The surprising ways signing up for a newsletter isn’t as helpful as you think.

Words: 1028
Time to read: 5 minutes

I see it a lot on social media in the writing community–people sign up for each other’s newsletters to be supportive, thinking they are doing a good thing. I would never want to discourage anyone from trying to help out another author. Support and encouragement are so important, and sometimes just a simple, “I’m here for you if you need me” can be the difference between an author opening their laptop and writing that next chapter or walking away from everything for good.

So when someone mentioned they sign up for newsletters to show support and I said unless you’re engaging with that content it’s not really that helpful, I felt bad. I felt bad for making her feel bad because she genuinely thought what she was doing was a good thing. She, and a few others, were surprised signing up for a newsletter wasn’t as supportive as they thought it was, but here’s why signing up for a newsletter and not opening that email and enjoying and engaging in that content can be a real downer for the author sending out that newsletter.

Most email aggregators are pay to play. Unless you send out your own newsletter, you probably don’t realize that authors usually pay for their newsletter aggregators. Some of them have a free threshold, such as MailChimp at 500 email subscribers, or MailerLite who will let you have 1,000 under their free plan. Some you pay for the second you sign up, so every email they collect counts. Successful indie authors can afford their lists, and having some dead weight probably doesn’t hurt them as much as smaller authors who stretch their marketing pennies. So keep in mind that the author you’re supporting might very well be paying for you to be on their list.

We know if you’re not opening our newsletters. With the built-in stats our aggregator provides, we know if you’re opening our newsletters or not. Maybe not YOU specifically, but MailerLite tells me my open rate for each newsletter I send out. You can sign up for a newsletter from every author friend you have, but how supportive are you if you’re not opening the emails sent to you? If you just automatically toss them into the trash? Like people who promote their books for no sales, authors get discouraged when they send out newsletters and no one bothers to look at them. Here are the stats from my newsletter I sent out in March:

A picture of my stats. The subject like of that newsletter was Blizzards, Sales, and Rockstars. The stats are 570 recipients, 33.69% open rate, and 1.23% of those clicked on the link inside the newsletter.

I have 570 email subscribers and only 33.69% of them opened my email. I included a link to something, I can’t remember what to now, but only 1.23% of that 33.69% bothered to click. Authors can cull their lists when they get too expensive and there’s not enough engagement for the cost, but it’s better all around if you’re signing up for newsletters from content creators that you’ll enjoy hearing from.

A low open-rate can affect our ability to join promotions. Authors who use newsletter builder sites and promotional sites such as StoryOrigin and Bookfunnel want to know what your open rate is before they’ll join in promos with you or ask you to join in theirs. That’s another reason why signing up for a newsletter but not opening and engaging with that content is hurtful. Tammi Labrecque who wrote Newsletter Ninja and runs the Newsletter Ninja: Author Think Tank Facebook group says a good open rate is about 40%. If you’re not opening the newsletters you sign up for, you’re hurting our chances of getting into these promotions. That’s the opposite of being supportive.

We start and offer newsletters to sell our product. The main reason we start a newsletter is to reach our customers. If you’re an author, you start a newsletter to hopefully sell your books to your subscribers. We want to build a community of readers who want to read our books and are willing to buy them. If you’re just signing up for a newsletter and not engaging with the content, you’re not going to want to buy our books. If you won’t give us your time, you definitely aren’t going to give us your money. Newsletters are an author’s strongest marketing tool–but only if their subscribers want to be on it and are happy to hear from us.

If you really want to support your author friends, the best thing you can do is read their books and talk about them. If they write in genres you don’t read, that’s not your fault and being truthful can go a long way. It’s an author’s job to promote their books, not yours, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do. I’ve turned down three people in the past couple of weeks who have asked me to read and review their books. I don’t read in those genres and I said no. With running this blog, sending out my newsletter, writing my books, and working full-time, I’m stretched thin, and that’s okay.

This wasn’t a blog post to tell you never to sign up for a newsletter, but be selective and sign up for newsletters from people you want to hear from because you enjoy their work. Of course we love it when we see new subscribers, but we want those subscribers to open our emails, enjoy the content, click on the links, and look forward to new releases. It’s difficult starting a newsletter and feeling like you’re not writing to anyone. It’s difficult to write a blog to no one, and it’s difficult to write a book when you have no readers. We all start somewhere, and little by little we grow our community. The writing community isn’t necessarily going to be your reading community, and that’s fine. We all write different genres and it’s one of the reasons I don’t share my newsletter link on Twitter–or on the blog for that matter. If anyone wants to sign up–they know how. The link is at the end of my books, and that’s the best way to gain subscribers.

How do you support your fellow authors and friends who write? Let me know, and have a great week!

8 thoughts on “The surprising ways signing up for a newsletter isn’t as helpful as you think.

  1. Such a helpful and so very truthful post. I have 22 subscribers and see the things you’ve mentioned here. It’s nice to have family and friends support you by signing up, but I’ve struggled to find ways to get them engaged. I always end with a relevant question and multiple ways to reply and engage, but get little back in the return. I plan to break open the Newsletter Ninja book to see if that can be helpful. Thankfully, I only send out the newsletter every other week right now, but you’re right…nothing feels like a waste of time than drafting a solid newsletter, only to hear crickets in the inbox.

    How I support fellow authors and friends? I read their books. I leave reviews when I remember to do so, and share their books with others. I find myself becoming more open in genres I didn’t think I’d like by doing this so when I read the books, it’s no longer just because they are friends.

    Have a great week, Vania!

    Liked by 2 people

  2. I agree. When I sent out those couple of newsletters, I was disappointed to see the zero number of people who even opened it after a few days. I wasn’t discouraged, but then, the conversation with you made me put it aside for a while – like I told you.

    I usually don’t click on links – any, not just in newsletters – that promote Science Fiction and Fantasy books together. I won’t know which one is which and I dislike reading science fiction. Otherwise, you can guarantee an open rate from me.

    How do I support my fellow authors?
    – I buy their books.
    – Review as much as I can.
    – If I didn’t like a book, I’ll tell that honestly in the review, but as my opinion as a reader.
    – I sometimes open the blog links they share, if I have the time to read.

    Thanks for this post! As always, it’s very informative and enlightning!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Those “opened” stats are misleading. The way they work is the newsletter includes a tiny image with a URL unique to the recipient. The web server makes a note when that URL is read. This can go wrong two ways: 1. some mail providers (notably gmail) read the URL even if you don’t open the email, and 2. some mail programs intentionally skip opening those images because they’re obviously trackers. So these stats are both counting non-opens as opens, and opens as non-opens.

    On top of that, this kind of tracking is straight up illegal in the EU, so if any of your subscribers are from Europe, your mail provider isn’t even going to attempt to do tracking of those users.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for the information! There is a lot about privacy that I don’t keep track of much, and overall I just wanted to say that if you’re not going to enjoy the content of a newsletter, don’t bother signing up. I don’t make it mandatory to trade your email for my reader magnet, and I do get more downloads of my book than signups, but when I do get them, I hope they want to be there. Nice seeing you around! I hope you’re doing well. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.