Email is a powerful marketing tool for authors to stay in touch with their readers. To learn more about how authors leverage email newsletters, we asked our partners to share their experiences. Over 500 authors responded to a survey with insights into the purpose of their newsletter, how they manage it, what they do to grow their email list, and more.
If you’re not sure whether to start an author newsletter, we hope this helps you decide whether this marketing channel makes sense for you. If you’re already running a newsletter, get inspired by how other authors use theirs!
Get a quick overview of the survey data from this infographic, or jump below where we break down these author newsletter ideas and trends in more detail.
Who responded to this survey?
85% of the authors who responded to this survey have a newsletter. Of this group, 73% were self-published authors, and nearly half have published 10 or more books. We heard from authors who write in a range of genres, with 42% writing romance.
Why do authors use email newsletters?
We asked authors to describe the purpose or goal of their newsletter, and many of their answers concerned the unique opportunities email offers to connect directly with readers. These authors see email as more personal and reliable than other channels. Authors also cited the importance of being able to own and control their data.
I like to have a way to communicate directly to my readers that doesn’t get glossed over in the social media shuffle.
Not all of my readers are active on my social media channels, nor do they regularly check my website to see what I’m up to. A newsletter is a great way to reach them with my news without them having to go hunting for the information.
I have a newsletter so I can control my communication with readers. Like my website, it is a space I own, where I am not subject to the vagaries of another entity (or at least, not completely). Social media is great, but the algorithms are constantly changing and you can’t control your exposure. Also, if your social media account is hacked or frozen and you don’t have a newsletter as backup, you’re starting completely from scratch.
I have a newsletter to build a rapport with readers on my own terms where I own the data myself, as well as inform them about the things they want to know the most. Books.
A newsletter can be sent at once to hundreds of people, just like a social media post, but it still remains a private connection between you and your readers, allowing you to interact and share with them in a way that’s more meaningful and actionable than a blog or Instagram post.
Some authors also described the purpose of their newsletter in terms of their email marketing goals. These responses included objectives like:
- Sharing news and updates
- Promoting new releases
- Running sales and giveaways
- Offering bonus content and freebies
- Selling more books
- Encouraging reviews
- Building a loyal following
- Recommending fellow authors
As you’d expect, these goals tended to align with the kinds of content authors include in their emails.
What kind of content do they include?
The vast majority of authors (92%) use email to update their readers on new books, and 70% do this in the form of cover reveals.
Authors are also sharing news from their personal lives to deepen connections with readers. 65% of authors use email to share personal stories and updates, including tidbits such as family photos, stories from recent travels, recipes, and recommendations for TV, movies, music, and games.
Several authors described the “Behind the scenes” content they add to their newsletters as research or articles related to the subjects of their books — for example, historical background relevant to a historical novel — and other topics of interest to their readers.
Another 65% of authors feature or review other authors’ books. Some of these respondents go one step further in supporting fellow authors by sharing writing resources and tips in their newsletters.
How often do authors email their subscribers?
Most authors email their subscribers on a set schedule, and the most popular frequency is once a month. Studies have shown that monthly emails hit the sweet spot between bothering readers and running the risk that they forgot they signed up, though experts encourage authors to consider other factors like their release schedule. Newsletter Ninja author Tammi Labreque points out that if you’re releasing books once a month, you’d only be writing your newsletter subscribers when you have something to sell. AuthorBuzz creator M.J. Rose advocates for emailing once a month, but she suggests it depends on your readers and your subject matter. Other authors argue consistency is most important, no matter how frequently you send emails.
A small percentage of authors email their subscribers on an ad-hoc basis, such as when they release a new book. Of the 3% of authors who responded “Other,” frequencies included quarterly, daily, and a regular monthly newsletter in addition to ad hoc announcements. Some authors indicated that email timing can also depend on their personal circumstances or marketing plans at any given time.
How do authors gain new subscribers?
79% of authors have 5,000 subscribers or fewer. Among all respondents, the most common tactics for growing email lists are sharing links in the back matter of their books or on social media. In the “Other” category, responses included ideas like:
- In-person signups at book signings, talks, and other events
- Signups for book clubs
- Mentions on podcasts
- Mentions in Facebook takeovers (events when an author “takes over” another author’s Facebook group to bring new audiences to their books)
If I’m presenting a talk or workshop or doing a book signing, I will provide a link to my email subscription page.
Bonus content is the best! I write a bonus chapter. At the end of the book, readers can download it by joining my list.
I run a Cozy Mystery Book Club where the primary goal is to grow my mailing list.
Which email marketing platforms do authors use?
Of course, the foundation behind an author newsletter is a newsletter platform that makes it easy to email readers and reliably reach their inboxes. We asked authors which platform they use — MailerLite, Mailchimp, and Flodesk were the most popular — and why they chose it. Cost was the biggest factor for how authors selected a newsletter platform, followed by ease of use.
Here’s some of the advice authors shared for choosing a newsletter platform:
Make sure it doesn’t get ridiculously costly as your list grows, and check deliverability.
Look for a tool that feels easy to use. Watch tutorials on YouTube for any service you’re planning to sign up for. If you don’t like the look of the dashboard or it seems too hard for you to master, you aren’t likely to send newsletters. Choose what feels easy and simple to YOU, not what the cool kids are using.
Use what you like and meets your needs. It doesn’t take a lot of flashy features to be effective.
Do you have an author newsletter? Share your experience in the comments below!
Want to share this research? Here are ready-made tweets:
Click to tweet: So interesting! Check out this research from @BookBubPartners if you’re curious to see how other authors are managing their newsletters! More survey data here: https://bit.ly/3n9rurz pic.twitter.com/rk8Dm3xzPY #bookmarketing
Click to tweet: 75% of authors gain new email subscribers through links in their back matter. More interesting data here about how authors run their newsletters: https://bit.ly/3n9rurz pic.twitter.com/ybgMpSPSoO #pubtip
Click to tweet: .@BookBubPartners surveyed authors about how they use newsletters, including what kind of content they include. Such great ideas here! And more interesting data: https://bit.ly/3n9rurz pic.twitter.com/NervvnE9t6