Guest Post: Chris Barton on Staying Connected, Author Newsletters & Bartography Express

Chris, Jennifer Ziegler & Cyn at a RIF event.

By Chris Barton

Just because literary-minded people can discuss an author’s books and get news about them at the speed of Twitter doesn’t mean that all of them want to.

Some surely find that even daily updates on Facebook or weekly blog posts showing up in their feed reader are too much of a good thing.

For these folks, an occasional email newsletter from a particular author may provide all the connection they need.

For nearly five years now, for hundreds of subscribers, I’ve tried to be that particular author through my monthly Bartography Express newsletter.

Here, quickly, are the mechanics of how I do it.

1) I use an email marketing service (of which there are several) to maintain my database of names and email addresses, to format and send my newsletters, and to provide some insight into how engaged my recipients are.

2) I collect names and emails electronically through a signup form on my home page (or you can sign-up through a direct link). I also collect them manually through signup sheets that I bring with me to conferences, festivals, bookstore events, etc. When I get home, I type those into my subscriber database.

3) I figure out what I most want to let my subscribers know. (What have I been up to lately? What’s coming up in the next several weeks? What can they do to help support libraries?) Then I write it up and send it out.

Obviously, I see a lot of benefit for me in taking the time to prepare Bartography Express. Even if a subscriber doesn’t open an individual email, they see my name in their inbox, and that can serve as a reminder that they’ve been meaning to buy a copy of Can I See Your I.D.? (Dial, 2011) as a birthday present or see about having me visit their school.

If they do open the email and read what I have to say, and I’ve managed to provide them with something useful or interesting or amusing or otherwise worth their time, then I’ve strengthened my connection with them. That can make them even more likely to help keep my career as an author afloat.

So, what exactly do I provide to subscribers of Bartography Express?

What’s in it for them?

Well, for starters, free books. Each month, I give away one terrific new title by a friend of mine (Kathi Appelt, Marc Tyler Nobleman, Divya Srinivasan, etc.), in conjunction with a two-question interview included in the newsletter.

Not everyone out there lives and breathes children’s literature, and for some of my subscribers, the interview in Bartography Express may be the main thing keeping them attuned to the wealth of great books being published for young readers month in, month out.

But the biggest benefit may be to subscribers who are the parents or grandparents or teachers or librarians of kids who have connected with one of my books. Bartography Express can provide these adults with opportunities to build on those connections.

Did Shark Vs. Train (Little, Brown, 2010) help turn a video-game lover into a reader?

Let him know that my next book is about games — and that, together, you could probably find other books about other things that he loves.

Did a nonfiction fan take a particular interest in The Day-Glo Brothers (Charlesbridge, 2009)?

Share with her the news that the Switzer brothers’ invention has been deemed a National Historic Chemical Landmark.

Being an author is about having a conversation with your readers. Some readers are content with the author’s part occurring solely between book covers. Others crave the sort of immediate dialogue that social media make possible.

But there’s lots of room in between, and for both author and reader, a monthly newsletter may be just the thing.

Cynsational Notes

Check out this sample of Bartography Express! This is a PNG so the links won’t work. However, you can subscribe at Chris’s author website (scroll to the bottom right corner) or this direct link.

Wondering how to collect subscribers, face to face? Check out this sample of Chris’s signup sheet for Bartography Express.

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