Susan, who is a member of my Author Accelerator program and who is working on a YA novel, recently had a breakthrough that I wanted to share with you guys. It may not seem like it was a huge thing, but it was indeed a huge thing: she began a newsletter for her future readers. She began, in other words, to connect with her future readers -- and it started with just one person. I wanted to share with you Susan’s story about this milestone, because so often we get caught up in the END – revising a book, selling it, marketing it – but it’s good every once and awhile to pay attention to the very beginning of things, too. Here’s Susan telling her tale of getting her very first newsletter subscriber. I hope it inspires you to start something you might be scared of.

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The most amazing thing about my plan to start a newsletter is that I’m actually, really doing it. I’ve watched other take this step. I even started collecting examples of newsletters I liked and imagined how I would fashion my own. But that was as far as it went. I’m revising a novel. The work is demanding. I’ll have time do all that later. These were the things I told myself. Then Jennie invited Dan Blank to join us on a group call.

Dan talked about creating an audience for a book as much as a year in advance of publication. He talked about building relationships with potential readers by being genuine and making real connections. Then Jennie introduced us to Tim Grahl and his book, Your First 1000 Copies. Tim’s message was similar. Connect with readers, heart to heart. Reach out to other writers and offer value. Look to give rather than to take.

I loved this, because I didn’t want to become one of those writers who begs people to “read my book!!” Tim and Dan both talked about asking permission to appear in peoples’ inboxes. This resonated with me, and yet I had no idea where to I start, since I’d be building my subscriber list from scratch. I felt like the actor who needs his union card to get a gig but can’t get a gig without the card. The old me (pre-Jennie) would have given up right here. The new me (who believes in my novel and would like to sell a ton of copies) raised my concerns in an Author Accelerator Office Hours call.

 Jennie’s thoughtful response gave me enough clarity and encouragement to sign up for MailChimp [Jennie here: Mailchimp is one of the services that helps with automating email newsletters, among other things.] Here’s where, if this were a cartoon, you’d hear the sound of screeching brakes, and words ‘Learning Curve’ would flash across the screen in big red letters. Mail Chimp intimidated me. “I’m lame with computer-ese,” the old me said. But the new me told the old me to get over it. So I hired a computer dude to embed (‘embed’ is a cool new term I learned after I stopped being intimidated) a sign-up form on my website, and started watching MailChimp tutorials.    

Meanwhile, I remembered Jennie’s suggestion about offering a gift to subscribers. Tim, Dan, and Jennie all said that “content” was a wonderful gift to give. I certainly have plenty of that. I’ve got character bios and background notes, not to mention a novel full of chapters. But (cue the sound of screeching brakes again) what meaning would any of that have if people hadn’t yet read the story?  I’ve since gotten past this kind of thinking, but that’s a subject for another newsletter post.

At this point in the cartoon, a rain cloud would have appeared above my head, but serendipity intervened. I received a beautiful bookmark along with a book I ordered. This little piece of art had imagery from the story on it, and every time I looked at it, I thought of the book. I write about dragons, magic and mythology and have been illustrating my story to help me bring it to life. You can see some of the drawings on my website. (Jennie: also here....)

I mentioned to Jennie that I was thinking of using this artwork as a thank you gift. She got so excited about the idea that I got excited, too. Then I remembered the bookmark.

I picked one of my favorite images, a magical dagger, and had it printed up and laminated. Then I got an e-mail that said, “New subscriber to Luminous.” The computer dude had signed up!! I felt like a kid at Christmas. I think I actually jumped up and down. And I understood what Dan and Jennie and Tim had been talking about. Computer dude saw my website. He connected with the content. More importantly he connected with me. Then, he gave me permission. So I sent him a “Luminous” bookmark!!

Since then, my husband and a few close friends have also subscribed, because they love me and want to support me. I now have a list with six names on it! But I also have this plan; to finish the newsletter, connect it to Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, and begin a conversation about magic, life, and all the other things my book has come to be about. I’m excited to see who might join that conversation. And I’m amazed at the new improved me. I’m learning to be a plate-spinner and a wearer of multiple hats. And I have amazing people to learn from.

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