Writing & Publishing

  • Every Writer Needs An Email List: Here’s Why

    Here’s why every writer needs an email list: An email list is the most powerful way for a writer to connect with her audience.

    email list

    You might be skeptical about that.

    You might be thinking: I connect with potential readers all the time. I post on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I write blog posts and pitch my work to publications and get published. Or you might think instead: I’m a writer, not a businessperson. I write because I love writing.  I’m not interested in “marketing,” email or otherwise. 

    Here’s the thing though. Even if getting paid for your writing is not something you care about, an email list can be a powerful tool for you. (If you care about getting published, selling any services or books, or finding an agent, then an email list is even more important.)

    Here’s why every writer should have an email list:

    1. Email is not going away. You own your list of subscribers, forever. Social media is a great thing for writers. You can connect with people in a way that was unimaginable just several years ago. The problem is that you don’t own your social media account. You don’t really control it. Algorithms and the popularity of any social media platform change from month to month, year to year. For example, an average Facebook post is only shown to a tiny fraction of our followers.
    2. Email is personal. You can write an email as if you’re writing a letter to a friend, and it is sent directly to their inbox. It’s a direct connection to a person, rather than a message mediated through a social media algorithm. When someone signs up to get email messages from you, they are making a bigger commitment than if they had liked their page. They are showing that they want to hear from you and connect with you more directly.
    3. Emails gets more engagement than social media posts. A greater percentage of readers see an email and read it.
    4. Email is more effective (higher conversion rates) than any other tool in selling books, products, classes, or services. According to Tim Grahl, a top marketing expert for writers, email is 100 times more effective than social media for authors. (He did his own informal experiment and helps hundreds of writers with book launches.)
    5. If you hope to be published or get an agent, a strong, engaged email list can be a powerful asset. And even if you choose to self-publish a book, your email list is vital to marketing your book.

    It all boils to this: You want more of your writing and your message to your audience to be seen. Email is the most effective way to do that.

    How to Get Started With an Email List

    You should not send mass emails from a free service such as Gmail or Hotmail. To comply with anti-SPAM laws, in order to send out marketing emails, you need to: a) get permission before emailing people b) have a clear way for subscribers to unsubscribe. This is where email subscribers (Mailchimp, Mad Mimi, ConvertKit, etc) come in. At the very least, these providers offer ways for people to subscribe and to unsubscribe to your list.

    1. Choose an email service provider.

    There are so many options. It’s overwhelming. Here are the three that I have used and can recommend: Mailerlite, ConvertKit, and Mailchimp. All three of these services will allow you to send bulk emails, design forms for your website, and create newsletters. In a future blog post, I’ll review these three options in more detail and describe the type of writer each of these services is best for. For right now, I would recommend Mailchimp for those just getting started, for those who want a very simple provider, and for those who don’t see their lists as ever getting any larger than 2,000 subscribers (the point at which Mailchimp is no longer free.) I would recommend Mailerlite for you if you think you might someday want more advanced features (tagging, landing pages, and automations). It’s free up to 1,000 subscribers. ConvertKit — what we use — is by far the most comprehensive, user-friendly, and powerful option. It’s also more expensive. 

    2. Figure out who your ideal reader is and what your goals are for building an email list.

    Your ideal reader should not be “everyone who likes good writing.” Figure out who your target audience is (historical fiction lovers, people looking for help with social media, short story fans). And determine your goals for your email list. Do you want to build a base of fans for your next book? Get blog post readers? Increase your website traffic? Impress a future literary agent? These questions will help you connect with your future email readers.

    3. Make a signup form for your website.

    After you’ve designed it, embed the code on any website page that allows you to put in HTML. Place it on your website and invite readers to sign up. Some good places to put your signup forms: your sidebar (using a widget, the footers of blog posts, and at the top of your homepage.

    4. Give your future subscribers a reason to sign up.

    One possibility is to create an opt-in freebie (a chapter of your book, a series of essays, a list of resources, a checklist). It could be almost anything that feels valuable to your intended audience.

    5. Email your subscribers regularly.

    Try to be predictable without drowning your readers in constant emails. Be entertaining, useful, friendly, helpful — whatever you think your audience is looking for.

    6. Experiment.

    It may take a while to figure what works for your audience and what connects with them. Start out small so you — and your audience — don’t get overwhelmed. Try out different “welcome” emails for subscribers when they first join your list. Promote your list on social media platforms.

    Conclusion: Email lists for writers are more useful than social media.

    An email list is not just for businesses or for bloggers who are promoting their stuff. An email list can be a useful tool for any writer who wants to be read, create a community, and connect with readers on a more personal level.

    Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission if you click a link and purchase something that we have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any extra money, they will help us keep this site up and running.

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  • Publication Day for So Glad They Told Me!

    It’s finally here!! We’ve been eagerly anticipating the release of this book ever since we chose our fantastic contributors nearly a year ago, and the day has finally arrived! So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood is now available for purchase as a paperback or e-book!


    We are so proud of the 60 talented contributors who shared their stories about motherhood with us, and we think there is something for every parent in these pages, whether you’re newly pregnant, immersed in the first year, raising teens, or experiencing a brand new empty nest.

    This book was inspired by our #SoGladTheyToldMe social media movement and viral essay; here is more info from the back cover of the book:

    In the increasingly competitive culture of modern motherhood, parenting advice can often be judgmental, unrealistic, or smug. Or sometimes, there isn’t anyone there to offer advice or support. Mothers may feel isolated and lack a support network to provide honest advice, and others may face a barrage of unwarranted, unhelpful tips or warnings.

    This collection of essays from 60 mothers will empower and unite parents with real, honest advice from women who have been there. These writers share the advice or support they received—or wish they had—on everything from pregnancy to surviving the first year to parenting teens to empty nest syndrome. Inspired by the viral essay and #SoGladTheyToldMe social media movement, this book aims to change conversations about motherhood by presenting a broader, more realistic, and more balanced image of motherhood so that women will feel less inadequate, adversarial, and isolated. So Glad They Told Me is filled with compassionate, honest advice, and the poignant, painful, and sometimes hilarious truths you wish your best girlfriends had told you about motherhood.

    And to give you a taste of exactly the type of supportive, honest advice you’ll read in this book, here are some photos of our contributors sharing their messages in their own words.

    This collection will share advice on surviving the early years of parenting:


    And work-life balance:


    It speaks to the importance of finding a tribe and being there for other moms:


    And being honest with one another:


    With so many fantastic contributors and a foreword by the incredible Ann Imig, founder of Listen To Your Mother, Jessica and I are bursting with excitement to release this book. We would love your support today! You can order a paperback or e-book here. Here are a few things you can do to help us spread the word and make our release day a success:

    We are having a Twitter party on Thursday evening at 9 pm EST to celebrate the book, interact with the authors, and share our own motherhood stories. We’d LOVE for you to join us. Use the hashtag #SGTTM and join us! Details here:

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    We are so thrilled to finally share this book that has been over a year-and-a-half in the making. You can learn more about the project here. We can’t wait for you to read our contributors’ stories– we are so glad they shared them with us, and we think you will be, too.

    ~Stephanie & Jessica

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  • Meet the Contributors to So Glad They Told Me

    Today is a big day! We are finally revealing the talented contributors to our next anthology! It’s been over a year since we announced the call for submissions for our 4th anthology: So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood. After Stephanie’s viral post I’m Glad Someone Told Me, we were blown away by the response to our social media campaign, #sogladtheytoldme, in which mothers shared the supportive, real advice they heard from other women about motherhood . . . or wish they’d been told, but weren’t. We realized how important this topic was, and how many mothers were eager to share their own experiences.

    After reading over 220 powerful submissions, we spent a weekend together choosing the contributors for this anthology. We selected 60 (!) incredible writers whose stories moved us, entertained us, and made us think, and we’ve been busy working behind the scenes to get ready for publication. Today we are proud to announce the talented contributors to So Glad They Told Me: Women Get Real About Motherhood.

    These women have diverse backgrounds and diverse motherhood experiences as well. Some are published authors, some are teachers, some are bloggers. Some of them share stories about pregnancy and infancy, others about sending children off to college and the empty nest stage of parenthood. You’ll read their stories about special needs diagnoses, grief and loss, balancing work with motherhood, staying home with young children. They’ll make you laugh so hard you cry, they’ll make you think, they’ll make your heart ache, and above all, they’ll make you nod your head with recognition and say, “Me, too.”

    Our book releases August 31st, and we’ll be sharing more details soon! In the meantime, spend some time getting to know our contributing authors by visiting our author page. Don’t forget to click on their names for more bio information!



    **It’s been a big week for us here at The HerStories Project! We just announced the first of our summer writing courses, Write Your Way to a Better Blog, back for its third year! Sign up now to join a supportive, interactive community of writers and bloggers. You’ll find your blog’s purpose, learn to write with an authentic voice, improve your storytelling and humor writing, and learn how to edit and revise your blog posts like a pro. Class starts June 20th and runs through July 22nd– learn more and sign up here!

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  • HerStories Voices: Solidify

    Like our HerStories Voices contributor Jackie Cangro, I am not one to initiate or encourage conversation in public places with strangers — on public transportation, at the library, in line at the grocery store. I’d rather be left alone in my (quiet) thoughts. It sounds, you know, unfriendly, to admit something like that. And sometimes I wonder if I’m missing out. So that’s why I love this essay about an unanticipated — and not necessary wanted — conversation. – Jessica

    It isn’t often that I get a seat on the subway ride home from work. As luck would have it, today I am standing in front of someone who gets off at the Park Place stop in lower Manhattan. You can’t hesitate for a moment if you want to sit on a crowded train. Polite people stand a lot.

    This gives me the opportunity to get engrossed in my book without being jostled. I’m nearly transported from the gritty bowels of New York City to antebellum Virginia when the woman to my left asks me a question.

    “Do you know what this word means?” She points to solidify in her book.

    “It means ‘to make stronger.’”

    “I’m going to write that down in my book so I don’t forget it.” She flips the pages to the back cover to show me a long list of words on which she needed clarification.

    We smile at each other and return to our books. I could tell you that I had warm, fuzzy feelings about this exchange, but that would be a lie. I could also tell you that my guarded nature developed only after moving to New York City fifteen years ago, but that too would be a lie. The truth is that even when I lived in the suburbs with grassy spaces between houses and expansive views of the sky, I was not one for idle chitchat with strangers. I’m not the person who will talk your ear off on the flight from Albuquerque to Atlanta or the one holding up the supermarket checkout line while telling the cashier my life story. I wish it came naturally for me to be one of those people who love people. Many New Year’s resolutions of my youth involved being more loquacious, but by January 5, I was exhausted.

    That’s not to say I don’t try to be helpful. Need to know how to get to Harlem from Brooklyn Heights? I’m here for you. Want a hint on which hipster coffee shop has the most reliable Wi-Fi? No problem. But I’m not going to divulge personal shortcomings to a stranger on a train—the way this woman will in just a few minutes.

    I nod at her, unsure what else to say, and give her my polite this-conversation-has-run-its-course look, but she hits me with another question out of left field. “How do you know if you’re a visual or auditory learner?”

    The train rocks and sways under the East River heading into Brooklyn. As a captive audience in a subway car, I’ve learned that the worst thing you can do in this situation is to make eye contact. Even a hardened glare only serves to encourage some people. Yet something about her earnest question makes me look. She has a pleasingly round face and a shaved head with a five o’clock shadow. The lack of hair makes her pink lipstick stand out against her chocolate skin.

    “I guess whichever comes easier for you,” I say.

    “Which one are you?”

    Now, this seems a bit personal. I glance out the window to see that we are only at Clark Street—a full six stops from home. There’s no way to end this conversation, so I know I have to let it run its course. “I suppose I’m a visual learner.”

    “How do you know?”

    “I’d rather read directions than hear them, for example.”

    She writes this down on a separate piece of paper, under the heading ‘Visual Versus Auditory.’ It seems that she is also a visual learner; she just doesn’t realize it. Her smile is wide, and she gives off a kind vibe, not a creepy one. “Do you have any tips for taking tests? I’m always looking for tips.”

    It’s been many years since I’ve taken a test. The last one, to complete my Master’s Degree, was the most intimidating of my life. We were given one essay question from each of seven courses completed and allotted one hour per question to write our answers in exam books. The proctor looked at us coolly as we entered the room, trying desperately to retain all of the information we’d memorized until we could regurgitate it on the page. She sighed. “Most of you will fail today and have to retake the exam next semester.” A fellow student leaned over and looked at me with a fierceness that comes from a combination of being sleep deprived and over-caffeinated. She whispered that we were going to make it through. I’d only had one class with her and couldn’t even remember her last name, but I believed her.

    On the other hand, it wasn’t too long ago that I gave tests as an adjunct instructor at a local college. So I tell the woman next to me what I would have told my students. “Be confident and don’t second-guess your answers. Your first instinct is nearly always right.”

    She smiles again—a big, broad smile that takes up her whole face. “Yes, I usually have good intuition. All my friends tell me that.”

    She goes on to tell me how inspired she is by the book she’s reading and since she’s read all three books by the author, she doesn’t know what she’ll read when she’s done. Now she’s trying to read very slowly. She also thanks me for talking to her. “You know, every time I get on the train I ask God to put me next to someone smarter than me. I’m trying to learn all of the things I didn’t learn when I was younger. I know I’m kind of old for this. It’s not easy starting from scratch.”

    “No, it’s not, but please don’t give up. It’s never too late.” I suddenly and deeply care that she not quit. I want her to dream big. I am prepared to dream bigger for her than she is allowing herself to dream. I know sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps you going—to feel that someone else, even a stranger, believes in you.

    The train pulls into Grand Army Plaza, and I take my leave of her. In a fifteen-minute conversation with a woman I’d never laid eyes on before, and probably never will again, I’ve been reminded to trust my instincts, let my guard down, and remember the power of tenacity. All things on which my soul needed a bit of a refresher.


    Jackie CangroJackie Cangro’s short story “Secrets of a Seamstress” was selected as a finalist in the Saturday Evening Post’s 2013 Great American Fiction Contest. Her fiction has also been published in The MacGuffin and Pangolin Papers, and her nonfiction has appeared in Narrative.ly, Prick of the Spindle, and History Magazine, among others. She can be found on her blog, on Twitter, and Goodreads. When she’s not riding the subway, she works as a freelance editor and creative writing instructor. 

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  • Introducing the HerStories Voices Column

    After publishing two books, teaching a few online writing courses, and completing two calls for submissions, we have come to a realization: we are absolutely blown away by the writers in our HerStories Project community. The women who have submitted to our anthologies and taken our writing courses often leave us moved, amazed, and speechless with their writing. And we think it’s time we shine a spotlight on the talented voices in our community.

    We are positively thrilled to announce a regular HerStories column, coming in March, featuring your voices. The HerStories Voices column will be an opportunity for women writers to submit essays to be featured on our website twice a month. And we are even more excited to share that we will be paying you to share your essays with us.

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    We’ll be publishing essays twice a month as part of our regular HerStories Voices column, and paying $40 for each essay that we publish. So what are we looking for? The column’s tagline is “Real Women, Real Moments, Exceptional Stories.” You can visit our brand new Submit to HerStories Voices page for full details on how to submit, along with some submission guidelines and suggestions. But to put it simply, here’s what we’re asking:

    ​Send us an essay focused on an experience or moment – big or small – that transformed you or made you realize something important.

    We aren’t asking for specific subject matter or themes, but rather essays that are connected by a universal thread of moments of change, and uncovering meaning from your experience. Our favorite personal essayists are skilled at knowing the difference between an “anecdote” and a moment of change that’s the basis for a meaningful story.

    In Writing Motherhood, Lisa Garrigues points out that most of us do not look back on our lives and remember days or months or years. Instead, we remember moments. She says, these moments

    “are not necessarily sensational or traumatic, but they are usually transformative…. The same is true for motherhood. What makes motherhood memorable is not the vast chronology of raising our children from diapers to adulthood but rather the moments — big and small, significant and insignificant — that happen every day.”

    These small moments and their accompanying meaning, inspiration for growth, or impetus for transformation, are what we want you to share with us in your essay submissions. We have some fantastic essays we’d love you to read for inspiration. These essays, all written by members of our HerStories Project community, are great examples of the type of content we are looking for with this series.


    If you’re looking for a roadmap to help you craft, refine, and submit the perfect essay, our winter writing bootcamp, Publish Your Personal Essay, is a great fit! This six-week, self-paced, interactive online course begins February 2nd. Registration is limited, but we have a few more spaces left! Learn how to develop, revise, edit, and skillfully submit your personal essay while becoming part of a writers’ group. We’d love to have you! You can read full details and sign up here.

    Please check out our HerStories Voices submission page for full details on how to submit, reminders about what we’re looking for, word count, and contact information. Essay submissions can be sent to herstoriesvoices@gmail.com. We will publish our first two essays in the new column in March! We can’t wait to read your submission!

    Be sure to join us on Facebook to keep up with our growing writing community!

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