Note: Since I wrote this post several years ago, I've switched to using ConvertKit for my email newsletter. I loved TinyLetter, just wanted some fancier features. I did get into the habit of sending out an email every Friday – sign up here! If you feel like catching up, I've compiled all of my 2014 emails into an ebook – it was a big year involving my first Year of Making (totally changed my creative life!), my book coming out, and big travels.
I've dabbled in having an email newsletter for quite a long time, since even before the days of the now-ubiquitous MailChimp, but I never managed to make it a routine part of my writing or business life.
At the same time, I love email. I really do. I approached each incarnation of my newsletter not like a promotional tool but like a letter to my subscribers. That's how I like it. It's never been about me just pushing myself onto people; I've always enjoyed hearing back from the few people who do choose to hit reply. (I wish more did. Please reply! I love hearing from you!)
Toward the end of 2013, I realized that much of the reason I avoid sending newsletters is that they're a slog to prepare. MailChimp is awesome and everything, but it's filled with features I don't need, some of which take time to use. Which is a pain, when all I really want to do is write you a letter and send it.
Businessy people might balk, but I'm not even interested in analytics. The way I figure it, my newsletter is a good use of my time if someone is interested enough in what I have to say, and in hearing about my work, that they subscribe. That's it. Life is busy, and I appreciate anyone who chooses to spend even a few minutes of their time with my writing. I know myself well enough to know that I'm not going to analyze click trends and keywords, and anyway, I don't enjoy writing when all that info is mucking up my brain. I don't write for numbers, I write for humans.
Enter TinyLetter. It's run by the MailChimp people, so there's that. But it has a tiny fraction of the features of MailChimp. It took me about five minutes to get my (free) account set up yesterday, another two minutes to import my subscriber list, and twenty-five minutes to write my newsletter. And in that thirty-two minutes, I fell in love. Because TinyLetter does everything I want it to do, and nothing more. It's deliberately designed for people exactly like me, who prioritize establishing a meaningful relationship with subscribers over driving sales, attracting clicks, etc.
Here are the features TinyLetter has (there are, like, three):
- Send to a maximum of 3,000 subscribers (for free!)
- Track opens and clicks (that's it!)
- Manage replies (this is amazing, and something I haven't seen anywhere else: when a reader replies to a newsletter, in addition to getting it by email, I also get it in a handy section inside TinyLetter where I can see all the replies to any given newsletter, and send replies back, too.)
TinyLetter has no design templates. It allows for rich text and inserting images, but that's about it. Which means that I spend about 100% of my newsletter-writing time actually writing. No settings to tweak, no random boxes to update, no fixing of funny design quirks. Just writing, full stop.
Four people unsubscribed after I sent my email yesterday, which is pretty much the usual number of unsubscribes I get when I send a newsletter. But three people replied, which is about two more than usually do. Which means that in addition to helping me enjoy writing my newsletter, TinyLetter is helping me engage with my readers.
I'm gushing, people, if you couldn't tell. Gushing.
If you want to see what this newsletter thing is all about, sign up here (tell your friends!).
If you want to significantly simplify your email communications and don't require marketing tools, I highly recommend you check out TinyLetter. (And check out what they say about their future.)