Book of the Year for Authors: Newsletter Ninja

My book of the year is Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque. It has wonderful things to teach authors at any stage of their career; it helped to revolutionize mine.

This is a febrile time of year. The sins of the old year are washed away, and the ambitions of the new are laid out. It’s a clean slate, a fresh start, a time to gather stones together. It’s also a time when people like to review the year gone by and make predictions for the next.

I won’t poke that particular hornet’s nest, let’s just say there has been a fair amount of tumult. I remember saying a few years ago that chaos was the new normal and that people shouldn’t expect things to settle down any time soon — at least one prediction that has both aged well and remained evergreen.

I’m not one for fretting about the future, but I definitely am one for preparing. And the best insurance policy against any seismic changes in our industry is to have a large group of engaged readers which you regularly communicate with through a platform you control.

I knew this, and I still screwed it up. But I stopped screwing it up in 2018 and Newsletter Ninja is the reason why.

Please note that this is a somewhat biased recommendation. Here’s what I said when speaking about Newsletter Ninja a few months ago:

Disclosure: Tammi edited Digital 3 and Superfans, but I asked Tammi to edit those books because she knows her sh*t inside out and is a literal ninja.

I also wrote the foreword to this book, which Tammi has kindly allowed me to reprint here. And the reason why I wrote the foreword, and the many, many reasons why you should buy this book, will become very clear once you read the excerpt below — so thank you Tammi for letting me do that.

Before we get into it, I should mention that you can buy Newsletter Ninja from. And you really, really should. Here’s, erm, me with more:

I’ve been self-publishing for seven years. That’s quite a long period to be screwing up almost the entire time, but I managed it! My whole approach to email was backwards. I did all the don’ts, ignored all the warnings, missed out on so many opportunities to build myself a happy and engaged audience of readers that it causes me literal pain when I think about it. I don’t say this to elicit sympathy. Rather, I hope that my long experience of doing exactly the wrong things can act as a deterrent—a giant sign made of bones spelling out “Here Be Wolves.”

What did I do exactly? I only emailed people when I had a new release. I thought I was being considerate and not clogging up everyone’s inboxes when, in reality, I was only turning up at their door when I wanted something: their money. This was compounded by my slow production speed, particularly with those painstakingly researched historical novels I seem to enjoy writing for some reason. That problem was further exacerbated by working in more than one genre, so the books came out even slower and the emails were even less frequent. Clearly, I felt I wasn’t antagonizing my most loyal readers enough with this set-up, so I decided to have one Frankenlist—my fiction and non-fiction peeps all lumped together—neatly ensuring that everyone really wouldn’t care about at least 50% of the (increasingly infrequent) messages I was sending out.

Yeah, I was officially Bad At Email.

There were more insidious effects too. Deep down I knew I was Bad At Email, but instead of this manifesting in some change of tack, I retreated into myself. Messages became less personal. I lacked confidence—dreading launch day instead of getting a thrill of anticipation when hitting my list. Because I knew I’d see a continuation of several disturbing trends: falling opens, reduced clicks, less conversions, increasingly tepid engagement, and then people unsubscribing or marking the email as spam as the final kick in the teeth. How did I get here? And how did I climb out of that hole?

I started listening to Tammi, is the short version. She started teaching a course on email and I was one of the first people to sign up. Yes, I was at least partly motivated by wanting to support a friend, but Tammi sounded like she knew her stuff and I was beginning to accept that I needed to radically change my approach. I had already taken one important step: I had separated those fiction and non-fiction readers. But I didn’t really know what to do next, and I was hoping I’d get some ideas from Tammi’s course.

Eh, yeah.

Within a month I had started a brand-new mailing list with a five-part automated onboarding sequence, during which I doled out my custom-written reader magnet which was getting rave reviews. I had pivoted to a weekly newsletter approach and weeded out the dead weight on my old list, and open and click rates were climbing.

Within two months I had launched my first book to these new readers, and it hung out at the top of the charts for a considerable time. My newsletter subscribers were responding in greater numbers than ever because my “ask” (and a new release is still an “ask” because you are looking for their money!) came after a string of “gives” for a change.

Within six months I had re-energized my existing non-fiction list and had a brand-new list containing thousands of new readers— passionate and engaged and loyal subscribers who not only opened and clicked but actually looked forward to getting my emails. I know this because they email me and tell me! I can’t explain to you what this means to me, how much I have been reinvigorated by this. My whole career feels like it has been rebooted, and I look to the future with confidence rather than trepidation. I get a tingle again every time I hit my list.

I don’t know where you are in your career or whether you have made all these mistakes too. If you are just at the beginning of your journey, you have the chance here to do things right from the start. But if you have screwed things up as badly as me, I want to give you the confidence that you can turn things around—remarkably quickly too. Even quicker if you haven’t ticked every box on the Giant List O’Mistakes!

So, just listen to Tammi, learn how to put value in every single email, and start building a passionate list of engaged readers. I wish I did it years ago.

Buy Newsletter Ninja from Amazon.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

16 Replies to “Book of the Year for Authors: Newsletter Ninja”

  1. I’ve read a ton of books on email marketing over the years and tested many different strategies. And whilst that has all been pretty useful, a lot doesn’t apply to how authors should truly communicate with their subscribers. They really aren’t fans until they are fully engaged. Anyone can send an email. Getting the dam things opened and the links clicked is an art (there’s a lot of hidden psychology at work). Thankfully something all authors can learn, but only if they follow the right mentor! Tammi’s Newsletter Ninja is simply the best book I’ve ever read on setting up your email campaigns, structuring and segmenting your subscribers, and most importantly getting fans engaged enough so they go on to actually buy your books. It’s a wonderful resource that I dip into regularly to re-energise my email strategies. At £3.99 for the ebook or £9.99 for the paperback, this is one of the best investments an author can ever make in increasing book sales and creating a fanbase.

  2. I saw Tammi’s presentation at the Smarter Artists Summit in Austin last week.

    Talk about getting clubbed by a clue-by-four.

    Bought the book. Inhaled it.

    I’m in the process of changing everything and I haven’t been this charged up in months.

    1. I felt the same. It re-energized me completely. This is the hardest benefit to outline in a blog post or blurb but it’s the most fundamental – the difference inside my own head. It’s a nicer place to be, and I spend a lot of time there so that’s good I guess…

    1. I love hearing this! Although now Tammi’s book has taken over the coveted #1 Also Bought spot on Let’s Get Digital so she is now officially cancelled.

  3. Tammi’s book made me commit to a monthly newsletter. With pet content. I don’t have a pet, so I created one, and I’m having more fun with that than anyone should.

    A lot of the other stuff Tammi teaches is still beyond my energy levels, but I’m having some of my (still very few subscribers) tell me they want more of my pet stories. Love it.

  4. Aaaaand bought – based on one sentence from your post: that sending a newsletter only when I have a book coming/out means I am asking for people’s money. I thought I was being a nice person not clogging their inbox. Exactly like you said.

    Looking forward to finding out how many mistakes I only haven’t committed yet because I haven’t even sent one newsletter so far 😀

  5. I bought Tammi’s book, on your recommendation. It’s brilliant. It’s made me realise I was doing it all backwards. I’ve started sending fortnightly emails and dropping the occasional free short story to them. It’s early days, but Tammi’s advice made sense, so I’m expecting things to get better slowly but surely. Also, I love your long emails and I bought Strangers to Superfans because I figured if your emails are so useful, your book would be doubly so.

  6. I bought Tammi’s book in the middle of October and started using her strategies toward the end on one of my newsletter lists. Below are my Mailerlite stats. I’ve never had a 72% open rate. Crazy. My click rate is steadily increasing. Subs are emailing me answers to questions; another strategy. I send the newsletter email once a week and a new release email one a month. And I have less than 700 subs with half still in the automation sequence.

    And my unsubscribes are expected drops from BookFunnel promo campaigns.

    Yeah, thank you, Tammi. 🙂

    Month Campaigns Emails sent Opened Clicked Unsubscribed Spam Complaints

    2018 December 8 1,555 72.46% (1,126) 18.15% (282) 1.74% (27) 0.00% (0)
    2018 November 8 653 55.37% (361) 15.80% (103) 0.46% (3) 0.15% (1)
    2018 October 9 448 36.40% (162) 5.17% (23) 0.22% (1) 0.00% (0)
    2018 September 2 97 25.26% (24) 1.05% (1) 0.00% (0) 0.00% (0)

  7. This is the best book ever! I bought it when it was released! (at your recommendation) When I finished reading it, (in 3 days) I immediately signed up for Tammi’s course in November. I just revamped my whole email list (after 20 years of doing it wrong) and since Jan 1st I have already increased my engagement and number of subscribers with my cookie that went live the eve of New Year’s Day. I sent out my first newsletter with the new format this morning with an ask for a response to a question and my inbox actually has responses for the first time in YEARS!

    So I second your thoughts on this book. If you haven’t bought it or read it… DO IT! Tammi is amazing to work with even for a non-traditional author. (I am a crochet pattern designer and instructor who writes crochet books and self publishes them.)

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