Letters we love: how to write an awesome newsletter
The old-school medium has returned to the spotlight by allowing writers to give subscribers an inside scoop and build authentic connections.
Sandwiched between promotional e-mails and reminders about your overdue ConEd bill, you may find a gem that makes checking email less of a chore: a newsletter. Interested in writing your own, a la Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter or the young whippersnappers behind The Skimm? Consider these five tips.
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Find your voice
The purpose of your letter should determine its tone.Do you want to make people laugh? Promote your art or business? Open a window into your life?“This is your opportunity to present yourself to an audience the way you want to come across,” says Steven Aldrich, Chief Product Officer at GoDaddy. “Make sure you’re thoughtful about that.”
Ann Friedman, the writer behind the popular newsletter Ann Friedman Weekly, also emphasizes the importance of developing your personal voice. “Trust your own opinions,” Friedman says. “For me, the whole point of a personal newsletter is I decide.”
Consistency is key
Sending your emails regularly will get you in a rhythm and give your readers something to look forward to. And don’t drop communication if subscribers don’t immediately pour in. “I was doing it consistently for at least a year and a half to two years before a big group of people took notice,” Friedman says. Aldrich suggests making a schedule to avoid “going dark” during busy times.
Self promote (without being shameless):
The truth is, self-promotion is important to grow your name or brand, and to get the word out about your work. “You cannot be shy to talk about things you are proud of,” says Friedman. But ultimately, it’s not all about you. Consider what role your newsletter plays in the larger conversation. “It’s more about how you’re participating in a space or platform.”
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Respect your reader
Amid the overwhelming amount of e-mail your readers receive, they chose you — yes, you — upon whom to generously bestow their e-mail address. Don’t abuse the privilege. “There’s implicit promise that you’re going to be respectful of them,” says Dan Lewis, the writer behind Now I Know, a newsletter that teaches readers something new every day. Even with a subscription base of over 100,000, Lewis replies to nearly every e-mail he receives, even if it’s just a simple “thank you.” Respecting your reader goes hand in hand with the one big no-no of creating a newsletter: “It’s a cardinal sin to auto-subscribe anyone to your newsletter,” Friedman says.
Build your following
“Ask for someone to take action,” Aldrich says. Do you want the reader to visit your website? Share something on social media? Tell a friend? “Be explicit,” continues the expert. The stronger the call to action, the more people will spread the word.