The Basics Of Writing A Newsletter
Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Sep 27, 2010
I’ve been writing a newsletter for more than 7 years now. I was writing two, but I already wrote about why I gave up writing one of them.
When I started, there weren’t tons of email newsletters out there. Not that there weren’t any, but I’d seen very few when I decided I was going to write one. Over the years I think I’ve refined it somewhat, to the point that I believe I can now tell others my thoughts on writing one. Sure, everyone has their own style, and that’s fine. You can see what I have to say, then take from it what you will and do your own. My opinion, my blog, and thus I’m writing my beliefs on the subject. By the way, if you’d like to subscribe to my business newsletter, there’s the link for it.
The first basic is that you have to have something to say. Just like the recommendation I make to bloggers, if you don’t think you can write about something for at least a few years don’t even start it. I know people who start writing one and give up after 3 or 4, or go six months or more between them. To me, that’s a waste of time and insulting to your readers, since they took the time to sign up.
The second basic is determining a style. The lucky thing is that you don’t have to keep the style you start out with. When I first started writing my business blog, there was little personality in it. As I kept writing, I knew that people might like seeing more of what I was about and why I might come to the conclusions I do when writing my newsletter. I’ve come to a style now where I start off with some kind of story most of the time, then use the story to get to my point. Not that I have thousands of subscribers, but I can say that once I went to a less formal format readers seemed to enjoy it more, and I started getting some comments, which almost never happened before that.
The third basic is determining what your purpose is. Will your newsletter be to showcase your expertise? Will it be a sales and marketing newsletter? Will it be a combination of both? Will you post a product, and will that product be related in some way to your topic? Will you highlight your business in some fashion, or just entertain? Will your newsletter have new content, or will it be a recap of blog posts you wrote during the week? My newsletter is to highlight my expertise in certain business areas, and I’ve stuck to that all these years. It took me awhile to realize I should have not only my business listed on it but my products and some of my other websites. And it wasn’t all that long ago that I started adding two books that I recommend in some fashion with every newsletter that addresses the topic, at least most of the time, as I haven’t been able to resist popping something in every once in awhile that I just happened to like.
The fourth basic is determining the look and format. The newsletter I have now is the culmination of maybe 10 different styles or colors. It used to be really colorful, and every newsletter had a different color. Now it’s pretty clean; all white background, dark blue print and framing, and the books. As a matter of fact, I’m going to let you see one of my newsletters, the last one I’ve written, because I not only want you to see it, but because I was somewhat inspired by a blog written by one of my favorite commenters here, Karen Cruz, and she honored me by not giving the link out to the newsletter and I want to thank her for that. The title of my newsletter is Money, Power and Respect, and Karen’s post was titled Letter of Resignation.
By the way, a quick sidebar to Charles, who comments here and writes a great blog as well. What I just did in linking to a specific post on Karen’s blog is a trackback. If she’s got it turned on, her blog comment will show this link in it saying I have linked back to, or tracked back to, that specific blog post.
The fifth and final basis is determining how you’re going to send it out, or delivery. I’m not going to get into how to market it or publicize it, as that’s another topic entirely; just stemming that question for now. Anyway, You can decide on a number of things; send out email, post it to a website or blog and let people know about it, print it and send it out in regular main, set up a forum, etc. What I do is send it out in email along with the HTML attachment, and then I put the link online. I’m thinking about either creating a membership site at some point with all my newsletters in there, since new subscribers don’t have access to older newsletters, or taking what I consider are my best written ones, re-edit them, and put them in a book format. I’m just not sure yet.
Oh yeah; how many words? That’s up to you. I’ve seen some newsletters that are barely 300 words, and others that are nearly 2,000 words; I think I’ve written one or two of them. Someone said the standard should be between 500 and 750 words; I tend to think, just like blog posts, you write as much or as little as you need to and then move on. For instance, if you’re writing an instructional newsletter, you might be using images and thus cut down how many words you’re writing. Or you might have a long story to tell to get to your point, in which case you write longer newsletters. Mine come in between 750 and 1,100 words most of the time.
And that’s that. If there are other questions I’ll be glad to answer them. Otherwise, good luck!