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Behind-the-Scenes: Principles for Newsletters

CJ Chilvers
CJ Chilvers
3 min read

First, thank you to everyone who bought the new book over the past few weeks. After just one email, around 3% of you immediately bought the book — not clicked on — bought. That’s huge. Thank you so much!

Like any book, there’s bound to be questions about the choices made. This should answer most of the big ones.

Why is the book a set of principles?
Admittedly, it would be a lot easier to have written a how-to book for newsletter publishing, but there are countless books and courses out there on that. I was looking for a higher-level set of guidelines. With principles in place, you can avoid taking most courses and reading most books on the subject, if they have nothing to do with the path you’re on as a publisher.

This quote from John T. Reed puts it pretty well:

“When you first start to study a field, it seems like you have to memorize a zillion things. You don’t. What you need is to identify the core principles – generally three to twelve of them – that govern the field. The million things you thought you had to memorize are simply various combinations of the core principles.”

Why is it just an ebook?
I’m a deep-diver. I don't need to solve for research or organization. I need to solve for execution. In order to make sure this book got published at all, I needed to do it in the fastest possible way — no excuses. In the near future, it will likely be a print book as well. I’m looking into book designers for a proper cover. But for now it’s published, and that’s the biggest hurdle for a brain like mine.

Why publish on Gumroad and not Amazon?
All of my other books have been sold mostly from Amazon. But the whole reason I’m even making this newsletter book is to get to know the community better, and to build relationships with like-minded people. I lose all that contact when I publish on Amazon. I have no idea who my reader is or how to serve them better. When I make updates to the book, I don’t know who to alert with: “Hey! There’s a new version of the book you can download for free.” Sure, I can sell 100x more books by launching this on Amazon rather than my own site, but knowing my customers is far more valuable to me than the few extra dollars (and it is just a few) I’d get from Amazon. I highly recommend creators prioritize relationships over royalties.

So, why isn’t the book free, then?
No one reads a free ebook.

What’s with the title?
There were dozens of clickbait-y titles I could have gone with, but “Principles for Newsletters” was the most honest title. Plus, it’s what I had titled it in my own notes. My long-term readers know I keep a set of principles on just about every subject I cover in my essays. This is just the one I assembled for newsletters. In the future, you could see Principles for Personal Publishing, Principles for Creating Daily, etc.

What did I use to make the book?
I used all of the old tools I’ve been losing to build books for years, including Scrivener, Vellum, and MindNode. However, I encountered some new obstacles I hadn’t in the past with these tools and I tried many others. I was shocked to learn how easy it was to create an ebook in Apple Pages. It was taking me hours to compile the book properly in other tools and only minutes when I experimented with Pages. I had no idea it had gotten this good. I work in Word all day for clients, so I hadn’t had much experience with Pages. I was impressed. Plus, Apple sneakily added a feature to their Notes app this past year for handing-off larger pieces to Pages for formatting and publishing. This handoff will introduce many to the features of Pages that I’ve just discovered.

What’s next?
I plan to keep a change log of any additions or updates to the book. It will appear in my newsletter. If you buy the ebook version, these updates will just appear automatically. You can download the latest version of the book whenever you want. When there’s a print book, I will update it as well. It just won’t be as often. It’s my hope that I can do this kind of updating to all my books as I move ownership of the publishing process over to my site. As always, I'll keep you informed of every failure and success along the way. Thanks again for reading!