Firsthand: How I'm growing my email list by Samantha Clark
Firsthand experiences of creative people marketing their work - because we learn more through sharing and collaboration
I’m opening up the Anna Caig Communications blog to writers and other creative people to share their experiences of DIY marketing. These are posts by the people who’ve been there, done that, rolled up their sleeves and cracked on with finding audiences and promoting their work.
Our first brave contributor is Orkney-based writer and visual artist Samantha Clark who has been doing some wonderful work growing her email list by really leaning into her unique set of skills and knowledge. By understanding her audiences and what will be valuable to them, Samantha is building a community of people who love her work - and love the unusual, relaxing and thought-provoking content that drops into their inbox from her.
How I'm growing my email list
I don’t think of it as a ‘newsletter’ because I don’t really include very much ‘news’ in it and it’s not necessarily about me or my own work. I look on it as a way to serve, really.
I decided to give my email list some serious attention this year, as I know it’s not wise to rely exclusively on social media. I had a monthly newsletter ticking along quietly but it was growing very slowly. It wasn’t until I took the plunge to go weekly that it started to pick up momentum. I now sit down and write a blog post/email every Monday. This means I have the material to hand for the coming week. On Monday or Tuesday I ‘tease’ the upcoming content with some extracts and an opt-in link to my email list. Then on Wednesday I send it out as an e-letter to subscribers. On Friday it goes up on my blog and I post the link to social media. It makes knowing what to post on social media a lot easier as I have a weekly topic to structure things and I’m getting much more email sign-ups from followers now.
I find it’s a regular commitment that means I am reading more purposefully, as I often write about something I’ve read that relates to my own creative work. I write about the visual art side of my practice as well, and about how writing and visual art fit together for me, or art I’ve been looking at that’s relevant to my current preoccupations. I often write about topics that have come up in coaching conversations too. My posts about process and creativity get a lot of engagement – people appreciate it when I share something I’ve found helpful as it often rings true for them too. I re-purpose the material as much as possible. I’ve lifted content from it for presentations and talks, even folded some of it into the new book I’m writing. So, although it takes a lot of work to write each one, I do try and squeeze every scrap of mileage out of it as I can. In due course, I’ll be able to repost some things, as much of the content is ‘evergreen’. I don’t think of it as a ‘newsletter’ because I don’t really include very much ‘news’ in it and it’s not necessarily about me or my own work. I look on it as a way to serve, really, and many on my list are also artists and writers, or perhaps have a connection to Orkney and the sea, or just want a bit of space in their day to drop into a different headspace for a few minutes. If they buy my book or a painting or book a coaching session that’s a bonus. I don’t really fixate on the outcome. It’s become a bit of a labour of love and I think that comes through in the value it offers readers. What seems to be emerging quite naturally out of it is a kind of ecosystem of writing, art, posts about Orkney and its environment, and conversations that emerge around all that. I’m not really thinking about it in terms of marketing a book. It’s more about building a world that people find some value in and want to join me in.
It is a lot of work and I’m not sure if I will stay weekly forever, but I am going to see if I can keep it up for a year, and then re-assess things.
I’m a visual artist and writer of creative non-fiction based in Orkney. My first book, The Clearing, published by Little, Brown in March 2020, is a memoir about ‘spaces between’ in art, science and family life, and what may be learned in them. I’m currently working on a new book about water, time and creativity, and preparing for an exhibition of new paintings at the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh in September. I also coach artists and writers who need some supportive feedback and space for reflection on their creative work.
About the Firsthand blog series
The Firsthand series is hosted by Anna Caig and open to any creative person who’d like to reflect on an element of marketing and promoting their own work - from the success stories to what we learn from those tumbleweed moments (don’t worry, they happen to the best of us!) You don't have to have worked with Anna and if you have, you don't have to refer to it in your post - this is about sharing and collaboration, not testimonials.
Contact Anna for a brief if you’ve got a Firsthand experience you'd like to to share.
These posts are based on subjective experience and are the view of the individual writer.