Social media. A necessary evil? How important is it? Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tiktok, YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, to name a few.
I mostly troll on Facebook, but every now and then I crawl out from under the bridges of my personal pages to post something. I don’t use my writer’s FB page at all, but it is connected to my website (which sits mostly unused). I love participating on the WNU Facebook page. I never go on Pinterest, except by accident. I have LinkedIn that I don’t use, and I find Twitter baffling. Then there is Tiktok. Frankly, I just gave up.
I knew I needed to make my online presence known but had no idea where to start, how to do anything on the platforms, or who, quite honestly, would care what I had to say?
I kept hearing about newsletters and how important they are. A newsletter opens the door to your potential readers and future fans. They are low-risk but can have a fantastic reward. It is moderated by you—you are in control of content, you decide who receives it and when.
In December of 2020, I had an epiphany: I had already been sharing a lot of my thoughts. Whenever something happened—moving, pets passing away, or the time we couldn’t get home because there was a suicidal maniac parked down the street with a rifle—I would write a quick email and send it to select groups of friends and family. I always received positive feedback.
I just needed to be more intentional, more organized. And anyone who knows me well knows that is not my strong suit. It would appear that I already had the seeds for a newsletter.
I took DIY MFA’s Pixels to Platform (P2P) course. I had an idea and a very, very loose outline and set of articles. It was mostly in my head with some of it written on scraps of paper shoved inside a folder. I really hadn’t pursued it. I decided to do the “100 Subscribers Challenge” with ConvertKit.
I launched my first newsletter on January 1, 2021, and have successfully published on the first of every month since then, with a little mid-month blurp. I made errors every month and had to course-correct a few times.
Here is what I learned as a novice newsletter writer:
1. Don’t overextend yourself.
You need to ask yourself two questions:
- How much time do you want to spend on your platform?
- How often do you want to send it out?
Whatever commitment you make, be sure you can follow through. I didn’t want to commit to a weekly or biweekly newsletter. Mostly, because if I stumbled, I would just lay and wallow in the dust of my failure. I decided that the 1st of every month was a good goal.
2. However long you think it will take—double it.
The writing part is actually the easiest. But there are so, so many steps to creating and publishing a newsletter, and each of those steps have steps:
Think of topics for your newsletter.
When an idea comes to you—WRITE IT DOWN. I learned that when I thought of an idea, often while driving, I needed to write it down right away or it would vaporize into the ether.
Researching a topic can be a huge rabbit hole. Just finding the distance that your house moved on that first day, five years ago, can chew up an hour. Picking the perfect picture of your house sitting in the middle of a farmer’s field… don’t even get me started on how long that takes. Plus, it often led to looking through pictures of kids, dogs, and flowers.
I write longhand and then have to transcribe the article into the computer for editing and formatting
Transcribing into the computer is only the first of a multi-step step. You have to edit and revise to get it to the point where it is “good enough.” Then transfer to your newsletter template, find titles, make sure your fonts are consistent, get the pictures where you want them, and all of the other things that make it look good.
Pushing send. You have done steps 1-4. Now you have to click “send.” I like to have it done a couple of days early and schedule the broadcast. That way I can go back and tweak something if I get nervous.
3. Be prepared for responses, good or bad.
I am pleasantly surprised at the positive responses I continue to receive as the months go by. I think this is due to the content in my newsletter.
If you make an error, own it. My readers love to point out my spelling errors and incorrect dates, but that means they have read it. I nod and smile (one of my mantras), thank them for their input, and then double-, triple-, and quadruple-check the next newsletter.
4. Do outlines.
Organize what is going to happen in each newsletter. It is best to have an entire year planned out. You can always deviate from that plan, if necessary, but to have an outline to fall back on is critical.
If you have a series of articles on one subject, outline from beginning to end. Or even better, write the complete story and then break it into pieces. I have a running article that covers a single event. I have wasted a lot of time figuring out what I told the reader last month or the month before that and what I want to say in the current newsletter and then the next one. This is one of my organizational issues I spoke about earlier.
I also promised a 4-part series and had to apologize twice for not getting it done because I didn’t have time to do the research (see Point #2).
5. Have fun.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. Don’t be afraid to try.
It took me 3 years to actually publish my first newsletter.
To make a newsletter (or whatever platform you chose) successful, share with everyone.
Remember, if something interests you, it will interest someone else.
Whoever enjoys your musings will stay, those that don’t will unsubscribe. That’s okay; they weren’t your people.
Social media. A necessary evil. It builds confidence, teaches you skills, and finds your “peeps.” Find the platform that works for you. For me, the best option is the newsletter. For you, it may be one of the many, many options out there.
Tell us in the comments below: do you have a newsletter? What was the number one thing you learned when you were first starting out?
Brenda Rech is happily married with two beautiful daughters, one dog, three cats, and a bird named Amy Farrah Fowler. Her flower gardens are forever at the beginner’s stages as she would rather hike with her husband and dog or explore her writing. Her favorite breakfast is crispy bacon and strawberry jam on white toast. She is currently working on her first novel and you can sign up for Brend’s newsletter here. Brenda loves to doodle and is a fan of Rebecca Fish Ewan’s Doodling for Writers, so she drew her own headshot.