Guide to Starting a Print Newsletter

Writers tired of rejection slips might want to use this guide to starting a print newsletter, including choosing a newsletter subject, legalities, figuring costs, newsletter layout and typesetting and promotion.

| November/December 1985

  • Printing a newsletter
    I'm convinced that just about anyone with a special interest (regardless of what that hobby may be) and some writing talent can create a profitable newsletter.

  • Printing a newsletter

Want to be a writer? Tired of rejection slips? Why not use this guide to starting a print newsletter. 

Two years ago I decided to combine a cherished hobby—the study of genealogy—with my urge to write for a living. The result? A ten-page monthly newsletter that has given me both an outlet for my interests and a monthly profit of almost $200. The money isn't much (yet!), but the excitement and satisfaction I've experienced have been tremendous from the start. And I'm convinced that just about anyone with a special interest (regardless of what that hobby may be) and some writing talent can create a profitable newsletter. Here's my guide to starting a print newsletter.

Selecting the Newsletter Subject

Probably the most important step in launching a newsletter is to focus on a subject that will appeal to a sufficiently large, but as yet untapped, audience. For me, that choice was easy. Genealogy is a passion in my life, as it is for many other people, and I felt there was a significant potential market to explore. The most successful publication in the field, The Genealogical Helper, has a circulation of over 40,000; I figured that even 1% of that figure would be plenty for me to handle.

I also knew, however, that dozens of fledgling newsletters on all sorts of popular subjects fail each year in the face of stiff competition from larger, long-established publications. So my genealogical newsletter needed to be not only interesting, but also unique. With this in mind, I narrowed my scope to cover genealogy only in the seven-state Appalachian area (which is my main interest). I already knew that there was little data exchange available for researchers in this part of the country, and figured that my creation would fit nicely between small, one-county newsletters and large national publications.

I chose a descriptive name, Appalachian Roots, and checked an index of periodicals at the public library to make sure the title wasn't already in use. I decided to feature some how—to articles, a where-to-buy section listing reference books, and a sizable reader exchange section where subscribers could swap information on their family research.

Print Newsletter Legalities

Once I'd decided on the subjects my newsletter would cover, I checked out the legal requirements for operating a business in my area, and obtained the necessary license, tax forms, and such. (Since regulations vary from town to town and state to state, you should check with the appropriate officials in your own region.) To keep my records straight, I purchased a pre-printed basic bookkeeping system (mine, published by Dome, cost $7.95), and I also opened a business checking account to make sure I'd have an accurate record of receipts and expenses.

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