Writing Advice: Mailing Lists / Newsletters

I’ve developed a HUGE pet peeve since becoming an author and it has to do with mailing lists. I have one. Most people like mailing lists, because they are targeted promotion to people who WANT to receive news about what you’re selling. My pet peeve is when people do it wrong.

On more than one occasion, I’ve had an author drop me a group email newsletter sent from their mail client. Said email newsletter has every recipient listed in the CC section, which is a serious breach of privacy, AND no information on how to opt out of receiving future emails.

So here’s some newsletter rules of which some people might not be aware.

#1 – Your email contact list is NOT your personal mailing list

This is the first mistake people make. Your email client contact list should NEVER be used for promotion. The people on that list have contacted you for various reasons. That contact was NOT permission to send them mailing list notices. That also means, you can’t just add that person to your mailing list client, should you decide to use one.

People have to opt IN to receive your mailings, not OUT.

#2 – BCC is not only your friend, it’s a MUST

If you choose to use your email client to send out newsletters to people who have opted to receive them, do the people of your list the courtesy of using BCC. That stands for Blind Carbon Copy. That means the recipients cannot see each other, but you (as the sender) can.

#3 – Become acquainted with the CAN SPAM Act


The FTC will shut down your email account if they find you not in compliance with the directives detailed at the above link. Think about how much you do with your email account and how hard it would be to do all that if someone reports you and the FTC locks you out of your account.

#4 – Use a mailing list client

There are several mailing lists clients that offer subscribe/unsubscribe features. Some are free and some are paid. Here’s a few:

Yahoo Groups http://groups.yahoo.com/
Yahoo has a feature in its groups to make a list announcements only. That means only the group owner (and moderators) can post. That also means Yahoo can be used as a mailing list client. People can join and leave as they please.

Downsides :: There are no analytics to show you who opens the mailings you send out. People can join the mailing list and then put themselves on “No Mail,” which defeats the purpose of having the list in the first place.

Mail Chimp http://mailchimp.com/
You can have a free account with up to 2000 subscribers. There are trackers and analytics as well as opt in and out features that you can integrate into your website and/or blog.

Downside :: Has a bit of a learning curve and the templates are stiff unless you know enough HTML to fix them the way you want.

Your Mailing List Provider https://www.ymlp.com/
This is the client I use. The templates are versatile and varied AND easy to augment. The free account allows you up to 1000 subscribers. Like Mail Chimp, there are analytics and tracking as well subscribe and unsubscribe features. Of the two clients, I prefer YMLP.

Downside :: YMLP counts messages sent. You can only send up to 1000 messages per month with a free account. Anything over 1000 messages in a month and you have to pay for extra mailing credits or get a Pro account.

#5 – Have a schedule

If you plan to have a mailing list for a newsletter, you also need to have a schedule. People like to know, before opting in, how often they will be hearing from you. Monthly, bi-weekly, weekly — whatever. Fix a schedule you can keep and then stick with it. A newsletter should be sent out at least once a month. If you don’t plan to do at least monthly, then you should take the mailing list idea off your promotions list.

On the flip side, don’t drown your mailing list in tons of emails. That’s a sure way to lose subscribers. Compile all your news into one message and then mail it out. If you have a special announcement that cannot wait because it’s time sensitive, then you can and should send it out to your mailing list. Above all else be frugal.

That’s pretty much it. When in doubt, put yourself in the shoes of the one receiving your messages. You don’t like your inbox filled up with junk. You don’t like SPAM and neither does anyone else. There’s a fine line between promotion and SPAM. You’ll cross that line if you become annoying. Cross it too often and someone might involve the FTC.

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