Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Guest Blogger: Melissa Cutler- Newsletters for Writers: 101 (Part One)

I'd like to welcome a guest today--wonderful writer and good friend, Melissa Cutler!

Newsletters for Writers: 101 (Part One)

I've recently entered the wide world of newsletters and mailing lists using Mailchimp. Mailchimp is one of these cool, free tools that you'll want to be familiar with well in advance of the release date of your debut novel. It's one of those Oh, crap, I must do everything all at once! thoughts that goes through your brain during the perfect storm of panic you'll feel immediately upon coming down from the clouds of receiving The Call. Trust me on this.

If you're a self-publishing author, maybe you don't experience the same level of panic at all the things you're "supposed to be doing." Then again, maybe you do.

And if you're not yet published, then I'm glad you're reading this. I wish I'd laid more foundation during my pre-publishing days, er, years. You might be surprised to learn that there's lots you can do to prep for publication long before you ever get The Call. And you're never going to give up on your dream to be published, right? So eventually, all this planning is going to pay off, isn't it? Yes, it is! (power of positive thinking!)

The first thing you should know about newsletters is that you can play around with the program, learning its intricacies, way ahead of needing it. There's no actual chimp on Mailchimp that makes you send newsletters out to your *readers*. I'm just sayin'. You can create innumerable newsletters and send them to yourself. Or you can send newsletters to your family members with photos of the kids or you can harass connect with your writer friends with practice newsletters.

Rule Number One: Subscribe to newsletters of published authors. When you receive them, study them for details, such as:

• What does the header look like?

• How many columns in the layout?

• How many different items does the newsletter discuss?

• What links does the author include?

• What is the overall tone of the newsletter (chatty, formal, etc.)?

• What do they keep the same from newsletter to newsletter?

Then, you file the newsletters you think are excellent in the brand new "Newsletter" folder you created in your email program. Got it? You'll want these later when you're writing your own and looking for inspiration. Again, trust me on this.

Here are some newsletters I recommend subscribing to. I'm not providing links because you should visit these people's websites and notice how easy (or hard) they make it for people to join their mailing lists. This should give you the right idea about how you need to approach the placement of the newsletter sign up on your website or blog. Okay, on to the newsletters I recommend**:

• Nora Roberts

• Susan Mallory

• Vicky Dreiling

• Vince Flynn

• Christina Dodd

• Lisa Kessler

**I invite you to use the comment section to share other newsletters you subscribe to that we might learn from. Sharing knowledge is next to Godliness! Wait, that's not how the saying goes… (but it should).

Anyhow, on to the next rule.

Rule Number Two: Do not sign up for Mailchimp's fee-based programs. Free is good enough until you're Susan Mallory or Christina Dodd! Take all that money and put it into something more important. Like Starbucks Lattes to help you stay up later at night and, therefore, help you write faster. The free program will track number of opens and clinks on links, social media shares and clicks, and lots of other fun data that will make your eyes crossed. The free program will allow you to create a mailing list sign-up widget for your website and a sign-up form with a URL so you can link directly to it on social media.

Lets get started.

1. Sign up for a Mailchimp account:

2. Follow the directions to activate your account

3. On the Mailchimp website, fill in the fields they require. Note: whatever address you put here will show up on your newsletters, so if you don't have a PO Box, write something fake that's not your home address.

4. They will send you back and forth to your email to click on things.

5. Once you've sufficiently jumped through all the hoops, you'll (hopefully) arrive at a screen that says "Get Started with Mailchimp in Three Easy Steps". Click the first one: "Create a List"

6. You'll arrive at another field page. Make the list name a good one because there are some instances where the public will see this. The only exception is if this is just a practice that you're going to send to yourself. In that case, name it something outrageous.

7. The only field I could see you having trouble with is the "remind people how they got on your list" field. When you click in that box, an example will show up at the bottom of the box. Keep it simple and copy the example. Unless, of course, this is a practice you'll be sending to yourself only. Then, you might write, "Because I put you on the list, bitch" or something equally rousing.

8. You do have a chance on this page to change the address that will appear on the newsletters. Double check that you won't be sending out your home address.

9. Once you're done with the list creation…

Aw, snap—I'm stopping here for today! Tune in for the next installment of newsletter basics.

Do you have any questions so far? Do you subscribe to any newsletters that are excellent? What do you like to read or see in newsletters? I'd love to hear from you.

Melissa Cutler is a Southern California native living in beautiful San Diego. She divides her time between her dual passions for writing sexy, small town contemporaries for Kensington Books and edge-of-your-seat romantic suspense for Harleqin. Find out more about Melissa and her books (and sign up for her newsletter *wink*) at write to her at cutlermail@ You can also find Melissa on Facebook ( and Twitter (!/m_cutler)


  1. I'm just new to the writing business, but I'm trying to make sure everything is ready when I actually "make it".

    Thank you for this post Melissa. It sort of makes sense, maybe when I see all of it I'll have questions? But I'm glad to know there's an easy way to do this.

    Thank you-


    1. Thanks for stopping by, Stacey. You've got the right idea by putting all the pieces in place before you "make it". It's never too early to start learning from people who've already figured it out, which is why I recommonded subscribing to published authors' newsletters. No sense reinventing the wheel (even though it feels like that's what your doing sometimes).

      Best of luck to you in your publication quest!

  2. Right on, Melissa girl. Neat info...
    Linda Thomas-Sundstrom

  3. Hey thanks for the shout out for my newsletter!!! :)

    Great post Melissa!!! And super good advice about saving newsletter's you like. It definitely comes in handy when you have to sit down to write your own! LOL

    Congratulations on your newsletter too chica! I liked it! :)


  4. You just broadened my newsletter horizons!! Thank you for the super informative tips!!