Here’s a feeling you know.

It’s that anxious flush when you’ve just sent an email newsletter containing the most important message of all time and you’re suddenly dead certain that it’s riddled with mistakes. Or, just as likely, it has just given the world insight into how trivial and unwelcome you are.

As your hand leaves the keyboard you realize that you’ve destroyed your future and exposed your incompetence to the people who matter most. You’ve bared your soul just so that wolves can devour your fragile ego within.

Your cheeks flush crimson and your lungs tighten and your gut twists and you wonder why in the world you ever pressed Send. The world narrows to one repeated word, a klaxon that won’t stop blaring at its highest volume: “Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!”

The measure of your inadequacies

And then you see it confirmed: “Unsubscribe” comes the notice from your email service provider. And another. And another.

That ex-subscriber could be a stranger. Maybe it’s a reader you know or even a close friend. But someone has effectively given your newsletter a one-star review. That person has, by clicking Unsubscribe, expressed how deeply you are a failure, and how much your time is wasted putting your ideas forth into the world.

Your email inbox is now the ticking arbiter on your self-worth, tallying, rejection by rejection, the Ultimate Truth on your words and offers and ­– let’s face it – you, personally.

Nobody’s immune

So when I counsel you to build a mailing list and send regular email newsletters, I do understand what kind of dread that can conjure.

Nobody’s immune. As much as you, I experience that fear of failure multiplied by every name on my own email list, to whom I deliver my Recess Bell newsletter every other Friday.

It’s a miracle anything ever gets sent.

And yet.

I’m asking you to do it anyway, for exactly one reason: It works.

Because it works

It works to demonstrate to those who care about you that you’ll consistently show up for them and deliver what they look to you for: special offers, personal insights, peeks behind the scenes, upcoming releases, expanded storylines, personal appearances, new products.

It works because your subscribers have invited you into their inbox, a sanctuary for their limited attention span, and they know that you’ll honor that privileged placement.

It works because the intimacy of your direct email messages gives you permission to ask more of your subscribers than you can of strangers. It works because you earn that right to ask by delivering value over time, creating tighter and tighter connections with the people who can’t wait to hear from you, month after month, email after email. And nudging your subscribers to action – to buy your new releases, leave reviews, attend your signings – is why you’ve been cultivating a relationship with them all along.

It’s why you love them.

Until they don’t want to hear from you anymore.

Please unsubscribe

A reader clicking Unsubscribe is not about you.

An Unsubscribe is about that person taking control of his or her time and becoming more focused on what matters most. That’s something to respect.

Each Unsubscribe also saves you money, when your email provider is charging you per name on your list. That’s something to take to the bank.

Each Unsubscribe also informs you about what your readers don’t want. That’s invaluable market research.

And some Unsubscribes are part of natural email churn as users change email addresses over time.

Unsubscribes are healthy and necessary.

Every Unsubscribe is one more opportunity for you to recognize the faithfulness of your true fans, the ones who feel better about themselves each time they receive something from you. It’s not about those who are reclaiming their time by tidying their inboxes; it’s about the subscribers who stay behind, giving you a 5-star review every time they come back for more, and thanking you for being the writer they can’t wait to hear from.


What’s your take on ex-subscribers or those who stick around? Let’s chat about it on Facebook.