The REAL Skinny on Newsletters

Written By: Jackie Weger - Jul• 10•16

Marketing your books via newsletters…How does yours measure up?

eNovel Authors at Work...a group of indie authors sharing our experiences and ehow. Always FREE

eNovel Authors at Work…a group of indie authors sharing our experiences and ehow. Always FREE

Indie Author newsletters have suddenly become front and center in our indie universe.  Suggestions about mailing lists have always hovered in the background like white noise:  Authors need a newsletter/mailing list so when we have a new release, we shout it to our followers. Got it. The snag for me is I don’t produce a book a month or even every six months. I generated my first newsletter via Mad Mimi January 2014. I flogged my book and a few colleague’s books. I pump other author titles because I want to give value and keep my subscribers interested between my own releases and promotions. I kept a loose mailing schedule of once a month or once every six weeks. I did not pay much attention to performance, such as open and click through rate. Now I do. What an eye opener.

I have several subscriber lists in Mad Mimi so that I can stagger my newsletters over a 24 or 36 hour period. This happened in my most recent mailout. On one list of 2800 subscribers I pumped my new release, Count the Roses 99c. Within

New Release. Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited

New Release. Read FREE with Kindle Unlimited or Amazon Prime

a few hours Amazon reported 144 downloads. Wow. Of those 2800 subscribers, 950 opened and clicked through to my books, other author books I promoted and a Giveaway. A task in the Giveaway was to Follow the authors on Bookbub. After 12 hours I saw a jump of above 200 new followers on my Bookbub author page. Over the next 72 hours, more subscribers opened the newsletters…I saw a spike in KENP borrows. All together my newsletter moved 1023 units of my new release + crossover sales and I ended June 2016 with above 138,000 KENP.

Why are these figures so significant?

Because we indies buy promotion from promoters who tell us they have 100,000 to 300,000 subscribers. Yet! A $70 slot 10 days earlier on  Count The Roses priced 99c did not generate even 100 downloads. Whoa. Promoters don’t like to tell us their open rates or click through rates. To learn if the promo is successful we have to watch the graph inside KDP which is updated hourly. Here is something else I’ve learned: Thus far, for every 5000 subscribers I see an attrition loss of 400. They unsubscribe. I have all of these stats available immediately. So do promoters who charge to put our books in newsletters.

Folks…it is time to come clean and share those performance rates with authors. We are happy to support a respected promoter. We’re giving you our trade. We need value for our promo $$, not hype. One reason we all love Bookbub and pray to the indie gods to snag a slot is on Bookbub’s pricing page we see cost/the download spread from lowest to highest in our genre. We know what we’re paying for. We can make an informed decision. Is that too much to ask? I don’t think so. In three years I’ve never heard of a Bookbub promo fail. One indie author disaster and you can read about it here. Even so, 22,000 Bookbub subscribers downloaded the book.

Here  is another item of annoyance. Promoters want authors to subscribe. That is an artificial inflation of a subscriber list. Authors are not my audience or yours. We are all using the service to sell our books to readers. Some promoters are top heavy with authors. They do NOT move our books. In eNovel we know who they are and we don’t promote with them. Some give value for $10. But next have those add ons for Facebook and/or Twitter and the value sinks to China. Hey! I have two Twitter accounts with above 35,000 followers. I ain’t paying you to Tweet to your 6000 Followers. Get real. And after charging $10 for a Twitter boost, the promoter has the nerve to ask an author to share the promoter’s landing page with his or her Followers on Facebook/Google+/Twitter and Pinterest. The promoter wants ME to send my 35,000 Twitter followers to his/her site for FREE. What’s wrong with this picture? The answer: Offer a subscription to an Author only Newsletter. We love those.

What does this mean for promoters and indie authors? This: Indie authors are engaging in co-promotion and leaving out the middle man. We’re pitching in and engaging in Rafflecopters to grow our subscriber lists. We’re selling books. Moreover, we’re seeing a return on investment because our co-promotion costs are miniscule. We still promote with many of our fav small promoters. However, some are raising prices to offset the loss of affiliate fees and passing that expense onto the author with NO added value. That leaves us to evaluate each promotion again. On any given month not less than 20 eNovel members are in promotion. We gather a lot of stats and we share those in detail separating hype from reality.  As we mature as indie authors we are learning how best to promote our books and with whom.

Bottom line: Our books have to pay for themselves.  

Yes, they do. They have to pay the maintenance on our webpages and blogs and the cost of our newsletters. They have to pay our investment in cover artists, editors, copy editors, proofers, formatters. Here is a fun fact: When sitting at our keyboards writing our books we are not earning minimum wage~or any wage! Talk about which came first? The chicken or the egg…

Here is a new promoter just recently in the game.  Just Kindle Books. Look what he posts on his Author Corner. I asked him how much  time

Just Kindle Books. The owner knows these stats are accurate because he tracks books with

and trouble to post these stats. He said no trouble and takes a couple of minutes. He can update PDQ.  He shared his newsletter open rate, too. My open rate is better, but I nurture my subscribers by offering giveaways and swag and sometimes secret Rafflecopter just for my subscribers. I loosely schedule a newsletter every 22 days.  Just Kindle Books is an entirely commercial daily newsletter as are most promoter newsletters. But open and click through rates are critical. If subscribers are not opening a newsletter and clicking the link, it ain’t moving your books or mine. Huzzah!

When we in eNovel report a promo fail to some reputable owners, we are kindly refunded our $$$. We have also had site owners tell us: “Write a better book.” I got that remark on a book sitting on Amazon with above 600 reviews ranked 4.3/5.0. Here’s a recent Review by a reader: “Jackie blows away all other romance novels! The characters are vivid, the story intriguing, the humanity believable (even the ghost), and the experience a medicine for the soul. I read reviews that you couldn’t put this one down, believe it!”  I don’t know how much better I can write the thing. Bookbub subscribers downloaded it to the tune of 75,000+ and wrote all of those nice reviews. Okay. I’m done.

Click my photo to join my newsletter, Accent on Romance. @JackieWeger, 2016

I’m Jackie Weger, founder of eNovel Authors at Work. Our members don’t know it all…but collectively we know a lot and we know BS when we hear it. Comments Welcome. Be nice. If you can’t be nice, be articulate. Add to the discussion. Facts welcome. I shoot rumors with my snake gun.

Snag these eNovel Author books FREE right now: Tyrant Trouble. Grade A Stupid.  Gifts of Jangalore.  Belle of Charleston.

You awesome author! Pay it Forward. Please share this ready-made Tweet. Who knows? Maybe an indie god will sprinkle your book with fairy dust and it will soar to stardom. Thank you bunches.


PS: Just in from Christian Hupfeld: eReaderIQ is back in business and accepting submissions. Fees are just right. 

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  1. Julie Frayn says:

    Jackie, your own newsletter stats are fantastic. Better than a lot of paid promo, for sure. Good for you.
    Julie Frayn
    Author of Mazie Baby

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Hi, Julie: I am so not certain of open rates and comparisons. However, the main task is to nurture and keep subscribers. Learning how to do that is a key to a successful newsletter. Actually, I’ve been subscribing to author-generated newsletters and lists. Many need work! Some are sloppy. Not a very good hint about the quality of our books. On one email list I got something in like 24 point font. That’s not just shouting…that is yelling at the top of one’s lungs. Zapped it. Our newsletters introduce a community to our work and in my case, my colleague’s works. Just throwing something together to say “buy my book!” is not going to have the open and click through rates we need for success. I didn’t mention it in the blog, but I also had a banner ad in the newsletter to join my Street Team. A half dozen subscribers did so and I had a couple of very nice comments on my newsletter. So, at the very least, that newsletter did the job. A call to action…got a response. Thanks for stopping in and commenting. In case most of you don’t know, Julie is the author of Mazie Baby. USA and UK readers are devouring it. I read it in one sitting. Knocked my socks off.

      • Julie Frayn says:

        Thanks Jackie. *blush* I don’t have a newsletter nor actively seek subscribers. It’s on my to do list. Not sure when I’ll get it done, but I like the idea of subscribing to others to get a feel for what works and what doesn’t. Better than flying blind when I do get going!

  2. Great article, Jackie. I agree with you, Bookbub is fantastic, it always delivers. I wish more sites would post their stats. It would make it easier to know how to promote. By the way, congratulations on the amazing stats from your newsletter!

  3. Dale Furse says:

    Good read. 🙂 Thanks Jackie.
    I agree, some promotional sites just aren’t worth it. I’d be interested in the open rate of some of them, what with author subscribers probably out numbering readers. I know I just delete most of my purely promotional newsletters.

    Good for you for nurturing your mailing list. That’s something I have put on the top of my to-do list.

  4. Oh this lady always talks sense! 🙂

  5. Mike Markel says:

    Thank you, Jackie, for your insights on the evolving landscape of indie promotion. As BookBub gets harder and harder for indies to land, I’m hoping some other service will begin to fill the gap. But your advice to DIY is probably the wisest route.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Hi, Mike. Glad you stopped by. An author-generated newsletter is just one tool in our marketing kit. We need savvy promoters. Many want to be the next Bookbub. Ain’t gonna happen. What I hope for is transparency. I love some of my fav smaller promoters like booktastik because they fill a niche, and are steady on. That works for me. Especially when I need to bracket a Bookbub slot. for those of you who don’t know. Mike produces the Detectives Seagate and Miner Mystery. I luuv Det Seagate. Best line Mike has written: Seagate: “Honey, I’m home.” And she hugs a bottle of bourbon. What a sot! What a character. She makes my day.

  6. Tweeted. Thanks, Jackie, for the info. My thoughts: genre is very important. I have it smeared all over my webpage and when I get email addresses, my first letter is to tell subscribers that my books are urban fantasy, I have a free book they can download (I list the URLs), and if my genre is not their cup of tea, do use the unsubscribe button. Nobody wants their email filled with newsletters they don’t want to read. I have about 1000 on my newsletter list, have about 150 unsubscribes, and average 50 to 60% open rate on letters according to my mail service.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Phoebe, you are doing what works for you in your genre. Smart you. Author choice is never to be overlooked.

    • As far as I’m concerned Bookbub is KING / QUEEN / EMPEROR OF THE UNIVERSE 🙂 I love them for the great service they give although there is a hefty price, they deliver time and time again.

      Every month I choose a book and do a run through of promoters – not knowing whether they will do great things for my books or not bothers me greatly. So I set a one or two day promo and retest them. I have found one or two that don’t work this time but will leave them on my good promoter list because I want to give them another go. Others I scrub off the list. This process takes 7 months with 7 books. Then it’s wash, rinse, repeat for another 7 months. Ongoing fun 🙂

      Twitter promos are useless IMO. you can buy twitter followers and facebook fans / followers. Newsletter subscribers are real people who made a choice to subscribe. Still they don’t open newsletters that are sent to them (I have found myself doing the same when things are a little busy and I don’t have time to read the various newsletters I get).

      What is the solution…have no idea. Keep plugging away and hope for the best.

      • Jackie Weger says:

        Mary D. Brooks, you nailed it. Subscribers have lives. They are not waiting with bated breath for our newsletter or any other newsletter. That is why a promoter’s open and click through rates are so important for us to know. I have a dedicated email address just for newsletters. 150 a day arrive. Some days I just zap ’em all.

  7. Oops sorry Phoebe I just replied to your post instead of Jackie’s.

  8. Mimi Barbour says:

    Thanks for the great blog post, Jackie. It’s good that we have authors like you who make people be accountable.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      You are funny, Mimi! No one is accountable to me. It is up to a promoter how he or she handles his or her business. It is up to me if I do business with them. In today’s market climate transparency is critical so we can make informed choices. That is what I encourage.

  9. So true! I wish I had your stats with my newsletter, but I’ve certainly found very few useful promoters and it seems to be getting worse.
    Thanks for listing my free story!

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Aurora, it is true the market is changing and IMO, tightening. There are really quite a few terrific indie books to choose from today. I like having an array of promoters to choose from because it allows me to put my books in front of new readers. But we have to be careful of our expectations of how effective a promoter. The promoter that hypes his or her site to the hilt can build a false expectation in the author. If we have open and click through rates, we are better informed.

  10. KJD says:

    This is fantastic information, Jackie.
    Congrats on your numbers.
    Newsletters targeted direct to fans who know your genre and like your work is the obvious way to go for indie authors.
    I’m trying to build my subscriber list now and wonder why it took me so long to get the message. Duh, I can be a right dolt sometimes.
    Love your thoughts on the smaller promoters, too.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. David Wind says:

    You are echoing many of our thoughts about promotion. As Indie writers, we are forced to try every channel, and many of these Promo sites do take advantage. Thanks for the info!

    • Jackie Weger says:

      July 11, 2016: Thank you David. I see you have a new book released today…Tweeted it from Amazon. Re the blog…
      I don’t think promoters of integrity set out to take advantage of the author. Just like indies, a promoter does what he/she/it sees the next promoter doing. FEW do research. And anyway, who are they going to ask? A single promo fail does not make a promoter less than one hoped. eNovel’s advantage and data is gained when we have a dozen or more authors use a promoter and none of us see downloads or few downloads and report a lack of ROI in our HUB. That is a pattern across several genres. We cannot ignore it.

      • Jackie Weger says:

        Adding this: Some promoters are overpriced for what it delivers. I wish it was not so. If we use a promoter that charges $100 and don’t see downloads to earn an ROI, we have to rethink it. However at that fee, we would see an ROI. And that’s a win-win, plus builds the reputation and cachet of the promoter. Bookbub makes adjustments about every quarter. Over the past two years Bookbub has revised numbers on its pricing page in fees and average downloads. Fees have gone up, average download #s down. But! Bookbub delivers those averages–every time.BB has editors carefully choosing books. Most promoters merely have an auto response as to number of reviews to snag a slot.

  12. Excellent info. Thanks, Jackie.

  13. EM Kaplan says:

    Sounds like it’s time for me to whip my newsletter into shape! Thanks for the wake-up call.

  14. Thanks for opening ‘eyes’. Too often we are so anxious to promote our work that we fail to vet the promoters. Hopefully, this market info will filter out the non-performers!

  15. Jackie Weger says:

    Dan! No, blogs such as this will not filter out non-performers. For every savvy author who does not promote with a site, dozens of less than savvy indies will step right up and fork over $$$. A promoter may not perform for my book, but be excellent for a different genre. I love Ebookbetty. That girl is a dervish! But she started out promoting horror. And that is where most of her subscribers come from at the moment…with an expansion of genres, my books may one day fall under her umbrella. I support her because she pays-it-forward.

    • Jackie Weger says:

      Oh. I made a mistake: Ebookbetty started out with scifi and fantasy. She tells me mystery and romance has been the bread and butter of her site for the past year, and consistently boasts the highest percentage of subscribers on our list. going now to get a slice of that for my upcoming promo on Almost Perfect.

  16. Amy Vansant says:

    Not a lot to ask to get your money’s worth!

  17. Polly Iyer says:

    I wish I knew a fraction of what you know, Jackie. You work hard at your success and deserve every bit of it. My first BookBub add was way back when they started. They even gave me an ad free. I’d never heard of them, but you can be sure after that ad, they were on the top of my promo list. Not so easy to get a spot with them now, but they’re still on top.

  18. Annie Daylon says:

    Excellent info. Thanks, Jackie.

  19. Mary Smith says:

    Thanks, Jackie. I read the numbers subscribing to your newsletter in wide-eyed wonder 🙂 I am about to bite the bullet and get started on this. Seems like in the UK Mailchimp is the favourite – if anyone has any info on it I’d be delighted to hear from them.

  20. Thanks, Jackie. As always, this information is really helpful especially to newbies like me.

  21. Rosie Dean says:

    I confess I don’t have a newsletter *hangs head in shame* so cannot compare. But I do appreciate the stats and info you’ve garnered and shared. My Bookbub campaign did very well for me and if I can snag another, I will.

  22. Tj Shortt says:

    Great post once again!

  23. P.C. Zick says:

    I’m amazed and always impressed by your numbers, and best of all, your willingness to share all your knowledge with the rest of us. Such good information.

  24. Well said, Jackie. Truly ridiculous to charge people for tweets when you haven’t even reached 10K followers yet! I love GenrePulse, another new promoter. They provide a link where I can see the clicks my promoted book got and towards the end of every month they email me to offer a 25% discount code. This is a promoter who not only delivers but also cares to retain their customer base. The last promo they did for me in their newsletter yielded 106 clicks and very little sales stats for the specific book at 99c but resulted in 32 downloads of a freebie I sell on Amazon that introduces readers to my trilogy. I call that a good result with high potential, especially as these 106 clicks came from new readers who I couldn’t have reached in any other way en masse.

  25. MM Jaye says:

    Awesome insight as always! Thanks, Jackie!

  26. […] it gets the job done and is respectful of my subscribers. To read earlier blogs on newsletters go here and here. Some good tips in those […]

  27. […] our game. We had to do something because promo slots are either booked or too costly. Read about it here. In July 2016 I had about 3K subscribers. I’ve been growing my subscriber list. It is […]

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