Author Newsletters: What to Include and What to Avoid

What you put in your author newsletter has a big impact on whether or not it will engage readers, and creating and maintaining a newsletter that gets results can be challenging. To reach your audience and keep them interested, you need to understand what to include in an author newsletter, tips and tricks to maximize your impact, and what to avoid. Before diving into newsletter content, we recommend reading 5 Steps for Starting an Author Newsletter.

"Creating a great author newsletter means making decisions about what to put in and what to leave out."

Author newsletter basics

Newsletters are different from other marketing emails. They do not focus on selling or promotion. They're not transactional. And they are not just a compilation of recent blog posts. A newsletter is a unique message sent on a fixed schedule that helps you stay in touch with your readers. The content can cover a wide range of topics, including everything from product news to press coverage to articles.

What to include in an author newsletter

The goal of a newsletter is to grow and nurture your relationship with readers. So, think about your readers when you decide what to put in your author newsletter. Here are some general guidelines to follow regarding what to include:

Mostly educational content

Newsletter content should be 90 percent educational and 10 percent promotional, according to HubSpot. One mistake authors make is to craft their newsletters to be entirely self-focused. Yes, your readers signed up for your newsletter because they like you and your books, but they will quickly tire of hearing only about you. Include mostly informative content that helps and educates your readers to keep them interested.

Consistent template

Your newsletter should have the same basic layout each time you send it. Create buckets for content you can fill with new information with each newsletter, and stick with it. (That said, if something isn't working, it's time to make improvements.)

A mix of topics…but not everything

Creating a great author newsletter means making decisions about what to put in and what to leave out. When newsletters cover everything, it tends to overload the readers. Pick the content that most interests your readers.

Author newsletter ideas

The following list includes newsletter ideas to spark your creativity. Don't include everything, or you'll overload your readers with too much information. Choose what works best for you and your audience. Consider what kinds of content you can produce with each send on a consistent basis.

Message from you: Readers love seeing a personal message directly from their favorite authors.

Q&A: Include a few answers to reader submitted questions or create your own questions. You can answer new questions in each newsletter or answer the same question each time, such as what you are currently reading, listening to, or watching.

Article: Write a brief article just for your newsletter, such as one that ties into your expertise, a funny story that happened to you, or an inspirational message you wish to share. It can be anything that provides entertainment, education, or inspiration to your readers.

Timely/interesting photo: Photos are an opportunity to give readers a glimpse into your personal life. Just remember to keep it professional and stay in line with your author brand image. Post a picture of yourself in your garden in the spring, or bundled up in your winter coat on a frosty day. Or share a photo that ties into your main newsletter article.

Social media posts: Include some of your most popular posts from Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. These posts are an excellent opportunity to shine the spotlight on your fans.

Blog post: Feature one of your most recent blog posts or dig into your archives and link to an old favorite. But remember, your newsletter isn't a blog digest. You need to include unique content, too.

Exclusives: Let your newsletter subscribers be the first to know exclusive details about your upcoming book, such as the title, cover artwork, or snippets from chapters.

Freebies: People love getting free stuff. You can give away any number of things, such as a free signed copy of your book, merchandise, swag, or tickets to one of your events.

Bonus content: Prequels, deleted scenes, chapters, or characters from your book make excellent bonus content to share with your fans. Other ideas include creating book club questions for your book, or downloadable guides, check lists, and printouts. 

Press coverage: When you are in the news, include links to any articles or interviews about you or your book.

Events: Let subscribers know about your upcoming appearances, speaking engagements, workshops, and book signings.

Newsletter tips and tricks: essential author email elements

"Unlike a blog or social media post, you can't edit a newsletter after it's sent. Make sure to edit your newsletter thoroughly..."

Sometimes it's the smallest things that have the biggest impact. There are several important details to consider before sending your author newsletter:

From: The from field of an email can be just as important as the subject line in terms of whether or not someone opens your email. Ideally, your newsletter should be sent from you, using your name and a unique domain URL. Sending from a Gmail or Yahoo domain, such as, will trigger spam filters and likely send your newsletter straight to subscribers' SPAM folders instead of their inbox. If you don't have your own domain email address, you can purchase one on your own or directly through your email program, when offered. 

Subject: A good subject line is unique, not simply the same subject each time with an updated newsletter date or volume number. It should describe the incredible content within your newsletter. A longer subject line will be cut off, especially for users on mobile devices. To ensure people can read your entire subject line, keep it to 50 characters or less.

Preview/Snippet: The “email preview text”, also called a snippet, is almost like a second subject line—it appears to the viewer before the email is opened, right under or after the subject line. Make sure your content for the snippet and subject work well together. It shouldn't just repeat the subject. Also, keep your most important words toward the beginning of the snippet, because it will be truncated based on the device and email client used by the subscriber, somewhere between 35 to 100 characters.

Links: Using hyperlinks in your newsletter is how you'll point to articles, sign-up pages, and videos posted elsewhere. In order to track newsletter traffic, you can use Google Analytics and add UTM variables to the end of your links. Here's Google's Campaign URL Builder and a tutorial on how to use UTM codes. Some email service providers, such as Campaign Monitor, offer automatic link tagging that integrates with Google Analytics.

ALT text: If your newsletter includes images, make sure to fill out the ALT text for the image. That's the text that appears when the image doesn't load, or you hover over the image. It's important because people often read or browse an email without downloading the image (to conserve their data or speed up the process). Since images often contain a headline or other important text, your subscribers will miss out on your message if you don't include ALT text.

Copyediting: Unlike a blog or social media post, you can't edit a newsletter after it's sent. Make sure to edit your newsletter thoroughly, including the subject line.

Unsubscribe link: To stay CAN-SPAM compliant, you must give people a way to unsubscribe from your mailing list. Most email programs have a simple way to insert an unsubscribe link in the footer of your email.

Mailing address: It might seem a little old-fashioned, but you are required to include a physical mailing address in your email in order to stay CAN-SPAM compliant. If you don't have a business address, you can protect your privacy by renting a PO Box through the US Postal Service or UPS. Boxes can run as little as $5 per month.

Things to avoid in your author newsletter

"There are some words that may send your email to the junk folder instead of the inbox."

All caps: Typing in ALL CAPS is considered shouting. There is little, if any, reason to use all caps, especially in the email subject line. Doing so may cause the recipient of your email to mark it as SPAM.

Excessive exclamation points: Exclamation points, like all caps, imply a high level of excitement and volume. Exclamation points can be especially offensive when used in the subject line. Don't use two or three!!! Pay attention to how many you use throughout your newsletter.

Too many fonts or text treatments: Fonts are part of the design of the email. They affect the tone and appearance. Using many different fonts and font treatments, such as different colors, italics, or underlines, creates a cluttered, unprofessional look that screams SPAM. A clean design with plenty of white space and a minimal number of fonts is preferred.

Call to action overload: Most email marketing should contain one single call to action, or CTA. The CTA is the goal of the email, or what you want the recipient to do. However, having only one CTA can be tricky in a newsletter, since it covers many different subjects. To solve this issue, pick one CTA as your most important, main goal. Make it visually obvious that it's the one thing the reader should do when they open the email and the rest of the CTAs are bonus material, not competing with the main goal.

Shop talk: In general, readers aren't interested in the business side of being an author, including the writing craft, publishing drama, or marketing costs. True, there are some readers/aspiring writers who are extremely interested in these topics (perhaps you can write a special newsletter just for those fans). Focus on what your readers do want to hear about instead.

SPAM trigger words: There are some words that may send your email to the junk folder instead of the inbox. It can be hard to avoid all trigger words, since some are pretty common. SPAM filters do consider the context of a word, but it's wise to avoid using too many trigger words throughout your email or in your subject line. Here is HubSpot's list of SPAM trigger words.

Misleading information: Your subject line should accurately describe what's in the email. If your subject line is "10 Tips to Wake Up Smiling," then those tips should actually be in your email. You don't want to trick your readers into opening your email – it's a violation of the CAN-SPAM Act.

Start your author newsletter

Now that you have some ideas about what to put in your author newsletter, it's time to get started brainstorming and drafting your first newsletter. Create an editorial calendar and plan ahead. For information on how to set up, send, and manage your newsletter, be sure to read 5 Steps for Starting an Author Newsletter.

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