Updated March 2011
Updated August 2012
One of the points I stress in The Author Online is the importance of a mailing list to any author. It's one of the top 3 reasons to have a website in the first place. But if you're going to do it -- and you should -- then do it well. A number of authors have asked me for advice about this and I've gathered a few examples. [Note: David Henry Sterry and Arielle Eckstut, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book published, interviewed me about this and other things for the Huffington Post; click here to read the piece.]
So here's some insight into the art of the creative newsletter signup.
You don't go on the radio and simply say "buy my book, it's a great read." You say: "buy my book because I describe all the best tools and strategies for killing a zombie and tell you how to prepare yourself in both an urban and a rural setting." So in your newsletter signup offer some specifics about what your emails will deliver.
For a very good example of a smart newsletter sign-up see the form that SocialMediaExaminer.com uses (it's in the right column). They promise a value-add (a free video tutorial on using Twitter), and the text has a real voice (click the "more info..." link near Subscribe Now to see the full form). This website, by the way, is an an intelligent and reliable source of information for anyone who blogs or uses social media. Sign up for their newsletter and you'll surely get a few good ideas every couple of months. If you're a Wordpress user, check out the August 2012 post recommending "7 Wordpress Plugins to Grow Your Email Subscribers."
Another example of a creative newsletter signup is the blog CrazySexyLife.com. The first signup box I saw there (in 2009) had three separate options: daily, weekly and monthly, so the reader could choose how much of author Kris Carr's stuff she really wanted. Recently Carr updated her newsletter signup and it's still great, but very different and now she also offers a free piece of content for folks who sign up. (The email sign-up is in the middle, right under the banner.)
Click here to see screenshots of all these examples.
And here to read more articles aimed at helping authors do better online.
UPDATE: March, 2011
Here's another example of a good practice worth emulating. Many of you know that I'm obsessed with the High Line, New York's elevated park on the west side of Manhattan (you can read my blog, LivinTheHighline, here). When I joined Friends of the High Line they sent me a membership card, but along with the card I got a note updating me on recent events in the park. It wasn't just their boilerplate "here's your card, thanks for the dough." It had information -- content -- that I was really interested in reading, and it had been generated specifically for that mailing. It won't be relevant in a few months, so presumably new members will get some other piece of news with their card.
I appreciated the extra effort they took. I've long been an admirer of this group -- they have a sensational (and elegant) website that's packed with information, maps, a blog, history, detailed horticultural lists and much more -- but beyond the beautiful park they built and the useful sites they run they also have smart people doing their outreach to members. Sometimes it's the simplest things that make an impact. Just put yourself inside the mind of your constituents -- think about what they want to hear from you, what they would appreciate knowing -- and the rest is easy.