A lot of organizations have a newsletter. It's usually produced/edited by one person, who solicits contributions from group members. Last summer, after a brief stint producing The New Jersey Graveline for the GSHW, I took over as editor of GLVWG Offline, the newsletter for The Greater Lehigh Valley Writing Group. I’ve had a lot of fun, and it’s certainly been an eye-opener seeing things from the other side of the editorial fence.
Of course, every editor has their own approach to the job, but I thought it might be helpful for folks who write (or are thinking about writing) articles for their group’s newsletter if I set out a few suggestions about them from the editor’s point of view.
10 things to think about when writing a newsletter article.
1: Editors want articles but they don’t have to accept what you send them.
High on every newsletter editor’s ‘Things what make me happy’ list is the unsolicited article from a keen group member. Of course, just because you send them something, doesn’t mean they have to accept it, so please don't take offence if the editor turns it down or (as is more likely) requests some changes.
2: Read a previous issue or two.
There’s nothing like reading the previous few issues of a newsletter if you want to get a feel for the kind of writing the editor wants (the same goes for magazines).
3: Check the submission guidelines.
If you haven’t been asked to write on a specific topic, it’s a good idea to check for submission guidelines (especially if you’re not sure your subject matter fits in with the overall theme of the newsletter). These can usually be found on the group’s website and/or on a previous newsletter issue. If you can’t find them, contact the newsletter editor directly.
4: Treat every newsletter article as if you’re writing it for a fee-paying magazine.
You may not have a huge audience for your newsletter (the GLVWG Offline only goes out to about two hundred members), but I recommend you approach every article you write as if it were for a fee-paying magazine ie: follow the submission guidelines; make sure your article is clearly written and free of typos etc.
5: Be aware of your ‘voice’.
Every writer has a ‘voice’, even with non-fiction. Read your article out loud before you send it in. Aside from being a great way to catch errors, it’ll give you an idea about how you come across to the reader.
6: Be accountable.
This is just me, but once someone offers/agrees to provide me with an article for a newsletter, I don’t send out individual reminders. Of course, I quite understand if ‘life’ happens to someone. I don’t take it personally if the article never gets to me, though I do expect folks to let me know in advance when they aren’t going to be able to deliver after all.
7: A good article can make for a good blog post or even a magazine submission.
The ingredients of a good newsletter article are very similar to those of a good blog post. With a little tweaking, an old journal entry might well make for a good article, and vice versa. You may even consider submitting it to a magazine.
8: Writing a regular column can help with name recognition.
A newsletter article is a form of advertising. In addition to being a way to let people know about yourself and your work (see #9 below) it can be a means of connecting with people over time. If you write a regular column, or simply provide regular articles, for your group’s newsletter, people are more likely to remember your name when they see it elsewhere eg: on a book cover. Over time, if they like your articles, some folks may well seek out your blog, website or published work.
9: Don’t forget your bio.
Most editors will invite you to include a brief (I’d say maximum 50 words) bio. If you have them, include links to your blog, website and latest book.
I left #10 blank.
What would you add to the list?