A number of the sessions I attended at the recent RWA conference dealt with marketing and author promotion. Gone are the days when writers wrote, and “all those other folks” took care of promoting, marketing, and actually selling books. The advent of self-publishing has also given rise to self-designing, self-promoting, self-marketing, and a lot of other “self-” things that cut into the time when, as a writer, you’d probably really just rather be writing.
Maybe that’s just me.
One of the things that many of the conference sessions I attended had in common was a focus on newsletters and developing a mailing-list as a way to reach potential readers and get them to actually buy your books. Erica Ridley talked about the mechanics of choosing an email provider, evaluating features, and providing incentives for readers to sign-up on a mailing list; Mark Dawson talked about leveraging mailing lists in the book launch process; and a group of authors talked about the benefits of cross-promotions for expanding visibility and growing mailing lists.
While the presenters all made valid points, I had to wonder how effective mailing lists and email newsletters really are, especially considering the amount of time their care-and-feeding seems to require.
Over time, I’ve unsubscribed from the majority of the author mailing lists that I initially joined. After a particularly annoying incident – when I signed up for (what I thought was) a single author’s mailing list but instead wound up on the lists for several dozen authors that I had absolutely no interest in – I’ve steered clear of signing up for anything.
I’m guessing I’m not the reader that authors who successfully leverage their mailing lists are looking for.
In these days of privacy concerns and an abundance of spam, not to mention phishing emails, scams, and the like, signing up for a mailing list for a new or unknown author doesn’t always seem worth the risk, even if they offer something free in return if you do so. The majority of the authors I follow are on Facebook and, since the information they post there is pretty much what they put in their newsletters (if they actually have news letters), I can easily keep up with them and find out when they have a new release coming out, without ever having to leave my News Feed or sign up for anything.
There are, of course, a few exceptions; newsletters that I still enjoy seeing pop up in my email box. Those newsletters have a few things in common:
- They’re not jammed packed with information
- They don’t use a lot of graphics and different fonts
- They’re not just a sales pitch
- They’re clearly readable on a cell-phone screen
- They’re funny and/or include personal touches
- They look professional
That said, I don’t know that any of the email newsletters I’ve read have ever caused me to make a purchase I wasn’t already planning to make. For those that arrive on a regular basis, I guess they do at least keep me from forgetting about the authors, but I’m not sure if that’s really all they hope to accomplish when they send them.
How about you? Do you enjoy receiving newsletters from your favorite authors? Do they influence your buying decisions? Is a robust mailing list part of your marketing plan?