How One Writer Uses Trello To Track Her Creative Progress

At some point in any creative’s life, they realize they can’t keep track of it all in their heads.

There are a lot of tools out there; from handwritten bullet journals to Scrivener to post-it notes, there is a plethora of choice. Because every person works differently, so different tools are going to be helpful to different people. Plus, even if a tool was useful at an earlier stage, doesn’t mean it’ll be the right tool for you right now.

If you’ve been following me, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve got a ton of balls in the air, so to speak.

  1. Revising a YA fantasy
  2. Sent my MG contemp-fantasy out for feedback
  3. Reworking some short stories
  4. Querying my short stories
  5. Revising other people’s queries – and posting some for my Query Corners
  6. Interviewing authors and posting Author Spotlights
  7. My weekly blogpost
  8. My weekly vlogpost
  9. Other #authortube activities – write-ins, short updates, etc.
  10. Volunteering for conventions – working on Balticon’s programming staff
  11. Assistant editor for Oddville – an online quarterly fiction magazine
  12. Applying to be a panelist at conventions
  13. Attending conventions (either as an attendee or presenter)
  14. Beta-reading for friends and family

I could probably think of a few more things I’m trying to do this month alone, but my list is getting a bit long. At some point, probably after some betas nudged me 3 months late, I realized I couldn’t keep tracking this in my head.

As I’ve discussed before, I love being able to check things off, I love keeping up productivity streak, I love feeling like I’m making progress.

To Do lists are always a good thing for me. But? I needed an online one. I needed to be able to check my list no matter where I was. I didn’t want a journal — I don’t carry a purse, just a phone-wallet.

There were a lot of post-it note or list style to-do lists, but my day job had introduced me to some project management tools. I’m a coder by day, and I’d worked with GitLabs, which has project milestones, and epic tasks broken down into 1-2 day chunks. So, I looked around to see if there was anything similar that I could use at home. Preferably free. And didn’t look like it came out of the 90s.

I saw ads for a few others – kept being shown while I was trying to binge Brooklyn 99 on the cheap Hulu. But? It seemed aimed at teams and collaboration — not something that was a major concern for me. I thought it might be far too heavy-weight for what I was looking for. The first thing I saw and tried was a tool called Trello. And I liked it.

I fell off the bandwagon back in November or so, but with my New Year’s resolutions, I set it back up, and I’m really liking it. It helps me visualize, prioritize, and make sure I don’t forget things with less immediate deadlines.

Anyway, enough preamble. Pictures are worth 1,000 words. (Or more. Because I’m pretty sure I could get super wordy if I tried to describe an image in excruciating detail.)

Trello Boards

In Trello, you can have one or more “boards”. As this is intended for project managing a team, you can have multiple boards for multiple projects. This year, I’ve split mine boards by 3-month-chunks, rather than splitting it up by writing-project. This way? All of my active stuff in one place, but I’m keeping the board itself from getting too cluttered.

When I first tried it out last year, I just had one for what I was writing and one for what I was reading (books, beta-reading, etc). But, it kept getting busier and more cluttered and I felt overwhelmed.

Trello offers lots of templates, so when I created a new board for this year, I looked through them and set one up. But, after careful consideration, decided it wasn’t quite what I wanted, so created ANOTHER new a board for this quarter.

My Actual Trello Board

My Trello Board for 1st Quarter 2020

In the upper right corner, you’ll see a menu drop-down. That’s where you can change the background color, search for cards, add stickers, and more. I like a nice mellow blue, but if I was managing multiple boards, I’d likely use a different color per board. (Spring might be green…)


As you can see on the right, there’s a button to ‘Add another list’. The lists are the large columns. I’ve labeled mine:

  • Backlog
  • To Do
  • Awaiting Feedback/Queried
  • Doing
  • Done

And each list contains a number of ‘cards’ that I’ve added to it. As a card moves through my process, I can click and drag it from one column to the next — forward, backwards, or skipping around.


These are my task items. I try to break them down into small chunks. Bite-sized tasks that could be completed in just a few days, nothing huge and epic.

Clearly, you can split your items anyway you want, but half of my reason for using this tool is the sense of progress I get as I check things off. I’d rather check off 7 sub-tasks a week, than wait 2 months to check the parent-task off. I’ll STILL be thrilled when I move that card into the ‘Done’ list, but this way, I get to celebrate the little achievements that help me on my way.

Cards hold a LOT of information and a bevy of attributes.

  • Titles
  • Labels (for different types of tasks)
  • Members (if other people are collaborating, you can assign them)
  • Due dates (you can schedule reminders!)
  • Check-lists (where it tracks percentage done!)
  • Attachments! (if you need access to outside files)
  • Descriptions
  • And more!

When you add a new card, whatever you enter into the box becomes your title. Once created, you can click on the title to edit the full card, or you select the pencil icon to quick-edit a single attribute.


I have a bunch of labels I use, to keep track of the different types of tasking I do. You can just leave them as color options, or you can edit them and add a word to the label.

  • Conventions
  • Beta-Reading
  • Housekeeping
  • Revising
  • Author spotlight\Query Corners (requires outside input)
  • Blog\Vlog (just me)
  • Meetups
  • Oddville (I’m an editor/slush reader)

The color-blind option adds the symbols to the left edge of the label. I know in a glance, when I look at my board, which things are get me closer to publication, which are supporting the community, and which are for my social media platform.


When I first saw that the items had check-lists inside them, I thought I was using Trello wrong. Then, I realized the truth. I could use those to break down the sub-tasks and watch my progress on a given task.

And the best part? I can use a pre-existing list as a template -> Just copy it on over to my new card.

Then again, it’s also one of the few annoyances I’ve found. It shows each and every instance of every checklist, rather than selecting from 1 instance of each checklist.

But still, watching the “Percent Complete” go up? TOTALLY WORTH IT.

Under housekeeping (my yellow label), I even made a task to make sure that I reviewed my board and updated all the tasks. The promise of watching that percent bar goes up almost guarantees I won’t miss a week.

Due Dates and Attachments

You’re familiar with the concept. I’m just taking a moment to show the screenshots for you. The Due Date lets you set reminders. The attachments lets you find stuff on many common hosting sites.

Deleting Boards

When you finish a project, you can always archive its board. But sometimes, you just don’t want the board to exist any longer. In those cases, you can delete it permanently.

Deleting a board

  1. Select settings
  2. Select more…
  3. Select Close board (this means no one can make updates to it)
  4. Confirm at the pop up
  5. Select ‘Delete’

Now, Trello has plenty of other features, from the automated Butler and more. But? For a solo creator, just trying to manage her workload? This is all I need.

Do you use any project management tools for your personal projects?

Which ones and why?

Let me know if you use Trello, too.

Morgan’s Complete Guide For Attending A Convention

As I contemplate approximately 82 panels that sounded great for me to attend in under 4 days, I realized it’s time for me to share my complete guide for attending conventions.

Should You Attend A Convention?

Before deciding to attend any convention, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the focus of this convention?

    There are as many different types of conventions as there are conventions themselves. Some are more professional oriented, some are pitch events, some are workshop focused, some are all about the party. Note: for the geek-oriented conventions I’m mostly referencing, they’re often known as “Cons”.
  • What are the expenses involved?
    • The cost of admission
    • The distance
      • Gas/Parking money or plane/taxi costs
    • Workshop fees (sometimes these are extra)
    • Hotel room (can you room with friends? Is there a crash board for the con offering space in someone else’s room?
    • Food
    • Spending money
    • Can you staff (involved ahead of time, likely for the full convention) or volunteer (sign up, drop in, obligated for a set number of hours) in order to cut costs?
  • How accessible is it?

    If the convention space has been around, you can typically find out from people who have been there before. If not, you can contact the hotel/convention center/etc. Check to see what the convention says about accessibility. If they make it a priority, it should show.
  • How large is the convention?

    Is it a local college con with a couple hundred guests, or the tens of thousands that flood Atlanta for DragonCon? How well do you do with crowds? Size can influence the last two questions.
  • Who are the guests of honor?

    Sometimes, it’s worth splurging for a writer you’ve always loved, an actor you admire, the launch of some new webcomic/movie/whatever.
  • What sort of program events do they have?
    • Ceremonies – opening, closing, awards, etc
    • Panel topics
    • Concerts
    • Screenings
    • Readings
    • Parties
    • Signing
    • Photo Ops
    • Video Games
    • Contests
    • Cosplay
  • Are your friends attending?

    It’s always good to see a familiar — and friendly face in the crowd.

What To Bring To A Convention

  • Clothes

    If this is a geek event, everyone in day clothes will be wearing jeans and a black t-shirt. Do you want to stand out? Or blend in?

    If this is more business oriented, try for a business casual dress. Maybe a geeky t-shirt, with a dress skirt/slacks and blazer?

    Good walking shoes. Typically, you’re going to do a lot of walking on concrete floors. Even if you’re not, you’re likely to be on your feet a lot more than *I* am on an average day.
  • Costumes

    Do you cosplay? Check before you dress up, some conventions (like World Fantasy Con) aren’t into it. Others encourage it (DragonCon)

    Some allow more explicit costumes than others, be sure you know the rules.

    There are conventions with strict photography rules — for hallway pictures, creepy stalkers, and professional photo shoots. Check before you make plans.
  • Food and Drinks

    If you can, bring breakfasts, snacks, and drinks of your choice. Hotels can be very drying, so you’ll need to hydrate more than normal. Especially if you bring in any alcohol.
  • Business Cards, Queries, Pitches, and Chapters

    If you’re going? Network.

    Hand out your business card to anyone who seems friendly.

    If there are pitch sessions, agents, or imprint editors? Have printed copies of your pitch and your queries printed out. And just in case? Have a copy of your first chapter.
  • Electronics

    Some like having laptops, or live tweeting events. Have your electronics, a bag for them, and all your chargers. Bring a spare battery if you can.
  • Notepad and Pens

    I don’t like to take notes on my computer during panels. Instead, I’m scribbling like mad in a new notebook I got just for this con.

    YES. This is an excuse for a new notebook, or to use that one you’ve been hoarding.

    Bring a couple of your favorite pens to write with. Even if you’re doing the laptop thing or phone-ing it in. 😉 You might end up with a hallway autograph session, or need to scribble down someone’s room number.

What To Do At A Con

I touched on this briefly, when you were deciding if you should attend, but not everything is in the program book.

  • Panels

    A panel is typically a discussion between 3-6 guests, with a given theme. Usually, there is a moderator to make sure the conversation flows.

    Typically, these are 50 minutes long, with about 5 minutes given to introductions, 30-35 minutes for discussion amongst the guests, and 10-15 minutes for audience questions. Different conventions have different standards, though.

    When picking which panels to attend, there are several factors to consider. I wasn’t kidding earlier when I said I was contemplating 82 panels over 4 days. Luckily, I’ve cut it back to about 65 panels/events at this point.

    And? They’re spread among the same 35 hours, so literally, I can’t do nearly half of them. I’m going to have to pick.

    When I’m torn between panels, these are my decision factors:
    • What’s the panel topic? Is it relevant to my writing? Does it sound interesting? Have I seen it before? Is it a hilarious show? Maybe it’s a relaxing concert?
    • Who’s on the panel? Have I heard them before? (Even if this is your first time, as you go on with the weekend, you’ll often find you have specific panelists you enjoy more than others.) Maybe a panel is one I’ve seen before, but has a whole new cast of characters! Maybe they’re a friend I want to support and love hearing.
    • Do I need a break? Is this my 5th panel in a row? Do I need a nap or food?
    • Will I need to queue up? At WorldCon two years ago, the panels proved far more popular than anticipated, so to get into any panel, you had to queue up an hour before. So, I did.
  • Events

    There are tons of types of events, outside of panels.
    • Signings – from actors, artists, writers and more
    • Dances – everything from folk dance, to raves, to full on fancy dress balls
    • Workshops – these vary in length from a 50 minute panel, to a full day, to the full extended weekend of workshop. The longer it is, or more prestigious the instructor, the more likely it costs extra, and needs to be signed up for ahead of time.
    • Coffee klatches – a word from the 60s or so, when people hung out drinking coffee in kitchens. These are small gatherings with a guest of honor, to have an organic conversation. I think. They intimidate me, so I’ve never been.
    • Parades – certain groups or free for alls! Sometimes costumes are required
    • Ceremonies – most have opening and closing ceremonies. Some have awards ceremonies as well. World Con hosts the Hugo awards.
    • Concerts – Everything from acapella groups to ballroom-sized metal concerts
    • Pitch events! – Some have opportunities to pitch (or practice your pitch) with an actual agent or publisher.

      Pitching live can be a “I’ll sign you now!” sort of thing. But more often, it’s a thanks or no thanks situation.

      With the occasional: “that sounds nice, please query me” (and note that the agent requested in the query’s intro). And that submission? Might be super promising! Or, that agent may just have trouble saying no to your face.
    • Gaming rooms – Board games, video games, LARPing rooms, you can find a lot of stuff going on. And? This can be a great way to get to know new people, without having to resort to the ‘small talk’ many people (wrongfully) disdain.
    • Martial Arts – Demos or classes are often found at conventions. Longsword or jiu jitsu and everything in between.
    • Crafting – Demos or classes are often found at conventions. From fiber arts, to drawing, painting, and glueing together fake steampunk guns.
  • Art Show – Artists of all kinds can submit to have their art displayed. Often many paintings and prints, plus fabric arts, jewelry, woodcraft, pottery, and more. Here, it goes up for a silent auction, with a small piece of paper by it for people to write their bids. Usually, identifying themselves by badge number.

    Like Ebay, there’s often a ‘buy now’ option at a higher price. Often, the artists will have tables with less expensive prints in the Artists’ Alley or Dealers’ room.

    The Art Show usually wraps up on Sunday, or the last day of the con. Sometimes, there’s a live auction (I’ve been known to Vanna White one or two auctions in my day). The rest of the time, if you’re the winning bid, you have until a set time to pay and collect your piece.
  • Shopping

    Some have large vendor rooms, some have segregated “Dealers’ Rooms” (for people selling store merchandise) and “Artists’ Alley” (for people selling homemade goods). Here, you can buy any sort of art, con-themed clothing and costumery, swag, books, and more.

    Sometimes there are ‘room dealers’ who set their own hours working out of hotel rooms.
  • Con Suite

    A life-saver for the budget con-attendee, this is a room to relax, socialize, and SNACK. Sometimes they have oatmeal, cereal bars, bread, and pb&j. These rooms may have more, they may have less, but they’ll have some low level of sustenance for those that need it. (If you have allergies, they may be less helpful.)
  • Party Rooms

    In traditional/older school science-fiction and fantasy conventions, in North America, there is the tradition of a ‘party board’, where room parties are listed. Many are registered ahead of time, and end up assigned a room on the same hall, to keep the noise clustered.

    These are typically door-propped, mild to moderate decorations, some swag, some snacks, and a couple of hosts. If the event/location permits, there may be alcohol. People often ‘party hop’, sticking their heads in each of the party rooms and snagging refreshments before heading to the next one.

    Most of these parties are hosted by other conventions, to try and drum up interest and early memberships to help finance their own convention. Some of them are ‘bid parties’. Both WorldCon and WorldFantasyCon travel from year to year, like the Olympics. And like the Olympics, cities bid to host, votes are cast, and there’s a winner.

    I’ve helped with the DC 2021 WorldCon bid party twice. Luckily, no one is currently running against DC. (Also, both parties I helped with were in Baltimore, so the locals are fans, anyway.)

    There are often invite-only parties. Or so I’ve heard. These typically do have alcohol (and some even check IDs to avoid any legal issues). Some people even hire bouncers.
  • Socialize

    There are people around you, interested in the stuff you’re there to see. Talk to them. Admire something to them. Play games with them.

    The key to networking is — make friends.

    NOTE: If you see an agent at a convention — if they’re in the program, you can approach them — as long as they’re not in a rush somewhere, or look to be in a serious conversation. Just give your one line pitch after an introduction (or more conversation). Do not hand them query letters, or manuscripts, or more.

    If they’re not in the program? They’re probably there for meetings, or off the clock and you should leave them alone.

    If this is your first — or even second time at a particular convention, you may feel a bit left out. It seems like everyone else knows each other, everyone else is having an amazing time, and you’re locked out. But these are fans, and they love talking about their fandoms. It can take 3 or more times at a given con before it starts feeling like home. These are relationships that have been built in short weekends, spread over years. You have to put in the time to get there, but if you’re open to meeting new people, there will be people open to meeting you.

    There’s also a thing informally known as ‘Bar Con’, where the writers and agents hang out at the bar. This is a time to socialize with them and/or buy them drinks. NOT a time to do more than a single line pitch, IF they ask.

Take Care Of Yourself

To be respectful of others, you need to respect yourself and not push your limits. Don’t skip more than 1 shower. Don’t skip more than 1 meal. Don’t skip more than 1/2 of a night’s sleep. You’ll feel better about yourself, look more approachable to others, and you’ll have more patience and energy.

Hotels and convention centers are among the most dehydrating places on earth. I’ve been known to bring humidifiers when attending winter conventions to stave off colds. You’ll need to drink at least 8 ounces of water more than you normally would, just to stave that off. (More, if you plan to drink alcohol.)

If you’ve forgotten or lost your toiletries, you can ask the hotel staff or acquire some at the hotel’s store. If that fails, ask the con suite staff. They should be able to discreetly track you down some deodorant or toothpaste.


  • When you arrive at the convention

    Typically, if you’re staying at the hotel, you’ll want to check in first. Many don’t allow check-in before 4pm (to give them time to clean all the rooms after the 11am-1pm check-out time). If you’re early, you often can leave your bags with the concierge (although a tip will be expected)

    Next, you’ll want to find the convention’s own registration. This might be an hours-long line, or a 2 minute stop. You’ll need to have your ID on you, and if you haven’t pre-paid, money. They’ll give you a badge and sometimes a program guide and a map.

    If you aren’t pressed for time, I encourage you to scope out where the panels you plan to attend are, where the event rooms are, and where the restroom is.
  • At a panel
    • Try to arrive 5 minutes early. Be settled before the panelists begin.
    • Make sure your phone/alarms are turned off (or at least on silent)
    • Don’t take up more than one seat if there’s a decent-sized audience.
    • Feel free to take notes! Paper or laptop.
    • If you get a chance to ask a question, don’t be “That Guy”
      • Have a concise question
      • Remember that the audience is here to listen to the panelists, not you
      • Don’t use this as a chance to make an analogy to your own novel or gaming world
      • Don’t use this as an opportunity to show how clever you are and/or how you should have been on the panel
      • I know you wouldn’t do that, but there always seems to be one person who thinks they’re not just making everyone roll their eyes, (including the panelists they might be trying to impress).
    • If the panel didn’t address what you thought it would, this is a great time to ask their opinion on what you were hoping to hear them talk about in the first place. Or maybe you wanted them to go more in depth on something they touched on. These are all good questions!
    • If you must leave early (or it’s not what you expected, or you’re bored), look at your watch/phone with a startled expression, gather your things quietly, mouth “Sorry” in slow motion to the panelists at the front of the room, then slip out with as little ruckus as possible. I promise you, most people would rather watch the panelists than you.
  • Vending
    • Vendors are friendly and approachable — because that’s their job.
    • Vendors are trying to make a living — some are just hoping to recoop the costs of the table space, hotel, and food.
    • They are a captive audience, they can’t just walk away. Don’t abuse this.
    • Do NOT monopolize their time.
      • People approach vendors that aren’t busy.
      • If you’re chatting away at them, you can make them lose sales.
      • If you’re mid-conversation, be sure to:
        • stand to the side of the table
        • don’t block the wares
        • hush/pause when customers approach
    • If you can? Save your conversation for after the vendor space has closed, when they have the option of whether or not to participate in the discussion. And don’t be offended if they’re exhausted and want to visit with close friends instead. Extroverting at a convention is exhausting.
  • In General
    • Be open to new experiences.
    • Chat with people, if it doesn’t happen organically? Hit the gaming room. Volunteer to help the con.
    • Attend something con related, don’t just hang with your friends or hide in your room
    • If you spot someone in costume, or someone famous in the halls, and you want to approach, evaluate the situation.
      • Do they look rushed or exhausted or closed off? They may need some downtime, or be late. Leave them alone.
      • Are they in a deep conversation with someone else? Leave them alone.
      • If they look relaxed, be respectful and courteous. Start with an introduction and maybe a compliment. Don’t be fake or fawning. “Hi, I thought your work in X was so very well something.” or “Hi, amazing work on the costume-part.”
        • Do NOT compliment a body part. Compliment something they can change in less than a week. Hair, costume, accessories, etc.
      • If they don’t seem irritated and you’d like a photograph or autograph, ask. “Do you mind autographing this/if I get a picture?
      • Just because they’re already getting their photograph taken, doesn’t mean you can whip out your camera.
        • They might know the other person/people – and asked them to take their picture so they have a record later.
        • They might be trying to get somewhere else – like a panel, or the bathroom!

After The Con

Some people hit their limit and are ready to leave. Many of us linger and want to catch last minute hugs and waves.

When you get home, odds are you’re going to want a nap. Probably some water, and maybe even some vegetables. Who knows?

Watch out for an energy drop, that’s not just the need for a nap, commonly known as “con drop”.

You’ve just been in ‘on’ mode for 2+ days. For many, this is a unique opportunity to be surrounded by other fans, where your interests are common, not unique. There’s a particular energy for each convention. When you leave that, you can feel isolated. Or irritable. Or just plain exhausted.

Cons are rather manic and leaving them can leave you depressed.

The trick to handling con drop is to know what you need.

For me? It’s often water, naps, and downtime. Then writing up my con-report and posting online, trying to connect with everyone else who was there.

For others? They may need to cave for three days. Or? They might want to schedule dinner plans the next few nights so they don’t go from 100% socialization to nothing.

Taking care of yourself doesn’t end just because you’re home. But with any luck? You’ll enjoy yourself and be ready for the con to return.

Let me know if I missed anything! And check back next week for more writing tips and writerly musings.

How I Finally Gave In and Set Up My Own Newsletter Using MailChimp

Well, that was more complicated (and a little $$) than expected.

Until Monday, I Thought I Didn’t Need An Actual Email List

If you’re like me, you keep hearing how you’re supposed to cultivate that whole ’email list’ thing.

One problem.

I hate email. I like to read, archive, and keep my inbox under 25 items–aiming for Zero Inbox.

Besides! WordPress lets people sign-up with their emails, so they can get the updates that way. Right?

Apparently, I missed a small little detail.

When I FINALLY (after like 4 years) re-signed up to see what my email looked like? I learned You’ve Got To Have A WordPress Account To Subscribe!

Don’t get me wrong. When I set up my blog, four years ago, I checked out the first several emails, to make sure they looked fine. But? I had a wordpress account, so I didn’t even notice.

Besides? If I want to check out my blog, I view it on an RSS feed.

What’s an RSS Feed?

It’s a way to follow blogs and get all their updates — like Facebook, only you’re following Blogs, not individuals. Tumblr is actually an RSS Feed, but you can only follow other Tumblr blogs.


I know that’s gonna turn off people who don’t want ANOTHER account.

That’s When I Realized I Needed An ACTUAL Email Newsletter

I did some quick googling, and went with the one I saw most recommended, most used, and was FREE! (At least with my level of followers…)

So, next thing I know, I’ve got a freebie MailChimp account (so long as my mailing has fewer than 2,000 emails a month, I don’t have to pay a thing!) Plus, they promise a seamless experience when you switch to the paid levels. $10-$30 bucks until I have over 2,500 followers. [Sign up HERE!]

I went to the website, created an account, set up some groups, and then?

I created an automated welcome email and weekly RSS feed emails.

That’s when I notice something.

They’re posting my HOME ADDRESS. Eep! Not really something I want to provide to any online stalker. With a note that says US anti-spam law REQUIRES an address on any sort of mass emailing.

Sad trombone!

Fine. I’ll get a P.O. Box.

But wait.

Worn stop sign, in front of trees, a solid white wall half hiding a brick building.
Photo by Mwabonje on

It needs a physical address?

A little research later and I found a nearby Post Office that also lets you use their street address. I sign up online, pay, and… need to go in, in person, to get the key and show ID.

I pop on over on my lunch break, during this gorgeous 68′ February flash-spring and present my Passport and Driver’s License. Only 2 people ahead of me in line.

After a short wait, I hand over my papers. Only problem. I moved last year and my driver’s license is out of date– despite me updating them.

I dash out to my car and rifle through my glove box. My insurance card doesn’t have an address on it. But wait, what’s this folded piece of paper. My voter information sheet, telling me where to vote? Does it count as my voter ID?

I bring it back in, fingers crossed. With no line, I beeline to the counter and hand it over.

Does she accept it?


A few signatures later (and $92 for 12+1 free month, otherwise known as $7 a month), I now have a PO Box. She gets me two keys to test and hands me the paper with the street address to use.

Fun Fact:

It’s a different zip code than the street address of the normal post office.

Long story short — I now have a PO box with a street address and an email newsletter.

(Now I can use THAT when I win random twitter contests, instead of giving my mailing address to strangers.)

Quick Humble-Brag Break

I’m well on my way to hitting my reading goal for this year, with 16 books already under my belt.

And? Last Friday, I talked to my new mentor on the phone.

Mentor? Tell me more, Morgan.

I sent in a mentee application just before New Years to the Broad Universe‘s debut program and found out I was selected two Saturdays ago. We’d been emailing back and forth for a week, before we finally talked to start making a plan and for her to critique my 1st chapter.

That poor chapter’s been critiqued SOO many times. But, getting enough world building that no one is confused, without overwhelming them with info-dumps is a hard balance — and likely in a different place for every reader. I’ve got a little more work to do there.

As you know, I was planning on a little polishing and tossing her back into the query trenches. I’m sighing a little and getting ready to delve back into a full revision. Oh well. I’ve got high hopes and a guide, this time.

But! Back to MailChimp.

Getting Started With Groups On MailChimp

After MailChimp walked me through setting up, I knew I wanted custom email levels. I HATE stores that send either 7 emails a week or NOTHING. So, I looked around and figured out how to set up GROUPS.

Step 1: Open the list

Go to the Lists tab (create one for everyone who's received a welcome email if you don't have one yet), and select the list.

Go to the Lists tab (create one for everyone who’s received a welcome email if you don’t have one yet), and select the list.

Step 2: Manage your contacts

Select the 'Manage Contacts' drop down.

Select the ‘Manage Contacts’ drop down.

Step 3: Select ‘Groups’

Step 4: Create your groups

Click 'Show Groups'. Then, select 'Add Group' and name it as you wish. If you do this early, like I did, you won't have to add contacts manually, they'll be prompted when they sign up!

Click ‘Show Groups’. Then, select ‘Add Group’ and name it as you wish. If you do this early, like I did, you won’t have to add contacts manually, they’ll be prompted when they sign up!

And Ta-daaa! You’ve created groups, so people only get the emails they’re interested in.

My groups are:

  • Everything! (which I’m sure is what most people want *winks*)
  • Weekly Blog posts — which I plan to only send out once a week with all my newest blog posts inside
  • Occasional Updates — if I have news or such that I’d like to share with a targeted audience
  • And a group I like to call, “Actually Published Something“, for those people who support my writing, but don’t care about the details. Just let them know when I have something new coming out.

Creating The Actual EMAILS

MailChimp made this SUPER easy, with its built-in templates. But, there’s still a decent number of steps. You ready?

Step 1: Create A Campaign

We start off by selecting the 'Create Campaign' button.

We start off by selecting the ‘Create Campaign’ button.

Step 2: Select Campaign Type

In this case, I'm looking for EMAILS.

In this case, I’m looking for EMAILS.

Step 3: Automate This Thing!

I set up 2 types of Automated emails, a simple confirmation/welcome email, and a weekly blog feed. In this case, I'll be showing the RSS feed, because it's a bit tricker, but the flow is nearly identical. So, select the 'Automated' tab, and then pick your email type.

I set up 2 types of Automated emails, a simple confirmation/welcome email, and a weekly blog feed.

In this case, I’ll be showing the RSS feed, because it’s a bit tricker, but the flow is nearly identical. So, select the ‘Automated’ tab, and then pick your email type.

Step 4: Name Your (Email) Campaign

Set a name for the campaign and select the list you're using. (Luckily, you've already got that list set up!)

Set a name for the campaign and select the list you’re using. (Luckily, you’ve already got that list set up!)

Step 5: Map Your Feed and Schedule It

1 - Enter the RSS feed address. Typically, your address plus "\feed", but if you're not sure, just put in the URL and MailChimp will check for you.
2. Set the email period - daily, weekly, monthly..., set the time of day, and set the days of the week you'd like to email (IF there is something new.)
3. I saw complaints about poor quality images in the email feed, and saw recommendations to UNSELECT the 'Resize RSS feed images', so I did that.
  1. Enter the RSS feed address. Typically, your address plus “\feed”, but if you’re not sure, just put in the URL and MailChimp will check for you.
  2. Set the email period – daily, weekly, monthly…, set the time of day, and set the days of the week you’d like to email (IF there is something new.)
  3. I saw complaints about poor quality images in the email feed, and saw recommendations to UNSELECT the ‘Resize RSS feed images’, so I did that.

Step 6: Select Which Group Gets This Email

1 - Decide who gets this email: everyone? a segment/tag? or a group? I've got my groups set up, so that's what I choose.
2 - Select the question under 'Groups': "Which emails would you like to get", then select the modifier, and the groups they're in. Maybe this email should only go to people who selected Occasional Updates AND Actually Published Something?  But no. I went with "one of" and "Weekly Blogposts.
3 - Click DONE!
  1. Decide who gets this email: everyone? a segment/tag? or a group? I’ve got my groups set up, so that’s what I choose.
  2. Select the question under ‘Groups’:
    1. “Which emails would you like to get”
    2. Select the modifier, and the groups they’re in.
      1. Maybe this email should only go to people who selected Occasional Updates AND Actually Published Something?
      2. But no. I went with “one of” and “Weekly Blogposts.
  3. Click DONE!

Step 7: Select Your Campaign Options

To be honest, I didn't know what all of these options were and just sort of used my best judgment.

To be honest, I didn’t know what all of these options were and just sort of used my best judgment.

  • I like stats (that are free)
  • I’m happy to have formatted contact names — especially if it lowers the odds I’ll be tossed in the SPAM folder.
  • As my blog already retweets to twitter and facebook, I didn’t need those options.
  • I did select auto-convert video because of posts like this one with youtube embedded.

Step 8: Select Your Template

I like the basic template. I don't want fancy columns that end up with emails about 3 words across and an eternity's worth of scrolling. I wanted it simple and clean. So, I selected the basic template and hit 'next'.

I like the basic template. I don’t want fancy columns that end up with emails about 3 words across and an eternity’s worth of scrolling. I wanted it simple and clean.

So, I selected the basic template and hit ‘next’.

Step 9: Add Content To Your Email

For this example, I dragged the 'RSS Items' content block onto the email preview and then 'Social Share' (whoops, image has the wrong one circled), so people can easily share links to my blog if they liked the post. Put it in an order that makes sense to you.

For this example, I dragged the ‘RSS Items’ content block onto the email preview and then ‘Social Share’ (whoops, image has the wrong one circled), so people can easily share links to my blog if they liked the post.

Put it in an order that makes sense to you.

Step 10: Decide How Wordy Your Email Should Be

Decide how much of your blog post you want displayed in the email. I opted for 'Full Content."

Decide how much of your blog post you want displayed in the email. I opted for ‘Full Content.”

I’m torn here: I’m not huge on busy emails, so I’d probably prefer the Titles, or Excerpts. But. This isn’t for me. People who want an email are likely people who don’t want to go to my blog all the time. I have to remember that not everyone consumes the internet the way I do.

Maybe I should set up 2 ‘weekly blogpost’ emails — one full text and one not?

Then? You just confirm the email and hit publish! And you’re email is ready to go. You can pause and edit it at any time, without messing up the feed.

AND! Best of all? You can preview the upcoming emails.

If you’re interested in signing up for this awesome newsletter/blog update, there’s a bar at the bottom of my webpage, and a tab-link on my facebook author page I also set up. But, I figured I gave you enough step-by-step directions for today.

How I finally gave in and set up my own newsletter

Do YOU have an email list?
If so, do you have any tips for a newbie?
If not, are you contemplating one now?