Main Yakread improvements from last week:

So now Yakread is pretty easy to get started with! After you sign up you can start reading stuff right away, and the daily emails help to build a habit. Adding your own connections is optional.

I probably spent too much time fiddling around with different email providers, though I figured this would be a good time to do it before I start trying to grow Yakread's mailing list. The Sample uses Mailgun, which works fine. (Mailgun is also used by Substack and Ghost). However I am paying about $300/month, and Amazon SES was starting to look more attractive. Mailgun charges $0.80 for 1,000 emails which is a fairly standard price. SES only charges $0.10/1000 emails though. It doesn't get cheaper than that. The downsides are:

  1. It's a fairly barebones offering. Providers like Mailgun offer a bunch of dashboards and tools and stuff on top of the bare functionality of sending emails. Using SES is like buying in bulk from a warehouse or something.
  2. They have a pretty stringent/unpredictable review process.

I was ok with #1 since I often like to build my own tools anyway—it often doesn't take that long, and then the result is exactly tailored to my needs. However #2 ended up being the dealbreaker. And by that I mean, they didn't let me in. Immediately after I filled out the form describing my plans for using SES, I got this automated rejection:

Thank you for submitting your request to increase your sending limits. We are unable to grant your request at this time because we do not have enough information about your use case. [...]

I replied to the message with a few more details and some screenshots of emails I would be sending, then the next day received another canned response:

Thank you for providing us with additional information regarding your sending limits. We are unable to grant your request at this time.

We reviewed your request and determined that your use of Amazon SES could have a negative impact on our service. We are denying this request to prevent other Amazon SES customers from experiencing interruptions in service.

For security purposes, we are unable to provide specific details.

🤷‍♂️. Honestly I don't necessarily think this was a "bad" choice on their end: they know I had a brand new AWS account which no doubt increases the probability of me being a spammer. Maybe that's why I got the first rejection email immediately (clearly my application hadn't been reviewed by a human at that point). And since I'm a relatively small-time sender and AWS's primary customers are large enterprises, the potential revenue they'd get from me isn't enough to matter. Perhaps if I was already using AWS to host my servers and stuff I would've had a higher chance of getting accepted.

Anyway, at least I can now cross off the "Should I just use SES?" question that's been on my mind for a while! I signed up for Postmark instead which is at least still a bit cheaper than Mailgun, and it has a better reputation from what I've seen. I like it a lot. Very clean product and smooth setup. It's now my go-to email provider. Maybe I'll migrate The Sample to it eventually, but for now at least Yakread will use it.

Another provider I'm keeping my eye on is Mailersend. I've used it a couple times for random small stuff. It has pricing similar to Postmark, I think a bit more expensive at higher volumes but cheaper on the low end. Postmark seems a bit more tailored to developers, I think? Mailersend has a more featureful template builder and their landing page used to market it as a great solution for teams of developers and marketers/designers—i.e. a nice API and stuff for developers, but the other people on the team can handle the email design without having to go through the developers. However that's not important for me since I'm a team of one and I code all my email templates from scratch anyway. Postmark has a longer track record in any case and apparently has very fast delivery for transactional emails, so I think it's a slightly better fit for me. It also has a few other small things that are kind of nice but not really worth spending another paragraph on.

However if you send a lot of email and can get SES to let you in, that'd be worth a shot too!