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Don't Send Your Author Newsletter Until You Meet Google's New Requirements

Google's Gmail team, along with Yahoo and Microsoft (Outlook and Hotmail), has begun the process of cracking down on junk mail of all kinds - not just spam, phishing, and virus-ridden pests, but also mail that is chronically ignored by recipients. As from this month (February 2024) the extended date of April 2024, there will be a number of requirements that need to be met before any bulk mail you send out will even be delivered. Google announced this change to email delivery conditions late last year, but, before we all panic, let's go through what you need to know if you’re planning on sending messages to your mailing list this year.

Firstly, though you may see some sources reassuring you that this applies only to marketers sending more than 5000 messages per day per domain, you still need to take this seriously even if your mailing list is smaller than that. The 5000 emails criteria is only what Google has stated so far; the other major players (Yahoo and Microsoft) might decide to put tighter controls in place. And since that is 5000 per day, someone sending five countdown emails during launch day to a list over 1000 could hit that limit without realising it. 

Even if your mailing list is tiny, or you haven’t even started yet, you’ll actually want to comply with these requirements. If you’ve had a presence on the internet long enough, you’re bound to have received emails from yourself… only you didn’t send them and they’re totally spam. The new measures will put an end to your emails being spoofed or even hijacked, so you can breathe a sigh of relief. Plus, there’ll be a lot less marketing hitting our inboxes from now on, so your messages have the potential to actually be seen while this space is a little quieter. It’s a great, big reset, and even some of the bigwigs are going to be starting (almost) from scratch again. 

The 2024 Email Changes as a Homemade Jelly Business Analogy

The way this all made sense in my brain was to think of it like selling something homemade like preserves or jelly/jam/marmalade. What we’ve all been doing is bottling our wares into plain mason jars with maybe a handwritten label and a pretty piece of cloth over the lid. Then we’ve taken these down to a supermarket, say Walmart, Tesco, or Woolworths (depending on where you are in the world). Walmart then slap their homebrand label onto your jars and give them to a courier to deliver them to the people you’ve told Walmart wanted these products (ignore the payment side of this analogy for the moment). The courier delivers the jars. Some people accept delivery, and open the jars, and are happy. Others complain. Some people have special boxes at their door for the courier to dump the jars into, and they may or may not check the box in case there’s something they want in there. But, in one or two massive apartment complexes, many people have actually moved out to avoid having to deal with the giant box of jars outside their door! 

The apartment complexes are the free email providers: Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc. And a half-empty complex is not good for business. (They can’t spy on you and generate statistics if you don’t use your account.)

The supermarkets are the bulk email delivery platforms like Constant Contact, Active Campaign, Mailerlite, MailChimp, etc. We’ve been borrowing their credentials up until now (the “homebrand” label). (Yes, even many of the bigwigs - this is why this change is actually a great opportunity for anyone with a small list or starting from scratch! We're all back on the starting line, building or rebuilding our sending reputations, and smaller lists have more time and leeway to get it right.)

From now on, this is how the process will work according to our analogy:

  • You can send your jars to the supermarket, but if they look the way they used to, the courier will simply leave them in the warehouse. 
  • Your jars must have your own branding label on them, with important information on it that identifies who made and sent these jars of “jelly”, and a full and complete list of every supermarket allowed to organised delivery of your jelly on your behalf. In email terms this is called SPF (Sender Policy Framework).  
  • You cannot send your jars from any of the free apartment complexes (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail). You must have your own “business premises” (a website or domain name that you can send emails from). 

  • Your jars must now have proper security seals – the buttons on the lids that pop up if the lid has been tampered with, plus a hidden security tag that’s a little like the anti-theft devices that set off the door alarm if the item hasn’t gone through the check out. This one sets off an alert if the code at the destination is not the same as the code at the source. In email terms this is DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail). 

  • You must also have a policy in place for what the courier is to do with any jars that seem suspicious – i.e., the buttons have popped up, the security codes don’t match, they’re asked to collect from Joe Soap’s Supadoopermarkkit instead of Walmart, etc. Are they to dump the jars? Deliver the jars to the customer’s spam box, or just deliver the jars as normal but send you a report about it? In email terms this is DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance). 
In addition, you will need to do a little housekeeping: 

Those people who moved out of the apartment complex rather than deal with spam? Gmail will be mass deleting all those accounts. Chances are when next you send to your mailing list there will be a lot of bounces. Clean those up straight away. 

Keep a check on who’s not opening your emails. It used to be fine to hang on to these people and hope they’ll browse through your past emails one day when they have time, but now the statistics show that if someone doesn’t read your email within 30 days, the chances of them getting to it after that are minute. You’ll want to unsubscribe these people because they will begin to impact on your spam complaint allowance. In the past, every spam complaint was counted as a proportion of your entire mailing list; now it’s a proportion of your active subscribers only (how Google knows this is scary to contemplate, but anyway). You’re much more likely to get a spam complaint from someone who’s forgotten who you are (i.e., they haven’t been reading your emails for months or years, and now (perhaps due to a suddenly quieter inbox) they see one and go “Who? What? Spam.” 

You will need to provide a one-click unsubscribe option. Don’t make it hard for folks to leave. Hoops will cost you. 

Finally, make sure your content is engaging and something that your readers want to open. Ask questions and get them to respond to you – this counts for a lot when it comes to assessing whether you’re a potential spammer or not. The tolerance for junk content has gone way down. This is good news for authors. We have a real chance to float to the top of the inbox this year. 

Elle Carter Neal is the author of the middle grade fantasy The Convoluted Key (first in the Draconian Rules series), the picture book I Own All the Blue, and teen science-fantasy novel Madison Lane and the Wand of Rasputin (first in the Grounded series). She is the editor of the re-release of Angela Brazil's 1910 book The Nicest Girl in the School. Elle is based in Melbourne, Australia. Find her at

Author photo by Amanda Meryle Photography

Images: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay; Hannah Grapp via Pexels; SHVETS production via Pexels; Cottonbro Studio via Pexels