How I Write My Newsletter
The 10-step process that got me 25,000 subscribers.
Every week for three years I’ve shared 10 actionable ideas to help people improve their work, art, and life in my For The Interested newsletter.
Doing so has attracted 25,000 subscribers.
How have I done it?
Here’s the exact process and tools I use to write and distribute the newsletter each week.
STEP 1: Gather ideas.
The creation of my newsletter each week actually begins with other people’s newsletters.
Since my newsletter is largely curated, the first step is to find interesting content to curate and the best way I’ve found to do that is to follow other curators.
When it comes to curation, nobody’s better at it than newsletter authors.
Sorry, Instagram “influencers.”
#Overrated #FakeFollowers #EnoughWithTheKale
I subscribe to a ton of great newsletters — here are 25 of my favorites — and throughout the week I take note of anything they share which my audience may enjoy.
I use Workflowy, a free list-making tool, to keep track of potential newsletter fodder as I go.
When I come across a good article or video, I add the link to a list in Workflowy and note where I found it so I can properly credit the curator if it makes it into For The Interested.
By the time Saturday rolls around and I sit down to craft my newsletter, I’ve usually accumulated 10–15 links to choose from.
Step 2: Write an original blog post.
In addition to curated links, my newsletter also features a link to a new original blog post written by me.
I do this because I enjoy writing, but it also ensures an element of my newsletter will be “exclusive” to me and differentiates it from all the other curated newsletters out there.
Incorporating my original work gives readers a sense of who I am and what I believe which strengthens their connection to me and my newsletter.
I typically publish my blog post on the For The Interested website and Medium on Thursday or Friday, so it’s ready to be added to my newsletter when I write that on Saturday.
And yes, this post you’re reading now will surface in this week’s newsletter.
Step 3: Draft the newsletter in AWeber.
I use AWeber as my mailing list provider and that’s where I actually write the newsletter.
To start, I decide which of the ideas I’ve previously collected I want to feature, and dive right into the writing/summarizing.
Each curated idea gets a headline, a brief quote excerpt from the article, and a 2–3 sentence summary to explain the article’s key points.
I also add a utm code parameter to each link so when my newsletter sends traffic to somebody else’s website they will see it show up in their analytics as coming from the For The Interested newsletter instrad of just from an email or direct source.
I send a decent amount of traffic to people whose work I feature and want them to know it was me who sent it — it’s good for newsletter promotion and networking.
I also include a “Related Link” with each item which links to an idea on my website that I shared in a previous newsletter. This is a way for me to leverage and get more value out of the all the ideas I’ve shared over the years and provide more value to readers.
Once I write the summaries of the week’s 10 ideas, I then add the other newsletter elements.
I write a short intro paragraph which tells a quick story or observation from my recent experiences — sometimes this is a repurposed tweet or Instagram post that did particularly well (it’s been market tested!).
I search Brainyquote for a specific topic or person to find a compelling quote that relates to something in the newsletter — that quote also functions as the preview text in people’s inbox.
I add a paragraph at the end of the newsletter crediting the sources where I found that week’s ideas and add share buttons to make it easy for people to share the newsletter.
And finally, I write the subject line for that week’s newsletter — it’s typically short, informal, curiosity-provoking, and related to the intro paragraph.
Step 4: Edit the newsletter.
Once I’m done with the full newsletter draft, I’ll go back through and edit it.
Writing and editing require different mindsets so I treat them as such. I don’t edit as I write.
After that, I send myself a test version of the newsletter, check a couple of the links randomly to make sure they’re working, and schedule it to send to my subscribers at 6 am Sunday morning.
Step 5: Post the newsletter on Medium and ForTheInterested.com.
At this point, I’ll copy and paste the entire newsletter into Medium and ForTheInterested.com.
On the Medium version, I go through and make sure I tag anybody who’s referenced that uses Medium so they get an alert that I mentioned them.
Step 6: Share the newsletter on social media.
I don’t do this with 100% consistency, but I’ll typically schedule or share some social media posts to promote the newsletter across my Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram accounts.
I use both my personal accounts and For The Interested accounts on social media.
Step 7: Reply to readers and thank sharers.
Once the newsletter is sent out, I typically see a bunch of people share it on social media and/or reply to me about it (because my readers are awesome people!).
I try to reply to every email and Like/share/retweet every social post.
I also search Twitter for anything shared with the ForTheInterested.com URL to find people who shared links without tagging me and reach out to thank and engage with them as well.
It’s crucial to acknowledge your audience and reward the behavior you want to encourage so I try hard to respond to everything.
Doing so has definitely helped grow my audience and strengthen my connection to them.
Step 8: Add each idea as an individual post on ForTheInterested.com
In addition to publishing my full newsletter on my ForTheInterested.com as a single post, I also go back later in the week and break it apart so each one of the 10 ideas featured in the newsletter also exists as a standalone blog post on the site.
I do this to create a more searchable archive and allow for easy sharing of specific ideas.
This takes a little extra time, but it’s worth it because it makes my archive — which now features 1,500+ ideas — much more valuable.
Full disclosure: I outsource this bit of the work to somebody who helps me. She simply cuts and pastes each item from the newsletter into its own post each week.
Step 9: Send a follow-up “Here’s what you missed…” email.
While my newsletter gets sent on Sunday mornings, I send a follow-up version on Friday afternoon to any subscriber who hasn’t opened it yet.
They get re-sent the same newsletter with a new subject line that says, “Here’s what you missed…” and an added intro paragraph to explain I’m re-sending it to them in case it got lost in their inbox.
This may seem like it would annoy subscribers, but it’s actually had the opposite effect. Each week many of them thank me for the reminder.
If anybody does complain about it (and only a couple people ever have), I offer to remove them from the follow up emails.
This has been a highly effective tactic which increases my newsletter open rate by almost 20% every week and ensures that the people who are subscribed to my newsletter are actually seeing my newsletter.
Step 10: Do it all again the next week.
Once the follow-up email has been sent, there’s only one thing left to do:
Start working on the following week’s newsletter.
That may seem overwhelming, but it’s not to me. It’s a privilege.
And as long as people keep inviting my thoughts into their inbox, I’ll be happy to keep sharing them.
One more thing…
If you have a newsletter of your own or are thinking about starting one, I invite you to join our Newsletter Creators group on Facebook.
It’s a great place to connect with and learn from 500+ people who deliver value to people’s inboxes.
See you there!