Seriously. You really should.
Right now, it’s newsletters.
Simply put, one of the best ways for a writer to reach readers — aside from, you know, writing books — is through newsletters. People miss social media posts, are reluctant to attend in-person events and weary of virtual ones, and word-of-mouth is chancy. And so now, at this moment in our changing world (SO FUN), the single most effective way for writers to reach readers is through old-fashioned email.
Of course, there are limitations. Your newsletter can end up buried amongst AVILIBLE SINGLES IN YOR AREA! spam. You could be one of those dudes (always dudes) who does the gross, friendship-ending act of subscribing people to your newsletter without their consent. Also, it’s hard to build an audience and slow-going if you do it organically. You could end up committing to a newsletter-writing schedule that’s impossible to keep.
No marketing platform works for everyone.
But, right now, newsletters are what marketers (for over 25 years, my day job has been in marketing and communications) recommend. Next year, it’ll probably be some nifty new social media platform that has yet to be overrun by white supremacists and rage. * GLARES AT TWITTER *
I’ve published a newsletter for a few years now and, yes, there are drawbacks — the platform is expensive, and the schedule can be infringing. And since my newsletter is more than an authorial newsletter (although I open each one with a personal note), the information I provide requires a modicum of research — a list of monthly book recommendations, a feature where one writer recommends another, goofy graphics. But that newsletter, Crime (Fiction) Works, has been one of my most rewarding experiences as a writer.
Is it challenging? Absolutely.
I made a promise to subscribers early on that my personal reflections in that author’s note would be entirely honest (as opposed to my social media and real-life relationships, which I fill with lies), and that weighs on me, particularly since no one goes through publishing unscathed.
It’s never easy to document scars. But my newsletter keeps me honest, and there’s a wonderful sense of deep engagement with my subscribers (now close to 5,000) that I don’t find outside of my books. Everyone has their jam. This is mine, and maybe it’ll be yours, too.
If you’re interested in starting a newsletter, here are four I recommend that anyone interested in the creative process subscribe to. Note that all of them do more than simply push their own books (although, obviously and nakedly, that’s an understood part of it). A newsletter that does nothing more than talk about sales or events or the writer is not only skippable, but typical.
Like the best books — which these authors also write — these newsletters stand out:
I don’t know how she finds the time. The chart-topping, bestselling friend o’ Hillary puts out a newsletter, on time, every month, and it’s LOVELY. Filled with personal reflections, moments of humor, keen wit, and references to famous and obscure quotes that then inform her passages. So many bestselling authors farm out their duties, often handing social media posts and other demands to assistants or marketers. I don’t know Ms. Penny, but I think this is all her. The newsletter reads like a gentle labor of love, and it’s become something I look forward to. As unsteady as the past few years have been, Louise Penny’s work (both her books and this newsletter) has been a constant, welcome companion.
Another newsletter from a bestselling, prolific writer that’s full of honesty and wit and warmth. Lippman provides an inside look into the life of a full-time writer, and it’s informed by the same spirit and determination that readers have found in her novels. Like most writers’ newsletters, this one doesn’t follow a set schedule, but that irregularity is far from a fault. Instead, it lends to the honesty of life’s uncertain patterns, and Lippman’s writing, as is the case with her novels and essays, makes “Shaved Meats, Piled High” a must-read the moment it lands in your inbox.
Jordan Harper’s newsletter is relatively new, but it’s utterly fascinating and I hope it continues for a long time (he did recently hint at turning it into a podcast). The celebrated novelist and screenwriter’s newsletter is a cerebral look into the creative process, approached from either a philosophical or a practitioner’s methodology. Difficult concepts are broken down, and their application to art are explained. Although it’s occasionally lengthy, I find myself reading it with the same slavish attention I paid to Harper’s award-winning, highly praised, utterly kick-ass debut novel, She Rides Shotgun.
This is an outside recommendation but one writers should note. “Please Advise” is a daily marketing newsletter put out by Top Hat creative agency, and it’s short, concise, and offers tips that are applicable for anyone hoping to further their audience. Some of the tips are standard in marketing, but frankly, much of what is standard in marketing is unfamiliar to writers. Listen: Marketing can be gross, but some degree of it is necessary for anyone hoping to sell their work commercially. Whether you’re someone who pays keen attention to those trends, or you only want to dip a toe in those waters, “Please Advise” is a valuable resource.
I subscribe to a lot of newsletters, and it wasn’t easy to limit this list to four. But my editor is a Nazi when it comes to word count. Do you know of one you think others should read? List it in the comments.
[Nazi editor’s note: Ed forgot to mention that you should subscribe to our newsletter, too. This is why we don’t pay him.]
E.A. Aymar’s next thriller, No Home for Killers, will be published by Thomas and Mercer in early 2023. You can subscribe to his newsletter, Crime (Fiction) Works, HERE. There are monthly prizes and stuff.