by Kitty Felde
If you’ve attended as many book marketing webinars as I have, you’ve heard the same advice: you need a newsletter.
The reason is simple: if the rest of social media goes the way of Twitter, er, X, you need a way to stay in touch with your theatre contacts, publishers, and fans in a format that you can control.
So as a veteran of writing hundreds of newsletters, here’s a few thoughts.
WHAT SHOULD I PUT IN A NEWSLETTER?
I’ve always thought of newsletters as a bit self-indulgent. Who would want to read anything about my life, my thoughts on climate change or politics, or pictures of my cat? And then I remembered that my husband and I have put out a Christmas newsletter for more than a decade that does just that. I apologize to my friends and family and tell them they can just toss it in the trash or ask me to take them off the mailing list. On the contrary, they say, they look forward to this annual missive. Go figure.
The truth is that we long for personal connections – even those that show up in a newsletter once and a while. Your contacts want to know more about YOU, the writer yourself. You don’t have to disclose utterly personal information. Instead, address the questions most people ask: Why do you write? How do you write? What are you working on? What does your desk look like? Who’s your favorite playwright? Why?
Readers and theatre goers and fans also like a peek behind the curtain. How do you cast a play? Do the actors hired for your work look like the ones you imagined when you were creating them? Who’s your favorite director? Why? What was the best (and worst) production of any of your work? (Leave out specific identification of the offending theatre…it’s a small town.) Write about an amazing production of someone else’s play or recount a memory of a play you saw years and years ago that still sticks with you. Ask your readers to tell you about their favorite production of any play and put that in a future newsletter. Ask them which play they wish someone would write. Put together a survey. In other words, get your fans to interact with you, otherwise known as that horrid word “engagement.”
Ask yourself what your newsletter subscribers NEED. A calendar of upcoming shows you think they’d enjoy? A monologue or scene that got cut from one of your plays? A really wonderful – or really awful – review of a previous production of one of your plays? Information about upcoming productions or publications or interviews?
Currently, I write two professional newsletters with a combined 4,000 subscribers. I began writing them in 2015.
For my Book Club for Kids podcast, I didn’t want the newsletter to be about ME. I wanted to give subscribers something that was useful. I knew that my audience of teachers, parents, and librarians needed help getting reluctant readers to pick up a book. So every month, I send a reading tip from a librarian or an education specialist. The newsletter also includes promotional material: information about the latest episode, an invitation to check out my other podcast The Fina Mendoza Mysteries, and an invitation to contact me if they want to bring the podcast to their school.
For my Fina Mendoza Mysteries civics series, I write a Facts Behind the Fiction newsletter where I expand on some Congressional fact mentioned in the books or podcast. The newsletter also includes links to research material, as well as links to the audio and to bookstores where the audience can buy the book.
Then I REPURPOSE the newsletter content in a blog on my website. And if I’m a good girl, I post links to it on social. That way, I get a three for one hit on my written material.
HOW OFTEN DO I SEND A NEWSLETTER?
It’s up to you. But once a month or every six months is plenty. Unless your audience asks for more.
HOW TO BUILD A MAILING LIST
Start with your friends, family, professional colleagues, and anyone else who might be interested in your work. Or in you. Include a signup link on your website. Include it in social posts from time to time. Do a “newsletter swap” – you write a post that a fellow playwright sends to her mailing list and she writes one for your newsletter. Include that signup link! Hopefully, her fans will sign up for your newsletter and become your fans as well. You’ll be surprised at how fast your audience grows.
MAILCHIMP, MAILERLITE, CONSTANT CONTACT, ETC.
Don’t send mass email blasts from your Gmail account. You will be punished. Instead, start with a free subscription from one of the usual suspects. I’ve used both Mailchimp and MailerLite and they’re easy, pretty much drag and drop. One warning: there’s a success tax. If your mailing list goes over a set threshold, you’ll have to pay for hosting.
Subscribe to a few OTHER writer’s mailing lists. You can always unsubscribe. See what they are writing about, how they are providing value to the reader.
Newsletters are purely optional for writers, but as a control freak myself, they are an important part of my professional presence in the world.
Kitty Felde is the author of numerous plays and the Fina Mendoza Mysteries series of books and podcasts, designed to introduce civics to elementary school readers. Her novella Losing is Democratic: How to Talk to Kids About January 6th will be released by Chesapeake Press this month.