August 29, 2017

Newsletters build community

Written by:
Patrick Holt

Tags: , ,

Hello there! My name is Patrick Holt, and I write a monthly, custom newsletter announcing new and notable comics and graphic novels for Durham County Library. I’m proud to say my work earned an ALA PR Xchange award, given out at ALA Annual 2017 in Chicago this June.

Mark Aaron Polger, Patrick Holt, and Lesli Baker

As I say in every edition, I’m a lifelong reader of comics and graphic novels, and I love that my newsletter encourages the library to help build a community around them. Here are some ways I think my newsletter succeeds at marketing our collections and engaging with readers. Maybe you can use these ideas to start a newsletter for a similar niche readership at your library, or maybe you can get some ideas that’ll make your awesome newsletter even more awesome!

First, I make it clear that a real-live person has written the newsletter by introducing myself and providing ways to contact me. Hearing patrons say they read about something “in your newsletter” tells me I’ve made an important connection. While I usually rely on book jackets and reviewers for book annotations, the ones I’m able to write are clearly in my voice rather than that of a publisher or magazine. Whether you want to sound snarky, playful, nerdy, or something else, let your voice come through. 

Each edition includes a section that announces relevant events -- book clubs, drawing groups, conventions, and more -- at the library and elsewhere. I also send out a full event list for Durham Comics Fest, our annual celebration of readers and creators. It's become an essential tool for getting the word out to our comics-loving community. If you don’t already know about local events that complement your newsletter, ask your readers for input -- or maybe it’s time to plan one yourself!

Finally, I make it pretty! I always include a big, splashy illustration at the top, a self-portrait in my intro, and an image for each of the books and events I write up. An attractive newsletter isn’t strictly necessary, but I believe it increases a subscriber’s interest in spending time with it. LibraryAware provides the book jacket images, and there are lots of great sites out there to find good free images to illustrate the rest. Plus NextReads lets you customize color palettes, select different fonts, and design your layout in the best way for your newsletter content.

So experiment, practice, and play around until you find the tone, extra content, and aesthetic that works for you – it only takes a little time, and it’s a great way to connect people with library and each other. Write me at to chat about using newsletters to promote comics or build your community!

Patrick Holt is an Adult Services Librarian with Durham County (NC)'s Southwest Regional Library.


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