(UK author Will Self‘s writing room. How does he even read the post-its at the top?)
I’m about to send out a newsletter — my first in six months! I’ve been MIA here on this blog, as well, the result of moving into a house still under construction, all the while working to finish my next novel, THE GAME OF HOPE.
Those of you who are already signed up for my newsletters know that they include news about the Work In Progress plus a smorgasbord of book-related news of interest to my readers.
Each newsletter subscriber has a chance to win a free book
Plus, with each issue, I give away one of my books to a subscriber.
So: if you’re not a subscriber, sign up here. (You can always unsubscribe, of course.)
And now, the fun begins with the final edits of The Game of Hope, its cover and design. I’m soon going to be putting a wealth of background information about the novel on this website.
For now, a blog post I wrote back when this novel soon to be born was merely a gleam in my eye:
Fireworks for the Entry of Louis XIII and Anne of Austria: The Lion, in “Reception de Louis XIII,” Lyons, 1623.
Happy New 2017!
I like the feel of this year already. I’ve weaned myself — to some extent — from toxic international news and immersed myself in finishing the eighth draft of Moonsick, my YA novel about Josephine’s daughter Hortense. (Yikes! Due this month.)
The funny side of revision
This is what revision sometimes feels like …
A New Yorker cartoon.
I’m also getting ready to send out a newsletter. Sign up here if you haven’t done so already. I will post links to it when it’s ready, but one advantage of signing up is that a subscriber wins one of my books with each newsletter.
A great audible edition of Middlemarch
When I’m not revising, or enjoying one of the many wonderful restaurants here in San Miguel de Allende with my husband, or puzzling over my latest watercolour, I’m listening to an absolutely outstanding audible edition of Middlemarch by George Eliot. This classic novel was destined to be forever on my Novels I’m Embarrassed to Admit I’ve Never Read List — in part because I just couldn’t cope with the pace and prose — but the narration by Juliet Stevenson really makes it come alive. Highly recommended!
Again, Happy New Year! You readers are the absolute best.
What audible recordings are your favourite? I’m always looking for recommendations.
In my decades as a published author, I’ve learned a few things about the author newsletter.
First: it is the single most important thing you can do to reach out to your readers. Experts on book marketing say that an author’s newsletter is more effective than any amount of social media (although social media certainly helps).
Fortunately, sending out a newsletter is also one of the easiest things an author can do.
Research by subscribing to author newsletters
Subscribe to author newsletters in order to learn about all the various styles. In this way you will see what engages interest — and what does not.
Decades ago, I started out with a simple email sent to family and friends. I quickly learned that there was a limit to how many emails my computer mail program was willing to handle.
That’s when I discovered the need for an email service. (I use GroovySoup, but many authors use MailChimp.) For a reasonable fee, an email service will provide you with a newsletter template, maintain your email database, and give you statistics (how many opened your newsletter, for example, and which links were the most popular).
You can have a standard template customized. I have the header of my newsletter reflect my website:
Feed your email newsletter database
Most everything you do as a writer should be with an eye to gathering email addresses to add to your newsletter mailing database. If you give a reading: pass around a newsletter sign-up form. On your website and blog, be sure to have a sign-up link. This database is gold: these are your core followers.
Some author newsletters are formal. Mine is more chatty. I like to imagine that I’m writing to my closest friends and family, so that the tone of my newsletter is close and familiar. Decide what tone is best for you.
I feel it’s important to give nuggets of news: the newsletter shouldn’t be too long, and it should be easy to skim. The headlines, too, should attract interest.
Write about a variety of things: your research, your work, your travels — your news — but also include things that will be of interest to your readers: books you’ve enjoyed reading or a writing tip, for example.
Give things away. With each of my newsletters, a subscriber wins a copy of one of my books.
I revise my newsletter several times over, and before I send it out I have a few people read it and make suggestions. Because it is hard to see one’s own mistakes, I have an editor look at it for errors. This is money well spent.
There should always be visuals in a newsletter. I use Google image search and my own photos. Be sure that the images you use are in the public domain. Wikipedia images are available for use, as a rule. Canva is a site for creating your own custom designs.
Give thought to the subject header
The subject header in your newsletter is very important. Imagine all the email people get. The subject header is what will make someone decide whether or not to open your newsletter. Make it interesting.
How often should you send out a newsletter?
Some authors send out a newsletter once a week, others once a month. I aim to have a newsletter out every three months. I think once a month is considered the most effective.
Do you send out an author newsletter? If so, please link to it in the comment section below. I’d love to see it. What has worked best for you?
I sent a newsletter out this morning—read it here, if you haven’t yet—and I just had the pleasure of sending an email to the lucky winner of an autographed hardcover copy of The Shadow Queen. (If you get an email with the subject line You won a book (no, this is not spam!), don’t throw it out.)
Catching up on GoodReads, and saw a note from Leah Marie Brown announcing the trailer for her book Faking It (the first in an It-Girl series), which will be out May 12. I know that readers of this blog don’t expect to see a trailer for contemporary romantic comedy here, but 1) this trailer is funny, clever and smart (as I’m sure the novel is), and 2) Leah and I go back a long way.
A journalist with an addiction to travel (specifically France) and history (specifically French), Leah has been one of my most enthusiastic readers. She interviewed me on her blog On Life, Love & Accidental Adventures, writing:
[blackquote] Ten years ago, I read the first book in Sandra Gulland’s trilogy about Josephine Bonaparte and knew I wanted to write historical fiction. Her sumptuous novel about one of the more fascinating women in history was so richly woven with setting details and evocative prose, it lit a fire inside my writer’s belly.
She interviewed me and other authors for an article in Writer’s Digest on travel research: “Have Plot, Will Travel.” Her book club read—and enjoyed—Mistress of the Sun. She bid on and won an autographed set of the Trilogy. She has followed this blog and is a friend on Facebook and GoodReads.
Over these many years, she has been writing, and publishing. I predict that her It-Girl series is going to be a hit.
To the subscribers of my newsletter, I’ve offered the first chapter of Sunny Now & Then—an unpublished novel I wrote in 1989.
Sunny is an eccentric 80-year-old who is somewhat inconveniently possessed by a spirit. It’s a light contemporary comedy/mystery. If you’re curious, and not a subscriber, sign up here. (If you are protective of your in-box—and who isn’t?—you can always unsubscribe.)
If you are already a newsletter subscriber, I’ll be offering this excerpt of Sunny Now & Then in my next newsletter.
What’s amusing about this early work, I think, is that although Sunny Now & Then is a contemporary comedy, it led directly to the writing and publication of The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Josephine B.five years later. (I think you can guess who the possessing spirit might be.)
Writing is such a circuitous and mysterious process!