Much Ado About Newsletters

Why are they important? Why are current methods causing issues? What can you do as a reader to help your authors? What is the big no-no that can ruin your favorite authors?

Newsletters have become the biggest thing an author focuses on, while many readers would prefer to simply keep contact via social media and not have newsletters clogging their inboxes. However, there’s a reason authors are migrating to newsletters as their tool of choice. On other social networks, we’re held to the whims of the algorithms. With Facebook buying out Instagram, the two are, for all intents and purposes, now one and the same. Anything Facebook does, other networks generally follow shortly after, as Facebook is the behemoth in the industry.

The problem is, Facebook tweaks things constantly and randomly. One day book posts are okay, the next they’re not. One day we’re allowed to post giveaways, the next, anything mentioning a giveaway gets hidden from the feed for less reach. We can pay for ads, but if we happen to write romance, we’re out of luck as our ads won’t get approved. If Facebook decides we’re posting too fast or liking things too fast, we get ‘locked’ and can’t do anything for a certain arbitrary period. Other times, they’ll completely close a page or group with no warning whatsoever, and we are rarely able to convince them to let us have them back.

That uncertainty is terrifying. As authors, our readers are our lifeline. You are what we write for, why we put up with all of this and do what we do. We want our words to bring light to your day, to give you an escape. When we can’t trust the platforms we’re on, we need to have a place that we control in order to reach you. That way, if a social media network locks us down right before a release, or closes us down all together, we can still contact you. We can tell you what’s going on, we can still let you know where we’ll be at and provide new social media links.

This is why newsletters are so important to authors. It’s our one link to our readers that someone else can’t take away or lower our organic reach to without warning. However… that’s not technically the case.

Since newsletters are so important, many authors run giveaways and use signing up to their newsletters as their entry item. You’ve all seen them, “To enter, sign up to my newsletter and comment below that you’ve done so!”, things of that nature. The hope is that by providing something of value, it will make offering your email to us less of a chore. Authors guard their email lists carefully, they would never sell or distribute those, so you never need to worry about that.

Running events like this and giveaways, we’ve noticed some recurring themes that are problematic, to say the least. Many readers will sign up for the giveaway, and unsubscribe or mark us as spam when they get the first newsletter after that. This is harmful in a way most readers can’t comprehend, so we have a real-world example to share, as well as other options.

One of our authors, Mandi Konesni, did a huge newsletter contest. She received almost 4,000 emails. Four thousand! She was ecstatic, but that meant she didn’t qualify for the free tiers of any mailing list providers any longer. She went in search of the best she could afford, and found one that she purchased a year up front for.

Once she added her emails, she sent her welcome newsletter. After that, the issues started. The campaign had been locked at first, for her to verify how she had gotten the emails. Once that was sorted, the campaign was sent. Then, the spam complaints started, and the unsubscribes. To understand the problem, you have to realize that mailing list providers work because they keep a high mail deliverability rate for all of their clients. If one person is mucking up the system for everyone, that person has to go.

Most ISPs say the spam complaints need to be under 0.1%. That’s one person out of every 1000 that received the newsletter. For MailChimp, the number is 0.01%. (source) That’s impossible to hit, especially when readers are signing up for a giveaway and then immediately list you as spam directly after. High unsubscribes or spam complaints for a mail campaign can get a sender blocked or completely disabled. (source) This happened to Mandi. She wasn’t having a lot of them, but it was enough to trip the invisible line. She lost her annual investment, lost her mailing list, lost everything. She had to start over.

Liliom Press has since moved to a self-hosted, self-run option so we don’t have to fight with mailing list providers any longer, but many authors don’t have the ability to do this, or the technical skills to implement it. They’re still stuck with the providers who don’t understand indie writing as a whole, and how readership fluctuates depending on seasons, genres, giveaways, etc.

So what can you do?

If you’re only signing up to a newsletter for a giveaway, please don’t. We’re offering those out of our own pocket to find people who might enjoy our writing and want to stick around and read more from us. If you’re not interested in the genre or what we have to offer, signing up to potential;y win something you won’t even like doesn’t make sense.

If you still want to enter the giveaway but absolutely don’t want to sign up to a newsletter, contact the author privately! Most times, they’ll be so happy that you avoided giving them a black mark on their sending rate that they’ll offer you a different way to enter, by following them on a social media site, sharing a release teaser, or something else.

If you’ve subscribed and are getting too many emails, again, contact the author. Explain that the emails are too frequent for you, and ask if they can segment the lists to send you less emails. Most will be happy to oblige if they can.

If you truly don’t want to get the emails anymore, either contact the author privately and they can remove you by hand so it doesn’t affect their reputation with their mailing list provider, or hit unsubscribe, NOT mark as spam. Avoid that spam button like the plague, your authors will thank you.

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