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INTERVIEW: JOAN POPE TALKS ABOUT HER WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
"A lot of people will tell me that they can’t keep up, and the newsletter helps them do that."
This week HEAVY METAL EMAIL speaks with artist, musician, and video editor Joan Pope about her weekly email newsletter Week in Review.
Pope’s creative output is epic, and as she explains how a trusty email newsletter keeps her fans in the loop with everything she’s creating on a weekly basis.
How long have you been doing a newsletter, and what sort of reaction or feedback have you gotten from it?
I started the Substack newsletter in January 2021. Its the email version of the blog posts I have on my website. I started doing the “Week in Review” compilation posts in 2017. I still do those posts on my website, but driving traffic to my website is probably harder than to deliver the newsletter right into people’s inboxes.
Why did you pick Substack for your email list, rather than something like Mailchimp?
I went with Substack because its sort of a newsletter-blog hybrid. The monetization feature is great, too.
How long does it take you to put together and send your weekly newsletter? And you do additional posts for paying subscribers, yes? What would you say the total time investment each week?
It takes me about an hour to compile everything for the newsletter.
At this point, I don’t really have any posts behind the paywall besides access to one of my poetry books. I really hate having to put my content behind a paywall, I want to be able to share it with everyone and I know not everyone can afford to pay for access. “Exclusive” content isn’t really my thing.
My approach has been this: pretty much everything is available to anyone, and if you have the means, and you like my work, you can choose to support it by paying for the subscription. Or just enjoy it for free. I leave it up to the fans to decide.
Why even have an email newsletter in 2021?
The fast pace of social media makes it pretty easy for stuff we actually like to get lost in the mix.
I have a pretty intense level of output, I can barely keep track of my own work, I can’t expect other people to be able to keep up, too. So the weekly compilation of all my creative works helps me reflect on my own work each week and it keeps my audience in the loop. It seems like people like it. A lot of people will tell me that they can’t keep up and the newsletter helps them do that.
I haven't noticed any "subscribe to my email list" type posts on your socials - how do you grow your list? Or is that something that just happens organically from your All My Links page and Bandcamp?
It’s true that I hardly ever make posts like that. I have a link to the signup in my allmylinks link-list thing. I let people find it on their own. However, I usually do at least post the published Substack newsletter on my main Twitter account each week. I usually end up getting a few subscribers each week as new people discover my Twitter account.
So how do we as writers, artists, bands.. how do we stay motivated at one or two sign ups a week?
It might not seem like much, but signups do start to accumulate, and when they do, they start to grow exponentially.
Patience is key.
It’s important to remember that 10 genuine fans who subscribe to your newsletter, follow you on social media, etc.. are much better than 1,000 bots signing up for your newsletter. Bots don't buy your albums, they dont come to your shows, they don't care at all about whatever you are doing.
Cultivate the audience you have, regardless of the size.
I try to dissuade people from just shouting "hey, join my newsletter" messaging, which is why I appreciate how you put it on your Substack page: "This email newsletter documents my worship."
How important is to you to present your work in such a way vs. the standard marketing speak?
I don’t exactly have the vocabulary to frame what I do in the typical marketing terms. However, the social-sharing aspect is as important to my work as the work itself.
I consider every art piece, song, video, etc to be truly complete once I’ve given it to the world. So, getting it out there is all part of the devotion I have to my creative works.
I guess my work is intriguing enough that it makes people want to dig deeper, they end up finding the newsletter, my bandcamp, my website, etc. I get a lot of people comparing this experience following a breadcrumb trail. Its not my style to do too much outright explicit promotion, I have a more subtle approach.
I want to close by saying that growing an audience is really hard work, and for most people, it will take a lot of time and effort to see results. It’s really unlikely that you will amass a huge email list or social media following overnight. However, if you are consistent and keep working at your craft, you will eventually succeed.
It took me over a decade to get to where I am, and the reality is, I’m still a virtually unknown artist. But I keep doing what I do, and I’m not going to stop. If you are just starting out, don’t get discouraged if it doesn’t go the way you hoped on the first day. Set attainable goals, and commit to following through.
What are some of those goals we can set as we're just starting out, trying to move some of our fans from social media to an email newsletter?
You just have to be realistic, and put in the work to get the word out. I am grateful to have a decent social media following, its made getting subscribers to the newsletter much easier.
I'm pretty passive in my approach... I just post a link on twitter to each week's newsletter. My way is probably not the best way to get results. If I was going to do it "right" I'd probably add a call to action, asking people to subscribe.
If you liked this interview, please check out the others I’ve done:
“… the whole time I'm "(writing an email campaign), I'm back to thinking ‘what will our fans like?’ Which is exactly the head space I want to be in,” said Professor Pizza from Axe Slasher. Read it here.
“Subject lines are huge too. You want them to feel the need to open it, so too much info sometimes can be bad. Keep it just vague enough that they need to see what is up,” said Jeff Gretz of Zao. Read it here.
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