The Author Newsletter – Sex For Money Post #7

Sex For Money is a semi-regular blog series about my experiences in writing, publishing, and marketing gay erotica and M/M erotic romance.  All of this information is from my own experience, so your experience may differ.  It’s hoped that sharing this information might be helpful to new and aspiring erotica and erotic romance authors, as I see a lot of questions and a lot of misinformation out there.  To read more Sex For Money posts, click here.

Everyone says that the key to marketing your book is to pimp it out on social media.  The problem is that almost no one can tell you how to do it, nor can they usually show you stats to back up their assertions that social media is the key to explosive sales.

I believe the real key to connecting with readers to promote your book is through an author newsletter.  This post is in part a book review of Tim Grahl’s Your First 1000 Copies, as the book focusses on this very topic.  I’ve sort of known about the power of an author newsletter before reading Grahl’s book, but he really hammered it home.  (In this post, I won’t give much away in terms of Grahl’s argument, because that would be like giving away the ending of a book — I’ve got to leave you with some interest to go and pick up your own copy.)

At present, my social media stats are roughly:

  • Twitter: 800 followers
  • Tumblr: 850 followers
  • Pinterest: 140 followers
  • MailChimp (newsletter): 27 subscribers
  • Facebook: 10 likes
  • Google+: 10 followers

I’m pretty new to Facebook and Google+, so that explains the very low numbers there.

You’d think, with over 1800 followers on the various social media platforms, I’d be drawing people to my site/books like flies.  But, no.  I pimp out my books on Twitter several times a day every day.  I post on Facebook regularly.  I have a banner ad on my Tumblr.  I have my book covers posted on Pinterest.  Yet, I only get at most five clicks per day from social media to my site.  And from what I can tell, they aren’t buying anything.

Social media seems to be getting me a return rate so small I don’t want to bother calculating it.  It’s statistically zero.  If I look at just Twitter, then my return rate is closer to 0.5%.  It’s still pitiful.

My newsletter, though… If I send out something in my newsletter, especially if I have a coupon of some sort, I get very high return rates.  A while back, I had a coupon for a free ebook that I had sent out to newsletter subscribers.  About 50% of subscribers followed through.

True, I didn’t get any money from giving out a book for free.  However, by doing this, and by getting follow-through, I’m generating brand loyalty.

While low sales suck in the short term, doing things like giving away an occasional free read to newsletter subscribers benefits you in the long term.  By doing so, you build a loyal following of dedicated readers who are more eager to buy your next release.  Even better, some dedicated followers can become brand ambassadors for you and recommend your books to his/her friends.

So how does one build a newsletter subscriber list?  That’s where Tim Grahl’s book comes in.  You’re going to cringe, I know you are, but the answer is… popups.  You know, those little windows that pop up when you visit a site and it asks you to subscribe.  You’re cringing, I know you are.  Grahl takes the reader through a very logical explanation — backed up with evidence — of how popups are actually a good thing.

Engaging readers and asking them to subscribe to your newsletter involves a complicated series of unspoken assurances and promises.  Grahl explores these assurances and promises and emphasizes how you can not only build a strong subscriber list, but how you can make it an attractive offer to sign up for your list, and how you can follow through so the reader feels like signing up was a good thing.

Now, if you’re like me and you write in the erotica genre, creating a newsletter is a little more tricky than it is for any other genre.  Most newsletter providers have a “no porn” clause, and erotica is on the edge of being disallowed.  When I signed up for MailChimp, I immediately told them who I am and what I wanted to market.  They didn’t tell me if it was okay or not, but asked me to set up a sample newsletter that they could examine.  I didn’t pull any punches; I set it up exactly how I wanted, knowing that it might get me banned from MailChimp (particularly since my new release at the time featured half a guy’s ass on the cover).  They approved that newsletter, but haven’t given me blanket approval, as any inappropriate messages in the future could get me banned.  So I continue to tread carefully.  A newsletter is the most important marketing tactic a writer has, and I don’t want to screw it up.

So if newsletters are so important, should a writer give up on social media?  No.  Simple fact is that some sales do happen because of social media.  However, the purpose of social media should be to connect with readers, not to give them a constant sales pitch.  If you head over to my Twitter feed, you’ll see a lot of pics of hot guys, some comments about cute guys I see at Starbucks, links to blog posts, and a few promotional tweets.  So, I do market on Twitter, but it’s a small percentage of everything I do on Twitter.

Marketing to readers is a careful balancing act that requires an understanding of how readers engage with writers and what expectations readers have upon connecting with writers.  While social media is an important factor, the author newsletter is the key to marketing to readers.

UPDATE: Before posting this, I sent out a newsletter pointing people toward my new book, Men In The Hot Room.  Within half an hour, someone clicked on a link in the newsletter and bought a copy.


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