Aside from book updates, newsletter swaps, and group promos, you might struggle to keep coming up with fresh content ideas for your newsletter. You will need to take time to figure out what your audience responds to and to build a relationship with them so you learn what makes them click on links, reply to you, and ultimately buy your books.
That constant feeling of needing to find content can make newsletter writing feel like a painful task, much like a trip to the dentist for a root canal. But nailing your email marketing game is important for sustained growth and success. So while it may feel painful now, your future self will thank you for your current efforts.
As ever, we here at IAM HQ have your back. Here are our top ten tips for finding content ideas.
1) Start with a goal in mind
Searching for content ideas without an end goal in mind is like going fishing without a rod. In a vast sea of information, ideas, and well-meaning advice from other authors, you can get lost and overwhelmed quickly. The best thing to do is to stop. Pause for a minute. Think about what you want your newsletter to achieve and start from there.
Just like writing a scene in your novel, think about what you want your reader to know, feel, and do after reading your newsletter. Do you want to make them chuckle or encourage them, or do you want to educate them about a specific topic? You might want to promote your social media channel, so you’d create a post on said channel, then tantalize them with a hook, pique their natural curiosity, and direct them to that particular post.
By setting a goal and narrowing down your search before looking for ideas, you’ll save yourself a lot of time.
Pro Tip: Different types of content elicit different responses, but typically content that results in making readers feel happy and inspired tends to be shared the most.
2) Follow the news
We have access to so much information these days, and nothing moves faster than the news (and the Twitter feed). Randomly checking the news could easily pull you into a rabbit hole. So use websites like Feedly (https://feedly.com) or Inoreader (https://inoreader.com) to define your interests and relevant publications and combine them into one easy-to-read newsfeed. Both these services offer free plans that should be sufficient to meet your needs.
3) Look for trending hashtags
Similarly to checking the newsfeed, you can easily find the hottest topics and trending conversations by following trending hashtags. Staying current and relevant can seem hard and time-consuming. But if you’re smart about it, by using sites like hashtagify (https://hashtagify.me), you’ll save time and build your brand with on-trend topics.
Another way to find out what people are talking about (and stay relevant) is to take a look at forums like Reddit (https://reddit.com), Quora (https://quora.com), and other similar sites. Look for subreddits in your genre or broader topics relating to your niche.
Pro Tip: Narrow down your Google search to only include discussion forums. We’re all about saving time, and you don’t want to be scrolling through the plethora of results a general Google search will throw up. If you use Google Chrome, you can hit the discussion tab—it’s a small tab underneath the search. If you’re on Google, just follow your search question with this text: inurl:reddit|forum|viewthread|viewtopic|showthread|showtopic|”index.php?topic” and Google will show you discussion threads.
5) Ask your readers
Asking your readers is as simple as it sounds. You can do a survey or poll or ask for a quick reply. Just be aware that readers might tell you what they think you want to hear. A whole bunch of psychology is attached to that statement and reasons why people do that, but if people think your ego is on the line, then they’ll give you fluffy feel-good compliments. So think carefully about the questions you pose and how you pose them, then just be prepared to read between the lines.
Pro Tip: Recommended reading: The Mom Test by Rob Fitzpatrick and Ask by Ryan Levesue are both great reads if you want to dig deeper into understanding your audience and asking the right questions.
6) Analyze past emails
If you’ve been sending emails regularly, you’ll have a solid history of data to review and assess. Take a look at past campaigns, compare subject lines, and evaluate the content and or theme within that campaign. Ask how well the subject line correlated to the content and how it affected the outcome. What type of content got your readers to take an action (usually a link click)? Which emails had the most engagement? Compare those to the ones that got the least. See if you can see a common theme.
Don’t go mad here or go back over the lifetime of your newsletter. Just look long enough to pick up on any trends. If you email every two weeks, you might only go back over the last three months. If you email monthly, you might want to review the last six to nine months. Pick a time interval that makes sense.
7) Seasonal calendars
Use holidays and seasonal events to your advantage, especially if you’re running a promo and can relate it to a national or international holiday or awareness week. You could, if the connection is strong enough, write a press release and send it to a newspaper for even more coverage. Then write about that in your newsletter. See Awareness Days.com (https://awarenessdays.com/awareness-days-calendar) is a handy site for finding out
about national and international awareness days/weeks/months.
8) Look for small stuff
First and foremost, we are authors. Storytelling is what we do. But we forget to write about ourselves. We hold back because we don’t want to give too much of ourselves away, or maybe we don’t think anyone will be interested, or we’re looking for big events that might interest our readers.
The truth is, you can tell little stories, everyday tidbits to help to build a bond with your readers. You don’t have to tell them about big, deep, personal stuff. It might be about unexpected news or how you met a man in a coffee shop that looked exactly like one of the characters in your upcoming release. The little things that happen in our lives and the way we react to them help our readers bond with us—just like they would with a character in your book.
9) Be open
Look for out-of-the-box ideas. Schedule a brain-dumping session. Put your reader at the center with a statement like, “My readers are into historical romance and often say they were born in the wrong century.” Then mind-map what they might value, what they want from life/love, what they hate, and what problems they might have. Note any ideas that come to you and use these to direct the theme or topic of your newsletter.
Pro Tip: Something magical happens to our subconscious when we decide to become an author. You start seeing ideas and angles for stories everywhere. The same can happen with your search for content ideas. If you’re really stuck, think of a goal, go for a walk, do something creative, or try a new project, and let your subconscious do its work. We can easily get bogged down by the thought that we constantly have to provide value and be entertaining, which can cloud our thinking.
If you’re really stuck, you could try roundups. Do a top ten list of your favorite books, songs, podcasts, or movies; your most popular social media posts; your top-ten most mortifying moments in life; top ten crushes; or a list of real-life events, situations, or people that influenced your current novel. These kinds of lists are great content because they’re shareable and strong conversation starters, and you can easily repurpose them for social media posts.