A year or two ago, I wrote an article called Five Easy Ways to Declutter your Email to help people (including myself) who struggle with an overwhelming inbox. Over the past week, I’ve revisited the advice laid out in this article because once again my email inbox has gotten out of control. It seems that every time I open my email, there are at least two dozen new messages for me to delete.
Over the holidays, I did a lot of online shopping and consequently, I landed on a billion different mailing lists. I unsubscribed from all of those. I also got serious about kicking actual spam (mail from unsolicited sources) into the spam folder where it belongs.
I was surprised to see that one of my biggest problems seems to be newsletters – specifically author newsletters. Over the years, I’ve subscribed to many newsletters. Dozens, I thought. Or maybe hundreds, if my out-of-control inbox is any indication. There are about a dozen of these newsletters that are from authors I dearly love, so I didn’t unsubscribe to these. I did unsubscribe to the others. In fact, I’m still unsubscribing.
I can’t remember ever having signed up for most of these newsletters, but I’m pretty sure I know how I got on these mailing lists. A couple of years ago, I participated in a lot of multi-author giveaways where each time you follow an author on Twitter, or like their Facebook page, or enter your email address, you get an additional entry in the contest. I even signed up as a participating author in a couple of contests and added many new names to my own mailing list.
But then I realized something. I hate sending newsletters. I hate coming up with a title that will make people actually want to open the email. I struggled to come up with content that would engage the readers – especially those potential readers new to my newsletter.
And that right there was the heart of the problem. Most of the subscribers to the newsletter were people who only signed up because they wanted to win something. According to the analytics feature on Mail Chimp, I didn’t have a very high rate of people opening the newsletter. Some people unsubscribed after they received my first newsletter. It was clear that the new “readers” I gained by participating in giveaways only signed up as a means to better their chances of winning a prize. They couldn’t possibly read the dozens of new newsletters flooding their inboxes, and even if they could, unless they were wealthy, they couldn’t possibly buy all the books being marketed to them.
As a reader and a subscriber to a multitude of newsletters, I can’t keep up with them. I would like to support all these authors (and indeed that’s why I didn’t unsubscribe long ago), but I can’t. I don’t have the time to read all the letters and I don’t have the money to buy all the books that are being promoted. I feel a little bad about my unsubscribing spree. I don’t want to hurt any feelings by quitting their mailing list. I hope they realize I’m not quitting THEM. I still follow many blogs and I’m still available to promote authors on my blog. I’m just streamlining things so I can better utilize my time.
I don’t know how the rest of you feel about newsletters – sending them or receiving them – but I believe there is some misleading advice floating around in regards to author newsletters. The experts tell authors they absolutely MUST have a newsletter. Numerous articles tout the importance of expanding their mailing list. Authors should use their newsletter to find beta readers, announce new releases, or push pre-orders.
Does expanding your mailing list at all costs and by any means necessary translate to sales? I’m certain some of the names on the mailing list do eventually lead to sales. But out of all those completely new-to-you subscribers – people who only signed up to get an extra entry in a giveaway – how many of THOSE readers will open the newsletter you send them and eventually buy your book? I’m sure some experts would say that even one new reader or one new sale makes the effort worth it. I would say that is up to the author.
As an author, you have to ask yourself whether or not it’s worth your time to send out a newsletter. How long does it take to put the newsletter together? Do you enjoy doing it, or is it something you dread? Does it take away from your writing time? Do you have existing readers who already look forward to reading your newsletter, or do you receive zero feedback? Ask yourself these questions and then decide whether or not you think it’s worth it.
So, what do you all think? Am I completely missing the point here, or is there something important I haven’t considered? I’d love to hear your opinions on this.