I publish a fortnightly newsletter called Shenny, if you haven’t heard. In the last couple of months, subscribers have asked me why I don’t use Substack or Medium or any of the other sites out there that essentially do everything for you. The short answer: control issues. I like having everything I do—email, blog, newsletters, etc.—integrated into the same domain. (I could much more easily use Gmail to run email on my domain, but I don’t, to give you an extent of the neurosis.)

At any rate, I use WordPress to run the back-end of this site (or, more specifically, my site designer and friend Beth Sullivan used WordPress when she built it), and through minimal research found the Newsletter Plugin to build Shenny with. It took a few weeks of working through all the settings to get them just right—integrating the mail functions with my domain’s SMTP servers, modifying the DNS record, and tweaking the CSS to match the look (Beth helped a ton)—but I think it was worth it, because I get to maintain control.

If I were to score The Newsletter Plugin on its documentation I’d give them a B, or a B- on my frustrated days. The information seems to all be there, just not easy to navigate to. The other day, I saw a little lightbulb icon next to the window where you’re supposed to enter the newsletter email’s subject. Get Ideas it read. My subjects are set by default: ‘Shenny: [Random Thing I Recall About One Of My Sisters]’, but I was curious and clicked on it.

Here’s what I got:

What I love about these suggestions is how they assume you’ve got the content but have failed to figure out how to pitch it, that you’ve just written a killer newsletter about the secrets of certain famous people—like the Arquettes, say, or the Branch Davidians—and need help making sure your subscribers click. I doubly love just accepting these lines as actual word-for-word newsletter subjects. ’10 Ways to Simplify Your Something’ has a nice frank honesty to it, because does it really matter what? We all have a something we could simplify, just give us the ways.

However, who am I to second-guess the people who do newsletter marketing for a living? So I thought I’d try out some of these templates. Maybe I’ll generate some quality content for a future Shenny.

  • 10 Lies [a Minnesotan] Likes to Tell
  • How safe is your [hermit crab] from [being assaulted]?
  • Don’t do These 10 Things When [Chewing]
  • Get Rid of [A Broken Leg] Once and Forever
  • 10 Warning Signs That [Jesus Died For Your Sins]
  • How to End [An Unwanted Pregnancy]
  • 10 [Bedwetting] Mistakes That Make You Look Dumb

Newslettering is harder than I make it look.