Have a look at the sidebar on the right. See it? Big red button? Feel free to click it–after reading the rest of this post, of course. 🙂
Mail Chimp has a cute name and a cute website. YMLP (Your Mailing List Provider) has a much more utilitarian interface, so say nothing of a more boring name!
Mail Chimp offers webinars and instruction videos right from the login page. YMLP does not.
So, being a visual person, I started with Mail Chimp. I created an account and began to work my way through building a template. It wasn’t too hard to pull my website banner over, and Mail Chimp then snagged my entire color scheme and added it to the template. Cool!
About then I discovered that I couldn’t adjust the template. I’d chosen a basic one first, and I couldn’t get text to wrap around an image. The image sat there–and then text below. Not a fun look. So I tried a different template, this one with an image/text side-by-side module. This would be more flexible. Book cover on one side, blurb on the other. Photo of the garden on one side, food or farming news on the other. I could add as many of these modules as I wanted.
So far so good. But I couldn’t add a different kind of module, like a full width text box between graphic/text modules. I don’t know how often I’d want one of those, but I don’t like not being able to make adjustments. I don’t want every newsletter required to have exactly the same layout.
A plus is that Mail Chimp added in Facebook, Twitter, and website links, as well as suggesting wording for the unsubscribe links, etc, for the bottom. The legal gobbledy-gook. They also let you personalize the greeting so that each receiver sees their own name within the email. Nice touch!
A negative–they refer to letters as campaigns. Not huge, but it took my brain a bit to adjust to it. I can see it as a sales tool for a business that way, but I’m looking for a more personal touch.
I did create an attractive newsletter, sent a test to my inbox, and thought it looked pretty cool. But I know something about myself. Once I learn a program, however ineffective it might be, it’s really hard for me to change. (Hence I still use the Twitter web interface rather than one of the fancy apps everyone else uses.) So this time, I wanted to make sure I’d found a program that really did what it needed to before I got too settled in.
So, I headed into YMLP and created a freebie account there, as well. No fancy video tutorials, but no ‘campaigns’ either! No wizard pulled my color scheme over. I really liked that everything was ‘matchy’ from Mail Chimp, so I opened PhotoShop to pick the color codes from my banner image. It was easy enough to change up the colors in the template as I created it. Also easy to upload the image itself into the header.
On the plus side, once you pick a basic template in YMLP, you can change it any way you like. You can drag and drop existing modules or delete them. You can also add new modules in a variety of shapes: full width, image/text combos, 2 column sections, whatever. Bonus!!
On the negative side, I couldn’t see the legal gobbledy-gook to tweak it within the main formatting window. I did find it eventually.
And the frustrating thing that took me probably half an hour was just SENDing the darn thing. I could send a test to myself no problem, but there seemed no option for bumping it out of the nest to the two friends I’d added to the subscriber list. Finally I found that the checkbox in the first step of the wizard that allowed me to send a test email to myself was, in reality, a radio button. I could do one or the other, but not both.
Over all, YMLP was the clear winner, with an A for customizable.
I’m not figuring on frequent updates unless the author life gets way more exciting than I suspect it will. I currently plan on a loosely quarterly letter, with the first to come when the cover of Rainbow’s End is free to go public. My subscribers will be among the first to see it. You’ll want in on that!
I’ve now had a couple of people test the sign-up button over in the sidebar to make sure it works like it’s supposed to. Why don’t you try it, too? 😉
Addendum: For more on newsletter software, click on the category button Newsletter. I’ll be posting info on a different subscription service every month.