Writing and publishing a successful newsletter is perhaps the
most competitive of all the different areas of mail order and
Five years ago, there were 1500 different newsletters in this
country. Today there are well over 10,000 with new ones being
started every day. It’s also interesting to note that for every
new one that’s started, some disappear just as quickly as they
are started…lack of operating capital and marketing know how
being the principal causes of failure.
To be successful with newsletter, you have to specialize. Your
best bet will be with new information on a subject not already
covered by an established newsletter.
Regardless of the frustrations involved in launching your own
newsletter, never forget this truth; There are people from all
walks of life, in all parts of this country, many of them with no
writing ability what so ever, who are making incredible profits
with simple two-four- and six page newsletters.
Your first step should be to subscribe to as many different
newsletters and mail order publications as you can afford.
Analyze and study how the others are doing it. Attend as many
workshops and seminars on your subject as possible. Learn from
the pros. Learn how the successful newsletter publishers are
doing it, and why they are making money. Adapt their success
methods to your own newsletter, but determine to recognize where
they are weak, and make yours better in every way.
Plan your newsletter before launching it. Know the basic premise
for its being, your editorial position, the layout, art work,
type style, subscription price, distribution methods, and every
other detail necessary to make it look, sound and feel like the
end result you have envisioned.
Lay out your start up needs; detail the length of time it’s going
to take to become established, and what will be involved in
becoming established. Set a date as a milestone of accomplishment
for each phase of your development; A date for breaking even, a
date attaining a certain paid subscription figure, and a monetary
goal for each of your first five years in business. And all this
must be done before publishing your first issue.
Most newsletter publishers do all the work themselves, and are
impatient to get the first issue into print. As a result, they
neglect to devote the proper amount of time to the market
research and distribution. Don’t start your newsletter without
first having accomplished this task!
Market research is simply determining who the people are who
will be interested in buying and reading your newsletter, and the
kind of information these people want to see in your newsletter
as a reason for continuing to buy it. You have to determine what
it is they want form your newsletter.
Your market research must give you unbiased answers about your
newsletter’s capabilities of fulfilling your prospective buyer’s
need for information; how much he’s willing to pay for it, and an
overall profile of his status in life. The questions of why he
needs your information, and how he’ll use it should be answered.
Make sure you have the answers to these questions, publish you
newsletter as a vehicle of fulfilment to these needs, and you’re
on your way!
You’re going to be in trouble unless your newsletter has a real
point of difference that can easily be perceived by your
prospective buyer. The design and graphics of your newsletter,
plus what you say and how you say it, will help in giving your
newsletter this vital difference.
Be sure your newsletter works with the personality you’re trying
to build for it. Make sure it reflects the wants of your
subscribers. Include your advertising promise within the heading,
on the title page, and in the same words your advertising uses.
And above all else, don’t skimp on design or graphics!
The name of your newsletter should also help to set it apart form
similar newsletters, and spell out its advertising promise. A
good name reinforces your advertising. Choose a name that defines
the direction and scope of your newsletter.
Opportunity Knocking, Money Making Magic, Extra Income Tip Sheet,
and Mail Order Up Date are prime examples of this type of
philosophy…as opposed to the Johnson Report, The Association
Newsletter, or Clubhouse Confidential.
Try to make your newsletter’s name memorable…one that flows
automatically. Don’t pick a name that’s so vague it could apply
to almost anything. The name should identify
your newsletter and its subject quickly and positively.
Pricing your newsletter should be consistent with the image
you’re trying to build. If you’re starting a « Me-too » newsletter,
never price it above the competition. In most instances, the
consumer associates higher prices with quality, so if you give
your readers better quality information in an expensive looking
package, don’t hesitate to ask for a premium price. However, if
your information is gathered from most of the other newsletters
on the subject, you will do well to keep your prices in line with
One of the best selling points of a newsletter is in the degree
of audience involvement instance, how much it talks about, and
uses the names of its readers.
People like to see things written about themselves. They resort
to all kinds of things to get their names in print, and they pay
big money to read what’s been written about them. You should
understand this fact of human nature, and decide if and how you
want to capitalize upon it– then plan your newsletter
Almost as important as names in your newsletter are pictures. The
readers will generally accept a newsletter faster if the
publisher’s picture is presented or included as part of the
newsletter. Whether you use pictures of the people, events,
locations or products you write about is a policy decision; but
the use of pictures will set your publication apart from the
others and give it an individual image, which is precisely what
The decision as to whether to carry paid advertising, and if so,
how much, is another policy decision that should be made while
your newsletter is still in the planning stages. Some purists
feel that advertising corrupts the image of the newsletter and
may influence editorial policy. Most people accept advertising as
a part of everyday life, and don’t care one way or the other.
Many newsletter publishers,faced with rising production costs,
and viewing advertising as a means of offsetting those costs,
welcome paid advertising. Generally the advertisers see the
newsletter as a vehicle to captive audience, and well worth the
The only problem with accepting advertising in your newsletter
would appear to be that as your circulation grows, so will the
number of advertisers, until you’ll have to increase the size of
your newsletter to accommodate the advertisers. At this point,
the basic premise or philosophy of the newsletter often changes
from news and practical information to one of an advertiser’s
Promoting your newsletter, finding prospective buyers and
converting these prospects into loyal subscribers, will be the
most difficult task of your entire undertaking. It takes detailed
planning, persistence and patience.
You’ll need a sales letter. Check the sales letter you receive in
the mail; analyze how these are written and pattern yours along
the same lines. You’ll find all of them—all those worthy of
being called sales letters—following the same formula:
Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action on the part of the
Jump right in at beginning and tell the reader how he’s going to
benefit from your newsletter, and keep emphasizing right on thru
your « PS », the many and different benefits he’ll gain from
subscribing to your newsletter. Elaborate on your listing of
benefits with examples of what you have, or you intend to
include, in your newsletter.
Follow these examples with endorsements or testimonials from
reviewers and satisfied subscribers. Make the recipient of your
sales letter feel that you’re offering him the answer to all his
problems on the subject of your newsletter.
You have to make your prospect feel that « this is the insider’s
secret » to the success he wants. Present it to him as his own
personal key to success, and then tell him how far behind his
contemporaries he is going to be if he doesn’t act upon your
Always include a « PS’ in your sales letter. This should quickly
restate to the reader that he can start enjoying the benefits of
your newsletter by acting immediately, and very subtly suggesting
that he may not get another chance to get the kind of « success
help » you’re offering him with this sales letter.
Don’t worry about the length of your sales letter—most are four
pages or more; however, it must flow logically and smoothly. Use
short sentences, short paragraphs, indented paragraphs, and lots
of sub-heads for the people who will be « scanning thru » your
In addition to the sales letter, your promotion package should
include a return reply order card or coupon. This can be either a
self addresses business reply postcard, or a separate coupon, in
which case you’ll have to include a self-addressed return reply
envelope. In every mailing piece you send out, always include one
or the other; either a self-addressed business reply postcard or
a self-addressed return reply envelope for the recipient to use
to send your order form and his remittance back to you.
Your best response will come from a business reply postcard on
which you allow your prospect to charge the subscription to his
credit card, request that you bill him, or send his payment with
the subscription start order.
For makeup of this subscription order card or coupon, simply
start saving all the order cards and coupons you receive during
the next month or so. Choose the one you like best, modify
according to your needs, and have it typeset, pasted up and
Next, you’ll need a Subscription Order Acknowledgment card or
letter. This is simply a short note thanking your new subscriber
for his order, and promising to keep him up to date with
everything relating to the subject of your newsletter.
An acknowledgment letter, in an envelope, will cost more postage
to mail than an simple postcard; however when you send the letter
you have the opportunity to enclose additional material. A
circular listing items available through you will produce
Thus far, you’ve prepared the layout and copy for your
newsletter. Go ahead and have a hundred copies printed, undated.
You’ve written a sales letter and prepared a return reply
subscription order card or coupon; go ahead and have a hundred of
these printed, also undated, of course. You’ll need letterhead
mailing envelopes, and don’t forget the return reply envelopes if
you choose to use the coupons instead of the business reply
postcard. Go ahead and have a thousand mailing envelopes printed.
You also need subscription order acknowledgement cards or notes;
have a hundred of these printed, and of course don’t forget the
imprinted reply envelopes if you’re going along with the idea of
using a note instead of a postcard. This will be a basic supply
for « testing » your material so far.
Now you’re ready for the big move… The Advertising Campaign.
Start by placing a small classified ad in one of your local
newspaper. You should place your ad in an weekend or Sunday paper
that will reach as many people as possible, and of course, do
everything you can to keep your costs as low as possible.
However, do not skimp on your advertising budget. To be
successful— to make as much money as is possible with your
idea— you’ll have to reach as many people as you can afford,
and as often as you can.
Over the years we have launched several hundred advertising
campaigns. We always ran new ads for a minimum of three issues
and kept close tabs on the returns. So long as the returns kept
coming in, we continued running that ad in that publication,
while adding a new publication to test for results. To our way of
thinking, this is the best way to go, regardless of the product,
to successfully multiply your customer list.
Move slowly. Start with a local, far-reaching and widely read
paper, and with the profits or returns from that ad, go to the
regional magazines, or one of the smaller national magazines, and
continue plowing your returns into more advertising in different
publications. By taking your time, and building your acceptance
in this manner, you won’t lose too much if one of your ads should
prove to be a dud. Stay with the advertising. Do not abandon it
in favor of direct mail. We would not recommend direct mail until
you are well established, and your national classified
advertising program is bringing in a healthy profit for you.
Do not become overly ambitious and go out on a limb with
expensive full page advertising until you’re very well
established. When you do buy full page advertising, start with
the smaller publications, and build from those results. Have
patience keep close tabs on your costs per subscriber, and build
from the profits of your advertising. Always test the advertising
medium you want to use with a classified ad, and if it pulls well
for you, go on to a larger display type ad.
Classified advertising is the least expensive way to go, so long
as you use the « inquiry method ». You can easily and quickly build
your subscriber list with this type of advertisement.
We would not recommend any attempts to sell subscriptions, or any
product from classified ads, or even from small display ads.
There just isn’t enough space to describe the product adequately,
and seeing the cost of your item, many possible subscribers will
not bother to inquire for the full story.
When you do expand your efforts into direct mail, go straight to
a national list broker. You can find their names and addresses in
the yellow pages section of your local telephone directory. Show
the list broker your product and your mailing piece, and explain
what type people you want to reach, and allow them to help you.
Once you’ve decided on a list to use, go slowly. Start with a
sampling of 5,00 names. If the returns are favorable, go to
10,000 names, and then 15,000 and so on through the entire list.
Never rent the entire list based upon the returns from your first
couple of samplings. The variables are just too many, and too
complicated, and too conductive to your losing your shirt when
you « roll out an entire list » based upon returns from a
There are a number of other methods for finding new subscribers,
which we’ll explore for you here, detailing the good and the bad
as we have researched them.
One method is that of contracting with what is known as a « cash
field » agency. These are soliciting agencies who hire people to
sell door-to-door and via the phone, almost always using a high
pressure sales approach. The publishers usually makes only about
5% from each subscription sold by one of these agencies. That
speaks for itself.
Then, there are several major catalog sales companies that sell
subscriptions to school libraries, government agencies and large
corporations. These people usually buy through these catalog
sales companies rather than direct form the publisher. The
publisher makes about 10% on each subscription sold for him by
one of these agencies.
Co-Op Mailings are generally piggy-back mailings of your
subscription offer along with numerous other business offers in
the same envelope. Smaller mail order entrepreneurs do this under
the name of Big Mail Offers. Coming into vogue now are the
Postcard Mailers. You submit your offer on a business reply
postcard; the packager then prints and mails your postcard in a
package with 40 or 50 similar postcards via third class mail to a
mailing list that could number 100,00 or more. You pay a premium
price for this type of mailing—usually $1000 To $1500 per
mailing, but the returns are very good and you keep all the
Another form of co-op mailing is that where you supply a charge
card company or department store with your subscription offer as
a « statement mailing stuffer ». Your offer goes out with the
monthly statements; new subscriptions are returned to the mailer
and billed to the customer’s charge card. The publisher usually
makes about 50% on each subscription. This is one of the most
lucrative, but expensive methods of bringing in new customers.
Direct mail agencies such as Publishers Clearing House can be a
very lucrative source of new subscriptions, in that they mail out
more than 60 million pieces of mail each year, all of which are
built around an opportunity for the recipient to win a gigantic
cash sweepstakes. The only problem with this type of subscription
agency is the very low percentage of the total subscription price
the publisher receives from these subscriptions, plus the fact
that the publishers are required to charge a lower subscription
rate than they normally charge.
There are also several agencies that offer Introductory, Sample
Copy and Trail Subscription offers, such as Select Information
Exchange and Publishers Exchange. With this kind of agency,
details about your publication are listed along with similar
publications, in full page ads inviting the readers to send $10
or $20 for trail subscriptions to those of his choice. The
publishers receive no money from these inquires list of names of
people interested in receiving trail subscription. How the
publisher follows up and is able to convert these into full term,
and paying subscribers is entirely dependent upon his own
Most major newspapers will carry small, lightweight brochures or
oversized reply cards as inserts in their Sunday papers. The
publisher supplies the total number of inserts, pays the
newspaper $20 per thousand for the number of newspapers he wants
his order form carried in, and then retains all the money
generated. But the high costs of printing the inserts, plus the
$20 per thousand for distribution, make this an extremely costly
method of obtaining new subscribers.
Schools, civic groups and other fun raising organizations work in
about the same manner as the cash-field agencies. They supply the
solicitor and the publisher gets 25% or less for each new
Attempting to sell subscriptions via radio or TV is very
expensive and works better in generating sales at the news stands
than new subscriptions. PI (Per Inquiry) sales is a very popular
way of getting radio or TV exposure and advertising for your
newsletter or other publication, but again, the number of sales
brought in by the broadcast media is very small when compared
with the number of times the « invitation commercial » has to be
« aired » to elicit a response.
A new idea beginning to surface on the cable TV scene is « Product
Shows ». This is the kind of show where the originator of the
product or his representative appears on TV and gives a complete
sales presentation lasting from five minutes to fifteen minutes.
Overall, these programs generally run between midnight and 2 AM,
with the whole program a series of sales presentations for
different products. They operate on the basis of the product
owner paying a fee to appear and show his product, and also from
an arrangement where the product owner pays a certain percentage
from each sale generated from this exposure.
Newsletter publishers often run exchange publicity endorsements
with non-competing publishers. Generally, these endorsements
invite the reader of newsletter « A » to send for a sample copy of
newsletter « B » for a look at what somebody else is doing that
might be of especial help etc. This can be very good source of
new subscriptions, and certainly the least expensive.
Last, but not least, is the enlistment of your own subscribers to
send you names of people they think might be interested in
receiving a sample copy of your publication. Some publishers ask
their readers to pass along these names out of loyalty, while
others offer a monetary incentive or a special bonus for names of
people sent in who become subscribers.
By studying and understanding the information in this report, you
should encounter fewer serious problems in launching your own
successful specialized newsletter that will be the source of on
going monetary rewards for you. However, there is an important
point to remember about doing business by mail—particularly
within the confines of selling information by mail—that is,
Mail Order is ONLY another way of doing business. You have to
learn all there is to know about this way of doing business, and
then keep on learning, changing, observing and adapting to stay
The best way of learning about and keeping up with this field of
endeavor is by buying and reading books by the people who have
succeeded in making money via the mails; by subscribing to
several of the better periodic journals and aids to people in
mail order, and by joining some of the mail order trade
associations for a free exchange od ideas, advice and help.