Writers sometimes need new outlets to feed their creativity, to boost their online presence, or even just as something fun to do that isn’t the “big book project” or “work.” With the new uptick of email newsletters, writers may have actually found something interesting that also could make a bit of money on the side. Wondering why you should write an email newsletter? Here are four inspiring newsletter examples and helpful observations from theirs writers who corresponded with me over email.
Want more details on how to write a great newsletter? Read my previous post on what’s involved in an email newsletter.
Samantha Irby doesn’t want you to laugh at her (but with her)
Hilarious blogger and author Samantha Irby sends out her newsletter, “books/snacks/softcore,” when she has something to share (lately with hilarious recaps of the day’s Judge Mathis episode). She also still has her blog at Bitches Gotta Eat and her latest book of essays, Wow, No Thank You, is due out in March from Penguin Random House. She writes emails to her subscribers in between writing her next book and sending back proofs to her editor.
I asked her if it’s hard to think of things to write about for her newsletter, what with all her other writing outlets pulling at her attention.
“Sometimes,” Irby replied. “But I don’t write when I can’t think of something that might be funny or interesting. I never ever want someone to open my newsletter and think UGH THE WELL MUST BE RUNNING DRY.”
Despite having a lot of other places to write, Irby finds her newsletter to be a positive addition to her regular routine.
“So far it’s been a good and low stakes way to exercise my writing muscle while also making enough money to pay my phone bill,” she said. “My ultimate goal, in all things, is to convince strangers to love me. I’ll report back when I figure out whether or not it’s working.”
Irby’s plan has been to just try this new thing out and see what happens, which is about as relaxed and healthy as you can get with a new venture.
“I don’t think I could ever rely on a newsletter for my sole income (I really don’t believe that you can live forever on a creative job *gestures wildly at entire life* or whatever) BUT if I look at it as I do everything (it’s a laugh! maybe I can buy face cream and a sandwich!) then that makes it feel worthwhile to me? I feel like everything is easier when I attach the lowest stakes possible.”
She added, “It’s also a way to boost other people’s projects/articles/websites, because there’s only so much instagram and twitter signal boosting a person can reasonably do.”
Wendy Mcclure is mining her family history
“One part is just miscellany—links to things I’m reading and collected thoughts about some of my favorite subjects (the Little House books, children’s publishing, anything that’s roughly in the realm of the stuff I write about in my books),” McClure said. “The other part is an old photo of a dead person or lost place—usually from my huge collection of old family pictures—and some kind of short essay about the photo.”
About how she got started, McClure said it fit well with what she was looking for in her writing life.
“I was reading other people’s newsletters and I liked those a lot,” she said. “I missed blogging—the way it gave me an outlet, a regular writing assignment—but posting things on a blog hasn’t felt right to me since Google Reader went away. It got so nobody knew you had a new blog post up unless you linked to it on Facebook and Twitter, and then everyone would comment on the link, essentially defeating the purpose of having a separate site (which nonetheless still appealed to me).
That’s not all that McClure likes about a newsletter’s separation from social media.
“I like the way newsletters have a direct connection,” she said. “A reader doesn’t have to be on a particular platform or social media site to access me, and when I write a new installment I don’t have to chase down my audience by linking to it on three different sites.”
Rosamund Lannin offers travel tips and lipstick picks
Rosamund Lannin, a writer who also co-founded the Chicago female live lit show, Miss Spoken, puts out “It Means Rose of the World,” on a quarterly basis. She started writing it back in the spring of 2016 via Tiny Letter, but recently moved over to Substack.
When asked about how and why she got started writing an email newsletter—Rosamund already writes pretty prolifically on social media and in a variety of publications and outlets, in addition to working a fulltime 9-to-5 job—she said it seemed like fun.
“Some friends of mine who were also writers had started TinyLetters and I liked the idea of sharing what I was doing in a less constant, immediate format than social media,” Lannin said. “I wanted something curated and put together but still accessible and fun. It’s a way for you to keep up with what I’m reading, writing, and thinking in a roughly quarterly format, which sounds dry but includes lots of words about books, lipstick, and carne asada burritos.”
Claire Zulkey enlists a team of evil witches to help write a great newsletter
“After forming a private/informal community of mothers I knew, I started getting the impression that maybe the discussions we were having might be interesting to a larger audience,” Zulkey said over email. “I considered different platforms/community models but at the end of the day a.) I’m a writer and b.) I do not want to moderate something gigantic and/or cater to every conceivable interest (like a general interest publication).”
What’s different about “Evil Witches” is its group approach to editorial content, some of which comes from questions posed on social media to followers or readers, which also adds to its authenticity. You get the impression when reading it that you’re not alone with your wild child or clueless spouse.
“I make the editorial decisions and write a chunk of the content but E.W. wouldn’t exist without other Evil Witches,” she said. “It toes the line between reporting and crowdsourcing I’d say (to make it a quicker read I strip away a lot of the niceties of an actual written article), and capturing the knowledge, stories, complaints, jokes, and so on from like-minded folks.”
Zulkey isn’t sure where her newsletter is headed, but with the option of making a little bit of money from this adventure, it may turn into a regular source of at least part of her freelance income.
“It’s truly been an experiment; I have no big plans at this time, no idea how long it will go on for,” she added. “The payment model however helps me envision it as a legitimate work project instead of something that’s totally done in my spare time.”
Looking for more inspiring newsletter examples? Consider subscribing to Submishmash Weekly, Submittable’s free newsletter for creatives, packed with arts and literary news, curated opportunities for submission, and more.