The Top 4 Pitfalls of Running a Newsletter

At first, I was resistant to having an author newsletter.  After talking to some readers who told me of their love of author newsletters, including a friend who subscribes to over twenty of them, I changed my mind.  My newsletter has been live for a few months now and I have to say that I love it.  I love writing it and more than that, I love hearing from readers.

There’s all sorts of articles out there about how to write an effective newsletter, how to set it up, and which service to use.  I’m not going to go into any of that.  This article is specifically to address some of the pitfalls that those who have a newsletter can fall into, or even do on purpose.


Don’t send multiple newsletters a week.

Nothing frustrates a newsletter subscriber more than getting multiple mailings every week, sometimes several in one day.  I once got on the mailing list of some company that sells flower bulbs. Oh, hell no.  The sheer number of emails I got from that company not only had me hitting the unsubscribe button, it made me vow that for as long as I continue to exist on this big blue marble, I was never, ever, going to order one damn thing from that company.  Ever.  Want to piss your readers off so that they will never read another one of your books?  Send them too many emails.

Do send regular emails.

According to the readers I have spoken to, the sweet spot for how many newsletters you send out is once a week to once every two weeks.  Readers do enjoy hearing from you on a regular basis.  Those writers who only send out an email once a month are going to have subscribers that forget who they are and then stroll down to that unsubscribe button.  Once every week or two, with the very rare extra newsletter about a special or release, is a good rule of thumb.


I love my small town P O Box!

Don’t set up a virtual P O Box.

To comply with United States anti-spam laws, any company or person that sends out newsletters with commercial content must have a physical mailing address on every newsletter they send.  Writers, for obvious reasons, don’t want to use their actual home address.  Browsing this issue online, you will see a plethora of folks telling you to just use some free service that gives you a virtual snail mail address.  That’s an oxymoron in itself.  A virtual address does not make you compliant with anti-spam laws.  The law is very specific. You need a real snail mail address to comply with the laws.  Those who ignore this law can be prosecuted.

Do get a real physical address.

It’s truly not that hard or that expensive if you are willing to shop around.  My personal research sent me straight to the good old United States Post Office.  If one isn’t too picky about what town one buys a P O Box from, this was by far the cheapest option.  I have relatives in a nearby small town.  Small?  We are talking the tiniest cutest little town ever.  I love that place.  Their post office is only open a couple hours a day.  My P O Box costs about $40 a year.  Far cheaper than in my hometown. I love my small town P O Box!


Best spam-blocker ever.

Don’t share your subscriber list. Ever.

I keep reading about innocent folks who end up on newsletter lists they never signed up for.  Often, they suddenly find themselves on fifty newsletters they never signed up for.  How did this happen?  Well, it all starts when you share your subscriber list’s emails.  While newsletter swaps (writers sharing other authors’ information in their own newsletter) are common and awesome, the instant you share your subscriber’s email addresses with another writer or even worse, a service, you are breaking privacy laws.   To have a newsletter that is compliant with anti-spam and privacy laws, you must post a privacy policy.  Know what’s in that privacy policy? A statement that you will not share people’s personal information, like their email, for example.  To follow the laws, subscribers have to actually decide to subscribe and people who send the newsletters have to keep private information private.

Do use lawful means to build your newsletter subscriber list.

Use places like Instafreebie to build subscribers.  Use newsletter swaps where another writer puts some information about your newsletter in their own newsletter.  They share your information rather than anyone exchanging private information about your subscribers.  Run from any person or service that asks you to provide the email addresses of your subscribers.  It is absolutely wrong to share your readers’ personal information.  Build your list in compliance with the anti-spam and privacy laws.


So many ads.

Don’t have nothing but ads in your newsletter.

If your newsletter is nothing but:
Buy my book!
Buy my friends book!
Look at these promos!
Book release!
Advertising, advertising, advertising!

Nothing is going to turn your readers off faster than each newsletter being chock full of nothing but advertisements.

Do have some actual news in your newsletter.

What’s going on in your life?  What are you working on right now? What book have you read lately and what did you think of it?  By all means, tell your subscribers when you have a new release or a sale going on, but don’t let that be all your content is.  Have some news in your newsletter.  Write a short story that’s only for your subscribers, or a short that they get to read before anyone else. I don’t just mean sneak peeks of upcoming books, though that is great on occasion. Give them a real reason to keep opening those emails from you.  Advertising your books and other people’s books should only be part of your content, not the entire shebang.


I hope this article helps answer some questions you have about newsletters and I hope it helps you steer clear of practices that will put you on the wrong side of the laws protecting readers’ privacy and helping us keep our email boxes from being filled with more spam than they already are.  The true secret to building a subscriber list is having a newsletter people enjoy reading and getting the word out in an upfront way.  That’s all there is too it.

About JulianneQJohnson

I am a writer in Indiana who lives with two cats, two ferrets, and one fiance. I enjoy cheap coffee and expensive chocolate.
This entry was posted in Newsletter, Self Promoting, writing and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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