News for Authors

Newsletters 101: How to Start Your Own Newsletter

by Stephanie Bowen|February, 2024

Thinking about starting a newsletter? As an author, you may have a lot to say beyond the content of your book, and an email newsletter can be a great medium for this. In this article, we cover the basics of creating and launching your own newsletter.

First Things First: Should I Have My Own Author Newsletter?

The answer to this question is always… it depends.


The first goal is to establish why you want to start a newsletter. Have your fans and followers been asking for one? Do you want to connect with them more deeply and in a longer format than you can do on social media or elsewhere? Newsletters give you a direct line of contact with your readers in a way that can’t be matched on social media. Fans who don’t log on to Instagram, TikTok, LinkedIn, or X (formerly Twitter) the day you drop special news may never see it. Newsletters also give you more space to get your point across (with links and photos!) than most social media platforms. Best of all, your content lands right in readers’ inboxes, where they’re much more likely to see and engage with it.

That said, be sure to consider the role of a newsletter in conjunction with the other platforms you are already using, such as social media, your website or blog, speaking engagements, media features or interviews, etc. The way you show up on each of these channels should be unique, and ideally your newsletter should complement these other activities.

A newsletter gives readers the feeling of exclusivity, so make sure to reserve something special for it. If it’s the same content they can get on your socials or podcast, there’s no reason to sign up. Think about what you can provide in the newsletter that won’t be anywhere else: exclusive and/or paid content, giveaways, behind-the-scenes info, and anything else that you might not post broadly on social media.

Another benefit is the performance metrics you’ll receive. Different services give you different tools to interpret your newsletter analytics. Open rates (ORs), click-through rates (CTRs), clicks per link, and even unsubscribes—all of these data points tell you what resonates with your fan base, so you can respond accordingly.

Newsletters have many pros, but there’s one big challenge: they can take a lot of time and energy to build and maintain, and consistency is key (more on that below). If you’re not sure whether it’s worth the investment, ask your marketing or publicity team if a newsletter could be right for you and your brand.


How to Start an Email Newsletter

1.Decide on your focus, format, and cadence. First, you’ll need to come up with a central theme. Think about what topics, questions, or experiences you’d like to cover; what expertise, advice, or recommendations you’d like to share; who you are looking to reach; and what your readers may want to hear from you. Your newsletter can be a natural extension of what you discuss in your book or on a different subject entirely. If you do decide to expand upon your book, be careful not to cannibalize the book’s content. After all, you may gain readers who have read your book and will be looking for new information rather than recycled material.

Once you’ve landed on a general theme, consider the format and cadence that work best for you and your content. Ideally the format will be something you can easily replicate each time. Examples include tips/advice, listicles, short essays on topics of interest, Q&A’s with readers or other creatives/influencers in your space.

Finally, choose a regular cadence for sending your newsletter, and stick with it. Newsletters are habituating mediums, meaning that your readers subscribe expecting to receive your newsletter regularly. At minimum, you should commit to once per month—though weekly and bi-weekly (even daily) cadences will get more engagement and often lead to faster growth. Most important, however, is to pick a schedule that works for you and adhere to it.


2.Select a newsletter service to use. Here are a few of the most popular:


3.Set up a welcome email. People will receive this email as soon as they sign up. It’s an important confirmation that lets them know they’re now successfully subscribed, as well as what they can expect from your newsletter and when. You can also include links to your socials or website to give them other places to check out your content before the newsletter arrives in their inbox.


4.Set up and design your newsletter. It’s ideal to choose a design that matches your book and/or your website so your branding is consistent. In addition to the new content you share in each edition, here are some basic features to include in every newsletter:

    • Greeting (personalized, if possible) and sign-off
    • A few sentences at the top of each newsletter introducing its content
    • Callout at the bottom encouraging people to share/forward the newsletter and/or subscribe themselves (in case they were forwarded it by a friend)
    • Social media and website links
    • Unsubscribe link
    • Images and links as relevant (Note: Err on the side of including only a few images and links to avoid landing in people’s spam folders.)


5.Promote it! Once your newsletter is live, add a sign-up link prominently on your website and in your bio in your social channels. Whenever you send a newsletter, post a quick teaser about it (with a sign-up link) on social media, so your followers can subscribe and get in on the exclusive content you’re offering. And don’t forget to plug it at events, speaking engagements, in your bio for articles or op-eds, and with your network. Other ideas to consider are freebies or giveaways to entice signups (such as an exclusive early excerpt of your book or ten ideas/tips/recommendations for subscribers only).

And make sure to tell people what they’re going to get and how often, anywhere you offer the chance to sign up. (e.g.: a quick monthly note from me about what I’m reading and writing!)


Stephanie Bowen is Director of Author Development for Penguin Random House.