Specialists in Internet Web Sites Since 1995
E-mail Discussion Lists:
How They Work
How They Help
How to Find the Best for You
© 1999 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D.
discussion lists are focused e-mail discussions for members only. You must be a
list member to participate in the discussions and to read the discussions.
How E-mail Discussion Lists Work
PubForum is a good example of an e-mail discussion list. PubForum is
dedicated to independent publishers, their questions and their solutions.
Interested parties join the list by sending an e-mail to:
After joining an e-mail discussion list, the member receives a copy of every
e-mail sent to the list members. Each member can ask questions by e-mail or
reply to any message from another member.
PubForum is a moderated discussion list. This means that the owner of the
list reviews every message sent to the list. The moderator strives to maintain
the clear focus of the discussion by eliminating any inappropriate messages.
Some e-mail discussion lists are extremely active, leading to 20-30 e-mail
responses per day. Such a large number of e-mails, when added our own personal
e-mail traffic, can become just another burden in a busy day. But most
discussion lists also offer a digest version.
When a list member signs up for the digest version, the member usually
receives only one e-mail per day from the list. That single e-mail contains all
of that days messages.
Receiving one e-mail from the list makes mail management much easier. Rather
than receiving 25 separate e-mails every day, the member receives only one
which he can save or read.
In digest version, the member opens the one e-mail of the day, then simply
uses the PageDown button to run through the e-mail as he reads. Using the
digest version of an e-mail discussion list is a quick and efficient way to
keep current on your topic of choice.
How E-mail Discussion Lists Help
If you like to talk about a topic, have questions on a topic, or want to
learn more about a topic, you should join a discussion list on that topic. In
addition, if you have a book or a Web site which might interest the members of
a list, you certainly want to tell them about your offering.
After you join a busy list, you will receive daily messages discussing the
topic of the list. That topic could be independent publishing, as in PubForum,
or it could be geneology, or geology, or air pollution, or racy stories, or
chicken farming, or WWII, or any area that interests you.
As the messages arrive, you can simply read and learn, or you can
participate in the discussion.
Although I encourage you to let everyone on the list know about your book on
the topic, we should avoid blatant self-promotion on a discussion list. The
best course is to respond to current messages with well-considered replies.
Respond with your expertise on the topic and end with your signature.
Your E-mail Signature
Just as a real-world business letter ends with:
All of your e-mails should end with your signature. For example, Joe
Blows e-mail signature might be:
Blow-by-Blow Enterprises, home of the book marketing wizards
Using your signature to explain who you are and what you offer is the
discussion list equivalent of the business card. Just as you dont force
your business card on everyone you meet, you dont force your information
on the discussion list members. Rather, you participate in discussion and use
your signature at the end of every message you send.
How to Find the Best E-mail Discussion Lists for You
My best e-mail discussion list will not necessarily be the best list for
you, even when we are interested in the same topic. Thats because every
list has its own personality. Some lists are light-hearted and funny, even when
the topic is fairly serious. Other lists are rigidly serious and pedantic,
while many tread a middle ground.
To find discussion lists in any topic, search on the topic in a search
engine or start at the discussion list directory Web site.
Join the lists that sound interesting and read the messages for a few days.
Evaluate the expertise of the people sending messages to the list, and evaluate
the tenor of the list. You will quickly see whether the list will be useful for
~ Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is an Information Architect
who publishes both in print and online. Contact her at
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