Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Navigating Platform as an Unpublished Author - Part 2: Creating a Newsletter

If you’re a published author, then you’re probably aware of how important it is to have an author newsletter. But what if you’re still an aspiring author? Can creating an email list still benefit those who do not yet have a book to promote?

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This is another question that was included in an email I received from a writer. She was recently told by a publisher that her platform numbers weren’t large enough, and she wanted to know how to grow newsletter subscribers even without a book contract. (See part 1 of this series if you missed it!)

The quick answer is, yes, you can still grow your newsletter -- even before your book is contracted. But first, you need to have a plan. How will you attract readers to sign up, and what should you include in the newsletter?

Here are 4 ways you can quickly find subscribers as an unpublished author ...

1 - Incentives.

What motivates you to sign up for newsletters? Most of the time, we’re lured into signing up because we want to receive something of value from it. A lot of writers -- both published and unpublished -- will send freebies to their subscribers, such as a free short story, novella, novel, chapters, etc. Some, including myself, hold a frequent giveaway of a gift card for subscribers.

What can you do that will appeal to the audience that you’re trying to attract? It might be a good idea to write a free short story in the genre you want to become published in; that way readers will have their appetite whet for more.  

2 - Giveaways & contests.

One of the best and quickest ways to gain subscribers is through holding a giveaway or contest. If you want to target potential readers of your future books, I’d suggest holding a giveaway of a book that’s published within your genre. Then those who are interested in that genre can subscribe to your newsletter in order to enter into the giveaway.

If you’re hosting this giveaway/contest on social media, don’t forget to utilize hashtags within the posts -- especially genre-specific hashtags!

For extra entries, readers can tag their friends in the comments of the posts. Doing this might help to spread word about your giveaway to those who don’t yet follow you.

3 - Join efforts with another writer -- published or unpublished.

Do you have friends who write in your genre -- published or unpublished? If so, consider reaching out to them and see if they’d be interested in a joint newsletter promo. The best way to do this is by hosting a joint giveaway. There’s no limit to how many writers can join you in the giveaway! Each writer can agree to send the giveaway winner his/her favorite book in the genre. Then, each participating writer can promote the giveaway on his/her social media. Readers can enter the giveaway by signing up for each writers’ newsletters and following each one on social media.

4 - Reach out to your friends and family!

This should probably be labeled as “step one” because it’s the most obvious. Once you’ve created a newsletter, I’d advise reaching out to your friends and family and asking if they would be interested in signing up. You can explain to them what subscribers will receive, how often you plan to send an email, and how this will aid you in platform-building efforts. Don't forget to reassure them that you will not spam or share their information.

Now that your email list is created, what should you include in your newsletter?

Here are a few things to keep in mind as you write your emails ...

1 - Reflect your brand and target your core readership.

Once these are defined, it will then be so much easier to know what to include in your newsletter. Be specific.

For example: If you intend want to write YA contemporary fiction that is humorous and inspirational, then allow your newsletters to reflect this. You’ll want to target readers between the ages of 13 and 18. The content you include in the newsletter should reflect your witty and conversational tone. You could also search for clean comedic YouTube videos that might appeal to this age group, then share one in each newsletter.

2 - Offer value to your subscribers!

Why will your readers want to stay signed up for your newsletter? This can especially be hard for unpublished authors because your subscribers have not yet read your works (unless you’ve give them a free story). So what will compel them to stick around?

Value. Show them that you appreciate them.

What kind of value? Again, the answer will depend on your brand and target audience. If your target audience includes teen readers, for example, then maybe you could include a list of YA book discounts on the web. If you’ve incorporated coffee into your brand (like mine), then you could consider including coffee recipes in your newsletter (like I do). =) Doing this will compel your readers to open your newsletters because they’ll be excited to see what you’ve shared with them.

3 - Be consistent but not spammy.

When it comes to building platform, consistency is key. But coming across as spammy can result in the total opposite effect. So how can you find balance between the two?

I’d recommend starting with sending 1 - 2 emails per month. As readers build trust -- and even look forward to receiving your emails -- then perhaps you could increase that to 1 - 2 emails per week. Personally, 1 - 2 emails per month seems to be the sweet spot for me.

4 - Refrain from coming across as “salesy”; rather, be reader-focused.

No one likes to follow writers/authors who are all about themselves and their writing. Try to avoid coming across like this in your emails. Again, you can do this by focusing on the needs of your readers. As you prepare to write your email, ask yourself: What can I give to my subscribers in this email?

One of my favorite ways to avoid come across as salesy is by remaining conversational. Add conversation sparks and questions within your emails, then invite your readers to respond with their answers. You’ll be surprised by how many will actually do this!

5 - Invite your subscribers into your writing journey.

Treat your subscribers as if they're your friends. Remain personal and genuine. Offer them a behind-the-scenes look into your writing process -- sneak peeks that you don’t share with your followers on social media. This will make them feel special. Also, doing this will likely create more enthusiasm for your writing journey on their end. They’ll begin to view you as a friend rather than just another writer/author who wants to promote him/herself. Then, they’ll likely want to see you succeed and cheer you on as you hit various milestones.

The great thing about establishing a platform as an unpublished author is that people will follow you because they enjoy you, not your books. While that might sound like a drawback, it can actually be a good thing! The readership you build now will likely follow you throughout your journey simply because they like you as a person and want to see support your journey.

The process of building a platform might seem overwhelming at first; that’s why I advise you to take it one step at a time. It’s not going to happen overnight. Remember: Consistency is key! Even the small efforts made every day will eventually build and is better than nothing. And the best part? Doing this will likely increase your chances of publication in the long run.

Question for you …

If you’re an unpublished author, have you attempted to create a newsletter yet? If so, what’s worked for you? Let me know in the comments!



  1. I've never started a newsletter, but I have been considering it. Now, after reading this post, I think that I might jump in and start! =) I was wondering, what platform would you suggest for starting a newsletter? Would you recommend MailChimp? Thank you for writing this! =)

    1. Hi Micaiah! I would definitely recommend starting a newsletter. It's a great way to build a platform that can impress an agent/publisher. =)

      I'd recommend MailChimp. Of course, it's the only one I've used, so I don't know the differences. However, I have heard that it's a popular favorite amongst marketers.

      I hope that helps! Let me know if you start one--I'll be happy to sign up! =)


  2. I completely agree with this post, Tessa! I definitely think it's really important for an author to start a newsletter (coming from a reader's perspective)- it really helps to hype the reader up for the author's book releases.



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