Roughly six years ago, a well-known Contemporary Romance author organized a book promotion. She posted the invite to participate in a Facebook group and opened it up to all authors, writing that she remembered her beginnings in the author world and that nobody would be excluded because their mailing lists were too small. Those who wanted to take part added their book for free, and once it kicked off, every participating author shared the promotion with their audience.
At the time I joined, my mailing list size was zero. The organizing author assured me that didn’t matter.
In the end, over two hundred authors contributed to the promotion and shared one another’s books with their readers. Only one book had a cover sans a man’s chest—mine. What’s the word for beyond embarrassed? I thought for sure the Romance reader and author community would laugh me into oblivion.
But that didn’t happen.
There were wins: I ended up with two thousand readers on my list. Some of my staunchest supporters came from that swap. There were uh-ohs: It took years for the Amazon algorithm to straighten out my books’ “also bought” categories. And although I ultimately lost a majority of those two thousand readers when both of us realized that our author-reader relationship wasn’t a good fit, I learned a lot about the importance of newsletter swaps.
Exchanging information with another author in order to share your books with one another’s newsletters is a great way to put your work in front of new audiences and increase sales, but only when done correctly. To help you avoid my mistakes, and hopefully repeat the wins, we’ve compiled a list of ten tips to cementing the perfect newsletter swap—one that will ensure you get the right reader’s eyes on your books.
- Find authors willing to share your book.
Thanks to the widespread philosophy of many indie authors that all indies benefit when we help one another, there are a variety of ways to find people who will swap newsletters. Beyond reaching out to authors individually, communities found through Amazon’s KBoards, genre-focused Facebook groups, and newsletter swap sites can all help authors connect with others who are looking to form newsletter swaps.
The most common three swap sites are Prolific Works, BookFunnel, and Story Origin, but there are more out there. When you join these sites, you’ll create a profile and add the details about the book you want others to share. Authors will then post either a promotion or a direct swap. A promotion is a pool of authors sending readers to a landing page, where they will decide which books tap into their interest. A direct swap is when an author mentions your book with links to the sales page. In other words, both of you will send a newsletter with a mention of each other’s books.
Pro Tip: Do not join KBoards or a genre group just to find people for a newsletter swap. The owners of these groups create them to make space discussions that help the community, and you don’t want to take advantage of others without contributing something in return. Instead, engage with others authentically. In time, established authors will post that they are looking for swaps, or the group administrator will create a post for people to find others to swap with. In the comments, you’ll find people who can help get the word out about your book.
- Stay in your lane.
The idea of getting your book in front of potentially thousands of readers’ eyes seems exciting, but if they are the wrong readers, it is an exercise in futility. Look for authors who write in the same genre and niche you do before you decide whether their books are good candidates for a swap. Remember, your audience has expectations. When they are hearing from someone known for science fiction and who delivers stories with aliens and weapons, they might not care about a character who uses essences and can kill magical beings with one dagger slice. They’ll be disappointed, then you’ll be disappointed.
- Do your research.
Authors initiating a swap often have their cover, tagline, and blurb listed with the rest of their information. Samples of the book are available on most e-book retailers, so before you offer to swap with them, read a couple of pages to see if the author is a good fit. Does their story entice you to delve deeper into the book? Are there typos? Remember, your readers trust your word. If they check out what you share and encounter several stories that aren’t up to their standards, they might lose trust in your recommendations.
- Be honest about what you have.
I’ve been there. We’ve all been there. Everyone’s list size must start somewhere, so if you don’t have a large list, just say so. What is your social media reach? Perhaps you don’t have subscribers, but you have an author page on Facebook or an active blog with regular readership. If you don’t have a large list, or even a list at all, think of ways you can contribute to helping someone reach more readers. If you can reach an audience that another author can’t in order to get word out about their book, you can still contribute meaningfully to a swap. Having a small newsletter reach likely won’t ruin your chances of organizing a successful swap with an author, but being dishonest about your list size certainly will.
- Decide a purpose for your swap.
Newsletters are used for a variety of purposes. Are you trying to grow your mailing list, promote a launch, or give a release some traction? Decide why you’d like to swap, and explain that to the person you are swapping with. This will help the other author determine if what you’re presenting will fit in with what they’re sharing with their readers.
- Follow through with your commitment.
This is simple etiquette. Treat others the way you want to be treated. If you tell an author you’re going to share their work with readers but change your mind, you have broken an agreement and lost trust with that author—and possibly many others. Of course, unforeseen events that prohibit writing happen. If there’s an emergency or other issue that arises that prevents you from posting the swap when you originally promised, communicate this with the other author as soon as possible to reschedule to a time when you can follow through with the commitment.
- Swap with your readers in mind.
A newsletter is a written conversation with your readers; if they wanted a list of books, they’d sign up for a service that promises them that. Readers signed up for your newsletter because they want to hear from you, so even when sharing newsletter swaps, continue with the practice. Many authors prefer to write their normal correspondence at the top. Then, at the bottom, they’ll share the other author’s books under a clear and easily recognizable heading. Just be sure your readers know to keep scrolling once your message is done. Consider teasing the swap in your letter or posing a question in the subject line, then promising to answer at the bottom of the newsletter.
- Swap with other authors in mind.
When another author agrees to swap with you, share your book cover, tagline, blurb, and the link to your sales page. Having to search for information is a time drag. If you don’t offer what your swap partners need, they might not be able to provide their readers enough information to find your books or take any interest in your stories. They’re not being mean; it’s a way of conserving time so they can focus on their own businesses. However, if you put all your information clearly in front of them, your swap partners will be able to share most, if not all, the information their readers need to decide whether your book is a good fit.
Pro Tip: Depending on how much room they have in their newsletter, your swap partner may still only have room to use the image, tagline, and link to your story, even if you’ve provided them more information. These are the primary details you should expect to see in a swap, so don’t be upset if they’ve left off something you sent in addition—it will still be plenty for their readers to find you. But it’s yet another reason to make sure your cover can hold its own and sell your story well.
- Stick to your schedule.
There isn’t a prescribed time to send out newsletters with swaps. However, if you make a commitment to your readers on the frequency with which you’ll send them recommendations, follow through with it. This sets the bar for your reader’s expectations and proves your reliability to readers and other authors.
- Track and measure results.
If you’re swapping with several other authors, you’ll want to have a way to measure success and attribute it to the right campaign. Add a simple tracking code to your website link, and track clicks in Google Analytics using a UTM code that includes the name of the campaign.
Pro Tip: Not sure how UTM codes work? Watch the video primer on our YouTube channel.
The source and medium can be the same for each link, with just the campaign name changing depending on the author you’re swapping with. It’s a free-form field that passes the information over to Google. That way, when you look in Google Analytics, you’ll see the clicks registered under the Source/Medium report. If you’re not using Google Analytics to measure traffic to your website, you can also use a free link shortener like https://bitly.com to create a short link for each author you swap with.
Whether it’s your first or your fiftieth newsletter swap, it’s important to take steps to ensure the process is organized and will benefit you, your swap partner, and your readers. By putting in the effort now, you’ll not only have the opportunity to not only sell more books; you’ll also be able to build relationships that will pay back dividends for years to come.