How Agam More runs his developer trends newsletter (why a creative sign-up form helps, the importance of creating processes, ...)
Hello! Who are you and what newsletter did you start?
Hi, I’m Agam More. I started unzip.dev, a newsletter dedicated to unpacking trending developer concepts one at a time.
How did you launch it and what did you do to get the first 100 subscribers?
I started unzip.dev only after I saw that I could come up with more than 50 trend ideas. I wanted to validate that I have enough content ready before I start such a journey.
I launched it at the beginning of 2022, mainly to my developer network. I got about 100 subscribers that way. The rest started coming from posting to dev.to and Indie Hackers on a constant basis, as I created more and more interesting content.
What’s does your process for creating the content look like?
Ohh, that’s a good question. I maintain a Notion page with a growing list of trends. Every time I start a new issue, I go through that Notion page and pick a trend which is far enough from the last 2 issues I wrote, to ensure the newsletter doesn’t feel repetitive..
After I pick a trend, I create a new Notion page, following a template I created.
This helps me tackle writing in a more organized and structured way. I used a lot of ideas from a lovely newsletter called trends.vc, when working on my newsletter - so if you follow that one too my style might be familiar.
After creating the template, I start researching the topic, mainly via Google, YouTube, and friends that I know understand the topic well. Some of those friends are super helpful, like Tom Granot - who helped me start this journey and continues to help me in each and every issue. Tom, if you ever read this - you rock!
I then start by dumping everything I read in the research phase. After I feel like I have enough content, I start iterating over the content, editing lines, making things more coherent, and removing unnecessary text.
Eventually, I send it to a professional English editor as my written English isn’t the best yet (it’s a 2nd language for me + I’m too lazy to study it formally). After the editor is done, I send the newsletter out to friends who can further review the content for technical errors or unclear explanations which the editor might’ve missed.
Lastly, I like to create a Figma design for each concept - which really crystalizes my understanding.
When all that jazz is done, I post the issue and start marketing it.
What tools are you using to create, send, and grow the newsletter?
I have a post about it here. But basically, I use:
Ghost (self-hosted on render.com)
Fiverr for editing freelancer
Grammarly and/or language tool
Figma for the designs
Mailgun for the emails
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain subscribers?
The largest peak in my analytics came from hacker news (and similiar) websites, which - surprisingly - came to me organically and without any promotion. I had one post by someone who stumbled upon unzip.dev, and that I don’t know personally blow up my sub count from from 275 to over 2k (!) practically overnight. From what I’ve read many people liked the sign-up form I created for unzip, which helped Word-of-Mouth.
I do try to be consistent with posting every few weeks, posting on Twitter and adjacent communities when I see that it is relevant, since these bouts of luck are unpredictable
Generally speaking, this is my process:
Publish to subscribers.
Write about it on the @unzip_dev Twitter account including tagging relevant people (a great way for re-tweets).
Posting to 1-2 relevant communities.
Adding to Google search console (each issue is published to the web-based blog).
And keeping the issue in mind when I see relevant discussions online.
Once in a while, I do cross-promotions when I find a good fit.
How are you doing today and what are your plans for the future?
I’m doing great, unzip.dev is consistently growing organically, and I can focus on creating the best content I can.
Other than unzip:
I also started teaching full-stack development at Masterschool.com ($100M seed) which is great.
On top of that I help developer-first companies grow (doing growth hacking, and strategy).
In my personal life, I’m digitally nomading, currently in Amsterdam.
What’s one piece of advice you’d like to share with someone who wants to get started or is just starting out?
Dismantle your weaknesses:
English review in my case - I use and pay a professional English editor to make sure I produce the best content I can.
Create processes & structure:
Notion pages. Keeping structure is something that helps me focus on high-quality content and organize hard topics in my head.
Learning from mistakes, I found, can be streamlined with good processes (checklists in my case).
Think about marketing and a unique value-prop:
There are so many other newsletters, why is yours different? Did you check if there is something relevant before you started? Did you make sure you have enough content to write for about at least one year?
How are you going to reach people? Writing for your mom is nice, but it won’t motivate you to write when you will have that party with friends on the weekend.
When you reach relevant people, how do you distinguish yourself?
I made sure to create a sticky landing page, where people would share the site just because it is original (this got me many shares on HN and even Twitter).
Be consistent & sticking to your plans:
Write, write and write! The more quality original content you produce, the better outcomes you will see.
Don’t be lazy, and follow the processes you made. I sent out one issue without following my process. I thought that I had everything good and ready but - unsurprisingly - I made a few mistakes that I don’t want to do again. Stick to your plan.
Creating content > curating content.
Make it easy for others to share your content, if you create original content you will have a much easier time getting shared and cross-promoted.
Where can we go to learn more?
On my Twitter @agammore or my site: agam.me and of course, check out unzip.dev ;)
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Sooo good! Love this… especially having the Notion framework. Super helpful.