I applaud Jeanne’s hesitation to add her friends to her regular newsletter list without their consent.
If you have a prior relationship with someone, adding them to your newsletter list is probably not breaking any laws (as long as the other CAN SPAM laws are adhered to)*. But it might violate the trust between you and your friends. *Note: This is not intended to be legal advice.
In my opinion, breaking the trust between friends is worse than breaking the law, and the results are ultimately more devastating.
Consider creating a special email invitation for these people to subscribe to your newsletter. This email would have the following components.
1. A personal salutation
Your email would be addressed to a single person—by name. Sometimes you can do this within bulk email, but you might have to make these single-shot messages to each person.
2. An invitation to subscribe to your newsletter
After the salutation, write 1-2 paragraphs inviting the recipient to read your latest issue and to subscribe. This brief introduction should also include how often they can expect to hear from you if they sign up.
3. An easy way for the recipients to act
Within the invitation (#2), include a link to the Subscribe page or ask the recipients to reply with “Subscribe” in the Subject line of their message.
4. A sample
Include your most recent newsletter at the bottom of your invitation. It’s tempting to add just a link to your latest issue, but you want to keep your friend’s attention on your message. Put everything in a single email.
5. A closing call to action
If your friends scroll down your message to read your current issue, they might not scroll back up to subscribe. Include a second subscription link at the end of your sample newsletter.
FINAL WORD: Your friends are not open targets for bulk email messages. Ask them politely if they want to be included in your list and make it easy for them to subscribe. Remember to send them a sample of what they’ll be receiving and tell them how often they can expect to hear from you. If they don’t sign up the first time, email them again (with the same format as above) in 3-4 months.
There is a lot more on using email effectively (and legally!) in my book, I’d Rather Be in the Studio! The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion. See especially pages 117-137, 145-50, and 200-205.