Shea Serrano and the Perfect Mailing List

Shea Serrano is a journalist who has written for all kinds of publications. He has written a lot of things — most of which I haven’t read yet — but I assume it’s all stellar. He writes articles, he does podcasts, all great, I’m sure. He writes about hip-hop and basketball and movies and TV, and it’s clear from everything he puts out that he does it because those are the things he loves.

The way I discovered him was through his little e-book about the TV show, Scrubs. It’s sold as a collection of essays, but it’s really just an extended love letter to a great show.

Anyway, Shea Serrano is one of my favorite people to get email from.

Now you can go searching online and find lots of advice about how to set up an author newsletter or mailing list or SubStack. How you can connect with people and grow your audience. All that smarmy business stuff about growing your brand.

Really, I think all you need to do is be like Shea Serrano. Every couple of weeks, he sends out an email to his list. Each one is just a short story, probably only a few hundred words, about something funny or weird that happened in his life. Things like his kids insulting each other at the breakfast table, and then proceeding to roast him with devastating insults that don’t really make sense.

At the very end of the email is a link with mildly insulting text that takes you to the page where you can buy his latest work. The most recent one sends you to pre-order his upcoming book, and says “If You Don’t Click This Box And Preorder The New Book I’ll Really Fucking Fight You.”

That’s it. It’s fun and a little bit ridiculous, just like his books. It’s a little gift in my inbox, with a zero-pressure note that points me toward something I could buy, if I feel like it. And honestly, the next time he writes something that aligns with my interests, I’m going to click that insulting button and feel great about it.

I think the best kind of marketing gives people something they want, and then does the absolute minimum to make them aware of what you’re selling. If they like you, and you bring them joy, they’re going to be happy to throw some money your way.

(If you want to subscribe to Shea, click this and then click “Follow.”)

Author: Samuel Johnston

Professional software developer, unprofessional writer, and generally interested in almost everything.

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