Friday, May 11, 2012

Newletters for Writers- Part Two! Guest Blogger Melissa Cutler

I'd like to welcome Melissa back for part two of newsletters!

Newsletters for Writers 101 (part two)

This is the second installment of my Newsletters 101 series. Please read Part One before continuing or you may be in danger of becoming hopelessly adrift in a sea of confusion. Link:

So…you've created a mailing list and now you've got to fill it. Here are the rules:

Not Cool: automatically adding all the email addresses of everyone you've ever known

Cool: adding a newsletter signup widget to your website.

Not Cool: adding anyone's email address without their express permission.

Cool: tweeting and facebook posting a link to your sign up form in case people would like to sign up.

Not Cool: unless it on behalf of your mother and she's as clueless about the internet as my mother, DO NOT EVER add anyone's email address to your mailing list. If you know someone who'd be delighted to sign up, send them a link to your sign up form and let them do it themselves.

Are you sensing a theme here?

Building up a mailing list takes a lot of time. Don't worry about it. You're in this business for the long haul, right? So what if, for the first few months, you're only distributing your newsletter to your writer friends and your grandma. It'll grow over time—I promise.

Creating a Signup Form

Here's how to create a signup form with a URL you can link to:

1. From your Mailchimp account's dashboard, you want to find "Design a Form" or "Design Signup Forms". Go to there!

2. It's going to take you to a page that looks scary. Put on a brave face and scroll down. You *should* see a long gray bar. Above the bar it should read "Signup Form" in the window of a drop down menu, and in the bar, the first item on the menu is a martini "Build It". If you find this is all true, keep scrolling.

3. You come to an example. This is where you design your form. Hover over the word "Example" and a menu should appear. Here's where things get tricky. Say you had someone design a header for your website and you have the jpeg for it sitting on your computer, you can upload it here by selecting "Design Header" or "Add Image". You can also use a pre-designed Mailchimp header by clicking on "Design Header". Go ahead and play around with it. You can't break anything and you can always start over. Do you see the "remove" button? That's for when you screw up.

4. On to the box with the red dotted line. Hover your pointer over it and an "edit" button should pop up in the right corner. Click it!

5. The box that appears is where you'll write a message to your adoring public about your newsletter. When you're done, hit "Save & Exit". Here's a link to mine for an example:

6. Back to the form. My opinion is to keep it super simple—email addy only. I don't like subscribing to things that require too much personal information. It takes more time and makes me feel icky. I suggest clearing the form of everything but the email address. To do that, click inside the field you want to remove. A plus and minus sign should appear below it. Click the minus sign and follow the instructions in the popup window.

7. Once you have all the fields you want on your form, go back up to the gray bar. The "Design It" tab lets you fiddle with colors. Fiddle away!

8. Skip the "Translate It" tab and head straight to "Share It"

9. On the upper left side of this page, you should see "Subscribe Form URL". Go to there! This should take you to the form you created. Save it to your internet "favorites" list for easy access. If you want to get fancy, the "Share It" page has html you can embed to your website. But if you can do that, you probably don't need this newsletter tutorial ;).

10. To leave the form creation page, click the blue "Save & Exit" button.

Signup Widgets

Everyone loves a good widget. And if you don't know what a widget is, you're screwed. (Just kidding!) A widget is one of those extra, bonus thingies that lives in the margins of your blog or website and does a specific task. You might have a widget that shows part of your twitter feed, or another that displays your books on Goodreads. I use, which has a special widget page on the dashboard and you can drag and drop all the widgets your heart desires. Widgets could be their own special blog post, so for the purpose of this post I'll just say that the Mailchimp signup widget will be a "text" widget. If you're not sure what that means, look on your website's widget page for a "text" option. If you don't see that, you're screwed! (Just kidding again! If the wide world of widgets isn't your forte, befriend a computer savvy person. Ply them with cupcakes and beer until they help you.)

Here's how to create a widget:

1. From your Mailchimp account's dashboard, you want to find "Design a Form" or "Design Signup Forms". Go to there!

2. On the scary page, across the menu in red font below the creepy chimp cartoon, find "For Your Website". Go to there!

3. Then select (from the new red font list) "Signup Form Embed Code"

4. You'll have three options: Super Slim, Classic, and Naked. I could make a lot of juvenile jokes right now, but I'm not going to and you can't make me.

5. Click on each option and figure out what you like best. There are also options within the options, but, like the signup form, you're better off keeping it simple. You definitely want to change the title, which is one of those options within the options choices.

6. When you get it the way you want it, open a new internet window and go to your website or blog's dashboard. Go to your widget menu and get a new text box ready. Then, toggle back to your Mailchimp page and hit the blue "Create Embed Code"

7. Double click on the html gibberish in the box to highlight it all. Then, while it's highlighted, right click and select "copy".

8. Toggle back to your website widget menu and paste the gibberish into the text widget box.

9. Save the widget you just created, then cross your fingers and toes and visit your website to see if it worked.

10. If it didn't work, you're screwed! (or you can call up your new computer savvy friend and ply him or her with more cupcakes and beer)

Can you believe we're on day two of this tutorial and we haven't created a newsletter yet? Well, what's the point of a newsletter if you don't make it super easy to sign up? I promise I'll be back (if Marie Andreas lets me) with more thrilling installments of Newsletters for Writers 101. Until next time! (Melissa, you bet you're going to be back here for the next part!- Marie ;)).

Melissa Cutler is a Southern California native living with her family in beautiful San Diego. In 2008, she decided to take her romance novel devotion to the next level by penning one herself. She now divides her time between her dual passions for writing sexy, small town contemporaries for Kensington Books and edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense for Harlequin. Find out more about Melissa and her books at write to her at cutlermail@ yahoo. com. You can also find Melissa on Facebook ( and Twitter (!/m_cutler).


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