Good Lord, I send out a lot of emails.
Seriously, if you join the Ninja Writer email list, you’re going to hear from me. Because I’m passionate about this thing — helping people figure out how to tell their stories — and I have a lot to say about it.
I hope that my emails are interesting and helpful. I have a pretty decent open rate, so I think I’m on the right track. But compared to those folks who send out a single newsletter once a month or once a week — yeah. I’m not them.
I think I might explode if I had to hold in the stuff I’m excited to share that long.
Every once in a while I’ll get a negative response from someone on my email list about the number of emails I send. It’ll either be pretty nice, or it’ll be fairly nasty.
I happened to get one of each yesterday, so I took that as a sign that I should write about it. Because that’s how I roll.
(These are representative emails — not the exact emails I recieved — to preserve the privacy of the readers who sent them. But they’re similar in tone.)
Pretty Nice Email About Too Many Emails
Hi, there. I’m really enjoying your work, but is there a way to get fewer emails? It’s a lot.
The answer is yes. When I send out a link to my daily Medium posts, there’s a link you can click that will tag you, so that I know not to send you those particular emails.
If there’s some kind of campaign or program going on, like there is right now, I always offer a similar way to opt out of getting emails about it.
Thanks ConvertKit. Your tagging feature is everything.
I also always respond to these emails, when they come (maybe once a month?) with an acknowledgement that I understand that Ninja Writers is an email-heavy group, and a reminder that it’s easy to unsubscribe if they need to, but I’m glad they found us and I hope they stick around.
Fairly Nasty Email About Too Many Emails
Oh, my god, you suck. I wish I never signed up for your (free thing) in the first place! My inbox is full of emails from you. Can you please just stop.
When I get an email like this, also maybe once a month, I do the logical thing. I click the ‘unsubscribe’ button at the bottom of the email they’re responding to and unsubscribe them.
I double-checked this subscriber’s email address in my server to make sure that they were, indeed, unsubscribed via the unsubscribe button — and they were. So I’m not sure if they kept unsubscribing by thinking QUIT real hard at their iPhone screen or what. But I made sure they won’t get any more emails from me.
I’m not here to email anyone who doesn’t want to hear from me.
I also responded to them with extra kindness — letting them know that I’m sorry they were overwhelmed and that every email they ever receives from anyone’s email list has an unsubscribe button at the bottom.
Clicking it works better than sending an angry email, usually.
I use these responses (and a couple other things) as a guide
One or two a month, and I figure I’m on the right path. I mean, you can’t please everyone, all the time.
There has been a time or two in the last two years though, when my inbox was suddenly filled with a dozen or more people telling me I’d gone overboard. Those emails actually came from die-hard Ninjas, who I knew weren’t going anywhere. They really just wanted me to know I’d gone off the rails.
When that happens, I reel it in. I can accept that my enthusiasm can get out of hand sometimes.
For every pretty-nice and kind-of-nasty email I get, I get maybe ten really-sweet emails that let me know that I’ve connected with a reader and they’re learning from me or otherwise enjoying what I’m sending them. If those really-sweet emails slow down or stop, then I know I need to re-evaluate.
I also pay attention to my email stats. As long as my open rate stays consistent and my unsubscribe rate doesn’t bolt, then I know I’m doing okay. If people either stop opening my email or start leaving en masse, then I’ve got a problem that I need to fix.
Writing does take self-promotion though
The kind-of-nasty email gave me some food for thought.
The self-promotion that reader is talking about is me emailing out links to my Medium posts. I think. That’s a new thing and it’s increased my email output by quite a bit.
She might be talking about something else, who knows. I have an Etsy shop.
But let’s go with the Medium posts thing.
Because being a writer absolutely requires self-promotion.
I hear from so many writers about how their business plan is to write a novel, sell it to a major publisher, and then let that publisher sell their novel for them while they write the next book.
Or how they want to just post on their blog or on Medium and let readers find their work organically.
It doesn’t work like that. You have no idea how much I wish it did, but it really doesn’t.
I’ve been published by Penguin and I saw what happened when I let someone else be 100 percent in charge of marketing my work. And I’ve written blog posts and seen how lonely they are if I don’t direct traffic to them.
I write in order to be read. I’m okay with admitting that. Sure it’s my art form and sure I get a ton of personal benefit and fulfillment from doing the thing I feel like I was born to do — but I want to be read.
Otherwise, I wouldn’t be here. My work would all be nice and neat and safe on my hard drive for my eyes only.
If you’re a writer, you need an email list. If you have an email list, even if the only people on it are you mom and your best friend, those people have let you know they want to hear from you.
If something happens to change their mind — like you’re writing too much for their taste — then there’s the unsubscribe button. And if they click it, it’s not the end of the world. I promise.
It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. It doesn’t mean you suck. It just means that person, at this time, isn’t in line with your awesome. Maybe they will be later. Or not. Definitely, someone else will be.
Don’t be afraid to self-promote. Don’t take criticism about self-promotion personally. It’s okay if someone leaves your email list. Even a pretty-nasty email won’t kill you. You will be okay.
Shaunta Grimes is a writer and teacher. She lives in Reno with her husband, three superstar kids (okay, two have left the nest, but she’s in mild denial), and a yellow rescue dog named Maybelline Scout. She’s on Twitter @shauntagrimes, is the author of Viral Nation and Rebel Nation and the upcoming middle-grade novel The Astonishing Maybe and is the original Ninja Writer. Do you have a writing question you’d like me to answer? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org with DEAR SHAUNTA in the subject line.