The Basics of Starting a Newsletter

Starting a newsletter can be daunting, but it doesn’t need to be. Here’s what I learned at an informative #WDC17 conference session on the subject.

Types of Newsletters

Just for definition’s sake:

  1. Original Content. Most are these. You compose the newsletter each time it goes out. If you do this in addition to a blog, the time constraint might be rough.
  2. RSS-Driven. An automatic email goes out to notify people when you’ve posted to your blog. Sometimes, this doesn’t even go out to an email, but to an RSS feed, which is largely ignored nowadays.
  3. Automated Series. These are set to go out at certain intervals the moment someone signs up for the newsletter.

Companies to Use

For Pop-Ups:

For Newsletters:

  • TinyLetter. Free to 5000 subscribers, and very simple. I use this.
  • MailChimp. Free to 2000 subscribers. All the bells and whistles.
  • MailerLite. Free to 1000 subscribers, but cheaper than MailChimp.
  • More:
    • ConstantContact
    • AWeber
    • InfusionSoft
    • MadMimi
    • CampaignManager

Blog Vs. Newsletter

Ah, the ephemeral question: why bother? Because people who sign up for your newsletter are already loyal and engaged. After a year of running my own blog 2-3 times per month, I have got maybe 100 subscribers. Hours spent slaving over these articles, and I’d say I get a comment once a month that isn’t from a blog hop or my grandma. But start a newsletter based on great content, and suddenly I have 200 subscribers in one month (and gaining about 100 per month since)!

Book Launches

When you are running a book launch, make sure to send out your newsletter for these four milestones:

  • Pre-Launch
  • Pre-Order
  • Launch
  • Post-Launch

Basic Rules

  1. Use a good service. For example, services like Wix have a high nondelivery rate, since they so often get marked as spam.
  2. Be consistent. Choose a sendout frequency, and hit it.
  3. Make people smile. They’ll remember you better. Cat pics are your friends.
  4. Deliver value. Be useful.
  5. Build relationships and trust. Ask for feedback, be interested, be available.
  6. Be a good literary citizen. Read. Write. Learn.

Sendout Frequency

The more frequent you post, the shorter your emails should be. Here are some common sendout frequencies:

  1. Daily. For news sites only. Otherwise, you’ll tire out your readers.
  2. Weekly. For digests of blog posts, or for people who don’t fatigue easily.
  3. Bi-monthly. A good balance between the bare minimum and heavy fatigue.
  4. Monthly. The bare minimum. Otherwise, people forget they signed up, and unsubscribe.
  5. Four-to-six times a year. When you pay per sendout. Make it as personal as possible, or you’ll get marked as spam.
  6. One-to-two times a year. High obsolescence of addresses and abuse reports. Not worth it.

Building Your List

WEBSITE WEBSITE WEBSITE! Use your site to build your list (and you may not do much building until after your book is out, in some cases). Have a signup form on:

  • Your most highly trafficked pages
  • Your homepage
  • Your dedicated signup page, where you:
    • Describe content of newsletter
    • Add a link to your archives
    • Reassure that there will be no spam

DON’T add emails – such as those from LinkedIn – without permission. Someone must opt-in, or at least transact with you somehow, before you can send them your newsletter. Otherwise you’ll end up with a high rate of being marked as spam (and it’s actually against the law, too).

Next month, we’ll look at designing your newsletter and pop-up!


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