Thursday, March 3, 2016

The Making of The Scrap Basket

Before I actually started my newsletter, The Scrap Basket, I would have loved to have read a post like I am sharing today. So it dawned on me, some of you, either mulling over starting a newsletter, or just interested in behind-the-scenes, might appreciate it too, so voila! This isn't a photo-heavy post, so if you're not interested in the newsletter, I'll see you next time, ok?

:: Email Service ::
I use Mailchimp to actually create and publish The Scrap Basket. I find it very user-friendly, and back when I started, I created a template for the newsletter I had in mind, and start with that every time I begin a new issue.

:: Mailing List ::
Another detail in setting things up is creating your mailing list. I believe you can import lists, but I was starting from scratch. I collected emails by both entering emails manually for folks that asked me to sign them up, and also with a 'subscribe' widget on my blog which Mailchimp can help you create. More recently I switched from the widget to a Hello Bar, which is a pop-up on the blog where visitors can subscribe. I made the bar as unobtrusive as I could, and I do think it's helped grow my readership. Once set up, the list pretty much takes care of itself. The program does provide regular reports to you so if you're into statistics, you have access to those.

:: Newsletter Format ::
When originally creating my template, I chose a number of unique categories I might want to include, all with titles I chose myself. They include:
  • What's Up - usually some news from the blog
  • Worth a Read - links to a variety of posts, tutorials, tips worth sharing
  • Round-Up - a topical collection of (usually) quilts
  • In Studio - a project that pertains to my/our sewing spaces or maybe an organizational tool
  • On Trend - a round-up of projects that are particularly trending at the moment
  • You Asked - my response to questions I've gotten on the blog or Instagram
  • A Glance Back - usually an older blog post being highlighted
For each issue, I usually select 3-5 of those categories to focus on. Depending on what I've come across, there could be more. Anyway, with the template, it's easy to remove the categories I'm not using that issue and go from there.

:: History ::
I keep a brief record of every category and its content for every issue in a google document. That way I can easily glance back and see what I've covered when. After an issue is out several days, I look at my stats on Mailchimp and note in my google doc which links got the most hits. It kind of helps me see what categories and topics folks are most interested in.

:: Researching an Issue ::
So every two weeks, I take a quick scan through my latest draft issue, and once satisfied, hit publish. From there, I basically take the rest of the week 'off'. The only prep I do for the next issue is maybe save links of posts I think my readers might enjoy. Any sewing, quilting, or blogging-related topic is fair game. Sometimes I know the general theme for the next issue right away, sometimes just a few days before going to press. But during those two weeks, I 'save' what interests me around the web by using pocket, an app that stores pretty much any link I want to consider later. [Personally, I use pocket on my laptop or desktop, but the app is also available on a phone, if you'd prefer. I find it the perfect tool for this use. I can store anything and everything that might be of interest, then when it's nearing publication time, I'll go thru the list and take a closer look. Some items get deleted, some put on hold for another issue, some are a good fit and get labeled with the issue number. Once something is in the newsletter draft for sure, it gets archived right in pocket.] So with my specific theme in mind, I look for examples within that theme. I consider the blogs I follow, posts I see on Instagram, searches on Instagram and Pinterest. I usually make a list of the examples I'm considering, sort through to see that I have a good variety.

:: Getting Permission ::
If there are photos I'd like to include, I contact all of the makers to see if they are ok with me sharing their project. Sometimes I need them to email me a photo though usually I just need permission to share from their blog or Ig account. (Copy-Save Image works nicely most of the time.) If the makers used tutorials or patterns for their project that I can link too, I try my best to include those too. And of course if they have a blog or Instagram account, I link to that too. The point is to show you some quality content while giving the makers a little exposure.

:: The Draft ::
A few days before publication, I start narrowing things down and adding content into my Mailchimp template for the new issue. At this point, it's just key links - to articles, makers, products - whatever I think I'll want to include, as well as the photos. As far as categories, I always want to include either a Round-Up or On Trend section, that's where the theme is highlighted and where I share the post photos of projects. Sometimes I include both, but usually one or the other. Worth a Read is often the most popular section, so that's always included. It just depends on what I've gathered whether or not other categories 'get in'. There's also an introduction section and a 'p.s.' in each issue, and that may stay blank at this point.

:: Crunch Time ::
So a day or two before publication, I go through each section of the newsletter, adding supporting text as needed. Sometimes there's late additions or rearrangements, but by the end of this session, I have a very good idea of what the issue will look like.

The night before press time, I go through and double-check every link to make sure it goes where I intend. Luckily, I can hover over a link and see it's destination. Depending on the week and whether of not I'll have last-minute adds Monday morning, I may final and schedule the issue Sunday night - put it to bed, so to speak. Otherwise, I'll shoot it off Monday morning. 

So there you go! It's a process for sure, but an enjoyable one at that. Let me know if you have any questions. I can always do a follow-up post if there's more you want to know. And if you're new to The Scrap Basket, links to all back-issues are located under the tab at the top of the blog.


  1. you do a great job with your newsletter! I always find new things to explore by reading it!

  2. Thanks for detailing your process, Debbie. You're the second person to recommend Pocket. I paste all my links into a OneNote document and go through them with my ideas, because I like having everything in one place. You've convinced me to check it out! I also write mine in different days stages. Sounds like we are birds of a feather. :)

  3. Thanks for that run down, Debbie. I always enjoy reading your newsletter and I've been thinking about starting one of my own. Your information was most helpful to me! One question I have is this: Do you know if it matters what day of the week you publish your newsletter (in terms of it getting read and clicked through)? Thanks again.

  4. Very interesting. You're always so generous in sharing what you've learned! It's fun to see the behind-the-scenes on this project. I'm going to check out Pocket, thanks to your recommendation.

  5. Fun behind the scenes look! I always sit down with your newsletter and think "I'll just glance over this and then check out IG for my social media break..." and then thirty minutes later I'm still in there, checking out your content. Well curated!

  6. Great information. I'm so glad I signed up for the newsletter--lots of quality things to read. You continue to amaze me, Debbie!

  7. Thanks so much for all the info Debbie! I keep saying I need to do a newsletter and haven't done one....maybe now I will!

  8. Such a great post, Debbie! Loved reading about your process!!

  9. I do like your newsletter and signed up for it once you announced it. The "unobtrusive" little widget that shows ip IS annoying though. Im already signed up, so it would be nice if the monkey thing could recognize this. As if it is not enough. Have to get rid of it every time i get to your home page, if i go to older or newer post, there that darn thing is again...i mean, ive already said NO....and if i change pages again...there it is AGAIN....i get it you want to grow, but i wonder if there is a way for it to recognize our computers when we make it to your site so it is NOt displayed or is there a way to change it so that we only have to say NO once, instead of every time we move around?

  10. Well, lt me ammend that statement. Mapparently something HAS changed and now the widget does onlY appear once. Much nicer.

  11. Nice idea to give an account of what it takes to do a newsletter. Don't know how you keep up with everything though? I'm not at all good with my time management.

  12. So very sweet of you to share all of this! There is a lot of work in producing these news letters but it is so appreciated!