Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The newsletter and how it works

Newsletters are one of those promotional ventures that you’re never sure just how much good they do, but I’m sure they’re worth doing. I started mine a few years ago, around the time my second Greg McKenzie mystery came out. I advertised it as a quarterly, but only managed to write three the first couple of years.

I compiled my mailing list mostly from people who signed up when they bought books at bookstore signings. I carry a three-ring binder with sheets set up to get names, addresses and email addresses. Each sheet holds ten names. I have only sent out one or two newsletters to those who just have a snail mail address, however. As you know, the cost of stamps has become horrendous.

The first year or two, I put the names in my address book in groups of fifteen or so, with the groups named Newsletter 1, Newsletter 2, etc. I would send the newsletter as an email by group.

When that became too burdensome, I switched to Vertical Response. I set up my newsletter there and they email it for a cent and a half per name. Since I usually run around 500, that’s $7.50 per mailing. They handle the list maintenance and give me reports on bounces, unsubscribes, and clicks on any hyperlinks in the newsletter.

Vertical Response provides code to put on your website for people to sign up with a double opt-in system. But any new subscribers I get, I simply upload to my list on their server. The sign-up box is on a website page containing the latest issue of the newsletter. Back issues are on an archives page.

I always get good feedback from several readers after it goes out, and my website visitors take a bounce after I send a newsletter. But there’s really no way to check on how it affects sales. I always include something about new books, though, so hopefully it gets readers to thinking about buying the next one.

Here’s a link to my newsletter page where you can see the latest issue.


kriswaldherr said...

Yup, newsletters are so important for an author! Good for you for finding a service that allows you to pay as you go. It took me a while to find one that I liked that didn't charge a monthly fee. I think your service is cheaper than the one I found, frankly.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I had no idea such a service existed. Thanks for posting this, it'll be good for future reference.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for that link. I've often thought about doing a newsletter, and your comments here are helpful in surmising the work versus worthiness. Good.

Dani said...

Good tip, Chester. Your newsletter looks full of good info, too. You look like you'll be ready for a blog critique soon!


Chester Campbell said...

Thanks for your comments, everyone. Glad I could help someone skip the wheel invention process. Something I need to do is put up a schedule of when it's time to send out another newesletter. I frequently forget.

Jean Henry Mead said...

I love your new site, Chester. You can be sure I'll be a regular visitor.

Helen Ginger said...

Your newsletter is gorgeous, Chester.

My weekly newsletter is entering its 10th year now. But it is not gorgeous. I once asked subscribers if they wanted me to switch to html and all who responded said no. So mine is strictly text.

Mine can go out more often because it's informational not promotional. I use Topica. It's free and I have a sign-up widget on my site. I don't know whether they would charge for one with images like yours.

Shari Lyle-Soffe said...

Definitely food for thought.