Newsletters – love ’em or hate ’em?

A while back, when I was asking for ideas and topics to enhance A Writer of History, a group of authors prompted a discussion about newsletters. It began with this question from Harriet Cannon:

What do you think is the sweet spot frequency for a blog or newsletter in these times of so much internet content?

Harriet went on to say: Everyone who writes is being advised to have either a newsletter or blog or both plus multiple presence on social media.  In discussions with peers, writers and friends, I have found people are not happy about duplication advice and content overload.  Methinks we may be on the cusp of consumer rebellion.

Author Tema Frank continued the discussion: I worked in digital marketing for years. As much as frequency annoys people, one does sell more with frequent (at least weekly) newsletters. That said, unless your goal is to reach the lowest common denominator, I’d advise against that, because it also irritates a lot of people. Ideally for people like us monthly would be good. Monthly is frequent enough to keep your name in front of people, but not so often that you’ll annoy them. Once or twice a year is not enough to help you build any kind of connection with your readership

I added a few comments: I’m in the camp of sending a quarterly newsletter (at times less than that). As a positive indication that this strategy might work, I get only a few unsubscribes with each letter (less than 5). In terms of content, I have a few regular items (one called On the Reading Front, another called On the Blogging Front), plus a bit about whatever I’m currently writing. And I always end on a personal note – something about family, friends, activities and so on.

I do not use the newsletter for book promotion unless it’s a release newsletter. Although, there is usually a cover photo with an embedded link. In terms of engagement – which is what it’s all about! – my open rates are good and I get one or two responding emails for each newsletter. I’m sure there are folks much better at this than me.

And what do others say?

From a Forbes 2018 article titled Why Newsletters Suck and How to Do Successful Email Marketing, “if you can delight people by sharing unique insights with them on a regular basis, email is probably the first place you should focus your brand-building energy.”

From Business News Daily, I found a July 2023 article As Trust in Online Media Drops, Email Newsletters Drive Engagement. “Studies suggest that the reason for the high engagement rates is that email newsletters usually require people to opt in, meaning they have actively sought that particular content.”

In April, the folks over at BookBub compiled some data about author newsletters. Their research of over 500 authors supports the value of newsletters. Here’s one insight: “We asked authors to describe the purpose or goal of their newsletter, and many of their answers concerned the unique opportunities email offers to connect directly with readers. These authors see email as more personal and reliable than other channels.” I’ve attached a few of the graphics BookBub posted – check the article for more!

Source: BookBub
Source: BookBub
Source: BookBub

What do you enjoy about author newsletters? Do you prefer newsletters or author posts on social media? What would you prefer to see on an author’s newsletter? What advice or tips can you share?

PS – I have a confession to make. I haven’t sent out a newsletter in over a year. Definitely should get back to it!


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel is THE ADMIRAL’S WIFE, a dual timeline set in Hong Kong. Mary’s other novels, PARIS IN RUINS, TIME AND REGRET, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website

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The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

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11 Responses

  1. HI, Mary, Nice post! Question: You say you haven’t sent a newsletter in over a year…I thought this was a newsletter? I’m clueless…what is the difference between a newsletter and a blog post? So, you have/do both?

    1. A blog post appears on the author’s website, where it is accessible to anyone on the internet. You can also repost it to Facebook etc. A newsletter is sent by e-mail and you have to subscribe to receive it. It’s a way to communicate personally with a self-selected group of your readers and offer exclusive perks (sneak peeks, etc.).

  2. I love email newsletters and the reason is that I can opt in to receive them.
    I prefer once a month newsletters. Instagram is great. I’m not on any other
    social media platform but I have a blog which is not updated often.

    In regard to Substack: I understand authors can make a good income
    from this source. I also understand a lot of people can’t afford to pay. I particularly
    dislike email newsletters that pressure you to join ‘paid’ to read what is not in the
    newsletter. Otherwise they are fine.

  3. I don’t like to get newsletters from authors. I’m interested in their book, not their dog. I don’t have a newsletter, but I do have a blog on Southwestern food that I share with two other women and over the years we have accumulated more than 500 subscribers. At the end I give links to my books. The blog is heavy on information and is searchable so we have become experts in our tiny niche. I love this A Writer of History blog and have recommended it to several writer friends.

    1. Many thanks for the encouragement, Carolyn. I’m so glad you discovered my blog. Love your statement “I’m interested in their book, not their dog.” !! I have a similar perspective on Facebook posts showing what someone had for dinner 🙂

  4. I’m so glad you posted on this (non-historical) topic, Mary! You’re right, authors are urged to develop a newsletter list and get sending. But if the result is that readers get bombarded by piles of author newsletters, isn’t this actually off putting? What do we put in newsletters that readers actually WANT to read?

  5. I do not have a newsletter, but I have blog posts and FB posts. I follow writers newsletters, but I hate when they are weekly or even more frequent than weekly (who told you that if you want to keep a reader interested you have to bomb him with posts in the first 2-3 weeks at 2-3 days? This is the surefire recipe, in my case, to unsubscribe quickly). I prefer reading blog posts and FB posts than newsletters, but the monthly ones are OK.

  6. And then there is Google….who keeps track of all the new stuff on your website my means of ‘spiders’ that track the new stuff blogs, new content, newsletter if posted there. And it effects your Google ranking. so Social Media and blogs newsletters keeps the spiders happy. And spiders do not care if it is repeat content. So there is the issue, who are you writing for. followers or google. Personally, I prefer people truly interested in my work.

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