September 10, 2015 | Alyson Stanfield

A Blueprint for Producing Your Artist Newsletter

Producing a newsletter is a project that consists of multiple tasks in order to complete. That’s why I use the word “producing” instead of “writing.” Writing is only one part of the newsletter process, and even writing the content can be broken down into multiple stages.

If you’ve had “write newsletter” on your task list for too long, it might be because you haven’t identified the individual components that will be needed. You will always get stuck when you see a project on your to-do list rather than single tasks.

blueprint for your artist newsletter

I’ve been producing a newsletter every week since March 30, 2002 without skipping an issue for any reason.

We’ve had the current system in place for many years, so it’s a well-greased machine. I thought reading about my system might help you create a blueprint for your newsletter process.

Capturing Newsletter Ideas

I store newsletter ideas and an editorial calendar in Evernote.

Most of my ideas come from questions you asked on a webinar, on my Facebook page, or in an email. I try to listen for what might make a good newsletter or blog post topic. If you’re asking it, chances are good that someone else has the same questions.

If I can see a clear date on the calendar that would be good for publishing the topic, I add it to my editorial calendar, which is arranged by date. Otherwise, the topic is captured in one of my Evernote notebooks under Content Ideas.

With the ideas stored in a single place, I can quickly add notes, images, and resources when they come to mind.

The newsletter form I use in Evernote notes.
The newsletter form I use in Evernote notes.

Sitting Down to Write

I write a draft of the main article the week before its publication date. This is based on the notes that I’ve created and updated in Evernote.

Sitting down to write is the hardest part. There are so many distractions – Facebook, email, task list – that want my attention.

For this reason, I set clear boundaries. I say to myself, “I am sitting down to write my newsletter.” This might seem silly to you, but it’s necessary for me to name the task that I’m starting.

It’s helpful for me to set a ticking timer on my phone to facilitate this process. There’s something about the tick that helps me focus.

For this article, I am listening to white noise, which is another focusing technique. I cannot write to anything that has a rhythm or lyrics. I like using the Coffitivity app (sounds of a coffee shop), but today I’m listening to Hemi-Sync sounds to help with concentration.  (Thanks, Cynthia!)

Editing and Proofreading

I never (okay, rarely) write the draft and edit it on the same day. What’s more likely is that the process includes three sessions that look like this:

Sitting #1: Create a detailed outline with some specific sections in Evernote.
Sitting #2: Fill in the text and move to a Word document.
Sitting #3: Edit the text and find or create images to support the content.

Three days prior to the publication date, I send the newsletter to my proofreader, who turns it around within 24 hours.

She’s giggling to herself right now because I confess that this doesn’t always make it to her in time. There are weeks when my writing is uninspired, and I fight with the content. During those weeks, she gets the newsletter a day late.

She sends the proofed newsletter back to me with suggestions. I review them all and usually see that her changes are improvements.

The final version is placed in Dropbox for my team members to finish things off.

Final Steps

Pat, my Web guru, lays out the newsletter and sends me a test. Ultimately, it’s my responsibility to see that everything is in proper order. When she gets the green light, she schedules it for delivery at 8 a.m. Mountain Time on Thursday morning.

Kelly, my virtual assistant, creates a blog post draft of the same content. When the draft is in place, I go in and add links because I’m the content expert on my team.

As with the newsletter, it’s my responsibility that everything in the blog post looks right. When it does, I schedule it for publication on Thursday morning so that it’s in place when the newsletter is distributed.

I try to be at my computer inbox on Thursdays at 8 a.m. If there is a bad link in my email, I can make quick corrections to redirect traffic before most people open the email.

Your Turn

Take the steps I’ve outlined above and make them your own. Create a personalized blueprint that will help you get that newsletter out on time.

Share your system with us in a comment.

18 comments add a comment
  • My process looks complicated but it is not. I have several specific deadlines, including one that says themes must be named three months in advance. Yes, these might change, but at least there is something planned.

    Based on what I learned in Creative Content Camp, I am writing three or four articles at the same time. Obviously in various stages. I have deadlines for choosing accompanying images and uploading them. I have proofing deadlines, though I admit to doing my own proofing (keep in mind I am dyslexic, lol).

    By having a sort of ongoing production line I have been able to keep my monthly publishing schedule for several months, now.

  • I write and schedule all my weekly newsletters (currently 2, used to be 3) on the same day. It’s the only major task for that day.

  • I write my newsletter out long hand in a quiet place, at least the narrative part, because my brain is still more connected to a pencil than a keyboard. Then I type it out later which makes that it much easier.
    I have to confess I only write a monthly newsletter and often leave it til the last minute.
    Sorry Alyson, have I learnt nothing !

  • I write my newsletter. Read it and decide I don’t like it. Let it sit a couple of days and re-write. Decide I don’t like that either. Wait for better news and more inspired content. Find that neither arrives. Go back to the newsletter by now feeling disgusted that I’ve missed my deadline by a mile. Try to figure out what might interest my readers and collectors. Think too much. Convince myself that no newsletter is better than a dull one and abandon the attempt altogether. Try again 2 months down the road.
    Definitely need to fix this scenario. I’m working on that blueprint!

  • Great suggestion Alyson! Thanks.Perfect or not I went back to my newsletter draft, finished it and hit send!

  • Cherry Jeffs

    I send my newsletter quarterly because it’s the schedule I know I can keep to although occasionally I send out extra bulletins if I have an offer or an event to announce. Mailchimp tells me I have a higher than average open rate and I have very few unsubscribes. I do the work over a few weeks to write, edit, layout and link the content. I try to give each one an overall theme and as often as possible include a freebie exclusive to subscribers.

  • Cynthia Reid

    I started my newsletter in July while taking Content Creation Camp, and I consider it a major accomplishment of 2015. In my editorial calendar I have possible topics listed for each month, based on scheduled events and travel, but also holidays and seasons that I can “attach” to my art, or feature the art of others. About a week ahead, if possible, I know what images I want to use so I make a template with the images and plan the format. In the text boxes I just write something like “Here’s where I’m going to write about my trip to Albuquerque”, or even just some nonsense phrase to hold the space. Then over the next few days (evenings, really) I write the content based on the images. It takes me awhile; I’m not a fast writer and I’ve been surprised by how very much editing I do. When I think I’m finished I send a preview to a couple of trusted friends/good writers for proofreading. Thank you, Alyson, for the motivation to take this step! The response has been gratifying!

  • My schedule is a monthly newsletter, with an added solo emails for timely things, like launches.

    I use Google Docs to compose my intro draft.

    I have a template in Mailchimp with all the different sections (featured blog post, more from the blog, featured art & client projects) to fill in.

    The features are just copied & shortened from my website, so the intro and closing paragraphs are the only text I need to think about.

    I add all the images, add a call to action (if any) and schedule the campaign.

    I don’t have a dedicated editorial calendar, as the newsletter is basically the extension of my blog.

  • I write my newsletter faithfully every month – fourth year anniversary coming up – love using Evernote to capture ideas all month and I have a basic template style in Word that I fill in every month .. then I transfer it over to a pdf file with hyperlinks embedded and it’s ready to go .. for the last 2 years I’ve uploaded it via a link in a Mailchimp email which has worked fine … but I am super excited to have discovered this free site that will transfer the pdf into a nice online shiny magazine format complete with flippy pages and all the hyperlinks embedded .. can’t wait for our January newsletter now to send it out to everyone – think it makes the newsletter look more professional and polished which can only be a good thing
    Here’s a link to my December newsletter so that you can have a look – I write it every month sharing what art I have done and what photography my husband has done .. and we always add links to other sites and artists too:

  • Wow, that flip book pulitas, Alyson, looks interesting. Is it search-engine friendly? What does it look like on a phone?
    I have been writing my art newsletters since about 1998, about two years after I started using the Internet to sell and show my art. I can say that the more you write, as well as the more you understand what it is you want to accomplish with your art, the easier it all gets.
    That being said, I usually spend at least three days JUST creating the newsletter. Thanks to Mailchimp (sadly, I refused to use for years because I worried about protecting the privacy of my subscribers), publishing is easier and fast.
    I try to write about subjects that are not just about me. Obviously, I am connected to those subjects by interest, but I do not want a newsletter that just says, “here is my new work, please buy it.”
    I always work on the images first. Depending on the topic, that takes a great deal of time…I take lots of images all the time . . . of almost everything. Editing and then formatting takes me a long time. I am also slow and sadly, easily distracted, and getting worse with age.
    While going through the images, the theme of the text emerges. Also, I know what art I will introduce in each newsletter, although I change the focus depending on news items that come in time to include them. I try to connect them. Sometimes, I set projects aside to focus on a project that is connected to my art newsletter topic.
    I write my text in Word and then create the Web page for it. The newsletter that subscribers get (through Mailchimp) is often truncated with links encouraging my readers to visit the Web page version. This is because my newsletters are image-heavy. I am telling stories after all. I want my illustrations!

    Because I am so slow, I tend to edit myself as I go along. I should get an editor, but I cannot seem to really want one. However, I view my newsletter in several different formats along the process and it is not unlike holding your painting in front of the mirror to evaluate the shapes in reverse to check your design.

    I later use the newsletter content in one or more blog posts at least a day later. I do this because I know that there is some overlap in subscribers, but mostly as a marketing tool to get more mileage out of my writings and images.
    Also, my blog posts are set up to automatically post to my Facebook pages (business and personal), Twitter, and LinkedIn (the latter two I am hardly active with other than this). So, by publishing my blog entries on different days and different times of days, I hope to increase my audience.

    Also, as Alyson does, sometimes I will find ways to link from one newsletter to another. Most of my newsletters stay on my site permanently. They continue to find readers who never knew they were looking for me . . . all because I wrote about a topic of interest to them. Now, off to publish another in a few hours. Thank you for this post!

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