Experimentation, Newletters, and How to Reach People

September 14, 2020
/ Author: Rick

A couple of months ago, in a fit of experimentation, I started a Mailchimp newsletter as part of learning how to reach people. Then I heard about Substack, and I ported my newsletter over there, because Substack offered a nice clean easy-to-use interface, the ability for “newsletters” to remain up (essentially) as blog posts, and the promise that maybe, one day, I could add paid subscriptions to the newsletter.

I mean, who knows? Maybe some day I become a famous writer on issues relating to criminal defense, with billions and quadtrillions of followers. Right? I could be rich!

I mean, in some possible universe, maybe that could happen. (Although, after having started this blog back in 2008, and only getting, on average, 60-100 readers each time I write a new post, I kind of doubt it.)

Substack, I’m told, helps in some way with getting writers found. I haven’t seen how, but that is what initially drew me to them. Because what writer doesn’t want to be found? To be read?

Every Writer Wants to Be Read

That’s the sometimes-frustrating thing about writing this blog: I want readers, and building a steady readership is difficult. Everyone is busy. Reading takes time.

There are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.

Willa Cather

This is especially true with much of my writing, because I seem predisposed to writing “longish” blog posts. Once upon a time, I think, I wrote respectable 1200-1500 word posts. Those take maybe 10 minutes to read, on average. Then I started writing around 2200 words, on average, which for most people is about a 17-minute read.

And, lately….

Let’s just say that I need to work on saying less, or taking on less complex issues about which to post. After all, as Willa Cather said, “there are only two or three human stories, and they go on repeating themselves as fiercely as if they had never happened before.”

Maybe I can find a way to repeat them more succinctly.

Substack Realities

The promise of Substack is that it will help you build your readership through the simplicity of a newsletter approach. 

With Substack, you don’t have any fancy interface. You sit down, write, insert a picture now and then, and, when you’re done, you hit “Publish.” Automatically, the post goes out to everyone who has signed up for your newsletter, looking essentially the way it does on the screen when you compose it.

The problem with Substack is that it’s “somewhere else.” It’s not on my website. So people I attract to my Substack articles never really learn anything about my law practice. This seems to me like a potential mistake on my part: I’m giving up some (minimal?) marketing opportunity. While these days most of my new clients come to me through referrals, it still seems unwise to shut off a marketing channel.


When I first decided to try the newsletter idea, I signed up with Mailchimp. I still pay Mailchimp a small fee each month, even though since starting with Substack, I haven’t used it for sending out anything. I still have forms on the website here for people to sign up for my Mailchimp newsletter. (That may become useful again, as you’ll see below.)

The thing about Mailchimp is that you have to design a newsletter each time you want to send one, and (so far as I know) it’s not a blog post. It goes out via email, and there’s no link you can copy to post to Twitter, or other social media. (I have read that you can maybe create a blog on Mailchimp, but that seems even sillier to me than avoiding my blog here and going with Substack.) 

What I was doing with Mailchimp — and I may return to this — was to write a straight-up newsletter; i.e., not a blog post. I included summaries of stories I’d run across on the Internet, with links. If I’d also written a blog post since sending the newsletter, I posted a link to it. And I also posted short (really super-short) notes about books that I thought folks might like to read, on the topic of the newsletter. (Each newsletter had a theme.)

Blending Newsletter Capability to this Site

I doubt that I’ll ever really have a gazillion readers: Substack is unlikely to bring me any amount of money worth having traded away my writing from this website for my law office. Maybe in the unlikely event I ever quit practicing law, something like Substack would be the way to go, once I don’t need my own office website anymore. 

So get ready for more experimentation: I’m looking for a way to integrate newsletter abilities into this website. Next up (right now, in fact) is “Newsletter Glue.” It’s new, and not as snazzy as Mailchimp (with which I have it integrated), but it does allow me to keep writing blog posts (like this one), and then to send them out as newsletters. The post “lives” on my website, and thus I can send links out to Twitter, other social media sites, or other emails. But I get to keep my content where it belongs: on my website.

What Do You Think?

As I struggle with figuring this out, your input is valuable. How do you feel about getting posts via email? What do you think about the content, or length, of my articles? Would you prefer shorter newsletters, rather than full-on blog posts? That is, should I go back to what I was doing with Mailchimp? Should I keep the newsletters completely separate from blog posts? (If I did that, you, and other people would have to come here to read the blog posts, but the Mailchimp newsletters would still drop into your mailboxes.)

Email me your thoughts, or, if you’re reading this on the website, post in the comments below.

And, as always, if you think what I write is worth reading, please share it with others. As I said, every writer wants readers!

And, with that, I believe I’ve just written possibly my shortest post ever!

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