Success on Substack: Craft a Subscription Newsletter Worth Reading | Cody Cook-Parrott | Skillshare

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Success on Substack: Craft a Subscription Newsletter Worth Reading

teacher avatar Cody Cook-Parrott, Dancer, Writer, Quilter

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

    • 1.



    • 2.

      Decide Why to Start Your Newsletter


    • 3.

      Explore the Newsletter Landscape


    • 4.

      Brainstorm Your Creative Direction


    • 5.

      Create Your Format


    • 6.

      Build Your Template


    • 7.

      Build Your Readership


    • 8.

      Design Your Workflows


    • 9.

      Get Ready to Hit Send


    • 10.

      Final Thoughts


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About This Class

Create a direct channel between you and your audience that no social media algorithm can get between. 

When writer and dancer Cody Cook-Parrott started their first email newsletter ten years ago, they never expected it would turn into Monday Monday, their weekly Substack newsletter on creativity with 24,000 tight-knit subscribers and more than $80,000 in yearly revenue. Now a published author and podcast host, Marlee uses their newsletter to share essays, life musings and new projects. 

Crafted for writers, artists, entrepreneurs, or just anyone who has a hobby or passion they’d like to share with the world, this class will help you understand all of the tech, creative practices, strategies, and systems that exist behind a successful email newsletter. If you’re ready to connect with an audience without worrying about an ever-changing algorithm, get ready to discover the magic of writing a subscription newsletter. 

With Cody as your guide, you’ll:

  • Design a newsletter format that's worth reading 
  • Make a ready-to-use email template that you can adjust each week
  • Brainstorm how to monetize and build your readership
  • Develop rituals to help you stay committed to your newsletter
  • Get creative with your newsletter’s name, about page and themes

Plus, you’ll get access to an in-depth workbook available in both Notion and PDF versions to help you build a customized strategy and launch plan for your newsletter. 

Whether you aim to launch an email newsletter from scratch on Substack or give a fresh look to an existing newsletter on another platform, the skills taught in this class are versatile and can be applied across various newsletter services. Either way, you’ll leave this class with a newsletter that not only provides an enjoyable space to express yourself, your passions, and your projects but also elevates your creative endeavors to new heights. 

No previous marketing or business experience is necessary to take this class. Any creator with basic writing skills and a few thoughts to share can benefit from Cody’s lessons. To follow along with Cody you’ll need a computer and your preferred note-taking tool. 

Meet Your Teacher

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Cody Cook-Parrott

Dancer, Writer, Quilter


Cody Cook-Parrott is a dancer and writer whose work focuses on the self, devotion, ritual, creativity, and art making. Their practice is rooted in improvisation as a compositional form that takes shape in movement videos, books, quilting, online courses, and hosting artists. Grace's Instagram dance project Personal Practice has been featured in the New York Times, Dance Magazine, Vanity Fair, The Huffington Post, and more.

They have a newsletter that comes out every Monday called Monday Monday. Sometimes it comes out on different days but usually it comes out on Monday. It's always free. If you love it and want to also read the monthly advice column YES YES you can become a paid subscriber.

Cody's most recent book is Getting to Center: Pathways to Find... See full profile

Level: Beginner

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1. Introduction: We're living in a world of social media algorithms that are always changing. When you have a newsletter and you have your own email list, you have this direct channel between you and your audience that you own. No algorithm can stop your email from landing in your readers inbox. Hi, I'm Marlee Grace. I'm an artist, a dancer, a quilter, and the writer behind Monday Monday the Substack publication that comes out every Monday about creativity and attention. It's read by over 23,000 people a week. This class is about the magic of writing an email newsletter. If you're feeling like you're screaming into the void, trying to get people excited about what you made, this class is for you not only to reach your readers, but to really think about increasing your income and your revenue. By the end of class, you will understand all the tech creative practices, the strategies, the systems, everything you need to launch your own email newsletter or if you're an email newsletter pro, you'll have everything to revamp your own email newsletter. This class is for writers, artists, weirdos. Anyone who either owns a business or even just has a passion or a hobby that they're wanting to share with other people. Writing an email newsletter for the last 10 years has completely changed my practice and my life. I really want that same transformative change for you too. I'm so excited you're here. If you don't believe in yourself, don't worry because I believe in you, and we're going to have so much fun. Let's get started. 2. Decide Why to Start Your Newsletter: Hello, welcome to class. I want to bring you through the sort of ecosystem of my own e mail newsletter, Monday. Monday is a weekly newsletter on substack. And if you become a subscriber for free, you get the newsletter every Monday. If you become a paid subscriber, you either get the monthly advice column or one of our seasonal book studies. Monday Monday really is about creativity and attention, It's about my own life. So I write every week about sort of the happenings in my own world through the **** of being queer, being non binary, being an artist, a dancer, a quilter. I really think about living rurally and the things I'm seeing each week. My life with my dog, You know the books I'm reading, the podcast I'm listening to. And I sort of use the newsletter as a way to weave all of these things together to then offer back to the reader. It has come out since 2021 on substack, but I have been writing a weekly Monday newsletter since 2017 and a digital newsletter in general, since the end of 2012. The thing about making a newsletter that's so amazing, especially if you're an artist on the edge of the margins or you know, are a part of a group of people that the world doesn't necessarily see and celebrate. For me, being queer and being non binary, you don't have to wait for the powers that be to say yes, you are good enough to make something you get to really carve out and take up that space for yourself. And as far as having readers of my newsletter, I think my favorite part of that is I get to know that I'm not alone. Because they tell me that when they read my writing they feel less alone. And I think so commonly what I hear is that it just makes them want to make their own art or pay attention to their own life in different ways. And so the power of the e mail newsletter is you get to inspire, right? You get to inspire your readers or your customers. You get to have intimacy with the people who are buying your services, are buying your products, that you don't get other places. It feels like one to one where I feel like social media is like I'm shouting, I want you to know I make art. And when you make a newsletter, because it lands in the person's inbox, it really feels like you're writing them a personal e mail. I mean, I get that feedback all the time with Monday. Monday is people are like, it feels like you wrote it for me every single week. And that means so much to me and is just so exciting to be able to reach people in that way. You know, the thing I love the most about having a newsletter is just how consistent my writing practice has become. Having a paid newsletter has definitely helped me be infinitely more committed to my writing because I'm publicly accountable to a readership. It has helped me take my writing more seriously and just be more committed. Overall, there are 23.5 thousand free subscribers to Monday, Monday, and there are currently over 1,500 paid subscribers. My substack newsletter brings in a gross annual revenue of $82,000 right now. I hope that these numbers both inspire you and show you what is possible as an artist in the world and as your humble teacher and facilitator of this class. I want to remind you that again, I have been writing and practicing newsletters for over a decade, so you might not see numbers like this right away. It can feel really vulnerable for me to just be like, all right, you guys, I'm going to show you exactly how much I make and exactly the growth. But I am dedicated to showing other artists what is possible. I feel I'm gonna cry. I think it can feel really scary and have so much Imposture syndrome as I'm teaching you this class. And looking at these numbers, I can't believe my own eyes. I'm like, I make 82 point $8,000 writing a weekly newsletter. And I can be really mean to myself. I can think it's not important enough. I don't deserve this money. You know? I don't deserve this much money because my parents don't make this much money or because other artists I love don't make this much money, right? I think I definitely walk through the world with a lot of guilt for making money from what I love. And it has offered me an extreme amount of freedom in my life as well. I was able to buy a house. By myself, without a partner, with no generational wealth, as a queer person, that's really hard to do. Even though, like I mentioned, the growth goes up and down, It's not always consistent. I do know like, okay, I'm going to have a couple thousand dollar that comes in every month as long as I stay consistent with my practice. And even sometimes if I need to take a break from my practice, I still know that that money is coming in regularly. Having a newsletter has completely been the foundation of my business for over ten years. I honestly think that if I didn't have an e mail list and a newsletter, I wouldn't be able to fill the online classes that I teach or reach people to buy my books or interact with the other offerings that I give to people. Something that I tell all of my students is to begin before you're ready. And don't wait to feel like an expert, right? So hitting send is about trusting the universe. Trusting the universe has your back, you know, waiting to feel like the smartest, best, most amazing writer or newsletter creator is not going to be the best way to approach this class. It's not about speeding through, but it is about like going at a pace that maybe feels a little faster than you're used to. Because a scent newsletter is better than one that sits in your drafts for years to come. You know? The other thing I just want to say is you are allowed to pivot when you're going through the workbook or you're going through any of these lessons. I just want to support you in changing your mind. You are allowed to change your mind. You're allowed to build an entire e mail strategy and then throw it all away if you want, right? So you won't have to figure any of this out alone. I will be with you the whole time. So in each lesson, we'll go through identifying what kinds of things do you want to share about with your readers. The themes, the things you're devoted to. We'll go over different examples of newsletters. We will go over the tech and we'll also go over, you know, making your newsletter a fun place to talk about yourself. So making a great about me page and welcome e mails and ways to really bring your readers in to your orbit. Making them feel comfortable, making them feel excited to be a part of your world. Okay, so I want you to go to the resources tab for this class and grab the notion workbook and you can duplicate it into your own notion workspace if you are not a notion fan. I also made the workbook into a PDF that you can just download and work through. If you go through everything in the workbook and everything in this class, you will have all of the tools you need to start your own newsletter. And I want you to start to practice making an e mail newsletter because it is the perfect way to feel more confident what you make and put into the world. And it's fun. We're going to have fun. This is going to be fun. Making an email newsletter is one of the funnest things that I do every week, right? It's a place that I can be creative, I can be funny, I can be Brady, I can be sassy, I can be informative, right? I can be all the different parts of myself and share them with the readers who lovingly subscribe. So in the next lesson, we're going to do sort of an overview of the e mail marketing landscape. 3. Explore the Newsletter Landscape: In this lesson, I'm going to give us a little bit of an overview of the e mail marketing landscape. And so we'll talk more about substack. But I also want to look at some options like flow desk, mail, chimp, tiny letter mail, or light. These are all different options that you can look into and explore to figure out what the best fit for you is. In my e mail marketing landscape, I'm going to be using both substack and flow desk. Substack is where I deliver sort of my more creative writing, my creative self. And flow desk is where I'm approaching it a little more from a marketing standpoint. And so flow desk is what I use to host my lead magnets, which are free resources guides, et cetera, that an e mail subscriber gets when they give you your e mail address. The way that someone comes in to my e mail funnel, if you will, is they might land on my website or like in the show notes of my podcast, for instance. Right, So in the show notes of my podcast, it will say, grab the Creative Ideation portal. They click that, it brings them to the landing page that you make in Flowdsk. They type their e mail address in, and then that e mail address automatically gets added to my flow desk newsletter subscriber list. And that person automatically gets an e mail. That is day one of the Creative Ideation portal, as well as the link to the notion template. You can put a little note if you want that says like when you download this guide, you know you're opting in to my email list. If you wanted to add those e mails to your substack email newsletter, you could do that by downloading the CSV and then uploading that to substack. Once they give you that e mail address, you are allowed to put it on whatever email subscriber platform you use. But for me, I really just keep my substack pretty separate. My flow desk is really an opportunity for me to market something directly. Let's say you're an herbalist and you don't want to make money off your newsletter itself. You know that you want to use that to launch products, launch your classes. Share the fun ins and outs of the plants that you love. Flow desk is a perfect option for you to build beautiful e mails. I think if you want your newsletter to be a truly creative place for you to play. For it to be your playground. For it to be this place that you experiment and take risks. I really think that substack is going to be the place for you. You can embed audio, you can embed video. You can put in beautiful photos and collage the photos together. You can have comments. You can have all these different things. And you can do all of that and have it be a free newsletter, right? And I also want to be clear, I definitely market with my substack, right? So even though I'm also utilizing flow desk to help market offerings, I'm absolutely marketing to my substack community in my newsletters. You know, this is the class I'm teaching. This is a podcast I'm on this week. These are other opportunities for you to come into my orbit, my ecosystem, my creative world. So I want to be clear about a couple of the financial parts of the different email newsletter providers because you want to find what one works for you. Now, if you are to use substack and only send e mails for free, it will always be free, right? Substack makes money from taking 10% of your paid subscription. So if you send a newsletter that is totally free, it will be a totally free resource for you. That's a pretty cool part of substack. Now if you're using flow desk, it's a set amount of money per month no matter how many subscribers you have. Unlike something like mail chimp, which the more subscribers you have on your list, the more money it will eventually cost. Now to start using mail chimp is totally free. So let's say you don't want to use substack, you know you don't want a paid subscription model. You could start by using Mail Chimp because it's totally free to use at the beginning. And we'll start costing money as you amass more subscribers. Now you can do what I did, which is move that E mail list, right? So I used mail chimp for over eight years and then I also had a patrion. Right. That was sort of my way of having monthly tiered income on a membership subscription. And when I wanted to merge those things, I moved both of those lists over to substack. So again, you own these e mail lists and can move them from platform to platform if you need to. Okay, so as you're sort of thinking about which container makes the most sense for my newsletter, I want you to pop open the workbook and just start working through some of these questions, right? Something you might want to ask yourself is, why do I want to make a newsletter? Right? I mean, that's that original point. If you're like I just want to tell people about what I make. Maybe something like flow desk or mail chimp is correct to you if you're asking yourself that and you're like, you know what, I really want to dig into my art practice and get creative in this way. Something like substack or another paid subscription model newsletter might be correct for you in that way. For those of us who are artists, we sort of, you know, shy away from like business talk or marketing talk. And I think this is an opportunity for you to really be honest with yourself about how an e mail newsletter could impact your business, could increase business, and increase revenue. Both the marketing side and the side of perhaps adding paid subscriptions. Take some time with the workbook. Get into the questions, see what comes up for you and then the next lesson we're going to explore your creative direction. 4. Brainstorm Your Creative Direction : In this lesson, we're going to be talking about the creative direction of your newsletter. And I'm going to bring you through some questions to really ask yourself while you're figuring out the creative direction. I'm going to go over a few different examples of substack newsletters that we can look at to gain inspiration from and sort of look at the creative formats that they're taking. And then I'll also go over a flow desk e mail as well. So you can see someone who is choosing to use it really creatively, not just for marketing. And sort of see the difference, like we've been talking about between substack and flow desk and these different formats that your newsletter can take. We will also talk about the ways that your newsletter can be a place of service. How you could redistribute part of your paid subscriptions if you do a paid subscription model. As well as how your newsletter can be a platform to share about people, causes, organizations and movements that inspire you and that you want to be a part of. The first thing I want you to do is think about the themes that you want to talk about. Grab a pen and paper. Check out the workbook and just make a list of the themes that you could see yourself talking about in your newsletter. So for me I'm usually talking about creative practice, queerness, living rurally art. So right now we're really just high level thinking of all of the different themes and visions and ideas that could go in the newsletter. And then we'll get really specific later on, just start to really think about what are the different things you would bring into your newsletter. And this don't have to be directly related to your business or what you do. You could write your newsletter more just about your experience in the world, right? Like your life, What's going on in your world today? Just write as many as you can. There's no wrong way to do this. I want you to just have so many different ideas written down for your newsletter, right? All the different themes that you could write about and don't edit. It's like we're brainstorming, we're visioning, and we're going to keep just making the longest lists we can of all the things that we could talk about in our newsletter. If you're getting stuck and you can't figure out what themes would go in your newsletter, you can also think about what you're devoted to. So maybe one of your themes or the things that you're devoted to is poetry. Maybe you're really devoted to like bug culture, right? It's like the insects of the place that you live. Maybe you want every newsletter to say your favorite insect at the bottom. We're really talking about anything. You can put anything in your newsletter, you can get creative. I think, I really hope that as you're thinking about the themes and what you're devoted to, the whole point of newsletter creation is to make you a better artist and a person who pays closer attention to the world that you're living in. So invite in themes and devotional aspects that tune in your attention to the world around you. You can also think about what are your newsletters core values, right? If you're writing a newsletter that's all about nature, you might want to be considering whose land you're on, how to support indigenous sovereignty, where you exist and where you live. When I think about my core values, I think about my body, my identity, I think about the privileges that I hold. I think about the privileges I do not hold. And I think about how my money, my resources, and my time all sort of fit together in this puzzle. Right? One of my core values is redistributing my income. So depending on my income that month and my own needs, anywhere from 3% to 10% I'll redistribute at the bottom of each of my E mails. In sub sac, I always say where a portion of the paid subscriptions are going to each month. What do you care about? What do you deeply care about? And if you're sort of like, whoa, I've never even asked myself that. Let this be a time, right? You are invited. Welcome. Welcome to the table of figuring out what you care about. I'm going to go over a few of my favorite newsletters and examples so you can sort of see what is possible for you while you're creating yours. The first one is the author, Samantha Irby who has a podcast called ******* Gotta Eat. Every single issue is a recap of the television program Judge Mathis. Samantha's tagline is an idiotic recap of the greatest syndicated courtroom show of all time. Sam has taken this like really specific creative direction. And just every issue recaps the television program. When you open it, however, and you scroll to the bottom, she always links her books. So Sam is a New York Times bestselling author. An amazing writer, right? And so at the end, it still has these little hyperlinks. She still uses it as this marketing tool, but as a writer of humor and joy and laughter. And she can weave in her own lived experience and her life and make jokes within the format. But it is the same format every time about this really specific thing. So again, even when you're doing something really creative in the format of substack or a different e mail service provider, we're not going to shy away from promoting ourselves and promoting our work, right? That is part of the point of e mail marketing. So for any of you who are musicians or making audio, I want to show you the example of Kevin Morby's substack. So Kevin is a musician and an artist, and after he puts out an album, he can use his substack to share demos, right? So these are for his paid subscribers. So if you're a fan of this person's music and you're like, oh, I love Kevin's records, I wish there was more. You can become a paid subscriber and get access to these demos. And then this is the author, Emma Gannon's substack, which to me is just such a great example of going all in. She has really found a way to fold all different parts of her work into the substack, right, with her new book that came out, which you can see here, she has that post pinned to the home page. She has a podcast, which we can click through here that she uses substack as the platform where it exists and they are conversations that link back to her new book. She actually made a little post that's called How to Enjoy and Grow Your Substack. It's like a mini workshop as a newsletter. So she's really using substack to create the whole ecosystem of her work. And the last one I wanted to show you is a newsletter that uses flow desk. So this is Liz Miliarelli whose business is called Sister Spencer. Liz is an herbalist and an educator, a teacher, a storyteller. This is an example pulled up of one of Liz's latest e mails. So the way Liz formats her e mails to me are just a beautiful example of both promoting and marketing, but also truly sharing her joy of plants. She has a little note at the beginning that just kind of talks about what she's up to right now in her job as an herbalist and in her life. And then we scroll down, she uses some of you know, this imagery that shows up in her branding and in her business. And then Liz pretty much always shares a poem, right? So this is all on flow desk. And then we can go over here to Liz's website. She has built in this newsletter archive where she hyperlinks all her different newsletters and you can click them. Uh, there she is, gorgeous. And here she's promoting her summer solstice sessions. So this is where Liz is going to use her flow desk newsletter to talk about opening her books up to take on one on one clients to do flower essence, one on one support, and then you can book here at the bottom. And then lastly, here's just a beautiful example of a landing page for flow desks. So you can make this really cute landing page that you can link in your website or have it as a banner at the bottom of your website that lets people sign up for the flow desk newsletter. In the resources tab, I have linked even more substack newsletters that I absolutely love that I recommend both that you read and that you gain inspiration from. You can also go to the home page of my substack and scroll down to recommendations. And you can see the ones that I publicly recommend on my home page. And also if you head to the Explore page of substack, you can look at so many different newsletters and gain inspiration from them. And you can actually look at them by category. So definitely spend some time exploring. Make a list of your favorite subs stacks and check them out. Take as much time as you need in the workbook. Brainstorming all of these big ideas. I don't want you to get stuck. If anything, keep the keys moving. Keep the pen moving. If you want to do it on paper, think about all the beautiful ways that you could be weaving in the themes, your desires, your devotions into your newsletter. And in the next lesson, we'll get really clear on format, so exactly what goes in the newsletter once you're getting clear on these themes. 5. Create Your Format: In this lesson, we're going to talk about format. Now you have thought of what kind of model you want to have for your newsletter. You've thought about the Y. You've thought about the themes and things you're devoted to, and all of the different things you can include in your newsletter. And so now we're going to create different containers that these can sort of easily drop into. Right? A forma is so helpful as a writer, the less things that I have to sort of think about each week, the more I'm able to sort of flow in my practice, right? It's like constraints actually offer me expansion in my creative process. Also for my readers, it's like they just know and look forward to that every week. That consistency of the format, I think really lends to the trust building. Again, that happens between you and the reader. When you're looking at the themes, your devotions start to pick out like specifically what do you want to write about or talk about in the newsletter? And then plug those things into the formats that make sense for you to communicate as naturally as you can. When we're looking at my newsletter, for instance, let's look at this one right here. I'm always going to start with a picture. Either a picture of myself, a picture I've taken. I'm almost always opening my newsletter with a photograph. If you love taking pictures or you want a challenge to see the world differently, I definitely recommend integrating photographs into your newsletter. And then my next format is the essay, especially on substack. This is the format you're going to see the most is a weekly essay. Again, you could do it every other week, you could do it once a month. But this is sort of the most common way that you'll see a lot of substack newsletters or even newsletters hosted other places. When I had a newsletter originally hosted on mail Chip, I always wrote an essay. This is the format I've been doing for years. So I have my essay and here one of my formats is I asked an artist to design little graphics for my newsletter. I had Lukesa Brafman, Verisimo make the art for my newsletter. And then that includes like these little divider sections. You can go to Canva, you can find free ways to do this. I don't want you to get overwhelmed being like, oh, do I have to hire a bunch of people to get my newsletter off the ground? You absolutely don't have to do that. And it's really fun. It's a fun invitation to collaborate with other artists who are visual artists if you're not and can make little assets for your newsletter. My next part of the format is I'm going to be sharing my podcast from that week. I'm going to promote that here. And then Substack has this little cute way to sort of hold a quote. So I pull a quote from my podcast. So my newsletter is an amazing way to tell people about the other projects that I do, right? So that's the format is the essay, the newsletter itself being the offering, but then also using it as a marketing tool to share about my other projects. And then again, Lukesa's graphics include my little sign off O Mar And then I also have opportunities to subscribe. I say where I'm redistributing to that month. I have links to my Instagram, my website, my contact info, and then I have a link to my last paid offering. Right. So I often in my free newsletter, a pointing back towards the paid one. And the other thing about the format is you can choose where to put the paywall. That means everything below that paywall is only available to paid subscribers. So it's like a preview e mail. It will go out to everyone, but then there will be like a little line where they need to subscribe if they want to read the rest. So it's fun to sort of hide some of your things below that. And it gives people incentive to subscribe and become a paid subscriber. Here's another one of my newsletters, The Dawn of the Great Garden Experiment. But then if you scroll down, part of my format that I've used for years, is this paying attention to section. So in the last lesson we sort of talked about figuring out your core values and what you believe in and what you're devoted to. And so this section has been really important to me. So basically showcase people, things, organizations that I believe in and that I love. So I usually will tag or share different Instagram posts that I like, different things that I'm reading. This is the music that I'm listening to right now. I talk about my other newsletters that I've written. I share quilts by other people. A common format of the newsletter is also just sort of put like a wrap up or like a post that includes links and recommendations in a separate e mail that's only for paid subscribers. So Emma Gannon does this in her Sunday scroll, as well as Faria Rochin who does this in her 20 things e mails. Making a format for your newsletter each week is going to make it. So it's a little more plug and play. It's a little easier to just take the things that you're paying attention to, the content you're consuming, the art that you're seeing every week. The ideas that are swarming in your mind. And you know that you have these different pieces newsletter that you can plug that in. Right? So if you're like every week I do a three paragraph essay. Share one photo, a poem, and my two favorite links. Boom. Throughout the week, you'll then be sort of considering what are the things I'm going to put into that format. My suggestion for you is to pick five buckets, five pots on the stove that you could put the ingredients in every week, right? Or every month, however often you're doing it. But pick five things, whether that's maybe you make a playlist every time. That's a classic one that people love. People want to know what you're listening to. Maybe you share your favorite book that week, Maybe you do a book review once a month. This is where we're taking the themes and we're figuring out how do they exist? How do they translate from the big idea to the more concrete part of your newsletter? One way that I want to encourage you to decide which format to use is to think about how do you like to express yourself? Are you someone who writes like a really, really long text to a friend to express yourself? Are you someone who makes like the classic five minute voice note to your best friend? Do you like to film reels or Tiktoks on social media? Experiment with the formats that feel natural to you, right? So if you're like writing feels really clunky, maybe make a video of yourself talking. If talking feels really weird, maybe just include photos that week, right? You don't have to overextend yourself in a way that feels unnatural. And let's say one of the themes that you want to talk about is walking. When you're bringing that into the format of your newsletter, you could do four weeks of talking about your morning walks. You could take a Polaroid picture every morning of your sunrise walks, right? You could include a video of you on your walk. You could do all these different things, right? So I just want you to play with these formats. Play with plugging these things into them, and don't get too stuck or attached to them being this way forever, right? We're going to be able to change as we grow and change as we go along. My formats have been shifting for years. Some of them have stayed really consistent. But I've let myself sort of shift in and out of some of them. Right? Check out the workbook, go through the exercises you're doing. Great. Join me. In the next lesson, we're going to start crafting our strategy. 6. Build Your Template: I'm going to show you how to build a template. We are going to start to plug in the formats. Plug in what we've created and crafted into the actual back end. Don't get too clammed up about exactly what it will be and exactly what you'll say and write. This is just about building out a template that you can easily duplicate each week so that you're not stuck looking at a blank page. So I'm going to show you on substack. We're going to go to the dashboard, we're going to click New Post. And we have our title, our subtitle, and then the body of the newsletter. At the top here we have our tool bar, which is where we're going to grab all the different things that we can sort of put in. Right, so here we see we've got hyperlinks, photos, audio, video poll quotes. We can add footnotes, dividers, paywalls, polls, et cetera. So if it were my format, what I would do is I would first add a photo. And the photo, I'm going to be able to just replace each time, right? And then I might write essay. And then let's say I always want there to be a poem, so I'm going to grab a poem and just stick that in there. This little classic Mary Oliver. And then I'm going to have links. I love and promote my own work. Sign off, contact info, look at that. A little formatted newsletter template that I can use every single time, right? So this makes it so much easier. You don't have to write from a blank page, right? So if I want to come into this next week and make this, I could just click this. I could click these three little buttons up here. Click, Delete Image, and add in my image. For the week I would go here to work on my essay. Hello, it's an essay. I would go here and replace this with my poem. For the week. I would add the links I love here. You can make cute titles for these different sections as well, and you can highlight that and go to Style and we can pick our heading, right? So maybe you want to do heading three again, Heading two is going to be even bigger, heading one is our biggest heading, so you can change the different sections in that way. You can also format by adding dividers, right? So maybe between things I noticed and promoting my work, I would go to more and click divider. This is also an opportunity if you did make graphics or have assets, either that you hire someone to make or that you make in Canva. You can be popping these in sort of throughout here. And then also we're going to have our very handy paywall button as you're sort of figuring out what you want to be behind the paywall, for instance, maybe you want the things you noticed this week to be behind the paywall. So maybe we'll move that to the end, right? And then under that we'll have things I noticed that week. But under where you promote the work, you can insert the paywall. And then here is the page that I'm going to use to publish it, right? So I can either send this post to everyone or paid subscribers only. This is actually a post for paid subscribers only, right, Because it has that paywall. But I'm going to have it send the free preview to free subscribers so then they see everything right until the paywall of the e mail. And there's all these different buttons. For instance, usually at the end of my essay, I always have a share button, so I can hit Share this post. There's another option to have it say Share Monday, Monday. So you can have it say Share and then the name of your newsletter at the bottom. You might want to have it say Subscribe with caption. And it comes with this little caption here which you can then just delete and change. Right. Now, while I'm promoting the artist way book study, I might say become a paid subscriber to access the artist way book study. Right? So you can have a little captions here to encourage people to sign up. Other buttons are leave a comment, write a referral, give a gift subscription, donate a subscription. So those are some of the different buttons. Again, you could say that you wanted to do a quote each week, so you could go here to have a block quote. It gives this nice little color that you can go into the back end of substack also and pick your colors that you want your color theme to be for your newsletter and put a quote here. So this is the way to just start building out the formats, right? And then I'm actually just going to go back to my own drafts to show you. So for instance, what I would do each week is if it was Monday of this week, I would go to my last Monday e mail. I would go to these three buttons right here, and I would hit duplicate to drafts. And then that's going to bring up that exact e mail where I can just replace my photo. I can delete this essay and write a new essay that week. But if you're like, you know what, I want my photo to come after my essay. You can literally just drag this photo and it'll have this line and you can put it under your essay. So again, go in here, be playful, but we want to make a really concrete format so that it's as simple as possible for you to just jump in and be creative. Jump in, play around whether you're using sub stec or flow desk or any other e mail service provider. You're going to be able to play with building out a template that works for you, that you can easily duplicate. That you can plug into with all of your beautiful art and creative desires and dreams, and all the things that you'll put into your newsletter. Right? So get in there, play around, and in the next lesson we're going to talk about building community and nurturing your readership. 7. Build Your Readership: In this lesson, we're going to talk about how to build your readership. And also how to nurture the community of your email subscribers, your readers, the people who are trusting you. Each week with your newsletter. You've heard me say the word lead magnet a few times at this point. Which is basically something free that you're giving a reader in exchange. Further e mail, if you give me your e mail, I in exchange will give you a resource, a guide, an image, a piece of art, sort of an old school e mail marketing strategy. And it's something that I didn't do for a really long time, but has been totally transformative to bringing people into my ecosystem. Seeing people sign up for my classes, seeing people listen to my podcast. As artists, we should be getting paid. This isn't about devaluing our work or giving so much of ourselves away for free. It's about giving a little bit of something to say, hey, I really value your time, I really value that you want to be a reader of my newsletter. And I would love to give you this gift, this resource, as an act of service and an act of invitation to your newsletter Ecosystem. Offering free resources brings people into your orbit, into your creative ecosystem. And helps them understand what you're all about. What you can offer them to help serve them as a student, as a customer, and as a reader. I'm going to go over an example that I've made called the Creative Ideation Portal. The Creative Ideation Portal is a three day e mail guide for visioning your projects and bringing them to life. It's totally free. And I set this workflow up through flow disk. So these are the links to each day we click through and we get to go through all these different examples, right? So I'm bringing my readers through these different prompts so that they can get clear on their projects what they want to bring into the world. Which makes them more engaged readers, and preps them for perhaps becoming one of my students. This can exist using a workflow and flow desk, or it can go in your welcome e mail of substack. Tailor this to the tech and the way that you want to make it happen. This doesn't have to be fancy, but it's really fun, right? Marketing as a creative practice, we want to make things that are beautiful, make things that our readers are excited about. As you can see, I've built this out in notion, you can try using Canva. You could literally just make a Google Doc in Google Drive, right? This is going to get e mailed to them automatically. So in the workflow and flow desk, they will give me their e mail and then this automatically gets sent to them, hyperlinked in an e mail. And then they get an e mail for three days that shares with them the different steps of the portal. As well as a last e mail that sort of promotes one of my offerings, right? So this is a marketing tool, but when you're thinking about what you might want your lead magnet to be, I want you to sort of return to the themes and the devotions. I want you to maybe even look at, what do you want the first few issues of your newsletter to be about, right? Maybe you're committed to sending them out every week and you've already decided, okay, I'm going to write about these five things. These four things, you know, the first month of your newsletter. What is the through line, right? What is something that sort of is a pattern or something you see happening in every newsletter? You know I mentioned walking as an example or nature, right? Maybe you're an herbalist and you are exploring nature and the outdoors. Maybe you want your guide to be about how to pay attention to plants on a plant walk, right? It's just to get people noticing plants, excited about plants. And then the next time you have a class about nettle or about making your own es, those people are going to be like, uh, I've been noticing all the plants on my plant walk. I would love to take that class. Think about the things that are happening in your business. About the things that are coming up in your business, right? Maybe you know you're teaching a class about video editing, right? So maybe you make a guide that's how to take quick clips on your iphone of things in your surroundings. You're going to be thinking ahead a little bit about what am I going to be writing about. What's coming up in my business in the next couple months or the next year even. And what would be a free resource, right again, Could be audio video writing, journaling, props. It could even be a free workshop if you wanted to. Anything of value that you feel like brings your readers into your world and says, hello dear reader. Welcome to my orbit. I'm glad that you're here. And here's how I want to introduce you to my creative ecosystem. Head over to the workbook and I want you to think of ten ideas for lead magnets, ten ideas for free resources that would benefit your readers. Once you've made a list, I want you to choose one. I want you to play and think about how it could be really interesting, how it could be layered, how you could. Bring the reader in, right? You could even have it be a worksheet or a guide, like I made a notion. And then have audio be embedded into the worksheet, right? So get really creative, but think of one idea, one thing that you feel like would really bring the reader into your world. And offer them something of value so that they become a more engaged reader and a more excited member of your community. The other thing that I do is my comments are only on to my paid subscribers. So you're welcome to have comments on to all subscribers. It really helps me give incentive for people to sign up for the paid subscription to my newsletter. Right. It's both part of my strategy and it's about just having a more intimate small community. Right? And what I also did was called Friday thread. So every Friday I would post a question to my paid subscribers and they would come together in the comments to share their answers. And threads are a part of substack. When I go to a new post, I can drop down and I have these different options, right? And so a thread pulls up. And it's just a much smaller body, right? It's not the full e mail body. So we can just pop in and you can just write a quick question to your audience. You can also end your e mail encouraging people to respond and give you feedback, right? A lot of my readers respond to my e mails and let me know how they landed with them that week, which is a really special part of writing a newsletter. So I want you to head over to the workbook and start to make some lists about what are ways that you could build community with your readers. Again, thinking about lead magnets, thinking about threads. Thinking about a mini workshop, right? You could put a mini workshop behind the paywall of your newsletter. Maybe you want, your newsletter would be $10 a month. And there's a call, a monthly call for the paid subscribers of your newsletter where you all gather together and talk about your ideas. There's so many different ways to combine your formats, your themes, and your desire for community into an offering that really builds your list and develops trust between you and your readership. I want to just affirm that sending an e mail newsletter with no comments just to people's inbox, no matter what E mail service provider you're using, is a worthy way to make a newsletter. I want you to just take some time journaling about why do you want to build community? What does that do for you and your business? Why is it important to you? And you can also write about the cons if you want, right. It takes more time. It takes more of you. I want you to really think about why it could be a benefit to your business, Why it could be of benefit to your readers. What kind of value do you want to provide for them? And think about a price that matches that, right? Think about a price in exchange for your time and for your offerings that feels good to you, that feels nourishing to you as an artist offering these gifts to the world. I'm excited to jump into the next lesson, or we'll talk about designing your workflow. So we'll really get into the nitty gritty of how to deliver that lead magnet, how to share that with people, and how to structure the time every week that you're spending working on the newsletter itself. 8. Design Your Workflows: Now that you have thought a little bit about your format and the exact structure, you're getting ready to hit send at some point, right? We have this template that you can duplicate each week that has the different buckets of what you are going to include in your newsletter. We want to start talking about what are the rituals or the practices going to be that you use to stay committed to the newsletter every week? For me, it's become really important to do my newsletter each week because that keeps me in the practice of research, in the practice of noticing. It roots me in being an artist. It roots me in my practice of communicating an expression and synthesizing my experience and communicating it publicly. Right, also my newsletter becomes a place that I draw all of my ideas from. If I write about the same topic week after week, month after month, and I'm clearly like, oh, I'm thinking about the same thing over and over. That's usually a cue to me that maybe that could become a class, a podcast episode, a book, a Zen. So the newsletter itself is a practice, but it also gives you information for what else is working and exciting to you in your business. When you're thinking about really getting the newsletter done, I want you to look at your week and think about where you can plug in different times to write, to research, to dream, right? Maybe you know you want to watch one documentary a week that you talk about in your newsletter. So you're going to look at your calendar and pick, okay, On Wednesdays at 04:00 P.M. I'm going to watch a documentary on Fridays, I'm going to write the first draft of my e mail, 9-10 On Mondays I'm going to give myself 11-2 to, you know, redo the draft, get it all set, and hit send for me. I write my newsletter every Monday, it comes out every Monday. And that's the time that I sit down to write and to edit my newsletter. But I usually have time on Tuesdays and Thursdays from about 11 to one to just collect my research, to just sort of go through everything that I'm thinking about and looking at, and organize it on the back end so that when Monday comes around, it's really easy for me to just sit down, channel, and write. Now throughout the week, I'm collecting data. I'm putting my research er, hat on. I love to have little practices and rituals just sort of throughout my day. So if something excites me, I open up my notes app and put it in. My notes app is sort of a chaos situation. I just pull open notes and write down things I think about. But on Mondays, I dedicate a little bit of my time before I write my newsletter to just going through my notes of the week. What are little notes I wrote to myself. I may be wrote the title of a newsletter that week. I may be saved a link to a podcast I want to share in the workbook for this class, I made a little notion database so that you can actually organize some of your links in that database so that you don't lose them throughout the week, right? But I want you to think of anything that already works for you in your business or your practice, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel here. If you or someone who carries around a little notebook or a notepad or journals. Or if you're doing morning pages and you're taking notes and want to jot things down on a sticky note, whatever helps you remember what you're taking in the invitation is to sort of use this time each week or throughout the month to start gathering resources, ideas, and themes. And keep plugging them into the format. Keep plugging them into the buckets if you're feeling overwhelmed or if you're feeling like this is just another thing to add to your to do list. Remember that you can always shift how often it comes out. You can always shift what's in the newsletter each week. But at the same time, I want you to practice the consistency even if you don't feel like it. So as much as I'm all about rest and taking breaks and pivoting, I write my newsletter pretty much every Monday even if I don't feel like it actually. Especially if I don't feel like it. Because some of my best writing comes out of me by just keeping that consistent practice. Again, if you're like, you know what, Mar, I want to spend 2 hours on this a week, that's the most I want to spend on this. That's great. What I would suggest is you open up your computer, you open up that template that you've created and you just flow. You just think, what's my favorite poem this week and just go in there and put it in right as much as I want you to also spend the time researching and thinking and playing. You can also make it swift. You can also make this experience as easy as possible. Those are some ways to sort of be thinking about how to do the newsletter. The Pace of it, right? What feels good? What days do you want to work on it? And head to the workbook to sort of use some of the techniques and prompts there to get clear on how you want to approach the actual making of the newsletter. Now we're going to get into the nuts and bolts, the true tech behind the scenes so that you feel ready and prepared to hit send on your newsletter. 9. Get Ready to Hit Send: Here's where we bring it all together. So in the back end of substack, I want to go over just a couple things that are in your dashboard, in your settings. Now if we're using substack or if you're using something else, I want you to think about a name for your publication. Mine is called Monday, Monday. It's sort of a play on I love Mondays. I love sending things out on Monday. I love repetitive words. I also pick something where I could really write about anything, right? So hearing the words Monday Monday doesn't necessarily mean you don't necessarily know exactly what I'm going to write about. This is where you can be as creative and weird as you want to think about like things that excite you. Words that excite you. This is how I came up with the name Common Shapes for my podcast, right? I loved words like ordinary, mundane, common. I love shapes. I identify as a shape maker in the world, right? So you'll come up with your publication name and then a short description. So the short description of Monday. Monday is a weekly newsletter on creativity and attention. So that's it. Now we can look over here, and as you can see, again this is easy to edit. So these are just ways to give people a really clear idea of what your newsletter is about. You can pick the categories, those are right here. And then we'll get to the about page. I like to immediately impress the reader, right? So if there's something impressive or cool you want to share at the top, that's great. Monday. Monday was a substack featured publication, and so I have that banner there, and I have this little testimonial from another substack author, Anna Fusco, that says, no explanation needed. Start reading now, so I have a picture of myself and then I welcome people into my world. I name how many subscribers I have. You're going to just use this about page to write about yourself. It's where you brag about yourself. It's where you write about your accomplishments and the reasons that someone should subscribe to your newsletter. This is also where we're going to get clear with what the difference between paid subscriptions and free subscriptions are. As you can see here, it clearly states that paid subscribers of this newsletter are invited to join the artist way book study. As I scroll down, I share that I have a newsletter class that I teach that people can take here. In the about page is where I can really say more of the themes and the topics that I'm going to cover in the newsletter. Somebody might be reading your about page who hasn't subscribed yet, right? So we want to say, hey, come over here. This is going to be really interesting and here's what I'm going to write about. I hyperlink my books. I talk about how many copies they've sold, right? So my about me page is both talking about me and my career as well as why the newsletter is important and interesting. So we have my subscription options, I lay those out exactly how much the newsletter costs. And then I have the Friday Thread Archive. So that is that part and I want to click through here. This is my own sort of page. You'll have your own author page on substack. And you can also edit this little about me here to have a nice sort of tight sucynct about me there. And then you can also link your website. You can link your social media as well as link any books that you've written. And then your newsletter and its tagline will be here, so this can all be updated in settings. The workbook is going to help you to think about what do you want to name it, what do you want your short description to be and more for your about page. So back into the settings. I want to look at the welcome e mail to subscribers. No matter what newsletter service provider you're using, you should be able to send out a welcome e mail. And this is both a way to provide that free lead magnet we talked about before. And we'll go over how to do that and just welcome people in to your newsletter ecosystem. If you want to bring new people into your e mail orbit, I would suggest editing the welcome e mail. Editing the first e mail that your newsletter subscribers are going to automatically get, and putting your free resource in there. Let's say that I wanted to link my notion template that I made, the creative ideation portal. And I could put that in the welcome e mail to both paid and free subscribers. So let's open up the welcome e mail to free subscribers. It looks pretty similar to my about page, many of the parts I've just copied and pasted. So what I could do is under the picture I say, I'm so glad you're here. I could edit in here and say something like, I'd love to offer you the Creative Ideation portal and just hyperlink it there for my paid subscribers. I might write my e mail to say something like, thank you so much for becoming a paid subscriber. You can expect the first installment of the Artist's way book study to happen on this day, right? So that's another great feature is you can actually have them be different e mails, okay? And now I'm going to jump over to flow desk and I'm going to show you how this automatically works. It's a really cool way to invite people into your e mail ecosystem. So the first thing you're going to do is go to audience. And you're going to go to segments. So you're going to make a new segment. So as you can see, I have a segment here called Creative Ideation Portal. I also use Flow desk to organize all of my past students. All of my past students have an e mail segment in here, so I can just e mail them by themselves. I'm going to create a new segment and I'm going to name it as the name of my free resource guide. Once you do that, you'll go over to forms and you'll create a form to collect the e mails. So as you can see, I have this form creative ideation portal. I can go to edit, and I have written out exactly what the lead magnet is, and then a place to collect their e mail address. Once their e mail address is collected through this form, I will go to set up a workflow. Here's my workflow and I go to Edit and it pops up. The trigger is a subscriber is added to the segment Creative Ideation portal. So I've made that segment, I'm going to link it to the form. And then in here I'm going to be able to create a workflow. So these e mails automatically get sent one day at a time. Day one, day two, and day three of my guide. Now you could just have it send one e mail. Could just have one e mail that gets delivered to them and voila, they have the resource. If you're feeling overwhelmed at sort of the tech side and the back end, like just go slow, go to the settings and just go through each thing in the back end and just fill it out, make it cute, make it fun, maybe that's the next question is like, okay, I have a newsletter, I have a lead magnet. But who do I tell to sign up for these things? This is where we're going to use social media. You could make a flyer. You can send an e mail to invite people onto your e mail list. The first e mail I ever sent was in December of 2012. And I think I found 70 contacts in my mail from just people from internships I'd had or jobs I'd had creative experiments I'd done. And I just got a mail chip account and I E mailed all of those people and I found the subscribe link landing page and I E mailed all of them. And I said I'm starting a business. I would love for you to follow along, subscribe to this newsletter if you want to hear about my offerings of the shop. And I think most of them did. And then I sent the e mail out, 40 people opened it. And here we are. 10.5 years later on substack, you're going to have what you see here which is your subscribe landing page, right? So you get to upload some art, it'll have that subtitle down here. And you can also add little blurbs from other writers on substack if you want and then people will put in their E mail here. Now again, on flow desk, you can also make a really beautiful landing page, Also in the back end of substack. In your settings, there is an embed code, you can embed this into your website. It's pretty easy like on square space or Wordpress to just embed a code snippet. Even I can figure this out miraculously and you just put it in and it will pop up on your website. Something I do most weeks is in my stories on Instagram. I'll share a picture from my newsletter and have a link to the newsletter and encourage people to become new subscribers. Those are the different ways to make sure people are seeing the subscribe button. People want to support you, they want to hear from you, right? So we're remembering that these people are coming into your ecosystem because they're excited and they're inspired by you. You might have ten people read your first newsletter. That's amazing, that's ten people that you get to reach in that you get to invite into the other things that you create, like an online class or writing a book. You don't need tens of thousands of people. You just need enough people that you can share your work with and share your offerings. The launches of your products, the launches of your services. We are here to share in ways that are exciting and abundant. And we can't really always do that on social media or other media platforms in the way that we can with an e mail newsletter. So I'm so excited to see what you make and everything you do. I'm so excited to see the newsletters that are created out of this class. I know that you can do it. I know that you can just put one little foot in front of the other and design a beautiful channel for communication between you and your readers. 10. Final Thoughts: We've made it to the end. You've made a newsletter and you're going to hit send. First of all, I want to say, I want to see the newsletter. So in the project gallery, I want you to take a screenshot of your newsletter and give us a link so that we can subscribe. Let this be the first place that you practice telling people about your amazing newsletter and inviting new subscribers into your newsletter ecosystem. We're really going to celebrate this, right? A lot of what we went through today wasn't just about e mail newsletters. It was about undoing the Impostor syndrome and the perfectionism that lives inside so many artists. This is about experimenting with our practice and our flow. And figuring out what works for us and what serves our business practices as well as what serves our readers. Having an e mail newsletter list is saying I'm willing to grow. I'm willing to expand as an artist in the world, I'm willing to make more money with my art. I don't know about you. But that's really scary for me to say out loud and really scary for me to admit to myself. But I know that the more I do it, the more I am of service to the people who could benefit. So if you're feeling freaked out and you're still not sure, just go back to those themes. Go back to what are you devoted to, what are your values, what is the world that you want to see? And I promise you that an e mail newsletter is a direct way for you to channel all of that into one foundational practice and release it into the world, inspire others. So thank you for being here. I can't wait to see the newsletter that you make and that you put into the world. I hope you have a beautiful day. Goodbye.