Saturday, May 19, 2012

Welcome the final installment of Newsletters!

Newsletters for Writers 101 (part three)

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

So far, we've talked about how to create lists, signup forms and signup widgets. Hopefully, you've signed up for published authors' newsletters so you can start to collect examples of what you should be doing and, maybe occasionally, what you don't want to do. I'm also hoping that by now, you've fiddled around with the Mailchimp program enough that you're getting used to its ticks and quirks.

In Mailchimp, a newsletter is called a campaign. And really, that's sort of what marketing is, don't ya think? You're on a campaign to spread the word about your books.

Creating the first campaign is the hardest by far. Have a bottle of wine and a box of cupcakes at the ready when you attempt this. Once you have that first campaign created, you can replicate it for the next campaign, then just go in and change only the info you want. The header, and so forth, will remain the same. I'm telling you think so, when you're halfway through that bottle of wine in hour number three of that first campaign creation, you don't think, "I have to do this every f***ing time????" Relax, soldier. You're going to be all right.

Here we go:

1. From your Mailchimp dashboard, click "campaigns" and a dropdown menu appears. Choose "Regular ole campaign."

2. A page with a gray bar appears. If you only have one list created at this point, you can click "next" (which is located on the right side of the gray bar).

3. This section is where you name your campaign. This name is only for your purposes, so don't make it so generic that you can't easily tell the content of the newsletter. The first one might be "template" or "Test Newsletter" or "I Need More F-ing Wine". I've taken to naming mine with the date I plan to send them out, which helps with my organization because I can tell at a glance which newsletter is most current and when I sent it.

4. The message subject is what your recipients will see in the subject line of their email inboxes. Don't make it something spammy like "win a kindle here!" On the other hand, try not to be boring. No pressure.

5. There are some nice tracking selections on this page too, but for the sake of space in this blog post, I'm going to trust that you understand you can tinker with these options without blowing up your computer. Don't be afraid! When you're done, click "next."

6. Eventually, you'll have your own template designed, but for this "virgin" outing, we must start at the beginning. Select "Basic Templates."

7. You could probably eat the remainder of your box of cupcakes while exploring the options on this page. Let's keep it simple for this tutorial. Select "postcard".

8. Now you've hit the most difficult part of the newsletter journey. Eat a cupcake, refill your wine glass, take a deep breath, and put on some smooth jazz.

9. Don't panic, but I can't write your newsletter for you (unless you're offering me a crapton of money, then we'll talk). You're going to have to be brave, soldier, and do this part yourself.

Here are some tips:

• All the colors are changeable here, as are most of the fields of text.

• If you hover your pointer over any part of the work area, you can edit that section. Even if you don't have a book cover jpeg yet to add, upload a picture so you can get a feel for it. You can even turn the pictures into links, if you want to get fancy about it.

• Any time you want to see a preview, there's a button toward the top left that says "popup preview." And any time you need to walk away—say, to buy more cupcakes—you can hit "Save and Exit". (It's up at the top right of the page)

• Up at the top of the newsletter is a box that starts with "Use this area…" I've received several newsletters from authors who forgot to change this text and it came through to my email with this instructional message. Oops. Be sure you really check carefully that all parts of your newsletter are how you want them.

• There's a button at the bottom to "send test". Do this! Send it to yourself, then check it over. CLICK EVERY LINK to make sure each works.

When you're finished designing your newsletter, go back up to the gray bar and click "next". You'll go to a plain text page. This is a really important step because some people's computers or email systems don't support html. First things first, click the button that says "Copy Text from HTML". Then, go through the text field and clean it up to look like a regular old email message without hyperlinks. You can send a "plain text" test to yourself using the button at the bottom.

The final step in the process is the "confirm" page. From here, you can go back and edit any part of the campaign. You can also view a popup preview, send a test newsletter, schedule your newsletter to be sent at a specific date and time, or send it immediately.

Well…how'd you do? Was that bottle of wine excellent? Did you save a cupcake for me? The process truly does get easier the more you do it, so the best option is to start practicing before you're under the gun with deadlines. For those of you who've gone through the process, did I miss anything? Do share in the comments below! I'm always happy to answer questions, either in the comments section of this blog or through email:

And if you learned something from these tutorials, I'd love it if you'd subscribe to my newsletter. I send one out twice a month:

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 or write to her at cutlermail@ You can also find Melissa on Facebook ( and Twitter (!/m_cutler ).


  1. I want to thank Melissa for these blogs on newsletters. As writers, we can't just sit back and wait for others to promote our work- WE have to be the driving force behind our future sales. I think newsletters would be a great way to keep those fans coming back for more, since they are another way to stay connected.

    Thank you Melissa!!!

  2. You are so welcome, Marie! Thank you for hosting me on Faeries, Dragons, and Spaceships. I've had a fantastic time and wish all the writers who visited the best of luck in creating their own newsletters. Thanks again!


  3. This is a fabulous how-to! Thanks so much for sharing this!