Publishing Advice: Newsletters
Newsletters. You know them. You've seen them. You're probably a member of a few of them (and possibly are subscribed to several.) Whether you receive email digests from your favorite website or your favorite author, a newsletter is undoubtedly one of the quickest and surefire ways to get information to a dedicated audience. However, starting a newsletter can be daunting for some. How do you do it? Where do you do it? And what do you put in them?
In this feature post, I am going to explain a method I personally use (as a writer) to not only tackle newsletters, but where and how I produce them.
The most important aspect of your newsletter is going to be where you host it. In the past, several writers used to use a blind carbon copy system from their preferred email client to reach people who've 'subscribed' to receive updates from them (usually this was by potential readers/future fans leaving emails in booklets on scratchpads at conventions.) Nowadays, with the internet and its many applications and websites, it's far easier to create and even distribute a mailing list. The only question is: where do you do it?
For the sake of this article, I am going to use my own experience and share with you the website I personally use to distribute my mailing list. Do note that there are several, and that this is what I use.
Mailchimp.com, one of the many newsletter distribution applications on the web right now (and the one I personally use) states that customers can create 'beautiful landing pages' that make it easy for people to buy your products or join your lists. For authors who are just starting out, and who are just beginning to explore the mailing list avenue of promotion, Mailchimp's Forever Free plan is undoubtedly the best and most economical way to distribute newsletters (12,000 emails a month) to up to 2,000 subscribers. They are the newsletter program I currently use to collect emails addresses and then distribute newsletters to my readers.
How does it work?
The simplest way to start a Mailchimp newsletter is to go to mailchimp.com, sign up, and create a mailing list. Once you create an account, it will prompt you to create a 'List' on which your customers' email addresses will be stored. Afterward, you are able to build signup forms that will help you capture email addresses.
To avoid the complicated tutorials on the website, I am going to attempt to display, through images and my personal write-up, how to perform each step.
To create a list:
First click on the 'Lists' tab on the banner at the top of the page.
Next, click the 'Create List' button.
You will then fill out the information on the following screen, which includes:
Your List name
Your Default 'From' email address (this should be your domain email address preferably)
Your Default 'From' Name
And your Contact Information, which you must provide. I explain why in the question and answers portion of this article.
Once you've created a list, you should design a template to make your newsletters uniform.
Designing a Template
To design a template, click the 'Templates' tab on the top of your mailchimp.com banner.
Click 'Create Template,' then select the Layout you wish to start with. You can then go through and change header text, footer text, add social links, images, and whatever you would like to create a 'look' for your newsletter. This is important, because you want your customers to know who is emailing them when they open their newsletter. For the sake of this article, we'll look at how mine looks.
As you can see, my standard template for my kodyboye.com mailing list has:
a field where I can insert text
a field that acts as a signature, with my name, website, and social links
a banner that links to my free books
images of said free books (with clickable links embedded within the images)
social sharing buttons
banners showcasing my Patreon and short fiction blog
my copyright information
my unsubscribe/update preferences tab
then a notice that states where they've originally signed up through
Remember: this is how my newsletter looks. Yours can be as simple or extravagant as you want.
You might now be wondering: how do I send the newsletter once I make my template?
Sending a newsletter
First, click on the 'Create Campaign' button
Click 'Create an Email'
Name your campaign, then fill out the following form:
In the 'To' tab, select your list.
In the 'From' tab, write your name (if it doesn't appear) and your default email address (if it doesn't appear.) Your default email address should preferably link to your website's domain email. Why? Because some users won't receive emails from random emails that end in gmail.com or yahoo.com for example.
In the Subject tab, write your newsletter subject as you would any email, and fill in a 'preview' if you'd like.
On the content tab, click 'design email.'
Click on your 'Saved Templates' tab, then select the template you've created. From there, write and design your newsletter.
After you're done, click on either 'Schedule' or 'Send' up top, and viola! You've drafted your first newsletter!
Some Tips on Writing/Sending Newsletters
Don't spam! No one likes a dozen emails in their newsletter, and especially not in a day or week. Time your newsletters accordingly and send them out at relevant times.
Make your content relevant. Make sure it's appropriate to the newsletter. And make sure it's well-written
Include links, and descriptive words that say 'tap' or 'click.' Your newsletters will be read on desktop and mobile devices, so remember that.
Make sure your images are clear and concise, and aren't huge. You don't want to obliterate email boxes.
Top questions I receive:
Why do I need to include a postal address?
Simply put: it's the law. According to the CAN SPAM ACT (see #4,) you must include your location. You MUST receive mail at this address. And note of caution: don't use your home address, and don't use a fake address. You'll get in major trouble if you do.
Any questions, comments, or requests for clarification can be left in the comments section of this blog post!