Getting published is a real be-yatch! Hear about my ups, downs and a few random rants in between.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Flip The Script Friday: NEWS Flash

P loves questions. Keeps me from having to think too hard about future blog posts.

Here's one:

What do you think of newsletters? I'm thinking of doing one but don't know what should be in it, if I'm not published enough, and well, a number of other things.

I like newsletters. They're a great way to build name recognition and keep people informed. But keep in mind, a newsletter is a tool used to communicate to an internal audience, rarely an external one.

Okay, sorry, lapsed into PR jargon.

An internal audience are those people who care enough about you to receive one more piece of mail (the newsletter) in their inbox. Which means, they already know who you are (an author) and what you do (write books).

An external audience would be the other 20 million people in the world who have no idea who you are.

Websites, Myspace and Blogs are great tools to reach an external (i.e. wider) audience. They're mediums by which people discover you.

Newsletters are "insider" tools of the trade and are outlets by which you help insiders (your loyal readers)discover more about you.

So, first things first, only put out a newsletter when you have news to share.

I know it sounds simple enough. But the problem with newsletters is they end up being full of, well, junk because the issuer of the newsletter feels pressure to put one out on a regular basis whether there's news to share or not.

Fact is, it can come out as often or as infrequently as you'd like it. Mine comes out whenever I have something to say. So far, I've only issued two newsletters in six months.

But since potential readers are typically opting-in, it's safe to assume they want to read it. So they'll wait on the news, expectantly you hope.

Regarding content, newsletters should announce professional highlights:

- won an award

- book made the best seller list

- Got a great review

- appearing or speaking at an event

- New contest or announcing contest winners

- new book sale

If you're unpublished, center the news around milestones: got an agent, project making the rounds at XYZ publisher, articles appearing in XYZ mag. Whatever you're comfortable sharing.

It's never too early to begin building name recognition.

No matter what, respect your readers' time. Brevity is key when designing a newsletter. Announce your news, which would include a description that explains why it's news, and call it a day. Throw out the concept of a newsletter article and think of it as an articl-ette. A paragraph should do it.

And keep it to no more than three new announcements per issue.

You want it to be a quick, informative read.

For those insistent upon using a newsletter as a tool to reach people who know nothing about you, I'll say this - it will be like pushing a boulder uphill.

There's so much white noise and chatter out there: "read my blog," "check out my Myspace," "visit my website," "here's my live journal," "read my e-zine..."

One important distinction, every single one of those things EXCEPT the newsletter are sites the person can visit on their own time. A newsletter is usually pushed to someone's inbox. It's intrusive. And people don't look kindly upon mail they don't want.

It's best if a newsletter is something that a person discovers on their own. Some may disagree with that. But let me ask you this, how do you feel about spam? Or people on Myspace who send this message, "Come read my blog."

Do you ever?

I don't. I read what I want, when I want. Half the fun of reading blogs, for me, is discovering them by chance.

People who find your book, your work or you interesting enough will subscribe to your newsletter.

Don't be discouraged if it takes a while for your roster of recipients to grow. If you're mentioning the newsletter via other marketing tools - website, myspace, word-of-mouth, people will find their way and opt-in.

I'm not, however, against using a contest as a way to get people to opt-in. Because, again, I'm assuming those who enter the contest are already on board and going along for the ride willingly.


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