Monday, July 18, 2016

I Hate Mail Chimp

Newsletters, huh? Can’t beat ‘em, certainly don’t want to join them…

It’s the sort of thing that I never really signed up for myself and couldn’t understand anyone else’s compulsion, yet I’ve seen it pushed as one of the best marketing opportunities out there.

However, I read only a book a month typically. Sometimes I’ll devour a fantastic one in a day, and it’s not uncommon I may get through one in a week, but overall, I take my time and find my To Be Read pile always tremendously backlogged. Other times, I might take several months slogging through one slim volume. I suppose when you are a much thirstier reader than I am, constantly looking for the new thing, having book updates brought to straight to your email would be a relief. I read weekly web comics and started to have problems keeping track of them all, so I can only imagine having a list of series that only come out once a year.

After long contemplation, I decided no harm, no foul. My manuscript is nearing its final incarnation after three years, and I’m starting to have a lot of faith in this one. In fact, if I can get through this last draft today even, I am going to send it out to a remaining few interested beta-readers with a deadline of a month. So it’s very possible I could be submitting to agents this August, which is the first time I’ve really had a solid deadline for it. If this manuscript does well, even if I only collected a few emails prior to publication, every little bit helps.

Plus, with TheStories of the Wyrd, my web comic, and this blog, it would help to have a source more controllable than Facebook. Mostly, I’d like to see more action from my biannual quilt giveaways, and I know there are people who are interested, but miss out due to poor marketing.

But I didn’t want to spam people, as easy as it would be, and so for a while I started signing up for newsletters to see how they looked. Mostly they’ve only included a few updates here or there—the ads you’d expect. And the places giving advice on newsletters suggested it to be frequent, but not annoyingly so, so my initial idea of only sending one out for every giveaway and book launch seemed to be advised against. If I wanted to do it more often, it would have to be at least vaguely interesting.

Reading up on newsletters, they said not to make it more than one or two pages, that no one would read a great deal of content in any case.

So, what to do?

I wanted something unique that I didn’t offer elsewhere, though I supposed I could have written articles. I figured that wouldn’t be very appealing though; it’s taken me years to build up a blog following, and I still struggle to maintain interest in my yammering.

The thing that tipped my hand was an epiphany of sorts. I have long wanted to do highly illustrated blogs with imperative pictures—an almost comic. It occurred to me that if I had a page of updates with a page of a comic, I could give my readers something appealing and skimmable. Sending out a monthly graphic on writing, I wouldn’t feel as sleazy, it would give me a medium for some of my more ambitious ideas, and hopefully it would meet all the requirements that the articles on newsletters suggest.

But my real problem, as it turns out, isn’t the newsletter itself. I have been working hard on other projects, getting my manuscript ready, the next Story of the Wyrd, the H.G. Wells quilt (the giveaway will be held the last week of July for those interested), and getting ahead several comics like I’ve been wanting to, so I hadn’t jumped on it so quickly.

I turned to the infamous Mail Chimp first, hoping to at least get ideas if not be able to set it up. It immediately felt a little Word Press-y to me, limited, money grubbing. I immediately thought, why? Can’t I just use regular email?

I know a few things; I need a physical address involved. It would be nice if I had a long-term post office box for business. I already have issues with men harassing me and so I am reluctant about being too forthcoming where to find me. I’m moving in October and could wait until then, but I don’t exactly believe in waiting for certain factors to align—that’s usually when opportunities pass me by.

I also know that attachments tend to get sent to spam, so I can’t do it as a PDF like I was originally thinking, but then I wonder how we do images without them being attachments? I know that Mail Chimp does it, after having sent some to myself.

Added to that, I’m not sure how to do mass email while hiding other email addresses (for the security of the readers), or if that won’t be picked up as spam itself.

That all seems neither here nor there really because I truly got stuck on the actual building my email list. I figured, back at the beginning of the month, I could at least put an option on my site to subscribe to the newsletter, but when I tried, I found a huge stack of obstacles.

First I tried a Hello Bar, which gave me the HTML code to create an email form on my website, but I could never get to work on my actual webpage or my blog. I tried another, much more low tech option, and while I could get it to do exactly what I wanted, it also didn’t react well in blogger.

So I said screw it and decided to create an old fashioned comment forum, but couldn’t figure out how to get it to actually send. HTML, for various reasons, requires an extra “script” to have a comment box—partially to keep people from snagging email addresses. I spent several days researching and coding how to do a PHP script, but never got it to work.

I’m exactly the sort of person Mail Chimp is designed for; to help us peons do things without professionals. And yet, like Wordpress, I feel limited and helpless in my naivety, the skills I do know bound by their limitation. I may need to learn to reinvent the wheel, but it does get me places. Just very slowly.

In any case, I am still considering trying to launch my newsletter in August, partially so I can include subscribing to my newsletter in my giveaway, but that is entirely contingent on if I can find a safe and professional way to keep people’s emails safe. As of right now, I’ll be looking into other programs and options. If you still would like to be notified of updates and receive the first newsletter when it comes out, please let me know the old fashioned way by sending me an email to

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