How to do an author NEWSLETTER with MailChimp

What is an author newsletter? Do you need one? How do you go about doing one?

An author newsletter is an automated email sent to a list of subscribers to tell them about new releases, special promotions , contests or other information.

Unlike using Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or other social media platforms, a newsletter allows you to be in complete control of the message. You are not subject to anyone’s rules or limitations. And unlike your own blog or website, you don’t rely on people to stumble upon your site—you contact them directly.

An author newsletter is a MUST if you are self-published and still a highly recommended if you’re with a publisher. A newsletter allows you to send a specific message to a target audience predisposed to liking your books.

The newsletter program I use is MailChimp so the rest of this information will apply to that program. But not only can you use MailChimp to create newsletters, you can use it as a way of being able to grow your business. This is known as MailChimp integrations. This platform creates a path for companies to keep int touch with their clients, manage subscribers and activities, as well as being able to design content.

How do you do a newsletter?

  1. Log on to MailChimp.com and open an account.
  2. Create a “list.” This is the file that will contain your subscriber’s email addresses. It will also have your name, email, and mailing address that will become part of your future newsletter.
  3. Create a “form.” You use a form to gather subscriber emails. There are a few basic types: a “general form” is an URL unique to your MailChimp account that allows people to sign up. You can use this URL in blog posts, on Facebook , on Twitter, in the backmatter of your books. My general form is this: http://eepurl.com/9aRJj. You will also probably want an “embedded form,” which is a line of HTML code that creates a signup box. MailChimp creates this for you. You don’t need to know HTML. You can also create a “Popup” form – that will create a Popup menu when people visit your site. I don’t use this one.
  4. Publicize your newsletter signups to enroll subscribers. Put it on your blog, in your bio, in your backmatter.

    This what the embedded form on my blog looks like. The actual form is at the top of the sidebar.

  5. Create your newsletter. Each newsletter is called a “campaign” in MailChimp language. You pick a template and then upload and copy/paste your information into it. I recommend writing your copy in Word and then pasting it into the template rather than trying to write it in the template.
  6. Run a test.
  7. Click send. It automatically goes out to your newsletter subscribers.

Pros and cons of MailChimp

  1. Initially MailChimp is a little “squirrelly” to figure out. The first time I logged onto MailChimp, I wasn’t sure I was in the right place. It didn’t look like anything. I didn’t understand Mail Chimp lingo like “campaigns” “embedded forms” “A/B Split” My first newsletter took me HOURS of practice to figure out.
  2. Once I muddled through that first newsletter it was amazingly, shockingly easy. It takes me about 10 minutes to do a newsletter now.

    This is the MailChimp homepage. I don't know what the shirt is all about. The first time I logged on, I thought I was in the wrong place.

    This is the MailChimp homepage. I don’t know what the shirt is all about. The first time I logged on, I thought I was in the wrong place.

  3. MailChimp is free until you get 2,000 subscribers and then you have to pay for it. I figure if I get 2,000 subscribers, paying for the service will be worth it.
  4. MailChimp allows you to see which subscribers are opening your newsletter and whether they are clicking on the links.

My personal recommendations

  1. It’s relatively easy to get people to subscribe to a newsletter by offering a prize (I did this to get blog signups). But those people generally won’t be genuinely interested in your books. And since you will eventually have to pay for your newsletter service based on the number of subscribers, you are better off slowly building a list of genuine readers than packing it with people who aren’t interested.
  2. MailChimp requires a mailing address, which is automatically embedded on your newsletter. If you don’t want your subscribers to know where you live, get yourself a post office box.

Questions about newsletters?

If you want the latest news on my book or want to see what my newsletter looks like, sign up for my New Release Newsletter here.

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15 Responses to How to do an author NEWSLETTER with MailChimp

  1. C.E. Black says:

    Hi Cara, great post!

    I use mail chimp as well for my newsletter and I am in complete agreement with this > “An author newsletter is a MUST if you are self-published…” The readers that have subscribed to your mailing list, are more than likely waiting for your next book. These are the readers you want to engage and keep updated.

    At first, I didn’t like to give prizes to gain subscriptions, just for the same reasons you pointed out. However, I did need to reach more readers and FB and Twitter wasn’t cutting it any longer. So, I started giving a free download of one of my books to those that signed up. And It really worked. Yes, some of those will likely read the story and move on, but since I started doing it this way, a few months ago, I’ve notice a large increase in sales as well as interaction through the newsletter. It’s something for newsletter newbies to think about.

    Thanks again, Cara!!! xx

  2. Livia Grant says:

    I use Mailchimp and totally agree with you, Cara. Thanks CE, that sounds like an idea I might try out.

  3. Kayla Lords says:

    I agree with you 100%…which is why I need to get off my butt and start the newsletter I said I was going to do six months ago, lol.

    MailChimp has some great features – I used it back in my vanilla non-book marketing days. Another option is Constant Contact but I believe it’s only free for a limited time (although the monthly fees are fairly low). I’ve used both, and each has it’s pros and cons.

    I like C.E.’s suggestion about giving away a free downloadable read. I’ve seen it used in many other industries so it makes sense it would work well for us, too.

    Great post! And thanks for the (completely unintentional) virtual kick in the butt. 🙂

    • Cara Bristol says:

      I only started my newsletter last November (that’s when I started collecting signups). That I didn’t do it sooner–when I first got published–is probably my biggest mistake. It’s certainly my biggest regret. My hangup was that I’m a technophobe, and I’d heard that MailChimp was hard to use. It’s really not. It’s a little confusing at first, but it’s surprisingly easy.

      In retrospect I realize that a newsletter is probably the number one most effective tool you have for promoting your book. It’s better than a website, than a blog, than FB, than twitter. You can’t afford NOT to do one.

  4. Jaye Peaches says:

    I use Mailchimp and have been relying on the slow build technique. I might try the boost with a giveaway. The first newsletter took ages to create, but subsequent ones are much quicker.
    Now I need to go and do my latest one!

  5. Ashe Barker says:

    I use Mailchimp and I agree that is definitely the way to go. Squirrelly is an excellent description of the inner workings, and I still haven’t really got the hang of it but I’m improving. I have offered incentives but mostly my list is the result of a slow burn. I was delighted to reach 100 and generally advertise it on blog hop posts. I pick up a couple of new subscribers most weeks.
    I love the control I have over what I put out. Not sure yet what impact it has on sales, but I just think it makes sense. And all it costs me is my time.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      MailChimp is weird. What is with the shirt on the homepage?

      The time involved gets much shorter after one gets the hang of it.

  6. I don’t have one but I see now that is a mistake. I’ll get on that right away. So how do I start to get people to sign up? Do I contact already interested people who’ve read my work? I’m guessing you guys publish your newsletter only a certain # of times throughout the year. What do you recommend?

    • Cara Bristol says:

      You start publicizing your newsletter the same way you would your book. Announce it on your blog/website, on Facebook, put it in the backmatter of your published books.

      I publish mine when I have a new release. Other authors will send them out monthly or when they have something special to announce (a contest, a freebie, etc.).

  7. Great blog, Cara. I use mailchimp as well. I will add that for my non-paid version of wordpress, I can’t use some of the special features of the service. I work around it but I’m happy I started it last year. Slow build up is good. I did a promo sign up and instantly saw cancellations after the promo.

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Yeah, that happened with my blog signups. However, after CE’s recommendation, I decided to do a promo for my newsletter. It’s ongoing now! Sign up for my newsletter and get a free book.

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