Let’s start this day off with a little tutorial on an important “Push” tool for webcomics: the email newsletter. As great as RSS readers and bookmarks and sites like InkOutbreak are, there’s a LOT of webcomics out there for readers to catch up on. Yours easily gets lost in the shuffle. That’s where “push” tools like an email newsletter that a reader can subscribe to comes in handy. No longer to you need to plead/bribe/shamelessly beg people to click a link or pray they’re checking their RSS feeds, now a reader can simply sign up to receive the comic updates in their mailbox. (with lost of links to encourage them to go to your website of course!) The trick is, of course, getting people to actually SIGN UP for it, but that’s a whole other article.
Step 1: The Feed
Setting up an email newsletter is as simple as having an RSS feed to begin with. Not sure if you do? Well, if you have a WordPress site, you probably have one automatically. Try adding “/feed” to the end of your URL and see where it takes you. You can also go into google reader or another RSS reader and search for your site. If you do not seem to have a feed, you should inquire how to set one up through your hosting service. It’s really important, trust me.
Step 2: Sign up for Feedburner
(As a quick aside, I’d just like to say “YOU’RE WELCOME BYRON!” as the poor old man has been having issues understanding Feedburner and what it does, so I’m hoping this clear it up for him.)
So, we’ve got ourselves a feed, time to go burn it so it can be distributed to a list of subscribers! What Feedburner, which was bought by google not too long ago, does is to deliver your RSS feed automatically with each update, to a list of people who have fully subscribed. The opt-ins and opt-outs are handled within feedburner, and the new updates are emailed out by them as well. Once you have this set up, you rarely have to touch it again… it’s all synced and automatic. Dawn likes that.
So, time to get an account with feedburner and, um, BURN your feed. If you already have a google account, this’ll be a breeze. Once you’re all signed in, you’ll see a “burn a feed” area where you put in your URL. Leave RSS 2.0 selected and burn, baby, burn. Add a title (probably just your comic’s name) and click through until completion.
Step 3: Optimize & Publicize!
One you have a properly burned feed, there’s a couple other things to check out in Feedburner!
- Optimize! Mosey on over to the Optimize tab to see what you burned feed will look like. Amazingly (or maybe just “obviously”), it looks just as your feed does in most RSS Readers. There are other options like adding “FeedFlare” such as social networking sharing icons and a way to edit your title and description.
- Publicize! Set up your twitter account to automatically post tweets when your feed publishes, or get code for a chicklet to put on your website displaying the number of subscribers. More importantly, this section has your email subscriber information (also noted on main tab as #3)…. which brings us to….
Step 3 : Your Subscribers
Under Publicize–> Email Subscriptions, you will find all you need to know about who subscribed when, how many you have total, and which subscribers are “active” (meaning they clicked the “accept” link from their inbox when they entered a valid email address). To see the full list of your subscribers, look under “Subscription Management”, scroll down and toggle the “View Subscriber Details”. Any “Unverified” address will remain that way until that person clicks the link to verify that address. Unfortunately, and this is one of my pet peeves with Feedburner, there is no way to send a reminder email to the unverified subscribers with a new link. They will have to re-sign-up to get the verification email sent again.
Also under Subscription Management is the code for your submission form. This code can easily copied and placed in a generic text widget in your sidebar so your readers have an easy place to sign up, or if you’re crafty enough with HTML, you can make a nifty sign up area like I did here (*ahem* tooting my own horn):
Step 5: Extra Touches
At this point you are all set up to automatically deliver your comic via Feedburner email subscription to those who sign up. However, if you’re an OCD Designer like me who wants to put my own touch on everything, you may feel the need to pretty-ify your feed. There are many, many, MANY articles out there on how to modify your feed with WordPress widgets and editing Php code. All I can account for is using a simple handy plugin for WordPress called ROSS Footer. If you’d like to promote something consistently below OR above your comic and blog, even using images if you please, just add the html in this little plugin and forgetaboutit…
That’s really all there is to it, folks. Burn your feed, a couple customizations and you’re ready to spam, er, I mean ….conveniently email your comic to your happy subscribers!
Dawn Griffin is a self-described “crazy chick”. She likes steak, Cleveland sports, video games and oh yeah, comics. She spent her high school years either playing street ball, pitching, or drawing comics and submitting them to syndicates. Once she –accidentally– discovered the world of webcomics, the sydication route became a pointless hurdle. After all, “Crazy Chicks” do things their *&%$ selves. Dawn is the mastermind behind Zorphbert and Fred, and the illustrator of the Abby’s Adventures kids book series. She can be easily bribed with ice cream.