3 Reasons Why Coercing Readers Into Newsletter Subscriptions Is a Bad Idea

Image via opensourcewayWhen it comes to marketing our books, all of us want a captive audience. We want to know how to find the readers who love our books and the readers who COULD love our books. And we want to be able to reach out to these people so we can connect with them, build relationships, and at some point let them know when we have something new out. And one of the traditional ways of doing that for authors is the newsletter. 

Talk to any marketing expert and they'll mention the importance of building your "list". The list being that group of people who have voluntarily signed up to listen to you. And this list is so important because a) This is your captive audience and b) It's something that can't be taken away like Facebook or Twitter (Remember MySpace? If you'd built all your following there, you'd be in trouble now.)

So that's why you'll see so many writers running contests that give you points or require you to sign up for their newsletter or blog in order to enter. You can give away a Kindle and get that ever-precious list to grow to hundreds, thousands! Whee!

Yeah. And guess how many of those people ACTUALLY give a flip about the kind of books you write? Exactly. They wanted to win the contest and jumped through your hoop, but they are not your target audience. But, but, but... you say. But they COULD become my readers when they see my kickass newsletter in their inbox. But they know my name now and name awareness is everything. But, but, but...

Here's the thing...

This is what typically happens when I've signed up for a newsletter in the past just to enter a contest or get something:

  • I see it in my inbox, don't recognize the author, I delete it.

Everyone gets enough email, and we're accustomed to deleting spam and advertisements without even opening them. Newsletters are great when it's someone I'm truly interested in. But if I'm not a fan already, no newsletter has ever converted me into one.

  • After I delete it a few times, I start to get annoyed and I unsubscribe.

So now, not only am I not interested, I kind of have a bad taste in my mouth. I feel like I was coerced into this subscription and now I have to waste my time to unsubscribe.


Why Coercion Doesn't Work

1. Email is a higher level commitment these days.

If I sign up for a blog, it's easy enough to scroll through my blog reader and skim past posts that don't interest me. But you do have a chance of catching my eye and maybe getting a new fan if you write something interesting. But if subscribing to a blog is like smiling at a guy across the room to let him know you could be interested, signing up for an email newsletter is like giving him your phone number and agreeing to a date. It's a bigger commitment. You don't want to date everyone. You hand pick those people.

2. It doesn't foster true connection with your readers or potential readers

When we sign up for something just to be entered for a contest, it's pretty clinical. Okay, what do I have to jump through to win this thing? Sign up for newsletter--check. Tweet the contest--check. This isn't introducing you to new readers necessarily. It's not giving them a reason of WHY they should WANT to follow you and get that pretty newsletter.

3. Newsletters are typically very fan-focused so play to a different audience than the group you coerced.

There are exceptions, but in general, newsletters are set up to play to that captive audience--your current fans. But if I'm not already a reader of your books, what do I care about exclusive excerpts or the cupcake recipe your character used? *delete* This goes deeper into what you should put in a newsletter. I personally think author newsletters are meant for current fans and blogs/twitter/facebook are better for attracting new people to try your books. But feel free to disagree with me on that one.


Can you tell I got one too many newsletters in my inbox this week? ;) I think newsletters are a fantastic feature to have added to your website. Many readers are NOT daily blog readers and like having a newsletter come to them to remind them that you have a new book out. However, I think newsletter sign-up should be truly voluntary. It's called "opting in" for a reason. And it's fine if you offer some freebie for signing up--an exclusive chapter, a free ebook, whatever. But have it be something that encourages interest in your books, something that plays to your target audience.

Don't just build a list to build a list; make it a meaningful one. One hundred true fan subscribers are better than a thousand people who really just wanted to win a gift card and have no real interest in you or your books.

So what do you think? Anyone else get annoyed by the newsletter thing? What newsletters do you love to get and look forward to reading? What audience do you think an author newsletter should be targeted toward--current fans or potential readers?

The 5 Emotional Stages of a Book Launch

This week at RWA Nationals I was on a panel called The Girlfriend's Guide to Debut Authorhood. And in the presentation I referenced this post. So since I'm still buried after coming back from a week away, I thought it'd be a good time to rerun this post. And let me tell you, these stages don't change much. I learned a lot with my debut release, but the release of MELT INTO YOU still came with many of these stages too. 

On to the post...

From January 2012:

I've almost made it through month one of my debut release. The month has been an exciting, exhausting, and emotional whirlwind. I have lots of blog post ideas spinning through my head about the experience, what I've learned, and what I'd do differently.

But first I thought I'd give you a brief overview of what my debut month looked like.


The Five Emotional Stages of a Book Launch


A Big Smile
Photo by Anil Mohabir
Week One: Book Release Euphoria

You're so damn happy, you can't feel your face anymore because you're smiling so much. Your book is out there! People are talking about it, blogging about it, authors you're a fangirl of are tweeting congrats to you. You walk into your local bookstore and there it is--your book on the freaking shelf! You vacillate widely between wanting to cry and wanting to break out into song in public. You're so busy, you're lucky if you remember to eat and sleep.

facebook engancha
Photo by Olga Palma
Week Two: Obsession

You're guest blogging like a mad woman, responding to comments, tweeting about your blog tour, and trying to do you normal writing too. But that's not why you're at your computer. Nope, you're there because now you're obsessed. What's my Amazon ranking this hour? What are reviewers saying? How many ratings do I have on Goodreads? Ooh, is that a new review? What are people saying about me and my book? I need to google myself again. Must. Check. One. More. Time. It's maddening.

Geo Burn Out-1
Photo via gb_packards
Week Three: Burning Out

This is when the flip side of weeks one and two rears its ugly head. In all your obsession, you've realized not everyone thinks you're made of awesome and sugar cookies. It's inevitable. We anticipate that. Hell, we're writers. We're built on rejection. How much did we see to get to this point? But anticipating it and seeing it on the interwebs are two different things. Rejection up to this point hasn't felt personal. It's been more like structured feedback or the general "no thanks" from the agent. But online, people have no qualms about making it personal, saying mean things, or even making assumptions about what kind of person you are. Maybe one day that stuff just rolls off, but at least for me, I found it affecting my mood and distracting me from whatever I was supposed to be working on. (I'll blog about this in more depth another day.)

Felix hiding under the covers
Photo via Tracey Adams 
Week Four: Collapsing in Exhaustion and Cocooning

You're tired. Really bone tired, but also creatively and emotionally drained. You crave to get back to your routine and your life. For me, this meant a bit of cocooning or insulating myself. I stepped away from the week two obsession. If someone brings my attention to a review, I'll read it. Otherwise, I don't need to go out and see everything anyone has ever said about me or the book. And I don't need to say yes to everything.

Balance of nature
Photo by James Jordan
Week Five: Finding Balance and Re-Focusing on Why You're Doing This In the First Place

You realize the reason why you're doing all this stuff is because you love to write. You would like to make a living doing it. So you back away from all the hoopla and get back to your keyboard and your story. I'm not totally here yet, but I'm hoping by next week I will be, lol.

So those are my thoughts after four weeks, about 50 blog posts (counting guest posts and my own blogs), comment answering, completing copy edits on two books, plus trying to draft another with a tight deadline. *downs a shot of tequila* 

So what do you think? If you're published, have you experienced any of this? If you're hoping to get published, what do you think will be your biggest challenge during your book release? 

Fill-Me-In Friday: Best Writing Links of the Week


My view at last night's dinner.

Sorry today's post is up very late and that I din't get a chance to comment back on your comments about love scenes this week. I've been on a beach vacation in Florida and had no idea that the hotel wouldn't have wireless internet. Ack. Not good a week before a book release let me tell you. But now I'm back (well, in New Orleans at least) where I have wifi again. Yay.

Hope you all had a great week. Here are the best links I came across (amazing how much blog reading you can get done by phone when you're stuck in a car for hours.).

On Writing/Publishing:

Writing Craft: Mechanics Vs Spark via PubRants

A Freelance Editor Talks About Authors’ “Habits” & Predictable Writing via Kill Zone

Is Reading Fiction . . . Safe? via WordServe Watercooler

4 Writing Crutches that Insult the Reader’s Intelligence via Kristen Lamb

A Quick Look At Tag lines via Pub Rants

25 Things You Should Know About Writing Sex via Chuck Wendig (He goes over a lot of what I cover in my class, only with more expletives.)

Maximizing Our Creativity–The Transformative Power of Q via Kristen Lamb

“Publishing isn’t a Meritocracy, it’s a Casino*” by Kameron Hurley

By the Numbers: Earning Out the Advance on a First Novel | Kameron Hurley

The Essential Guide to (Not) Responding to Critics by Jeff Goins

The Sharp Angle: Knowing When to Let Go


On Social Networking and Marketing:

Best of the Web Book Marketing Tips for the Week of June 25, 2012 via Author Marketing Experts

‘Social’: Over the Top via Writer Unboxed

How Should Writers Handle Facebook Frustrations? via Jody Hedlund

Why I Think Some Authors "Go Hermit" via Michelle Davidson Argyle

Writer Unboxed » 5 Encouraging Reasons To Build Your Writer Platform

Karen Baney » Marketing 101 For Authors

Why I Prefer Social Media Promo to In-Person | Mystery Writing is Murder

Where to Get Photos For Your Blog « Writerland

Writer Unboxed » I Have No More Advice Left to Give


That's all for me. Hope y'all have a good weekend. And remember next week is MELT INTO YOU release week! Woo-hoo!  

Does SWAG Sell Books?

Some swag I kept from RTSo it's the time of the year where I start preparing for my trip to RWA Nationals. This year will be my third year attending, but the first time I'll be attending as a published author. (Yay!) It's my fave conference of the year because I get to see so many writer friends I only get to see once a year, so I'm really looking forward to it.

But one of the things I need to tackle sooner rather than later is deciding on what kind of promo or swag (stuff we all get) to create and bring. The standard is post cards, bookmarks, and pens. But when I start looking at the prices of the stuff, I start thinking of that big bag of junk I end up with at the end of conferences. And honestly, most of those bookmarrks and paper swag ends up in the trash or left in my hotel room. The pens I keep, but do I ever really look up that author's name who created the pen? Not really. Same goes for things like post-it notes. I may use them, but it doesn't necessarily make me find out more about the author.

What does work on me is if I see an author give a workshop and I like what they have to say, I look them up and possibly buy one of their books. Or if I meet an author and have a conversation, I may then look for their books. But the free pocket flashlights, stress balls, key chains, cups, etc. do nothing. Even an excerpt booklet usually goes unread.

Even the buttload of free books that I come home with aren't immediate sales tools. I still have so many that are on my shelf that I haven't had time to read. (This, btw, doesn't mean that I will not happily take home more free books from this conference. Let's not talk crazy now. Free books. Free books! That's like waving heroin in front of an addict.)

So that leaves me wondering if I should even bother spending money on stuff people are probably going to throw away anyway. I know I need business cards for people I meet, but other than that, I'm not sure the rest is worth it.

But maybe I'm an anomaly. Maybe other people love that stuff. So I'm throwing the question out to you guys. Has swag ever sold you on something? If so, what was it? And what do you do with all the swag you get from conferences?

*Btw, the swag in the picture I kept because I either already like/knew the author, saw the author give a workshop and wanted to remember to look them up, or I wanted to use their swag to research my own potential swag.

Author Websites: What Do Readers Want?


eBook Reader

Photo by goXunuReviews

I referenced this post on Dear Author about author websites on Fiction Groupie yesterday when I talked about Can You Know Too Much About an Author, but I want to touch on a separate issue today:

What do readers most want from an author website?

In the comments section of that Dear Author post, hardly anyone talked about blogs (except to say they don't like the blog to BE there in place of a website). Most of the things people focused on were pretty straightforward:


  • Have a clean, user friendly design (No flash, autoplay music, etc.)
  • Make your books easy to find and buy.
  • Make series lists and backlist titles available and clear so that people know the order of your books.
  • Keep things updated.
  • Provide a Current Release and a Coming Soon page.
  • Have an FAQ and Contact page.
  • Excerpts.

Basically people want to be able to find information easily and quickly. Period. If they have to hunt for your book information, you've lost them.

One of the commenters, KKJ, offered this list of those she thinks have good websites:

The good:
http://tessadare.com/ – book trailers!

 These are good examples and I recommend checking them out. (And interestingly, many of these don't have blogs at all, but simply a news page.) But this left me wondering, beyond these basics, what makes an author website stand out? What do readers want to see when they go to an author website?

So I'm asking you guys...what kinds of things do you want on your favorite author's website?

Do you want a newsletter option? 

Do you prefer to have a news page separate from a blog?

Do you want "extras"?

If so, what kind of extras do you like--playlists, cut scenes, stories about how the stories came to be, interesting research tidbits, downloadable bookmarks, videos, live chats?

What would make you come back beyond just looking up the next release?

And I'm sure there are more questions I'm forgetting, but I really want to hear from y'all. So I'd love for everyone to let me know in the comments what your thoughts are on all these things.