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Website of author and professional editor Rachelle M. N. Shaw. Find information about her books, her editing services, and her blog, From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing.


From Mind to Paper: On Writing and Editing

From Mind to Paper is a blog for writers, editors, and those interested in the English language. It covers a multitude of writing topics, from punctuation and grammar to plot development, character development, and world building. In addition to in-depth articles about various writing topics, this blog also has a number of series posts, which are currently being transformed into a nonfiction series on writing.

Filtering by Category: Audience

Top 5 Reasons Authors Need a Mailing List

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

If you’re reading this post, you’ve probably read other marketing articles about the topic of building mailing lists. Maybe you’ve agreed with those articles, and maybe you haven’t. Or maybe you’re on the fence, perhaps even wondering why it matters for those who don’t have anything published yet.

In my guest blog on the 10 Minute Novelist site, I talked about how important it is to build an author platform and what you can do to tackle the daunting amount of social media involved in doing so. This time I’d like to cover why you should spend your time tackling the potentially more daunting task of building a mailing list. That advice is slung around in a vast number of areas in the publishing world. So it’s no surprise that when many new authors follow that advice, they get discouraged after struggling to achieve high numbers early on. I’ve been there myself, and it can be incredibly disheartening at times. But if you are a new author who’s just starting a newsletter, don’t give up! Even if you have only three subscribers on your list (and believe me, I’ve been there), that list will prove to be a critical foundation to reaching readers, and here’s why.

1. You control the content.

This advice is similar to the that of posting blogs on your own website rather than posting it on a social media site: having a mailing list allows you to have ultimate control around the content, design, and who it reaches. That last element is key to focus on. Think about it: if you post your beautiful words, be it an article, a tweet, a status update, or even an excerpt of your work, to any social media site on the planet, what happens? If you’re lucky, you’ll get some views. If you’re really fortunate, you’ll get some responses and start building a relationship with those followers. So why the fuss about an email list? Well, for starters, the people on that list have signed up for it, so they already expect and want to hear what you have to say, saving you from having to hunt them down. Yes, building a list takes time. Yes, sending out regular newsletters takes a lot of work. But bestselling authors many times over have recommended this approach, and it’s no secret why. When you dictate what content goes out to your readers and when, you gain a strong connection with those readers, and you have access to them in a way that social media can’t provide.

2. It encourages personal interaction.

Though social media is a great way to converse with potential readers and to build relationships, there is something much more personal about newsletters. Though they’re being sent out to multiple people, each email reaches someone who willingly signed up for it and wants to know more about your writing. In other words, it’s not only reaching your target audience, it’s reaching your loyal fans, those who are the most interested in reading what you write. The key here is to share content that gives back to your readers. Trust is a two-way street, and if all your readers hear is “buy my book!” they aren’t going to stick around to hear what you have to offer. Give them content that is genuinely you—high-quality material that proves you will deliver on what you say, something that represents your brand and you as an author. Doing so will ensure subscribers that they’ll enjoy your future work, making them more likely to listen to you when you have a pitch to make for your next book.

3. Having a mailing list is like having a giant group of marketing professionals at your disposal.

Now, before you go throwing any tomatoes at me, hear me out. Not everybody on your mailing list will have experience in marketing. In fact, a lot of them probably will have no clue about it. But by sharing personal content with your audience and getting genuine feedback from them, you’re automatically gaining insight into how to cater to you readers and deliver exactly the type of content they want from you. You’ll see what’s working and what isn’t just by the stats delivered from each campaign. And if you have readers respond to your emails, that result is even better. To me, that’s worth way more than a whole group of marketing professionals put together. Bottom line, if you focus on your readers and engage with them, they’ll engage with you.

4. You don’t need to be published to have one.

Whether you traditionally publish or self-publishing, being an author is a LOT of work, and it comes with an insurmountable pile of challenges. But there is one area where we get a break, a free pass into the world of publishing, and that’s with a newsletter. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard writers say that they haven’t started a newsletter because they don’t have anything published—maybe you’re one of those writers. But think about it this way. Have you ever seen a trailer for a movie that you’ve never heard of yet you still thought, “I have to see that!” Chances are you have, and for one very good reason: the content of that trailer was compelling, and it forged a connection with you. Books work very similarly. It doesn’t matter if they’re at the top of the bestselling charts or if you have an agent managing them. It doesn’t even matter if your book has been officially published yet. If you have stories to share and are willing to take the time to build personal connections with readers, YOU HAVE AN AUDIENCE. And if you can get their attention, they’ll listen!

5. It doesn’t cost a penny.

If ever there was an effective way to advertise without spending a fortune, it’s through a mailing list. There are loads of services out there that allow you to send professional-quality emails to a mass number of subscribers, but my personal favorite is Mailchimp. You can see each of your subscribers, categorize them by group and subgroup, and you can see how they’re interacting with each of your campaigns, letting you know which items were of the most value to your readers. That will help you fine-tune your emails to reach even more subscribers in the future. A huge perk with their service is that it’s totally free until you reach 2,000 subscribers, which is really awesome for those of us starting out.

If you’re on the fence about starting a newsletter, don’t be afraid to make that jump. Though it can be a slow-going process at first, it’s definitely a worthwhile one and can help you reach more readers out there just dying to get their hands on what you have to write.

Speaking of mailing lists…if you enjoyed this article, feel free to venture onto the signup page for my FMTP newsletter: It’s full of posts like this one, plus it has extra tips and updates for my nonfiction projects geared toward helping writers in all stages of the craft.

A New Writer Is Born

Rachelle M. N. Shaw

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Ah, writing. Such a simple task. You have your characters, know your plot, and created a fabulous outline, complete with various conflicts to work into the story. That’s all you need for this journey . . . right?

When I first dipped my toes into writing fiction, I had no idea what I was doing. I thought I did, as many new writers do, but it didn’t take long to discover just how wrong I was. Writing techniques eluded me, and what limited resources I did have (the World Wide Web was just in its infancy at the time) held various conflicting pieces of advice. To top it off, I had no clue who my audience was, nor had I established a strong voice and sense of self as a writer.

The result? Apart from the fact that I was only a teenager and had limited experience in the field, inevitable failure lurked just around the corner. Broken scenes, random snippets, and straight-up garbage filled each page, because I was clueless about the complex layers needed to make each story worthy of publishing. Revision wasn’t even in my vocabulary, sending me spinning in a never-ending cycle of write, trash, repeat.

Since then, I've gained considerable experience. I obtained a degree in professional writing, took additional courses in writing, editing, and poetry, published a few books, joined a critique group, and have found a writing group full of amazing people going through the same journey. I now know exactly who I am as a writer, and I know that my audience consists of young adults and adults, specifically those who are drawn to paranormal and supernatural stories, coming-of-age books, and emotional women’s fiction pieces. I know I’m a serial writer who loves short stories and hates being confined by genre. For me, falling outside the conventional realm of publishing isn’t the end of the world. It’s what makes me, me. I have my niche, I know my strengths and weaknesses, and more importantly, I’ve learned how to GROW as a writer.

Anyone who’s written a book will tell you it isn’t as easy as it sounds. Rivers of blood, sweat, and tears go into making a good book great. At the heart of every fabulous story is a passionate writer who doesn’t give up. Someone who takes the time to research, prepare, and often plan so many of the details you see on those final pages. And it all starts with knowing your audience. If you don't know your target readers are, I guarantee you will find yourself in my shoes, spinning in circles, eventually leading you to give up on the book that you've been trying to write for ages, or, you'll produce a piece of drivel you publish way too early, only to find out that you have to start all over.

Don’t make the same mistakes I did. Take the time to find your voice. Get to know your audience. It’s not a race to see how quickly you can publish your book or how many pieces you can finish in a year. Writing is a skill that takes time, practice, and a LOT of dedication. But it’s worth it—you’re worth it. And so is your story.

updated 3/23/19