So now in the explode-o-rama of our Digital Age, the cutting-edge thing is for authors, artists, publishers, charities & etc. to engage in "permission marketing"-- that is, getting people who are interested in one's "product" to pony up an e-mail address, and then send them a newsletter. This works, sometimes. But mostly, because it's not well done, it's annoying.
When it works, though, it's rich and even lovely. I have subscribed to a number of newsletters that I am delighted to receive (more about them anon), and if I cannot read them immediately, I savor them later over, say, a sandwich at my desk. Others, oh no, unhappy story.
As I am offering newsletters myself (click here to subscribe mine), herewith a list of what I won't do, because I myself object:
SIX NEWSLETTER YUCKY NO NOS
(1) Newsletter arrives too frequently
I do not need a newsletter from Writer X / Publishing House Y every day, every week, or even every month. My e-mail inbox, like everyone else's, is a tottering Himalaya, for heavenssakes. Delete.
(2) Writer X, Writer X, and nothing but even more about Writer X
I may love Writer X, but she's not that interesting. I do not need to know about her 47th booksigning. She could tell me about it when there's a meatier sandwich in there, otherwise... Delete.
(3) Big JPEG logo plus text that appears on my Outlook Express as an empty box with a red x
I am sure it looks all lovely and designed when Writer X / Publishing House Y sent it, but when I get it? Different story. Like many people, I block images on my e-mail program, so I cannot see what it's all about, and meanwhile I am dealing with a ba-jillion other e-mails. Delete.
(4) Trivial (to me) or irrelevant
If I am in Miami, do I need to receive a newsletter that is all about (and nothing more) a booksigning in Minneapolis on Friday? Do I need to receive an e-mail just (and only just) to learn that Writer X was featured on NPR yesterday? Thin gruel, guys. Delete.
(5) Hey, I Didn't Ask for the Newsletter in the First Place
Awfully cheeky! Delete.
P.S. But I certainly do not mind a one-time personalized invitation to sign up, especially from friends (I mean meatspace friends), fellow writers, and/ or merchants from whom I have purchased something.
(6) I Have Unsubscribed / Opted Out and Yet They Persist!!
Avon (cosmetic company, not the publisher), you have a special place in this bush league of inept marketers. I purchased some lotion from Avon on-line in 1999-- that was eleven years ago, people-- and I did not ask to subscribe to any emails, and I have now attempted to unsubscribe 4 times. Count 'em, four. Delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete, delete. Yes, Avon is now on my "blocked sender" list, but when I check into my e-mail from a website, I can see that that danged Avon stuff, like a Zombie out of the Twilight Zone, just keeps on coming.
So what does work?
SIX NEWSLETTER DOS
(1) Once... in... a... while
Like chocolate cake. At most once a month. Preferably less frequently.
(2) Quality content
A rich chocolate cake, with whipped cream and a cherry on top. My attention is already scattered; make it worth my while. Come on, it's 2011.
Clarification: "quality newsletter content" can mean a beautifully crafted original essay but it could also mean a link to someone else's bodacious YouTube video. Elastic concept.
(3) Primarily text, and especially at the top, so I can immediately see what it's about and judge whether I want to keep reading and/or save it to savor at lunchtime.
(4) A wide range of information so that if not all, at least an important part of it will be interesting and relevant to me.
Podcasts? Links to free articles? Video? Sample first chapter? Coupons? Free e-book? How-to? Interview(s)? Something funny?
(5) Nothing, unless I have signed up.
(6) Automatic unsubscribe-- I want out, I'm out.
EIGHT NEWSLETTERS I RELISH RECEIVING
All abide by the above dos and don'ts; each has its own personality and uniquely wonderful content-- and all are free!
Even if you're not interested in the subject matter, if you send out a newsletter yourself, have a look at these; you may find them helpful, if for other reason than to better grok the genre. I know I did.
Richard Norman's Edenworkshops: A Bookbinders Resource
Katherine Dunn, Artist of Apifera Farm
Lubuto Library Project
The Arlington Institute's Future Edition
Carol Olmstead's Feng Shui for Real Life E-Zine
Rose Rosetree, Teacher of Energetic Literacy
Beltway Poetry News
UPDATE 2015: Jane Friedman's Electric Speed: Exploring the Best Tools and Resources for Writers in the Digital Age
P.S. Watch Seth Godin's TED video on the new marketing (the TV / Industrial complex is dead...)
P.S.S. View my newsletter archives and sign up for my free newsletter here.