At ITW’s ThrillerFest Thursday afternoon, M. J. Rose, Meryl Moss and Elizabeth Berry held a Buzz Your Book session. As with all great panels, some of the best information came from the informal Q&A afterward. Here are some fantastic insights into book promo and author branding from yesterday’s session.
MJ Rose: “For years people said ‘You don’t need a newsletter, you just need a MySpace page. Now MySpace is gone. Then it was Facebook; ‘You don’t need the newsletter because you have the Facebook page. But now Facebook is only showing your updates to about 15% of your followers. So when do we say ‘We need a newsletter’? You always need a newsletter.”
This column by Adrienne Crezo, managing editor of Writer’s Digest
magazine. You can find her on Twitter as @a_crezo.
1. How Often Should an Author Send a Newsletter?
Rose: “Minimum is 4 times a year: When your book comes out, and equally dispersed after that. Monthly is good, every 6 to 8 weeks is good.”
2. What Kinds of Things Should We Write About?
Meryl Moss: “It’s important to be interesting and not to be ‘me me me.’ You need to include things that are related to your book or to you as an author, but it can’t be only about your books every time or readers will unsubscribe.”
Rose: “I talk about other books I’ve read, and things related to the book, like I wrote about perfumes I’d smelled because I was researching perfumes.”
Berry: “Give them a slice of life. Include details about your process—what were you listening to or reading while you wrote your book? Did you go on vacation? Have you had a great day or a breakthough recently? Talk about yourself, but not only about your books.”
Rose: “Exactly. Readers love that and it keeps it fresh. They don’t get sick of seeing your book in their inboxes.”
Moss: “I like that, a slice of life. It really needs to be something that is interesting to the people who get your newsletter.”
Berry: “Please remember that you’re the author and you’re building a relationship with your reader. I love when my favorite authors send a newsletter, I look forward to that – and the authors who give me a slice of life, it’s like visiting my friends. There’s only one person on the planet who has the ability to do what you do, and that’s to live your life and show us what’s inside your head. Build a relationship with the people who want to read it.”
3. Is There a Specific Service You Recommend?
Rose: “We all use MailChimp, which is a free service and is really customizable. After you go over a certain number of recipients, it’s not free anymore, but it’s very reasonable and it’s worth it for that ease of use and reliability.”
4. Can You Give Us Some Technical Pointers?
Berry: “You should break up [the text] with a lot of graphics and images and artwork. Pick a signature font and use it for your [website header] and your newsletter.”
Rose: “I would say they should be about 500 words long. Not so long that people get bored, but long enough to get the details down. … And don’t sign anyone ever sign someone up for your newsletter who doesn’t want it. Never do that. Let them sign up themselves.”
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