My story starts about ten years ago - before the days of this blog - when I set up an email service called E-Writer to provide a means of keeping in touch with my readers and clients.
E-Writer was irregular at first, but eventually it settled into a monthly e-newsletter, and I kept it running like that till the start of this year. You could subscribe via my homepage at www.nickdaws.co.uk and ultimately it had around 1200 subscribers.
One of my resolutions for 2013 was to look again at how I communicate with my readers - and where the newsletter was concerned, I soon realised it was time for a change.
It seemed to me that in this fast-moving world the whole concept of a monthly newsletter was looking a bit dated. I wanted a way of contacting readers as soon as I had something interesting to tell them, rather than wait till the end of the month and send a lengthy digest, some of which would likely be out of date already.
For E-Writer I had always used the mailing list service YMLP (which stands for Your Mailing List Provider). They had always provided a good service, but for the new E-Writer Updates service I envisaged, I could see that they would be less suitable.
For one thing, while YMLP allow you to mail lists of up to 1000 free, each time you send out a mailing the total number is added to your monthly usage.
So if you had 600 subscribers, you could mail them free once a month, but if you wanted to mail them twice that would put you on 1200, above the free allowance, meaning you had to pay to upgrade. YMLP's charges are not extortionate, but if you were mailing two or three times a week, you would swiftly have to upgrade your account to a much more expensive tier.
YMLP is also relatively limited in the range of features it offers. While you can use it to send out newsletters, for example, you can't really set it up as an autoresponder. So after some investigation I decided to switch to the most popular service in online marketing circles, AWeber.
Aweber doesn't offer a free starter service, but one big attraction of going with them is that charging is based purely on the size of your list. That means even if you mail your subscribers every day, it will cost no more than if you mail them once a month (incidentally, this is one reason why if you join an AWeber list, you are likely to hear from the list owner quite frequently!).
Aweber offers many other features as well. As mentioned above, you can set up autoreponders. For example, when someone first signs up to your list, you can arrange to send them a series of messages at pre-set intervals (your choice) perhaps going into more detail about the products and services you offer. I haven't actually done this myself yet, but it's certainly on my 'to do' list.
Like all such services, Aweber provide the means for people to sign up to your list using the industry-standard (and spam-proof) double opt-in process. They also offer a wide range of sign-up boxes which you can add to your blog or website by copying and pasting a bit of HTML. And, of course, they ensure that subscribers can change the email address at which they receive your mailings - or unsubscribe - by automatically adding such links at the foot of every mailing.
One lesser-known feature of Aweber that I really like is that any time you do a mailing, an archive page containing the message is created (and hosted) by Aweber, and you can also set it up to share these pages via Twitter and Facebook.
These pages are indexed by the search engines, and several times recently I have seen them high up in Google results. You can see the Aweber page for my latest update here if you like. And, as you will notice, readers are invited to sign up to my mailing list at the same time. Please feel free!
If you promote yourself or your books or writing services online, you really should have a list to keep in touch with your readers and prospects. In my view, Aweber is a good choice, and possibly the best.
In any event, if you fancy giving it a try, I've arranged for readers of my blog to test-drive it free of charge (and without obligation). Just fill in your details in the form below and click on Free Test Drive. Aweber will then send you some emails so that you can learn more about what they offer and experience the service first-hand.
Multiply Profits AND Automate Your BusinessAWeber's email marketing software makes it easy.
Learn how they can do it for you, too.
Incidentally, if you're looking for a low-cost (or free) service that will work with less frequent mailouts - such as a monthly newsletter - I do still recommend YMLP. If you wish to try it for yourself, just visit http://ymlp.com/psignup_promo and enter the promo code 266CJ1. You will then receive a 15% discount on their normal pricing for as long as you remain a member. For non-profit organisations in particular, I reckon that YMLP would be a good choice.
I hope you find this article helpful and will consider setting up a mailing list of your own (and sign up for mine, of course!). If you have any comments or questions about AWeber, YMLP or mailing list services generally, please do post them below.