I did it. You can finally stop hearing about it . . . after this post. I took the time to watch a few YouTube tutorials and set up the sign up for my newsletter. As with anything when you’re diving into things you don’t know, you learn as you go and sometimes that means taking a step back before you can move forward. Here are a few things I had to figure out during the process. I hope maybe I can save you some headaches. Please check the resources at the end of this post–I’ll direct you to what helped me set this up.
Attach your name/pen name to the correct website. Way back when I was thinking about my newsletter, I didn’t have a pen name on the horizon, or maybe I did, but didn’t understand the technical side of creating a newsletter. When you set up an account through MailerLite you can’t run your newsletter through Gmail, Yahoo, etc and they ask for an email connected to a website. I bought an email account through this website vaniamargene.com and when I did that they assigned my email address as vania (at) vaniamargene.com. I thought that was fine and never thought any more about it. (If I had it to do over again, I would have used vaniarheaultauthor or something like that. I don’t know what possessed me to use my middle name, but here we are.) But now since I did decide to to use a pen name, VM Rheault, I noticed that since my MailerLite account is attached to this website, my emails are going to show up like this in the from field: VR Rheault from vania (at) vaniamargene.com. That’s not such a big deal because I’m not hiding who I am–I couldn’t put on a different persona full time, and I didn’t want to distance myself too much from my books because I’m proud of them and billionaire romance isn’t that different from the contemporary romance I used to write. This would have been a big setback had I chosen a completely different pen name. So if you’re looking to set up a newsletter, make sure the website and business email you choose is going to be connected to the newsletter and everything will be one name.
Think about branding before starting your newsletter. I didn’t think this was a big deal either until watching a couple YouTube videos and learning just what a landing page is and how you can customize it. Brand is such a vague concept to us authors anyway, but when I say brand in this context, you’ve already got the font down you’ll want to use for your author name, maybe a tagline. You know the genre you’re going to be writing under this name, and the images you choose will reflect that. This is my landing page and thank you page after they’ve signed up:
Billionaire romance is usually set in a huge city with penthouses, limos, elegant events, private planes, etc. This is where it’s important to know your genre and what readers are going to expect. Any reader who consumes billionaire romance is going to to be familiar and recognize the big city lights. (There is even a Big City fiction category on Amazon.) I make up all my big cities mainly because I’ve never been to New York and I would never be able to set my books there with any degree of believable detail. I’ve been to Chicago a handful of times and of course, Minneapolis/St. Paul and I can write the vibe of a big city but as far as landmarks and restaurants and famous hotels, not so much. It’s easier for me to make up cities and then I can do what I want. Anyway, I had to make this graphic on the fly, but luckily I had already decided what font I wanted for my author name (and it will go on the my book covers) and it didn’t take much searching through Deposit Photos for an appropriate skyline. This skyline will look nice on bookmarks if I ever wanted to make them, or magnets, business cards. I didn’t by the extended license, so I can’t sell anything, but swag I make using this graphic to give away will fit right into my brand.
You don’t need a website. I thought you needed at least a page on a website for sign ups, but that’s what your landing page through MailerLite is for. Once you create a landing page for your sign up, they give you a link that you post around social media and in the back matter of your books. The only reason you would need a website is if you wanted to add a pop up box for newsletter sign ups. This is good news for me as I didn’t really want to start a new website for my pen name, but I did add a page to this website where I’ll list all my books as I start to publish. To give credit where credit is due, a while back, Liz Durano told me I didn’t need to start a new website and because I had no idea what a landing page was, I didn’t understand what she meant. Now I do. You don’t need to spend time or money setting up a website, though if you’re going to write a lot of books under your name it may be better in the long run to have one. Eventually I’ll end up creating a new website for my VM Rheault books, but I won’t do it solely to have a pop up box for a newsletter.
Chances are you won’t need the business plan for your website, either. When I thought I needed to add the MailerLite plugin to my website, I upgraded my WordPress site for a whopping $200.00/year. That’s a lot of money to me, but I would have paid it out for the sake of my business. Then after I paid, I got a cute little notice saying that they would take away the follow button that allows people to follow me through the WordPress Reader. I’m going to be blogging on this website over anything else I do (I don’t try to sell my books on here anymore, not that I tried to do that so much anyway) and I wanted to keep the button. After I realized I didn’t need to integrate MailerLite with my WordPress website for sign ups, paying that was even harder to swallow. I contacted WordPress customer service through chat and they refunded me and put me back on the plan I had before–they give you 14 days to change your mind. When I get around to making another website for my books, I won’t pay for a business plan then, either. I’m so used to being directed to a landing page for email sign ups, that I’m sure everyone else is, too.
After you have the sign up link, it hits home that you need a reader magnet. When I created my sign up and the thank you page and created my welcome email they’ll receive upon signing up, I realized that you don’t have anywhere to put the link if you’re not giving anything away and you’re not publishing at the moment. Of course, I’ve heard the sign ups you want come from the links in the backs of your books, known as organic sign ups–your true fans. But you only get those when you’re publishing, and I’m working on my books right now. So I have the link but nowhere to put it, and no, I’m not giving it to you because chances are 99% you don’t read billionaire romance and don’t need to sign up for my newsletter. I need to work on my welcome email a little bit more, too. Make sure it sounds how I want it to sound and details what my books will be about and what readers can expect from me down the road. That being said, I need a reader magnet so I can at least put my link up on a site like BookFunnel and maybe join a promo or two for sign ups. Advertising your newsletter looks a lot more attractive if you can give something away, though I know you can be adding freebie seekers to your list. Maybe though, if they read your reader magnet, you will make them a fan. You won’t know until until you know. And by that I mean you won’t know until you release a book readers are expected to pay for.
The writing community is not your reader. You’ll figure this out when you tweet your newsletter link or put it in a post on Instagram. Other writers don’t care about your newsletter–at least if you’re writing fiction. I have subscribed to several non-fiction newsletters that pertain to indie publishing from authors like David Gaughran and Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur, but hey, guess what, I have never read any fiction by those authors. (Some indies are surprised to learn they write fiction at all.) Just like I consume anything Joanna Penn does for the indie author community, but I have never read one of her thrillers she writes under J. F. Penn. The only newsletter sign up link I would share here is if I wanted to start collecting emails for a potential non-fiction book. I don’t think I have anything to offer in way of a how-to book that you can’t find other places and I’m content to blog about my mistakes and successes. You’ll save yourself a lot of weeding down the road if you only give out your sign up link to readers of your genre. You may not grow your list as fast as if you gave out the link to everyone, but most newsletter aggregators charge you based on the number of sign ups you have, and if you’re paying for people to be on your list who are not going to buy your books, they are dead weight and will cost you money.
This begs the question though as to where you can put it, and here are my ideas:
Your Amazon Author Page. You can put the link in your bio.
Your Goodreads bio if they allow it. I tried to Google it but didn’t find any information. Never know until you try.
Add it to your FB author page and/or reader group.
Run ads from your FB author page for sign ups. This will probably only work if you have a reader magnet to give away and want to throw a little money at building your list. (Some advise against this so research for your own conclusions.)
Your books’ back matter.
Promo sites like BookFunnel and StoryOrigin if you use those services to build your list.
I didn’t realize how much I would need to know and while I was setting up my newsletter, it was one step forward and two steps back. Luckily, as I said, I already had an idea as to what I wanted to do with branding, and I was familiar with expectations of the billionaire genre. It’s probably not that big of a deal, you can always go back and change anything, but part of building a brand is brand awareness and for some subscribers, your landing page and thank you page will be their first impression of you.
There are other things I’m still going to have to learn as I begin to collect email addresses. Some authors split their lists between readers who signed up organically and readers who signed up for a freebie. Some have split their lists many different ways, and I don’t know if I’ll do that or how to, at this point. Curating my list and offering them content will be a continual learning process–at least until I’ve done it for a while. But even after publishing for four years, I don’t think you ever can really learn it all. Probably the one thing I can say I did right from the get-go is research the newsletter providers. I’ve heard good things about MailerLite and so fair their platform has been easy to navigate. Unless for some reason down the road I can’t afford them, and have to switch, I will probably always stay with them.
It might have been premature to do this now when I don’t have a reader magnet or book coming out, but I think the hard part is over–starting is always the scariest part.
I watched a few YouTube videos, and I learned quickly that there are a lot of differences between the paid and the free versions of MailerLite. I’m working with the free right now and this tutorial was the best I found. She uses a free plan and starts from the beginning:
MailerLite has their own academy but the tutorial starts with a paid plan–that’s not so helpful.
If you’re worried about the content part of it, Tammi Labrecque’s Newsletter Ninja gives you plenty of ideas. I already had the book, but Liz also recommended it in one of the comments here on the blog. It’s nice to know when something is helpful to more than one person. Tammi also runs a newsletter FB group, and you can find it here.
I made my graphic using Deposit Photos and a website template on Canva. The font I used for my author name is Cinzel and Cinzel Decorative. They are free and you can download it free for commercial use here. (They come in the same zip file so don’t worry if you can’t find the decorative part of the font. It’s included when you download the font.)
Okay, this blog post is super long. I’m going to call it, and see you next time!