, the number of subscribers we have for our newsletter doesn’t matter if they’re not opening, reading, and ideally, taking action with our messages. If our subscribers delete our emails unread, let them sit in a “junk” email inbox, or never click links to buy, share, review, promote, etc. our work, they’re “dead weight” to our subscriber numbers.

We’ve talked before about the statistics of open rate and click rate as far as having engaged subscribers, but there’s a bigger reason why those dead-weight subscribers are a problem: They can cost us money.

Most newsletters services (such as MailChimp, Constant Contact, MailerLite, VerticalResponse, MailPoet, MadMimi, GetResponse, etc.) start off free—up to a certain number of subscribers. Once we reach that threshold of subscribers, we usually have to pay monthly for the service to continue sending out our messages.

So if we have a lot of dead-weight subscribers, we’re going to hit that threshold—and have to start paying—sooner than we would if our list was “clean.” In other words, it’s in our best interest to clean up our newsletter subscriber list before we hit that threshold (or cleaning it up after might reduce our monthly charges).

Most advice I’ve seen about how to clean up those dead-weight subscribers, however, is a bit…drastic, as it involves lots of deletions based on unconfirmed information of our open rates.

We’re never going to approach 100% open or click rates—unless we have an extremely small list made up of family and best friends (and maybe not even then *smile*)—and most consider open rates above 25% or so to be good. Yet no matter what our numbers are, those statistics aren’t completely accurate, which is why I recommend against following the usual clean-up advice.

In this month’s post at Fiction University, I’m exploring our options for less-drastic measures we can take to remove uninterested subscribers from our newsletter list. *smile*

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

If you have a newsletter, are you still on a freebie plan? Have you thought about how to extend that free period by cleaning up your subscriber list? Are you worried about dead-weight subscribers? If not, why not? Do you have ideas for how to clean your list?

Also, if you have questions I haven’t covered yet about our options as an indie author, let me know in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list!


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I would be careful about deleting subscribers based on unopened reports coming in from say, MailChimp. Mailchimp’s etc reports rely on an invisible tracker graphic embedded in the email. The trouble is that if (like mine) your email client does not automatically allow the image to display this will report back as an ‘unopened’. Lots of people open their emails on their phones and images are data intensive so they will probably say ‘no’ to downloading graphics – again this will count as an unopened. My advice would be that if you think your subscriber isn’t opening your emails then ask them if they would like you to remove them from the list (make that the subject heading to get their attention). They will soon let you know if they don’t want to be unsubscribed.

Donovan Quesenberry
Donovan Quesenberry

Great post. Quite frankly, I had no idea all of this thought process occurred behind the curtain. Like with most of your posts, this one gets copied and filed for future use. I appreciate the information.
Stay Well (and stay away from sharp blades),

Clare O'Beara
Clare O'Beara

Yes, it’s a good problem to have in a way!

If you’re like me and you get a hundred author newsletters on the first of each month, you start to weed out the senders who send twice a week. Enough is enough and nobody needs all those ads. This should reduce the subscriber numbers for the people who are really sending little but spam for their books. Cost them less perhaps, and they were not selling anything anyway if nobody was looking. I tend to read the newsletters from reputable authors and that does not mean rolling ads.


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