Staying in Touch with Readers: Newsletters, Part Three

By Linore Rose Burkard

In Part One of this series we discussed the benefits of offering a newsletter to readers. In Part Two, the content you might include in one. 

This post deals with two additional common questions about author newsletters:
  • How do I build a subscriber list? and,
  • What email service should I use?

Getting Started  

Everyone has to start from scratch. Don’t be discouraged if you’ve neglected this component of your online presence; it’s never too late to begin (and rarely too early) whether you’ve got numerous books out there or aren’t yet published. Either way, if you have no list yet, once you’ve decided on content (which you did by reading part two of this series, right?) the next step is choosing a service provider.

Service Providers

The good news: Nearly all  email management providers are free until your list reaches about 2,000 subscribers. That gives you time to hone your skills while growing a list without spending a dime. Some commonly used services are MailChimp, MadMimi, and ConstantContact. You can find other providers by paying attention to your inbox. You are undoubtedly on many mailing lists yourself–take a look at the bottom of the emails you like the look of, and see what other people are using. Compare prices for when your list is big enough to warrant a paid subscription. You don’t want to have to switch providers later. (Yes, it can be done; but not without hiccups. In my case, when I tried to switch my providers, I discovered my current service would stop supporting the numerous images I include in my newsletters. Since I keep an archive, that was a drawback for me.)  

Building the List     

Once you choose a provider, you’ll have the means of sending email to a list. So now you need people to send to. It is perfectly fine to ask friends and family to subcribe to your list to help get it started. But then you need to extend your reach. The time-honored method of doing this is to offer potential subscribers something in return for their email. You’ve given out your email to numerous people because they’ve offered you something free in return, right? Most often it is an information product, a how-to, an exclusive report, etc. Now it’s your turn. Create a PDF that you can offer as a perpetual freebie for new subscribers. The key is to offer something that interests your readers, entices their curiosity, promises to solve a problem, or will help them in some way. 

But I’m Just An Author

But I’m just an author, you say, I can’t solve anyone’s problems or offer exclusive content. But you can! Offer an original short story, a chapter of a book you’ve written, or, (as I currently do) an Epilogue to a book that isn’t in the book. This helps me capture emails from readers who buy my book from Amazon–readers I have no way of knowing about until they subscribe to get the epilogue.
If you have no original content at the moment, share a collection of work from the public domain, a time-saving list (“Top Ten Links to Find Free Books”), a “Best Of” list, etc. This method works beautifully for non-fiction authors; they can put together a report or “How-To” based on the content of their book. Fiction authors can find ways to do something similar. For instance, I have free PDFs that I’ve offered in the past based on the era of my historical fiction. 


If free content still seems difficult for you, try encouraging sign-ups to your list by offering a unique opportunity such as a chance to win something. People love to win things and you’ll win new subscribers. This works well if you have a book to offer, but it can be someone else’s book, or any other prize your readers might want. 

Now What?      

Once you decide what to offer and make it a PDF, your service provider allows you to upload it and  include a link to it in an automated message to subscribers. Your work there is done. From time to time, you may wish to change your free offer. (Some freebie offers work better than others.) You can even choose to offer more than one incentive, say, two PDFs, or a podcast, or private video. But once the offer is in place, your job switches to promoting it. A great offer is wonderful but only if people know about it. (The beauty of putting it in the back pages of a book is that it stays there for readers as long as your book is in print or available as an ebook.) 

Final Word: Don’t Spam!

Whenever possible, have people subscribe via the sign up form your email service provides. You place the code for the form on your website (or other landing page) and direct people to it so they can subscribe themselves, usually via a double opt-in procedure. The service captures their IP address and thereby protects you from being charged with spamming. If you subscribe people yourself, be very sure you have their permission. 

So–now you have the wherewithal to get started. Review Part One and Two of this series, choose a service, grow a list, and soon you’ll have a solid plank in that elusive author platform that agents and publishers are always looking for from writers!  

Linore Rose Burkard writes Inspirational Romance and, as L.R.Burkard, YA/Apocalyptic Suspense. If you’re in or near the Dayton/Cincinnati Ohio area, join Linore  and a great line-up of authors and presenters at the WRITE ON! Christian Writers’ Conference later this month. For full details and registration click HERE.