Author Newsletters with Margaret McGriff

We have the fabulous Margaret McGriff back to talk about newsletters for authors! From why people want to hear from us (no really) to what we should talk about, and how often, and what to do when our newsletters flop, she’s got great help for the writer facing down that terrible newsletter.

Video (from Twitch and YouTube):

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Transcript:

Laura
All right, now we should have picture and sound, let’s try this. Yes, hello, everybody. And we have friends in the chat. This is great. Yes. Tonight we have Margaret back. And as you can see, I didn’t even start with the me screen. We got to get to all the Margaret all the time tonight. So we’re just jumping straight in to all the good stuff. And I’m sorry, let me make sure the phone is muted. What jerk didn’t have her phone completely turned off? That definitely wasn’t me. Sure it wasn’t me.

Laura
OK, so Kate WorkAppropriateGoth Bridger ShyRedFox like everybody. Awesome. Great. So one super quick reminder. Today is June the 1st, at least in my time zone. And so probably should look at your author snapshots. Just saying, no pressure, no judgment, just a little hint. There you go. And and then, yeah, now it’s all about newsletters, so. If you guys, I’m just going to pump Margaret for information until we run out of time, but if you guys have questions, please throw them into the chat because otherwise I’m going to monopolize because that’s how I go.

Laura
Oh, Amy’s got her snapshot done and she’s getting to feel smug about it. It’s completely denies smug about awesome. So I, I think I’m just going to I’m just going to lead in with Laura getting to feel smug now that Amy is giving me that opening when we had our Patreon and Ko-Fi (I’m trying really hard to train myself to say coffee) and the subscriber talk. And one of the things that came up was how important it was to have your own mailing list and be able to communicate to people directly and not through social media or something like Ainu.

Laura
I didn’t even prompt anybody to say that like that came up. It was unscripted. And so so there we go. So this is the good follow up with now that somebody who’s not me has again affirmed how important a mailing list is or, you know, some means of direct communication. Let’s talk about that. So, Margaret, I’m sure you have heard absolutely every excuse and whine and complaint in the book. But just in case! She’s like, there’s nothing, you have not heard. There is nothing.

Margaret
No, no, nothing whatsoever.

Laura
By the way, I just need to throw out PJZooFit in the chat, says, quote, Margaret, you are my hero. End quote. So that is all. Yes. So you could start there. And she says she’s going to have questions too, so great.

Laura
But yeah. So big, big thing I think a lot of us start with is, why do people want to hear from me? Like, I make my imaginary friends fight each other for my amusement? What on earth am I going to do? Like to talk to people? Not about my characters. So. So hold my hand.

Margaret
Yeah. Yeah. See, that’s the thing, right? If we want to write books for others to read, we have to get comfortable with telling people about our said books. Right. And I’m not going to lie. The icky feeling never totally goes away, but I think newsletters give you that practice. At least you don’t have to say it out loud. It’ll kind of help you practice actually writing it out and getting used to talking to people, you know, because you you have to be able to market yourself.

Margaret
And part of marketing yourself is telling people about your book. So, like, you can’t just put your book out and people will magically appear. Maybe like 12, 15 years ago, maybe, maybe. But now you really have to make that effort to not only stand out among the twenty million books coming out, but you have to be comfortable telling people about it and talking about it and and telling people about your story. And one of the great things about email is, is that if somebody took the time to type in their precious email because you know how we all are about emails, right? We don’t just let any and everybody email us. Right. So if they took the time to type in their email, you can feel pretty confident that they actually do want to hear from you. Right. If they downloaded your freebie, you can be confident that they want to hear from you and you can’t get that same kind of confidence or that same kind of 100 percent guarantee with social media. Right. A lot of times we follow people and we only remember we follow them like they just get lost in the ether.

Margaret
We just saw the one thing and we kind of forget. But email, we check our emails every day. There are stats there that say that people still do emails and people still check their inboxes. So you can be confident people want to hear from you. So do you ever get that nagging feeling and be like, you know what, these ten twenty one hundred, three hundred people gave me their email address, so I’m pretty sure they want to hear about myself.

Laura
I am totally taking that thing that you said and using it on me. No, it’s not that I have to write an email to people. It’s that I get to take my time to carefully craft my words and not pitch to their face. Like that’s completely better for me.

Margaret
Exactly. And what makes it easier that I find too because a lot of objections that people have with email newsletters as well. I don’t have anything published yet. Awesome. Because the pressure to sell has totally been taken off your plate. Now you just get to just talk about your characters, talk about your favorite things, talk about your hobbies, talk about the books you’ve read and there’s no pressure to sell a thing, you know. So by the time your book does come out, if you are consistent with that newsletter, by the time it comes out, people are like, I have it bought already. Well, already in my cart, already on my on my Goodreads list, because you’ve built that relationship right.

Margaret
So actually makes the selling so much easier because you spent the time developing that relationship as opposed to somebody who waits. So the book comes out and then you’re like, oh my God, now I have to sell to people and people like I have no idea who you are. So it just it makes the pressure and it makes the overwhelming the stress so much harder when you do have something to sell.

Margaret
Right. So if you don’t have a book published yet, that’s awesome, because when you get to have fun, you get to relax. You get to be you, you know, until your book is ready to come out. And I can take a year, two years before my first fantasy book came out, I took two years. And those two years, I’ll send an email every month and I would talk about the book. I talked about the journey.

Margaret
I talked about books that were similar to mine that I made sure I read, you know, so all these things that you can include in your newsletter to establish that relationship so that by the time your book comes out, everybody’s like, good, I’m on board, I’m sold, you know, or let me be on your team or.

Laura
Yeah, you know, like, no, I good don’t have to. It’s not that I have to sell them on me and it’s like, no, you don’t have to sell them your book.

Margaret
Exactly. Exactly right.

Laura
PJ has a question, which is a really good question. I just did this last week, so I need you to tell me if I was right or not. OK, I have a blog and a newsletter and they are connected as far as audience. So if I blog about something, is sending a newsletter considered too repetitive or is there no such thing as too much promotion?

Margaret
No, it’s not repetitive because different people choose to read on different things, right? So if I don’t purposely go to your blog every day and know in the back of my brain that has 20 million other things going on, when your blog post comes out, nine times out of ten people aren’t going to go directly to your blog to find it. So if you email me and there are people that I follow all the time on Instagram, they email me. Oh, that’s right. I saw their blog post on Instagram, forgot to go look it up because, you know, Instagram only gives you links in your bio, but they email me and it’s like, oh, cool, it’s right here. I want to read this anyway. So, no, it’s not repetitive at all.

Margaret
In marketing, they say that it takes what we call seven touches in order for someone to remember. So seven touches means seven different ways to promote the same thing.

Margaret
Right. So you got blog. You got newsletter, you got Instagram. You might have stories. You might have YouTube, because our attention spans are like this big. Right. So we have to sometimes be repetitive. It’s repetitive to us. But where we get inundated with so much information on a daily basis, it’s not like we’re only seeing stuff from you all day, every day we’re getting all of this other information. So we might have seen it on Monday and said, yeah, I wanted to read it, but I forgot.

Margaret
Oh, so-and-so emailed me, though, so it’s literally like right here I can click the link to read on my phone and we’re good to go. So no, it’s not repetitive at all.

Laura
Some authors who emailed me to to tell me that the blog post is up and like this is what I’m talking about the blog. Here’s the link. I’m like you sneak. I see what you did to enhance the deliverability of your email by making me click a link in it like, yes, that was clever. So I’m totally doing that. So yeah, yeah, yeah. And that’s a whole pile of worms on increasing your deliverability and all that kind of thing.

Margaret
And yeah. Yeah, that can get a little bit complicated.

Laura
So but the short version, having a link in your email that people actually want to click on is a good thing, so. All right, cool. Yeah. Guys, feel free to throw in questions because otherwise I’m just going to keep her. OK, just go. OK, so one of the things I struggle with and I’m I know it’s not just me, I’m just the poster child for tonight because I sit down and I’m like, oh, I have so many things going on in my life.

Laura
Like, I’m so busy, I’m so distracted, I have eighteen, whatever. And then I sit down and I’m like, newsletter. Huh? Yeah, yeah, And it’s the exact same thing that occurs to me, at least, it feels like when people are like, hey, welcome our new member, Laura, introduce yourself and you’re like. I have two hands…., have you even what what does that.

And so do you have like do you use a structure? Do you have you know, I try to write things down that I think are interesting and then then I have them when they come around a bit. But do you have a — like I have themes for the show because otherwise I’d never have topics. So I have themes for the show. Do you. Yes. Structure for newsletter. How do you do that?

Margaret
I do. I do. And I really just have a structure for my content overall and that’s kind of like another big can of worms. But it kind of plays into it because I usually plan my marketing a month in advance. So I usually start with an overall theme. So for example, I’ll talk I’ll think about in April, I’ll release a secret library. Right. So I know April, it is all about Secret Library. So it is going to be about Secret Library and my email newsletters, which I sent out a couple of emails, but my email newsletter is also going to be secret library things.

Margaret
But I already know that in March. So throughout March I’m thinking of ideas and I have segmented topics like repeated topics for each of my newsletters, kind of like sections, because who’s trying to reinvent the wheel? You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time. Right? So I already know what my is look like. So if I come across something, I literally go on my Google doc and I’m like, talk about this thing or I see a funny video.

Margaret
OK, put the link to that video in there and Google Docs, because I can access it from any computer on my laptop, my desktop, my phone. So wherever I find it, I can just look it up and put it in there. Right. Some of the time it comes down to sitting down to write it. It basically has written itself right, it’s like my intro is usually something that’s personal that I’ve already shared on IG because I already have the theme right.

Margaret
Let just go to my IG caption and I’ll copy a piece. They tweak it a little bit, put it in there, because, again, not everybody follows me on Instagram, you know, so Emi Seeker like

Laura
A weight that’s come off my shoulders when I’m like, yeah, I can repurpose content to

Margaret
listen, listen. And repurposing is life, OK? So like if you want to have book reviews in your newsletter and you’re like you do bookstagram. What was the last book you reviewed on bookstagram? Copy that one, tweak it a little bit. I may go to the book and pull a quote or something from Amazon and Link and you’re done like it doesn’t have to be you don’t have to recreate the wheel. You don’t have to reproduce brand new stuff every single time. You know, I think the only thing in my newsletter that I produced from scratch is my writing updates because and that’s easy because I know what I’m doing right. I know what’s happening.

And that’s really it. Maybe the personal thing if something relevant comes up, but normally that’s repurposed from Instagram. My book reviews are repurposed from Instagram. I have links to cool stuff that I found online. So those are kind of things that keep track of stuff. It’s like a video or meme or a link to something or a friend’s book comes out. I just go my little Google doc, make sure you talk about this thing and that thing and the other thing.

Margaret
So, yeah, that that’s kind of like my system. I think the structure of having my email newsletter sections planned out ahead of time kind of lets me know when I sit down to write, OK, this goes in this section, this goes in this section. This goes in this section. And it takes me about an hour, hour and a half and we’re done. So that kind of helps me with the whole what do I write about anything, you know?

Laura
So I’m going to interrupt you just long enough to say, hey, guys, I’m really sorry I screwed up the stream. Margaret will be back in a minute. I just accidentally disappeared your face. But it will come back. It’s already back. It’s just I think it’s getting up. Yeah. And I was going to switch the video here so that I could bring up your newsletter that you just sent out so we could talk about. Sure, you’re in it. But I’m kind of scared myself when I.

Let’s see if I can. OK, let me see. Yes. Margaret up here without. Without losing you again, hold on. I’m really sorry I did I did OK. I did do this before we went live, but that was without you in the Zoom and apparently it’s being finicky.

Margaret
That’s OK. We can totally talk. Just imagine me in Tony Stark’s garage with all the Iron Man things in the back. And we’re good.

Laura
We’re good. Oh, yeah. Like, OK. Oh, whoa. There’s a lot of Margaret.

Margaret
Oh, hey, that’s me. All right.

Laura
We go right here and you can point over it, whatever you would like to. OK. All right. All right, and so, yeah, and P.J. says, I just realized that if it’s the tenth time I posted something, it might be the first time someone else is reading it, which is exactly, exactly the point you were making. And then Bridger says that we had a Laura-ception, which was totally the case because I got a little excited and hit the wrong thing, so.

Laura
All right. All right. So, yeah. Can you see the the your newsletter? Yeah. Yeah. It started out like this really pretty header. So I’m just going to be a little bit jealous of all the things.

Margaret
All right, listen, Cannava is life and in convert kit, once you do a template, I don’t have to upload that that header, the header or the footer. I don’t have to upload it every time. So convert kit is life when it comes to templates like that.

Laura
So pretty and on brand, and makes me think summery thoughts.

Margaret
Branding is important. Branding is totally important. So yeah. So that first section I always start with something personal. I look at my email news list as kind of just one person that I’m talking to. So instead of getting that overwhelmed, like I have to be this authorly person that has all of these fans, it’s like, no, we don’t have to do all of that. It’s as if I’m talking to a friend because I do consider the people on my list, friends like we’ll email back and forth.

Margaret
They will share things about themselves. I will ask them to share things about themselves. It’s a conversation. It’s a relationship. It’s not. I’m just handing you this newsletter with stuff I want to engage them in, kind of talk about the things that they might be talking about. So I just happen to take my first vacation after a whole year of COVID, and I’m pretty sure everybody can relate to, like, either going out for the first time, going somewhere or getting ready to do so.

Margaret
That’s what I kind of opened up with. And the key with that is I don’t just make it about myself. I’ll start out with myself. But then at the end, I say, you know what? You need to go and take a break. And what something that you’ve done that makes you happy. Or if you can’t travel, find something, go somewhere. So that way you can recharge. So I always want to make sure that I’m giving something inspirational and positive to my new subscriber in that first section.

Margaret
Now, that second section totally off of IG. That was an IG post that I did about the three different characters that happened to be in Secret Library. So I didn’t say, you know, the Secret Library characters in there, but I started off with those three things and asked them which one they are inviting them to, to e-mail me back if they want to. And then at the very end, kind of like your commercials where you get to the end of the commercial that tells you what the product is.

Margaret
And that’s where you get to click to buy from Amazon and the paperback and all that stuff. So that section is always dedicated to oh, and then reviews to that like the screenshots show people. Now this is the fun part. This is where the. Did you see this? Now I get to have fun and put in like so you Laura with your memes like this will totally be cute. Right. So I put in a little means because as I said in my header, a Marvel fan all day. Every day. Right. So nine times out of ten, I’m going to talk about something Marvel related in this section. Right. People know that. So they kind of expect it. Right.

Margaret
So and I had like three people email me just to say LOL at this scene after getting the newsletter. Awesome, right.

Laura
Because yes. Yeah, it was a great scene.

Margaret
And then the book review is one that I did again. It was straight off of Instagram. I just shortened it a little bit because I tend to be rambling on Instagram. I just shortened it a little bit. And that’s that section, right then my writing updates come next, those kind of write themselves because I actually know what’s going on. And then at the bottom, I participate in promo reviews like our newsletter swaps.

Margaret
So those kind of go in at the end of the newsletter and then you have the footer there that’s always there and also links to my books and all that wonderful stuff. And that’s it. But literally in my Google doc, I have each of those sections kind of like laid out, so I’ll just put in little notes or anything that happens to them. By the time I come to sit down and do my newsletter and I know I’m talking about.

Laura
So the key here is to not sit down and go now what? but to be accumulating throughout the month. Anything that makes me giggle, I should write this down kind of thing. Speaking of things that make me giggle, we have to take check in with a chat for a minute, because we have two chatters who are terrified of, you said, I consider my subscribers my friends, and we have two chatters who are terrified of their subscribers. So we need to have a little talk about this. Oh, OK. Also, Grace is being bullied by her chickens, and there’s like a whole thread about how many chickens and rapidly escalating chickens. And that’s the new punk band name. And let’s just.

Margaret
Oh, my God.

Laura
Delightfully out of control over there. So we’re going to leave. We’re going to hope that Grace and her chickens get sorted, the effort to help with that. So that’s good. But for our for our chatters who are not as comfortable with their subscribers, probably doing the same thing I do, which is, But they’re going they need to think that I’m an adult.

Laura
What is like like like do you write to a person that just happens then to go to many people? Do you think of speaking to a collective audience? What’s what’s good? How do you how do you do this?

Margaret
I think of one person and that one person should always be who your ideal reader is. I think if you try to think of a collective or even worse, everybody, you know, then that’s too much pressure to kind of appease everyone, you know. And I look at it as by the time you read my header, you already know what I’m about. Right? So if you are a DC fan and can’t stand Marvel, nine times out of ten, you’re not going to read the rest of the newsletter.

Margaret
And that’s cool, because my ideal reader loves Marvel. My ideal reader loves quick reads. She’s someone that doesn’t have enough time to read stuff. So that’s why I make the sections easy to read. That’s why my titles are color coded so she can quickly skim it and she can read it later. It’s really important just with anything marketing in general. I say before you start doing anything you really need to nail down your ideal reader is I’m talking about you.

Margaret