It's June 2022. My last blogpost was at the end of March 2022.
There's a reason for the gap. You see, at the start of April 2022, I fell down a rabbit hole about newsletters.
I've thought about newsletters on and off before. It was one, maybe two, years ago that I plaintively tweeted a question about why writers are supposed to do newsletters. Yet, it's the recurring advice to all writers and wannabee writers and any kind of creator - build yourself a mailing list!
The logic begins: the mailing list is yours, people sign up because they want to know more about you and your work, and it's how you can share news about yourself, your writing, any new books. A newsletter lets you market yourself to a dedicated audience.
The logic continues: it's all very well building huge follower numbers on social media, but if anything happens to that social media platform or to your account on that platform, you're back to square one from a marketing perspective.
This makes sense. It makes a lot of sense.
The barriers for me were:
1. I'm at a stage where I can barely get any engagement on the likes of Twitter (my formerly, highly-engaged Twitter community having dispersed to the winds of real life), what luck will I have getting anyone to sign up for a newsletter filled with my ramblings?
2. What would I write about? It's not like I've got a long backlist of indie books already published. As at June 2022, I've got a couple of short story anthologies on my Amazon profile (here and here) at most.
3. I'm not subscribed to many newsletters. Time, energy and interest. How many (most) people are the same? Although, to be fair, the few I am subscribed to, I look forward to and read with genuine interest and enjoyment.
3. The technicalities of it all. Of where and how and how you go about setting anything like this up from scratch? I'm not a complete luddite, but I'm pretty time-poor (mum to active nearly-4-year old, working full time etc) and lack the headspace to delve into all the technical side of it all.
I seemed to become surrounded by narratives about what a Good Thing newsletters are, and how these are the Years of Newsletters and Everyone uses Email more than any other platform. These stories made me stop and think about the benefits of newslettering more than the barriers.
Then, I encountered Substack. Hello, I thought, a social media platform for newsletters. Where it's a one-stop shop. It has an easy user interface. If you decide to leave, you take your mailing list with you. You can even monetise your newsletter if you want. And, there's no need to mess around with the technicalities of setting up email lists.
I did an impulsive sign up for a Substack account at the start of April. By mid-April, I was this close to launching a newsletter on Substack. Thiiiis close. I was just waiting for a morning when I had more than 10 minutes to read through my draft and double-check my links were working.
A couple of articles found their way to me which made me second-guess whether the Substack platform would work for me, personally.
I hemmed and hawed and wavered and winced, and then decided Substack wasn't the way to go for me.
But. The damage was done. I had newsletters on the brain.
So I plunged into some of the barriers.
There were the big questions:
- What do I want to do with the official home of all my writing/publishing/creativity projects, my reeimaginedworlds.com site?
- Am I going to need consistent branding across all my online presences? Type and colour themes and fonts and things?
- Do I need to consolidate or separate names - my name, pen names, website names, blog names?
- How much do I really want to pursue writing and creativity as passion projects?
- What do I want out of life? (Yes, the questions got really big, really quickly!)
There were the specific questions:
- Do I try and consolidate this DodoAuGogo blog with my reeimaginedworlds.com blog?
- Do I want to maintain the DodoAuGogo blog, the reeimaginedworlds.com blog and a newsletter?
- Which newsletter platform (there are lots: MailChimp, MailerLite, ConvertKit, Newsletter...) do I go with?
- What template do I use to best present things on my reeimaginedworlds.com website?
- Oh, you mean WordPress has newsletter plugins that are free to use on my reeimaginedworlds website, but only if I upgrade my plan to one which costs five times as much as the one I'm on now?
- So, how many potential costs are we up to now? 1) Cost of the domain name + plan. 2) cost of a plan which covers newsletter plugins. 3) cost of a paid template.) 4) cost of an email address tied to my domain name which would allow me to sidestep the spam-related issues of using a free webmail account like gmail. 5) cost of a paid plan on the newsletter platform. 6) cost of a paid newsletter plan if you get lots of subscribers... Ummm, that's a lot of potential costs.
- Where in the whippydippydoodad do I start, and how do I navigate all this??!
Eventually, as is the way of these things, I started to figure out how I wanted to do things (for now):
I'm going to keep this DodoAuGogo blog. It's been my little place in the sun online for ten years. It's old-school and I feel free to talk stream-of-consciousness style. Even when words for social media have been difficult to find, blogging here has come mostly easier.
A newsletter will provide the content for the reeimaginedworlds.com blog. This will help keep my reeimaginedworlds.com site fresh with regularly-updated content (something that's been sadly lacking since the launch of the Falling into the Five Senses anthology), and it gives me a focused place to talk writing and creativity.
Figuring out newsletter platforms have been their own painful rabbit holes:
- As a complete newbie to all aspects of this stuff, the newsletter platforms seem to begin with a LOT of assumptions of prior knowledge about the process, format, language, structure and order of things. It's that presumption of basic knowledge made by people who work with these platforms all the time and who no longer remember that this stuff is quite specialised.
- The language! You get hit with 'campaigns' and 'lists' and 'broadcasts' and 'forms' and 'landing pages' - which are all connected to aspects of the structure and process of how you build and disseminate a newsletter. I'm still working on this stuff. Ie., I don't understand it yet.
- Going into specific platforms, I'm afraid I didn't even consider MailChimp because I'd read unfavourable stuff about their recent changes to their Terms of Service.
- I initially went with MailerLite, partly because of positive word of mouth and partly they let you manage 1000 subscribers for free. But even though I can get by with a lot of technology, I found the user interface challenging. Little things started to become big too quickly. Such as: the site wouldn't let me just go back to the template holding page whenever I wanted to compare templates; I'd have to log out and back in. Then, the actual editing-the-template interface wasn't my favourite. Actually, honestly, I found it very frustrating. Maybe it was the template I chose? I dunno. And then, after my template/draft seemed to lose the hyperlinks for the third time, I threw my hands up. (I stress: lots of these experiences may have been due to my blundering newbie status, but still...)
- I was frustrated enough to give up and go and sign up for another service, which is something I hardly ever do. I chose ConvertKit, which I initially wasn't going to touch because they "only" support 300 subscribers for free. (As if I'm gong to have hundreds of subscribers to worry about anyway! I'll be lucky to hit double figures!😏) I only went with ConvertKit because they're recommended by Joanna Penn, she of The Creative Penn site. But I'm glad I did. The user interface has been much easier for me to figure out, and their welcome ('onboarding'?) has felt more nuanced and helpful too. So far, so good. I have a landing page thingy. I have a template saved. I have a draft saved. At least, I hope they're still there safe!
Ironically, the thing I thought would take the longest time, took the least! My newsletter name, Ree-Writes was the work of two seconds. I hope that speed bodes well for putting together the content for future editions! 😅
So what do I want to share in a newsletter? I'm going with the following basic structure for now:
- A quick Reeflection - a small personal piece, including what I wrote this month (ooooh, hello Accountability😬)
- Sharing interesting pieces on writing and creativity
- Sharing something I created (writing or art)
- Sharing a book or piece of art that I find inspirational
- Sharing random interesting things