My last blog post spoke about the CAN-SPAM act that governs the use of electronic newsletters, but Erica Ridley’s presentation covered so much more than the law, which she mentioned. Ms. Ridley is a historical romance author with more than 25,000 newsletter subscribers. One of the most frequently given advice to gathering sales for today’s author is to have a newsletter. Your subscribers are readers who like your stories, so let them know when you have a new book out.

There are two schools of thought about how often a newsletter should be sent out. Some authors believe only when you have a book out, to avoid cluttering your fans’ inboxes; other authors believe a newsletter is another form of social media and therefore, only a portion of the newsletter distribution should be a “buy my book” message.

Ms. Ridley sends out a monthly newsletter, which covers something personal happening in her life (family visiting her in Costa Rica where she lives!), something interesting about Costa Rica (it’s unique to have a writer of English Regency historicals living there), and then something about her books (progress, new book or box sets, etc.) With so many subscribers, her newsletter is apparently very successful.

How did she do it?

She is a big believer in reader magnets. Everywhere she posts or advertises, she has a link front and center, asking if the reader wants free stories. That is the basic key to her success. What is in it for the reader to be your subscriber? For authors, free books and stories are obvious reader magnets. They get something good to read in exchange for giving their e-mail address.

I have five or six very short stories of between 800 and 2,000 words. These are flash ideas that came to me, usually while I was on my morning walk. One does not refuse the gifts from the writing muse! I wrote these down and shared them with my critique group. They gave their suggestions but also asked what I planned to do with them? I couldn’t give an answer, but I still kept the story files on my computer.

Unfortunately, these stories tend to be either set in the present day or outside my usual historical period. I asked Ms. Ridley, if these would be appropriate for a historical author to use. I worried about diluting my brand. She said it was more important to give something to the readers rather than just asking them to sign up for the newsletter.

I decided to use my short story Love Lies, which is set in the present day, as my free reader gift. At almost 2,000 words, it’s one of my longest short shorts.

The story idea came from a writing prompt in an online class I took about short stories. The prompt gave the first sentence of the story: Her husband was lying to her.

Immediately, we have two characters, a husband and wife, with conflict—lying. What is he lying about? The answer came to me immediately—and why he did so. After I wrote the beginning, I knew how his lack of truthfulness would affect their family and how they had to learn to forgive and love again. Hey, I’m a romance writer. I like the happy ending.

I formatted my story, which was the first time doing that and am now working to make sure my web site will automatically send out the story to any subscriber. Setting up that link should be this week’s task.

I hope you will give my newsletter—and free story a try! (Yes, I know I should have the link to my subscriber page here, but it’s not next Sunday, yet.)