Marketing Monday: What Do You Think of Newsletters?

For about the past two years, I’ve had an email newsletter that I send out, oh…quarterly. It usually has some basic information about what’s coming up for me in the next few months, or what I’ve been doing that’s exciting (for me, at least!). Then I add a few links to posts I think might interest readers, and I send it out.  I use Constant Contact, and I’ve been more than happy with their templates and the way they store and let me update my mailing list–either manually, or through my blog/website.

I am, however, considering whether to keep the newsletter going.  I’m going to summarize my thoughts about why and then follow up with a few questions for you to, hopefully, get your take on things. I’d love–as usual–to hear from writers who get newsletters and writers/readers who receive them (or work very hard not to).

A few years ago, I think email newsletters were the best, if not the only, way to reach readers directly–at their inboxes. Then along came Facebook and Twitter and Goodreads and all the other social networking sites. Facebook sends me a note–to that inbox–when anyone contacts me in any way on their site, and with Tweetdeck, it’s easy for me to see if anyone’s trying to get in touch with me directly out on Twitter. I get messages from Goodreads for updated booklists, and I get Google Alerts that let me know when I, or my book, am mentioned pretty much anywhere. (Okay, not yet on Mars, but I’m sure that’s just a few years away.)

The other thing that these sites all do is make it incredibly easy for me to get information out. I know there are all sorts of questions about how easy it is to social network, about the best way to tweet effectively or to use a Fan page on Facebook, but in actual time, there’s just no comparison between typing in 144 characters on Twitter and setting up the next newsletter to be delivered.

I don’t have a huge mailing list for my newsletter. In real marketing terms, it’s probably considered almost infinitesimal. And I know that when I send it out, at least a few people are reading it–because I can see when they’ve clicked over to my blog to check out some of those posts I’ve linked to. But…if I’m going to use this list to any purpose (if that’s still truly possible), then the list has to grow. Which means I have to solicit (nicely) people at workshops and conferences and do something else (ideas?) to get its numbers to increase. These tasks are feeling like they’re hitting the side of the scale I call “Not my comfort zone and possibly not worth my time & energy.”

What do you think? Where are newsletters falling these days in the marketing world, in terms of popularity and effectiveness? If you send out a newsletter, how are you feeling about it? I’d love to hear what you include, how often you send it out, and whether (and why) you feel it’s a useful marketing tool. If you don’t send a newsletter, do you still keep a mailing list and how do you use it? If you’re a reader of newsletters…why? 🙂 What is it you like about them and what makes you sign up for one and keep reading it when it comes? And if you’re someone who does whatever possible to avoid getting a newsletter, please share that, too.

Thanks again, all, for letting me pick your brains and poll your thoughts! And a happy, productive week to you all, this Monday!

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14 thoughts on “Marketing Monday: What Do You Think of Newsletters?

  1. I send a quarterly newsletter. My list isn’t large, either, but every time I send it or announce it’ll be out in a few days, it grows. What I like about them is the ability for readers to forward the whole thing to someone else. Yes, they can suggest their friends to your Facebook or Twitter, but I find both rather impersonal.

    The newsletters I enjoy are those that allow me to “see” the author, to get the gist of who she is, not only what she writes. Those that offer info I want or something creative I enjoy, I keep reading. If they are nothing but promo, I don’t.

    I always start mine by talking directly to the reader about something personal (but also professional), something that gives an idea of my writing style and my focus (relationships, nature). Then I move on to my new events and such. I end it by highlighting one of my subscribers as a show that I do care who is reading and would like to keep a real connection. Also, I figure if someone is highlighted in a newsletter, he’ll pass it on to show his family and friends. 😉

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  2. I don’t tend to sign up for many newsletters, though I think that’s mostly because there is so much information already on blogs (and for me it’s easier to comment on a blog).

    That being said, I am subscribed to Holly Lisle’s newsletter.( http://hollylisle.com/newsletter.php ). She does mention her books and writing courses, but the main focus is on sharing useful information for other writers. People can send in questions, which she’ll address in the newsletter as well. She has some good advice on writing, which I’ve found helpful plus I enjoy the more encouraging tone. She sends them out more frequently then quarterly, and I usually read most of them. (Sometimes if I’m busy I don’t read them. I try to at least apply the g-mail label to them so they don’t get buried in my in-box).

    I think the key with a newsletter is aiming it towards your target audience, and offering something that isn’t already easily available on your website/blog/twitter/ect. You can let the sign up page have some more of your promotional stuff as well, that way when you direct people to your newsletter they can see what it has to offer which will save you some of the “come and sign up because X Y and Z” spiel. Though when you are directing them to the sign up page, it can be nice to highlight a certain aspect of the newsletter, especially if it’s something you know they would be interested in.

    Ack, my previous paragraph got a bit wordy. Pretty much two good questions to ask yourself: 1-“What sorts of people am I aiming the newsletter towards?” 2-“What will my newsletter readers get out of it?”

    Good luck with your newsletter.

    I’m thinking of putting one together for a role-playing forum I’m working on building with a few friends, and at some point I might think of one for my fiction writing.

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    • beckylevine says:

      Thanks, Claire–this is very helpful. I have been thinking about that sign-up page, and you make some good points about using it better.

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  3. Jenn Hubbard says:

    I really don’t like newsletters. I’m signed up for a couple of bookstore and industry newsletters, but I tend to skim them very quickly. I would rather follow someone’s blog than get that info through email.

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  4. I enjoy the creative process of the newsletter but don’t honestly know how effective it is. Carol and I are constantly evaluating ours and tweaking it. It’s definitely a work-in-progress.

    I don’t typically read newsletters myself – too much to wade through. So I keep trying to think of ways to grab the reader. Most of our audience are teachers and librarians.
    We gather their names at conferences and conventions and that of course is voluntary on their part. We try to offer useful info that they can use in the classroom.And giveaways!

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    • beckylevine says:

      Joyce, I think the fact that you’re targeting a specific group–not necessarily the same as your blog–is important. I sometimes feel like I’m saying the same thing in all the various places.

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  5. Since I’m a graphic designer I read newsletters just to see what people are putting out there. I don’t subscribe to any and I give most just a cursory, critical glance. I think you can reach a completely different demographic with your newsletter than you do with Twitter and Facebook. I’m on Twitter so infrequently that I couldn’t even tell you my name on there! But I know my email and I’m (usually) willing to give that out 🙂

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    • beckylevine says:

      I do keep thinking it is a different group of readers, but don’t feel like I’m addressing that group. Good points–thank!

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