Tuesday, August 26, 2014

News and more news

Hey y'all. I was just wondering something and maybe you folks who read this blog can help me out.

I sent a newsletter out to my 260+-ish subscribers list over the weekend. The newsletters are generally about publishing-related stuff going on for me, opportunities for the fans of my work, and a few personal life details. Since starting the newsletter in November, I've only sent to the list five times.

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See the last issue

My question to you is this: Since I send them out infrequently, they usually contain a LOT of stuff, and I wonder if that means my subscribers are unlikely to take it all in. Do you think it's better to send shorter, less packed newsletters more frequently, or do you think people appreciate getting letters sparingly but full of stuff?

This newsletter included this stuff:
That's, like, a LOT of content, right? People might theoretically be interested in some or most of it, but are they really going to click through and read it all if I dump it on them?

The interviews and mentions are going to heat up around the release of the book and I'd really like people to get a chance to read them, so maybe at least around release time I should make the newsletter a little more frequent? Maybe once a month from now on so I don't overwhelm people? I'm not sure.

Weigh in?


  1. I would say that's definitely too much... but not because people won't read it. Rather, it's because people won't respond as well as you'd like.

    When writing a newsletter, you have 2 goals, from a marketing perspective.
    1. Keep the reader happy (so they don't unsubsribe)
    2. Get the reader to DO something about your content (read your book, watch your video, tweet your link, etc)

    Keeping them happy - length, frequency, and customer preferences:

    Every audience is different, but at my office (where we sell coffee online), we send newsletters once a month, with a follow-up a week later IF the newsletter contained something time-sensitive, like a sale.

    We have a really good subscription rate (meaning, people rarely unsubscribe) so it seems to be pleasing people.

    We asked our 8,000 customers last year how often they liked to get newsletters, and their answer was almost universally "As often as you have something interesting to say". We were surprised, since we thought once a month was too often, but it turned out the opposite was true... they wanted them more often, as long as they were interesting.

    So, we focus on keeping the newsletter content-rich. As a result, we actually can't afford to send newsletters more than once a month, because it takes time to write good-quality material. Part of this is taking the time to add images and visual formatting to make the content easier to digest, for individuals who prefer to absorb information in chunks or via images. Studies of the way users read online show that they will read a VERY long page or email, IF the content is:
    1. Interesting, and
    2. "Chunked" into bite-sized pieces. No walls of text, lots of paragraph breaks and headers.

    So, what I'm getting at is, our findings have been that people are actually pretty flexible about newsletters, but they like to get them at least once a month. But length isn't as inherently bad as you'd think, as long as it is very easy to read and navigate.

    Getting a response:

    Here's the tricky part, eh? By and large, customers will do ONE thing in response to your mailing. It's quite rare for them to return to the email after they have left it. So, when your newsletter contains multiple calls to action, meaning multiple links for them to click on or things for them to do, you're weakening the impact of all those calls.

    This is ok when you know the calls don't overlap. Meaning, people who will follow Call A wouldn't want to follow Call B anyway, and vice-versa. But it is a problem when Calls A and B would appeal to the same people, because then they are stealing from each other, weakening each other.

    So, from the perspective of making your newsletter have the biggest impact, you'd want to collect news until it starts to "overlap"--until you have multiple pieces of content that would appeal to the same group. Then you put together all the news you have, MINUS the overlapping one, and send it.

    This should be a good balance, maximizing the impact of mailings without creating a ton of extra work for you.

    Hope that is helpful!

    1. Thanks. The issue is that it wasn't intended to be a "sales" letter, so my readers aren't really "customers," but now that I am moving into having a product to sell, it's become a sort of hybrid personal vs. professional. A few of my friends have personal newsletters that they offer to tell people what's been going on for them.

      However, even though the newsletter has a lot of stuff in it, I think many of my subscribers are also readers of my blog, followers on Twitter, or followers on Facebook, so there's a good chance many of them have seen most or all of the links elsewhere. So for me, it's been functioning as a gathering spot for all the stuff that's been going on, in case anyone missed anything.

      I think it might be more effective if I did it more frequently with less content, but I also don't want to spam people whenever something happens, and most of it will not be "buy this" or "do that" so much as "are you interested in this? it's fun!" So I'll see what folks say and try to get the proper balance. Thanks!

    2. I know it feels uncomfortably mercantile to use that kind of language and logic. But you don't have to be selling something for it to be a product. A blog post is a product. A video on youtube is a product. The newsletter itself is a product.

      You don't make these things in a vacuum. You make them for an audience. Marketing is about finding an audience... and making them happy! Even if you aren't trying to sell anything, you are still creating something for an audience, and you still want them to enjoy the content you create. The same principles apply.

      "Call to action" is a phrase that is useful and is independent of the actual phrasing or situation. When you show someone a link and say, "This collection of cat GIFs is really funny, I think you might like it" (for example), this is a call to action. The purposes of sending them the link, and saying it's good, is for them to click on it. So, when I talk about not diluting your calls to action, what I mean is, you don't want to have two links to similar cat GIF collections, because people will probably only click on one of them.

      Does that make sense? I'm not talking about making money or pushing people. I'm talking about how to maximize the amount of enjoyment and/or value your readers will get our of your newsletters.