Friday, April 20, 2018

How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—Building Your Newsletter Matters

by Traci Tyne Hilton @TraciTyneHilton

*disclaimer. This series is about following rules. I know that Indies don’t have to follow rules. That’s the whole point of being indie. But indies who pay attention to what rich and famous authors do, have a much better shot at fame and riches.*

In part two of this series, How You Advertise Matters I explained the importance of advertising. It is vitally important. What I didn’t explain was why those sites I recommend work so well. 

Book Bub and the other less expensive but less effective sites are what print advertisers call “advertorials”. Like the thing that comes in your mailbox that looks like a newspaper kind of, but turns out is just ads.

Readers subscribe to these sites so that once a day they can get a daily email that tells them all about books they will love that are on sale or free. The whole reason these programs work is that readers have chosen on purpose to get these emails. The readers actually want the information.

Since that is so effective, why do you need your own list?

1. Readers who subscribe to your newsletter are doing the same thing. They are saying they want to know when your next book will be out, and when you are having a sale on existing books. I’m sure they also want a little chatter, but they really want books.

2. Readers who subscribe to your newsletter have the chance to get to know you through the chatter you add to the release announcements. They want to know you. You are one of their favorite authors. I’m sure you also want to know your favorite author, so you get it.

3. Readers who are connected with you, who feel friendly, are excited to share your release news with their friends. They are excited to help with reviews. They are excited to get exclusive content and prizes for helping you.

4. The 8o/2o principle you hear about when talking volunteers, is at work here, too. If you have 1oo subscribers, 8o of them will do nothing, and 2o of them will do everything. But you know what? That’s 2o sales on release day. It’s 2o early reviews. It’s something. It’s a start!

5. To be honest, it will be less than 2o percent active subscribers, but that’s okay. Just make sure you have more than 1oo folks on the list.

6. Author Nick Stephenson did it best when he made an exclusive free book a perk for subscribing. He advertised itwith a link in the beginning of all his existing books, then advertised those books. So do that. It works.

7. That means writing another book that you aren’t getting money for. Sorry. Make it a prequel and let it be short. But also, make sure it satisfies genre expectations as best as possible, is a true representation of what they will get from the rest of your work, and is, in itself a fully satisfying tale that was worth their trouble for subscribing and downloading.

I wish I had known the value of the newsletter ten years ago when I first began my indie journey. It is hugely important, but also fun and rewarding. Your readers are getting to know you and you are getting to know them. What could be better?

There are a lot of services to help you grow your newsletter, because news of the importance of the newsletter has gotten around. Proceed with caution is all I have to say about that. Your organically grown list will always perform better than one you used a service to get. Not that all services are bad, but they aren’t all good, either.


Traci Tyne Hilton is the author of The Plain Jane Mysteries, The Mitzy Neuhaus Mysteries and the Tillgiven RomanticMysteries. Traci has a degree in history from Portland State University and still lives in the rainiest part of the Pacific Northwest with her husband the mandolin playing funeral director, two busy kids, and their dogs, Dr. Watson and Archie Goodwin.

More of Traci’s work can be found at

Don't miss the previous posts
1. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What You Write Matters

2. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—How You Advertise Matters

3. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—How You Release Books Matters

4. How Authors Can Build an Indie Empire—What You Write Matters


  1. Thanks Ms. Traci. Wonderful ideas ma'am, that I believe will transfer easily to my more traditional publishing route (I hope). As I am learning, it's all about the "pull" you create before your book ever sees the light of day. Thank you again for all your great marketing tips. God's blessings...

    1. You are very welcome! And you are totally right, newsletter creation applies to the traditional publishing route as well. :D

  2. Marketing isn't easy. I've begun trying to be more active, but IF I had 100 subscribers I'd be amazed and excited. However it is looking up. Good encouragement.

    1. Thank you so much.

      And you are so right, marketing isn't easy! But buying ads can be, so I hope you've been able to incorporate some of that into your marketing campaign!

  3. For those of you with an active newsletter, what do you like best about it? :D

  4. What if you are only going to publish one book? And a children's middle grade book at that? I wouldn't mind creating a newsletter showing my publishing progress and then advertising the books (eBook & print) when they come out, but then what else would I put into the newsletter. I don't mind pumping my friends's books, but they write in all kinds of genres and maybe my readers wouldn't be interested.
    Eager to know you response.

    1. If you are only going to ever publish one book you don't need a newsletter. This series really is about building a long term business. :D

      As for middle grade, I never recommend writers publish those as indie. Amazon is the main source of sales for an indie author and for their ebooks they have a service for parents--$3 a month subscription to a library of books for kids that indies are not invited to add their books to. As for print, I haven't yet heard of anyone having success getting their indie middle grade titles into the hands of readers. It's a tricky field, middle grade books, and one best handled by a publisher.