Step by Step Guide to Creating a Newsletter Part 1

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Jeanie is leading the charge on building your platform.  Let’s touch base with her and see how it’s going with her newsletter.
Jeanie is a fellow Wordsower and newly published author with a story appearing in Chicken Soup for the Soul: Miracles Happen. Released February 4, 2014. Every week, she shares her journey experience of building a platform.

Connect with Jeanie: website (you can sign up for her newsletter here as well) Facebook

After you figured out how to work with Mail Chimp, how long did it take you to put your newsletter together?
4.3 seconds. In my dreams.
Here again I turned it into a horrific process. I came up with an overload of ideas unrelated to anything. I’d write a segment, then delete it. Rewrite. Delete it again. Days of furious writing wound up in my computer’s dungeon.
Instead of one Spring story, I wrote four. I agonized over what to offer as a sign-up incentive.
I didn’t want to take 5-10 minutes to choose a template (which can be reused for subsequent campaigns). Heck no! Instead I spent hours creating my own plain-Jane one. Bad idea for someone whose artistic skills are limited to drawing stick figures.
What should have been a few hours work turned into 2 weeks.
How did you decide on what to offer in your newsletter? 
I looked at other authors’ newsletters. Took advice from experienced writers. Prayer interspersed with hair-pulling sessions.
What kind of signup response have you had?
My mom and I comprised my first list. (Thanks Mom. You’re fabulous!) So even though I don’t have a huge following yet, I’m excited to see people signing up every week.
Is there anything you will do differently next time?
Absolutely. My first newsletter is such a homely baby even this momma can’t pretend any differently.
My next edition is brighter, bolder, and easier to read. I used a MailChimp templates. In about 30 minutes I finished the basics of the Summer newsletter (including finding the pictures). It looks sooooo much better.
Plus, I’ve chosen the perfect gift card for the next drawing.
Any advice for those who are just starting to consider a newsletter?
Don’t panic. Keep calm and write on.
Read other author’s newsletters to see what you like about them. Utilize the things that resonate with you…and I’m not talking plagiarism here. Check out their sites to get an overall feeling for what you want in yours.
People are inundated with online invitations daily. Offer an incentive for them to join you.
Think your content through, but don’t second (and third…and fourth…) guess yourself.
Ask for help. Even the Lone Ranger had Tonto.

Now it’s your turn – let’s get started. 

You’ve decided on the content. What’s next?

1. Choose your service and set up an account.

Since I use Mail Chimp, all illustrations for this article will be from that service.

2. Get familiar with what your service has to offer.

Let’s start at Mail Chimp’s dashboard. The two icons you need to know about for this post are the campaigns and lists icons.

3. Create a list:

Lists are the groups of people who sign up to receive your newsletter. You can have multiple lists. For example. Here it shows my two lists. One is for my RSS driven campaign, sending my blog posts to my readers by email. The second list is my quarterly newsletter.

Click the list icon on the dashboard and you will be sent to this page. To create your list, click on the create a list button in the top right hand corner of the list page. The instructions will walk you through this.
Once you have a list and you click on that list on the lists page, you will be able to manage your subscribers.

4. Create a campaign: 

Campaigns are the batch of newsletters you send out via emails. For each edition of your newsletter you have to create a new campaign. If you send out welcome editions in between your scheduled newsletter, you have to create a new campaign.
Click the campaign icon on the dashboard and you will be sent to this page. To create your campaign, click on the create a campaign button in the top right hand corner. At the bottom of the next screen in the black band, you will see  the buttons to click on to guide you through the process.
Once you have a campaign, if you click on one of the campaigns you can see all of the stats. How many people opened your newsletter. How many clicked through for what you are giving them.

5. Choose your recipients 

Once you click on the create a campaign button, the first thing you will be asked to do is to choose the recipients. You will have a choice between the different lists you have created.
If you notice the buttons along the bottom in the black band, you will be able to tell which stage of designing your campaign you are in. The great thing? Until you hit the send button at the very end, you can change anything or scrap it all and start over. So, relax and have a little fun.
The first campaign you want to set up will be the welcome edition of your newsletter. The reason you want to have this ready is so that when you have new subscribers you can send this out to them ASAP even if you are between regular campaigns. If you wait, they may not remember they signed up and quickly unsubscribe. You will be able to resend this same welcome edition as many times as you want, only changing the recipient. More on that next week.
In the next few steps you will be plugging in all that wonderful content you have decided to include. My instructions today are fairly simple, but Mail Chimp has some great tutorials if you need more information. Take advantage of them. Or feel free to leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to answer the question.

6. Set up the campaign.

That is when you name the campaign and choose a few social media options if you want them – let it post to FB and Twitter are two. I didn’t like the way those posts looked, but it may work for you.

7. Choose your template to work with.

Nose around and see what you like. Once you have a design you like, you can save the template to use in the future to make it simpler. I’m going to walk you through the Basic template choice. I like this selection because you have greater freedom to personalize it. However, as you read in Jeanie’s Q & A, she prefers the pre-designed template. Find what works for you and go for it.

8: Design your newsletter.

When you click on Basic you will go to this screen next:
Have fun and play around. Click and drag the boxes on the right into the sections on the left. Click the edit button to add content. In the top right hand corner you can click on the preview button at any time. DO NOT test at this stage. In the free service you only get a few tests and you want to save those for just before you actually send the campaign.
Next week we will pick up with the “confirm” stage of the design. But you want to have everything in place before we get there. So between now and then, be working on the steps we have covered so far.
About the freebie. You want to give people a reason to sign up for your newsletter, that’s why you offer something free just for signing up (sent with your welcome edition). Work on your freebie. Make sure it looks professional. Next week we’ll talk about how to link your freebie to your newsletter.
We will also cover designing your sign up form and where/how to share those. Scheduling and putting it out there.
Of course, don’t feel like you have to wait on us. Step into the adventure and forge ahead if you are so inclined.
If you have any questions, be sure and leave them in the comments below.
See you next week.
Angela D. Meyer

Angela D. Meyer

Angela D. Meyer lives in NE with her husband and two children whom they homeschool - recently graduating their son. She has taught Bible class for over 35 years and is on the leadership team of her local Christian writers group. She loves God, her family, the ocean, good stories, connecting with friends, taking pictures, quiet evenings and a good laugh. Someday she wants to ride in a hot air balloon and vacation by the sea.
Angela D. Meyer

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