If you’re an author who doesn’t have a ton of money to spend on advertising, but would like to be seen, newsletter swapping is something you might want to consider. The basic principle is simple: Author A and Author B write in similar genres and each one has a newsletter. When Author A sends out his newsletter, he includes Author B’s book and vice versa. With newsletter swapping, each author gets exposure to potential new readers while exposing their own readers to books they might enjoy.
In the past, in order to do this, two authors would tend to have to know each other, have talked about their lists, and then decide they want to swap. The first newsletter swaps I’ve done occurred this way (once I swapped with an author who has a 20k+ list). When a swap goes well, it’s great to see an uptick in sales or free downloads as a result. But the pool of most authors’ knowledge/friendships with other authors is limited.
However, a service I discovered in December is making newsletter swapping easy, providing lists of authors with similar genres and spots available in their newsletters. Newsletterswap.com is free to join, and an author simply creates an account and then enters information about his or her newsletter. You can include more than one newsletter, so if you have a pen name, you don’t have to open multiple accounts.
The Add A Newsletter page is where you put your newsletters.
You can have more than one. For each newsletter, you’ll fill this out. My newsletter is called RJ Crayton updates. If you have a specific name for your newsletter, call it that. Most of the informational fields are self-explanatory. In the Notes section, I put information about my readers and what types of books I want. I prefer free and 99 cents books. I also note that I either accept or reject all book requests (I’ll get to why I put this in a little further down). Once you’ve filled out the top part of the form, you select all the genres your newsletter covers. NewsletterSwap will use this to categorize your newsletter.
The last thing you’re going to do is set up your newsletter dates. If you send out a newsletter on a regular date (for example, every Friday), then set up your newsletter as repeating, and use the appropriate buttons to select your intervals. If your newsletter is somewhat regular, but the dates change depending on what’s going on in your life, set each newsletter up as a single newsletter that does not repeat. The first time I set up my newsletter as repeating every 2 weeks (which is my goal) and I filled a slot for two weeks later that I ended up having to change (I had to push back the newsletter three days from the promised date). The author who had signed up was really nice about me changing the date, but I’d prefer to have accurate data. It’s not hard to add a new newsletter each time, so if your newsletter dates aren’t firm, I would recommend just adding the dates you’re sure about.
Once your newsletter is set up to take requests, you’ll want to set up some book promotions. To set up a book, you go to the Promotions tab and Add a New Promotion. It will ask you for your book name, the book’s price, a brief description, a link to the cover image and a link to the sites where the book can be purchased. One thing it doesn’t ask you for is the author name. If you have multiple newsletters on one account because you have multiple pen names, you’ll want to put in parenthesis after your book title (by PEN NAME). This should keep down confusion. You’ll also want to make sure your user name isn’t one pen name or the other. You can easily edit your account name, so you go by initials or be mononymous (like Prince or Madonna). If this seems like drama, then you can choose, instead to open a second account for your pen name.
Once you have created a book promotion and a newsletter, you’re golden. At this point, you can request your book be featured in someone else’s newsletter. Click on Browse Newsletters to see all the available newsletters. (Please note that for privacy of users, I’ve removed the newsletter names, but you can still see the genres, number of subscribers and other info you would see if you logged in.) You can use the dropdown menu to choose a category (sci-fi, romance, mystery) or the date bar to look for newsletters on the date your book needs promotion. When you see a newsletter is available, it includes the name of the newsletter, the name of its owner, the genres it covers, the number of subscribers and the average number of clicks a book featured in that newsletter receives. The dates the newsletter has available are color coded. If the date is green, that means it has multiple spots available, if the date is yellow, the newsletter has only one spot left. If the date is red, that means all the available slots have been taken.
Once you find an open newsletter, click on the newsletter name, and you’ll be taken to a screen to apply for a promotion with that newsletter. Once on the screen requesting to be featured in the newsletter, pick both the book you want to promote and the correct date using the drop down menus (Double check that both are correct before submitting. You can cancel a request if you pick the wrong dates, but why send in a request, only to cancel it and send a second one? I made this mistake and it looks awkward.) After that’s done, you just wait. The author can accept your request, reject it, or do nothing. This is why I mentioned earlier that I either accept or reject all requests. I’ve noticed a few newsletters seem averse to rejecting your request, as if worried about hurting your feelings. And I admit, it stings when you see that big red rejection button. However, I prefer to know one way or the other, so I can make plans. However, some newsletters just don’t respond. At some point after the date of the promotion request has passed without a response, NewsletterSwap simply cancels the request. So, you may or may not get a response to your request to be in someone’s newsletter. If they accept you, woohoo. If not, move on. It’s often a matter of space, and nothing more.
Now, for the other side of the coin: incoming requests. At some point, you’ll get an email saying someone has requested to be in your newsletter. You’ll get the details of that person’s book, including a special link to use. The link essentially looks like this: newsletterswap.com/individualcodeforyou. You use this link because Newsletter Swap tracks how many clicks that link gets. That tracking information is provided to the person whose book is being promoted, and used to help rate the promoter. Every person who joins the service gets a user score/ratio. The score is essentially the number of clicks you’ve given divided by the number of clicks you’ve received. Ideally, a score should be one, according to the service. Someone new to the program will have a score of zero. Someone who takes more clicks than they give out will have a score of less than one, and someone who has given out more clicks than they’ve received will have a score above one.
Truthfully, I have not been looking at a user’s score in determining who to accept or reject. I’m not sure if people put value in it or not. I tend to be most interested in whether the book is a good fit, has an appropriate cover, an appropriate price, and looks like it’s something my readers will enjoy. I put in my newsletter note that I accept or reject all requests, and that it’s based on space and newsletter fit. If I have more requests than I can fit, I generally take the cheaper books, as my newsletter subscribers like a good deal.
The nice thing about NewsletterSwap is you can see how your books have done in promotions very easily. Go to the My Promotions tab and select the promotion you’re interested in assessing. Here’s the Concealed promo list. It shows all the newsletters applied for, all accepted, and all rejected. For ones accepted, it shows the click rate. Again, I’ve removed the newsletter names, but if part of the newsletter name was descriptive, I left that so you could get a sense of what type of newsletter it was. The screenshot was taken Jan. 30, and you’ll notice a few newsletters had yet to respond to requests for Jan. 26 or 27. In terms of promotions, I will add that you can create a different promotion for the same book. I did not, and that may have been a mistake. Even though the screenshot lists Concealed as 99 cents, one of the promotions was when Concealed was free. I simply later amended the promotion to the new price. If you’re tracking how your book does at various price points, it might be better to create a second promotion for the same book, labeling each promotion with the price (Concealed – FREE vs. Concealed – 99 cents).
I’ve been using NewsletterSwap since December and really love it. It’s free for the basic plan, which lets you see newsletters up to 30 days out. You can pay for a “Pro” account to see newsletters 60 days out. I have noticed that a couple of huge subscriber-count newsletters (50K+ subscribers) are always full, and I suspect the Pro users are grabbing those spots. However, as my newsletter isn’t huge, I’m happy to find authors via the free service for the moment.