Email Marketing: Your Secret Weapon

Email marketing is the most powerful tool at your disposal and not taking advantage of its unique benefits is really missing a trick. Here’s why.

I’m sure all of you know the power of having thousands of committed readers signed up to your mailing list, allowing you to send each new release into the charts. Even if you’re not there yet personally, this should be something you are aiming for. Every single author should have a mailing list and be seeking to actively grow it.

It’s not what you think

But before we fly through the basics and delve into more advanced topics, let’s be clear about something: email marketing is not about spam. It’s not about fake intimacy. It’s not about posing BS questions to create false engagement. And it’s not about bait-and-switches, contrived urgency, click-baiting subject lines, or other emotional tricks; that’s what cheesy internet marketers do.

It’s a huge mistake to look at someone doing email marketing in a slimy way and decide that email isn’t for you. There’s a right way and a wrong way to use every tool.

Example of a spammy use of email by an internet marketer sending sleazy messages every two days to a totally unengaged audience
Definitely don’t do this.

Email Marketing Basics

I recommend MailerLite (affiliate link) for the job, which is free for the first 1,000 subscribers and reasonably priced thereafter, has an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for creating pretty emails, enables you to slice-and-dice your lists whichever way you please, gives you a nice clean and clear interface, offers great customer service, and allows surprisingly powerful automations.

(Note: I switched to MailerLite from Mailchimp, for reasons detailed in this post – Time To Ditch Mailchimp? – which also recommends MailerLite alternatives for those with specific needs).

Also make sure to have an enticing call-to-action right at the end of all your books, pointing people towards a clean sign-up page on your website, so that you can capture as many of those readers as possible who were delighted with your story.

Okay. This is just the bare minimum reader-capturing apparatus that you should have in place, preferably with some form of welcome sequence too.

Writing good books, releasing as frequently as you can manage, and growing your list over time organically will get you going. But email marketing can do so much more for you than simply roll out launch announcements.

Reader Retention via Email

As authors, we have various techniques aimed at getting people to check out our work, whether that’s engaging in price promotions, giving our work away for free, buying a spot on various reader sites, advertising on Amazon, Facebook and BookBub, engaging in cross-promotions with other writers, beefing our review count by giving away ARCs – the list of such tactics is endless, and the amount of time and money and headspace we devote to these activities is considerable.

But you know what’s way easier than gaining a new customer? Keeping an old one.

In my book Strangers to Superfans (links to all retailers here) I break down the five stages that your Ideal Reader goes through in the transformation from stranger to superfan. And the various blockages along the way that can impede that process.

One of the biggest blockages is internal. Which is a diplomatic way of saying one of the biggest problems is you.

Marketing doesn’t end with a sale

Aside from assuming discoverability is our biggest challenge – and mistakenly devoting all our energy and focus into getting discovered – we also assume our job is done once the reader clicks the Buy button. Our prose will sweep them away. That rakish duke will make them swoon. And the battle-scarred captain will inspire enough loyalty among our reader-crew to get them through all ten books of our tentpole series. Right? Wrong.

Like all relationships, the relationship with your readers must be nurtured. Otherwise you will lose many along the way. We can’t be so arrogant to assume that we will instantly everyone’s favorite author overnight.

Remember that some readers get through a book a week. Retired readers can get through several! All those authors will be jockeying for position in the reader’s consciousness.

Whose work do you think they are more likely to read again? The author who releases the next book in the series five months later and hopes that Amazon recommends it to them? Or the author who convinces the reader to sign up to their mailing list?

Even out of those already working the mailing list angle, which writer is our hypothetical reader more likely to remember: one who doesn’t contact them again until the launch of the next book five months later? Or one who stays in touch regularly, building up a relationship by emailing them something of value (i.e. of genuine interest) every month or so?

There’s no contest. You can take any of those approaches; it’s your choice. But not having a refined email marketing strategy makes it much harder for you to retain readers. Which is a shame considering all the sweat expended getting them to buy those books you labored over.

Advanced Email Marketing

It’s not just with retaining readers where email marketing really shines. Your email list has all sorts of uses:

  • deepening engagement and relationships (creating superfans)
  • launching books into the stratosphere by concentrating sales during launch week
  • driving sales of backlist books your readers may have missed
  • boosting reviews by drawing from a pool of your most committed fans.

Some authors use their list to have a true back-and-forth with their readers – not the kind of fake engagement you see internet marketer types deploy. I know authors who have drawn from their subscriber list for beta readers. Others (me included!) have used their regular emails to flesh out book ideas – their list becoming a sounding board of sorts. More again rave about the having an open, direct channel with their readership, the psychological benefits of which should never be understated in what is largely a solitary profession.

But there’s more! Certain email strategies can help you gain readers too. Dangling something as a sign-up bonus is a very powerful way to drive sign-ups. Often referred to as a “cookie” or “reader magnet” it usually takes the form of a free book or story – but doesn’t need to. Writers can get very creative with this sign-up bonus and really tie it in to the universe of their books.

These books or bonuses – especially when exclusive – can be enticing enough to draw in new readers as well as existing fans, and then if you really are delivering value with your regular emails, and not just squeezing your list for sales, then you have a great chance of converting these “cold” readers into buyers and fans too.

I see it happen all the time: someone signs up to my list because they want the bonus book – you can’t get it anywhere else for all the money in the world. They hang around for a few weeks, seeing if the emails have any value to them. I make sure that any “ask” in my emails only comes after a succession of “gives.” And twhey might get several emails of genuine value before I push my work. Avoiding the hard sell can bring better results.

Unique Advantages of Email

“But wait!” you might cry, just as I was getting up to speed, “Why does all this have to be done by email? Don’t people use Facebook to talk to fans? Isn’t it better to put all this content out on social media or a blog where it actually has a chance of going viral?”

Fair points. So, let’s look at the unique advantages of email. Why is email the best tool for the job? What does it have over blogging or Facebook or anything else? These are good questions and worth teasing out.


That might be your name on your Facebook wall but you don’t own it. As you soon find out when you have to pay to make sure your Likes see your launch announcement. Or when you get thrown in Facebook jail by an errant AI.


Email converts like crazy. Nothing comes close to it. Compare the percentages on a Facebook or Amazon Ad versus an email to your list. Or to a lucrative BookBub Featured Deal. (Which are email blasts, lest you forget!).

When you are reading an email, you are far less distractable. Social media or any other web page can’t compare. Because email captures attention. Email converts.


Perhaps a by-product of the above, email is far more intimate. Maybe also down to the feeling that this is two-way communication. It feels like someone talking to you, rather than broadcasting to you via a blog or social media post. (And sometimes it really is two-way communication because an actual dialogue occurs.)


I know who is opening my emails, who is clicking on the links, and who is ignoring them completely. But I have no idea with my blog subscribers. I just get aggregated states on views and visits and link clicks. Facebook gives me data morsels here and there, but, again, only aggregated. I don’t know who are the solid core which see all my posts organically before I drop a dime (I don’t even know if it’s the same people, or different tranche each time). With email, I have all that data at my fingertips, well presented, and easily searchable. Digestible too – which is pretty important. I look at Google Analytics and I just want to close the window right away (and usually do). All this is important because…


Even if I did know who was missing my Facebook post, I wouldn’t be able to do much about it. But with email I can use segmentation. I can identify people who don’t open 5 or 10 emails in a row and try to re-engage them. Or cut them loose if they are irretrievable, keeping my costs down. But on Facebook, as I said in Strangers to Superfans:

those now-uninterested Likes keep accumulating like mercury in the body.”

This drives up your costs. It makes your content look unengaging to Facebook’s system. And it makes it harder for you to reach those who are interested.


If Twitter pulls a MySpace, all those followers I’ve accrued will disappear too. But when Mailchimp jacked up its prices, I was able to take my carefully cultivated mailing lists and move over to MailerLite. (The process was pretty straightforward, as detailed in my post Moving from Mailchimp to MailerLite.) But if Facebook runs into trouble and jacks up its prices, it will be a million times messier for you because you don’t own your Facebook Page. All your Likes you built up will be lost in time, like tears in the rain.

The Right Tool for the Job

It’s important to remember that it’s not either/or. As you may have noticed, this piece of content is coming to you from a blog. I also have a Facebook Page – indeed you may have seen this post on social media first and then clicked through to my blog. And I have an email list, of course.

All these different tools can achieve different things. A really slick content marketing strategy involves knowing what type of content should go out via what channel and in which form. Because all of these channels can act in symbiosis, and cross-pollinate each other.

(BTW, if you’re interested in learning more about content marketing generally, I’m covering the topic in a series of emails to my list at the moment, and by signing up here, you get access to the Email Archive and any episodes you missed.)

All this talk of content marketing strategies might be overwhelming for some, but take it step by step. Make sure to prioritize so that you aren’t spread to thin. And you don’t have to do all of it – this really must be stressed. An involved content marketing strategy is going to be much more important for a non-fiction author, for example.

Your priority, though, should be your email list, along with a website so there is a clean and slick place for readers to sign up. If you were only going to focus on one thing in the whole world of content marketing and email marketing make it that you will regularly email your readers – once a month is perfectly fine!

The unique advantages of email mean this is a tool you really shouldn’t ignore. Yes, you could use Facebook for customer retention. Yes, you could rely solely on advertising to get you new customers and to tell existing ones about new releases. But email is just so much better at customer retention and can save you so much money in advertising… if you do it right.

Authenticity or Bust

Doing it right starts with respecting your readers. Making sure you stay in touch with them regularly. (But only emailing them with something that has genuine value.) Make sure that any “ask” is surrounded by a string of “gives.” And by “ask” I mean any time you want something . Whether that’s a sale or a share or a review.

You might think you are doing readers a favor by not bothering them unless you have a new book. But what you are really doing is only turning up at their door when you want money from them. I made this mistake for years. It was only when I tried a different approach, that I could see the benefits of regular contact.

If you want help with any of this stuff, if you want to do email right, check out Newsletter Ninja. It’s the best book on the topic and changed my whole approach.

And whatever your approach to email is, don’t listen to anyone who tells you that email marketing doesn’t work just because spammers are a thing. That’s an incredibly limited view, one that could end up limiting your own potential.

Get More Help

I send out exclusive content every Friday to my mailing list subscribers. We get deep into the topic of email for authors, as well as the latest tricks with Facebook Ads or BookBub Ads. I also cover content marketing, reader targeting, and everything else under the sun that pertains to building audience and reaching readers.

By signing up to my list, you get access to the all the old emails too, as well as sneak previews of upcoming books (meaning you get the jump on the latest tricks strategies of everyone else), and exclusive discounts too.

You also get a FREE copy of Following – a book that you can’t get anywhere else! I strongly recommend that you join over ten thousand authors and sign up today because there are all sorts of bonuses you will enjoy.

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David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

230 Replies to “Email Marketing: Your Secret Weapon”

  1. Thank you Guru David! Following diligently along with Starting from Zero, finished Digital and almost done with Following. Quick questions about mailing list subscribers who don’t open: I built my list from a BookSweeps promo last month and have a MailerLite automation flow going. The welcome email had a 38% open rate, the next two had 26% and 30% open rates, respectively. Do you suggest re-sending that same welcome email to those who didn’t open the first time or creating a new one? Would I start a new subscriber list for that group? If not, do they enter the original automation flow? Thanks for your help!

  2. Excellent blog post! It’s information like this that help beginner authors the most. I agree that building an email list will definitely help authors to get one started on the right track. Thank you for sharing.

  3. I’m so glad you included Alinka’s emails – they do my head in!

    I genuinely enjoy emailing my readers. I don’t have a lot to offer in terms of regular books for sale because I can’t bring out a book every five months, so I send a free, exclusive short story they can’t get anywhere else. They’re like lunchtime reads to keep people familiar with my writing (and hopefully entertained!).

    But I always write my emails from a point of view of, ‘would my target reader like this?’ And my target reader is drawn from my existing subscribers who always reply 🙂

  4. Hi David

    I’ve enjoyed reading your emails and save them to go back to from time to time. What I have t seen is any suggestions for us writers who are starting from zero readers, not just a few, none. I could hold a meeting of my fans on a unicycle with me as the key note speaker and president of the william the writer appreciation club.

    Part of this is because my book, which is going to be a best seller, out performing the bible and Harry Potter, is not quite ready to release to the world yet. My adoring fans will have to wait a few more weeks while I finish the edits and get a cover designed. But in the mean time I’d like to spread the good news that the book they’ve all been waiting for is nearly here and I’m not sure where to start.

    Any advice would be gratefully received. I mean obviously it’s going to go viral without any help from anyone, the pope will be photographed reading a copy on the balcony before his Christmas Day address, but I thought I’d give you the chance to say “I knew him before he was famous” or “I taught him everything he knows.”



    1. Hi William, I cover this topic regularly, especially on my weekly marketing newsletter. Here’s an example:

      I actually did a whole series of emails called “Starting Fresh” – looking specifically at how an author would launch a new series depending on whether they were a big author starting a new series, an existing author launching a new pen name or working in a new genre, or a brand new author with no following, and so on. If you sign up to my mailing list you’ll get access to all those old emails. You can do that here:

  5. Hey David, have been getting hooked to your blog lately. Although I am not an author this is pretty helpful even for someone like me (I am an email marketing consultant). Btw – How is Mailerlite working for you so far. Anything that you didn’t like while moving away from Mailchimp?

    1. Thanks! I have sent 10-12 big campaigns via Mailerlite now with zero issues, and my automations have been running via Mailerlite now for 3 months without any problems. My open rates are up, and I’ve noticed via some test addresses that I’m signed up with that I’m far more likely to go into Inbox than Promotions now, even when I have a few images and links in the message. Which is wonderful obviously. So, hugely positive. Trying to think of a downside to balance this comment out a little, but haven’t hit one yet that I can think of. Customer service has been great for any minor wrinkles which popped up during and after the move too.

      Also seems more… consistent overall. Open rates would bounce around wildly with Mailchimp but seem much more predictable with Mailerlite. Also seems like I can find the thresholds – in terms of how many images to include in an email – which will trigger (likely) going into Spam/Promotions/Inbox with much more accuracy. Which is just so useful.

  6. I’m late to the article, but I think I’ll move my email lists to MailerLite asap, for various reasons. The biggest one, however, is that it’ll save me a bunch of money.

    And that alone is perfectly awesome.

  7. Speaking of mailing lists, committed readers, and repeated traffic, why did blogger give up RSS? It was possibly the closest thing they had to the power of mailing lists.

    The tech press effectively bashed RSS out of existence as it was supposedly difficult for ordinary users. Bloggers embraced social media and let RSS be forgotten and rot. Now many authors and creators are stuck with ephemeral, unfocused social traffic and running the treadmill of continually sharing posts and boosting them with paid ads.

    Time to dust off RSS?

    1. I know RSS has its (very passionate!) fans, but I think techy types overestimate its popularity outside their circles. From my perspective on this side of the fence, it has always been a tiny portion of the action, and, while I like to be as flexible as possible for my readers, there are a lot of disadvantages for bloggers when it comes to RSS.

      1. I agree, I’m sure the popularity of RSS is close to nonexistent these days. My point is both the tech press and bloggers contributed to its decline despite some key advantages, and they’re now facing the consequences.

      2. RSS isn’t dead and has its place, particularly for the reader, though is very difficult to manage in anyway as the producer of content. I use Feedly to watch for new blog posts from David, for example. It’s a great tool for me, as a reader, to read blog posts on my schedule as opposed to an email or social media post which has a greater sense of urgency.

        The bad news for the producer of content is that they have no way of knowing who their subscribers are, what tools they use, or anything else useful about them.

        P.S. – Most website software produces an RSS feed by default. Basically, that translates to dont worry too much about it because you can’t see the readers and you can’t control (much) the output. In my case, I make sure the featured image is visible and submit only the excerpt to my RSS feed. Thus, anyonw who follows me via RSS must come to my website to read anything, giving me a slight chance of capturing them on my email list.

  8. Several years have passed since I’ve used an email client. I won’t name it here since don’t think it comparable to Mail Chip or the alternatives I read about on your post. All this to say I am grateful for the timely information as I begin the process again.

  9. I read the first half of Newsletter Ninja, applied it and saw my list both grow and become so much more engaged. Then I got busy doing other stuff (writing my next book). You’ve inspired me to read the second half of the book!

  10. David,
    have you considered writing an article on creating more appealing fiction? Or discussing the market in terms of what sub-genres are selling better this year than last? Or even what zone Indies perform best in? Seriously, writing the right thing and doing it well has moved millions of copies for me, and I never do any advertising. I’ve taken seven college writing courses, and zero in marketing. I don’t even do much with email lists. I’m not saying marketing tools aren’t workable and important, just that there are other concerns that will have more impact on a new writer’s success.
    Just a thought,

    1. Ah, the thorniest problem of all: writing a good book which truly resonates.

      If you ever write an article like that, I’ll read the hell out of it.

  11. Just and FYI from someone who gets your posts via email.

    For some reason, the emails I get have no margins, so I can’t open the email and read it. I have to transfer the text into Word so the lines wrap properly. The text in the email is spread out and I have to scroll each line to read it.

    Not sure what causes this, but it renders the original email illegible.

    1. Oh that’s not good. I haven’t heard of this issue before (anyone else?) but if you could please forward me one of the emails and/or screenshot it, and let me know what email client you use and send that to mail AT davidgaughran DOT com I’d greatly appreciate it.

    1. Hmmm, I’m loath to say because other channels are set up better for image sharing and have native audiences who are so responsive to strong visuals (Instagram especially, which I know little about, then Facebook and the rest). I wouldn’t boot email from the pecking order in such a case even if, say, Instagram was your main channel for deepening engagement as it has so many of those unique benefits, but you would really need to ask someone who knows more about that, or look at what some other guys are doing in that space. Not my area! That said, one of the obvious drawbacks with Instagram is that none of those perfectly presented pictures link anywhere, which is a huge drawback for driving sales or traffic to Amazon or whatever. But I’m sure there are smart ways to combine the two.

      1. Austin is a great example of someone who offers lots of value in his newsletters. They usually contain several links that readers/creators might find interesting.

      2. Man, I so enjoyed Austin Kleon’s blog page that you linked to. Just what I needed. My issue with email servers is fear of being visually constrained, so my list remains exploding in gmail (a lot of manual labor). But at least there I know I can say/post/include/show/insert whatever I please….. Been hesitant to join MailerLite for fear of being creatively confined. What do you think? I love what Kleon’s doing, but he’s more all in on visuals than I am. Still wow.

        I really need a new (but exciting) email option!

        BTW, I appreciate your great energy and big heart. Nice to know you’re in Portugal rather than Ireland….better fit, I think, inspirationally.

    2. Look up Andrew Tischler on YouTube. He does a podcast and email newsletter as well and seems to have found a way to apply all this stuff to painting

  12. I’m thrilled about all the great hands-on information, I learned so much just readign your tips, and THANK you for sharing your knowledge with beginners like me.
    My question is this: I am based in Germany, do I do anything different with setting up a list at MailChimp, so is it for US/UK authors adn I should look into something else? I want to go international when releasing my books, and self-pub, to AVOID being limited in any way to my homeland. THANKS for your reply and keep up the wonderful work!

  13. Hmm it appears like your blog ate my first comment (it was extremely long) so I guess I’ll just sum it up what I submitted and say,
    I’m thoroughly enjoying your blog. I as well am an aspiring blog writer
    but I’m still new to everything. Do you have any
    suggestions for rookie blog writers? I’d definitely appreciate

  14. Mmmm. I’m building my newsletter list slowly. It only goes out once a month. I try to time it when I or other authors in my network have books on promotion. As far as reviews: David suggests in Let’s Get Visible to putting this little gem or some variation in the back of book right after The End.
    “Thank you for taking time to read [title]. If you enjoyed it, please consider telling your friends or posting a short review. Word of mouth is an author’s best friend and much appreciated.
    Thank you, (author name). Does it work? Since mid-November of 2013 (when I finally got my indie legs), almost 600 readers have written reviews and posted them AVP on Amazon–on three titles. I do not fill the back of my book with clutter which IMO are stumbling blocks to reviews. I add a single short blurb for one other title and a bio, which often gets mentioned in the reviews. I don’t want my reader to be distracted by excerpts to my other books before heading over to Amazon to write a review.

    Jackie Weger

      1. All super true, and I’ll add one more piece of advice that has worked wonders for me: Make the first book in a series free, and the FIRST CTA in the back of it is: “DID YOU LIKE THIS? I WILL GIVE YOU THE SECOND BOOK IN THE SERIES FOR FREE IF YOU WILL REVIEW THIS FIRST ONE.” Create a form on your site for them to do this. They review the book on Amazon, paste the URL to their review in the form, and send it to you. Then you email them a free ebook copy of the second book.

        1) You will get more reviews. People obviously wanted the first book for free. Why wouldn’t they want the second one for free, just for typing ten nice words about your book?

        2) You will get GOOD reviews. People won’t want the second book if they didn’t enjoy the second one! Every single review I’ve gathered this way has been 4 or 5 stars, and MOSTLY 5 stars.

        3) You are creating an even more gradual funnel. We all know that a free book is the best entrance point to a funnel because there’s literally NO friction. They don’t have to open their wallet. Converting those free reads to a paid read, however, is a little trickier. But for the second book, you just say, “Review and it’s free.” That’s easier (psychologically) than paying. So it’s a small step up from “free” to “free for a review,” but now that they’ve contributed, it’s an even smaller step up from “free for a review” for “only costs you a buck.”

        4) I don’t have hard data to prove this, but I THINK this discourages bad reviews. I say that only because both series I do this with have NEVER received a 1 or 2 star review on that first free book, and have received very few 3 star reviews. Psychologically, it makes sense. You’re reminding them that, hey, they got this book for free, and you’re even willing to give the second one for free in exchange for a review. If they DIDN’T like it, they see that message and feel like a douche if they were to go trash your book on Amazon.

  15. A few thoughts

    1) Great advice.

    2) For people who don’t have their own blog and traffic – Why not? It’s the only thing you really control.

    3) Very important to have DIRECT Channels to Readers that you Control 100%.

    a) Must be DIRECT. Not through someone else’s sites.
    b) You must Control them 100%.

    4) If you use FB and Twitter use that to channel traffic to your own blog and email list. Only 8% to 16% of FB Fans get updates. For emails – 100% of your email subscribers get updates.

    5) Use your books as marketing channels. Promote your other books. Promote your site.

    6) I’ve had people suggest having a free ebook to increase subscribers. It was great to see an example of how well this works. I’m going to steal that idea. Thanks!


    1. I don’t know, and I wouldn’t expect them to. I only build my list from my books. It takes longer — but I don’t know any way to get people on your list who have never heard of you before. That seems like “black hat” marketing, and something that will get your email list heavily penalized if it’s discovered (which it will be when people start unsubscribing).

      Unless I misunderstand greatly, the article talks about getting more and more people to convert from READERS to your LIST. Not ways to buy email lists (something you should never do).

  16. Okay, I’ll be the skunk at the garden party. Every article or blog post I’ve ever read about Email lists presupposes that you already have a sizable fan base – every single one of them! I’d to know if there are ways to build such a list to establish a fan base, or if there aren’t, I wish these articles would stipulate that.

  17. Thanks for this post, David and Nick! This morning I implemented a lot of this on my own site. I think one key factor here is something that wasn’t stressed in the article: there’s a lot of benefit to offering ONE thing for signing up. I’ve had middling success by saying, “Sign up and pick one of my books to get for free!” And that’s eight titles. By giving too many choices, people can get overwhelmed, and as soon as they start trying to decide you’re inviting them to back away. Today I’ve changed that. If they sign up, they get Rebel Yell — just that. It’s a pretty book with a nice cover, and hopefully that will be more effective than “SEE ALL THESE PRETTY THINGS WHICH ONE DO YOU WANT?”

  18. Reblogged this on and commented:
    Some great pointers here for anyone looking to build up an email list.

  19. This is Jerry and I’m an editor of Fiberead, a free translation service company. I’m wondering if you still own the Chinese right of ‘Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should; Transfection’?

  20. I have about 8500 people on my email list, and my click rates have steadily declined. I only send something when I have a new release, or if I have some free content built in.

    I love the idea of sending 99c books from other authors in my genre, and your suggestions for segmentation are fantastic.

    I’m gmail challenged right now. I’ve sent free content and people tell me they didn’t get the email, when in fact it was sitting in that %$#$ing promotions tab.

    Is there any way to wiggle around that gmail promotions tab?

    Thanks in advance!


  21. Great article. I’ve understood the importance of mailing lists for some time now but I’m always left wondering the same thing. When is the soonest an aspiring author should get a mailing list created? For instance if they are still working on what will be their debut novel/shorts should they wait until they have competed their works to begin list building?

  22. My question is, do you think the more you push email signups, people might just sign up with an email address reserved for signing up for spammy things on the internet? I have one of those addresses myself, and I think a lot of people probably do. I get kind of annoyed when people push me to sign up via email for things a lot.

  23. Coming across and reading your blog as been helpful for me. I want to become a writer, but it seems as though becoming an author is harder than I thought. I have just started thinking of different ways to reach an audience that might be interested in my writing. I have nothing published yet; I only have stories I have written throughout the years. When thinking of promoting my writing, I think of creating a blog and even my own personal website at some point. I think the largest audience-building method for my work would be my own personal website. I would be able to describe myself and my writing to the public. On this website I would hold discussions and questions so I could interact with the public and get advice one what people are more interested in reading. I want to be able to hear what individuals like to read so that I can gain more readers by taking their suggestions. This public interaction would also allow readers to see my personality and get to know me as not only an author but a person. Doing this would bring more readers to my novels. For readers who already read my genre and do not need as much convincing, they would still be able to see the different pieces I have written and get an idea of what to read next. Do you think this method works well for aspiring authors?

  24. Reblogged this on Jordan's Croft – Fiber Arts and commented:
    I’ve created a mailing list for Icy Road Publishing. You can blame David G. for it. LOL Because I’ve ‘known’ him for several years, on Authonomy and beyound, I’m willing to not only FOLLOW his advice, but to tell others about him.

    The ONLY thing I’m going to do with it is send out announcements for

  25. This advice is very good–but it assumes I have plenty of traffic to my website. I haven’t figured that one out, so I can’t act on your advice.

    1. Paolo – the big button on my home page takes readers through the signup process, then sends them a free book. I also put links on all the other pages, but go look at the home page again – it’s the “find out more” button. Have a click around 🙂

  26. Do I understand correctly that Nick advises not to prominently link the newsletter signup page from the author site or blog, but only from specific traffic funnels? His author site seems to have only one indirect link (a radio button) to the signup page buried in the About // Contact page.

  27. Really interesting and informative, thanks! Still have to pull my thumb out and create a mailing list. Nick’s blog/site, by way of example, was fantastically well done, particularly the free ebook signup process. Very slick, and worth emulating… now all we need is a ‘how to’ guide… :0)

  28. Also I very rarely reblog as I am not sure what the etiquette on that is, but I think this is an article that will be helpful to many. So I am reblogging.

  29. Reblogged this on Welcome to Writers Town and commented:
    Also I very rarely reblog as I am not sure what the etiquette on that is, but I think this is an article that will be helpful to many. So I am reblogging.

  30. I found this so helpful. These are questions developing writers have to tackle these days and you provide a comforting answer to the questions that plague. Thank you so much for providing this information.

  31. Reblogged this on I Read Encyclopedias for Fun and commented:
    I think I’ll be reblogging a few posts that provide advice and tips today. Here’s the second. This time, some tips from author Nick Stephenson on David Gaughran’s blog for building a great email list. This can be a great way to inform fans and readers of your updates and new books directly. I think I should start doing this, too.

  32. I always enjoy your posts David, but this guest post has really made me think about how little I market, and how badly I do what little I do,do. -grin- Some great ideas here. Thanks to both of you.

    1. Currently, each book in the series has a list of the series titles in front and in back and at the end of the list is the direction to sign-up to be alerted when Book 5 releases. Book 5 is still a WIP, so I don’t have a firm date to share yet, but I’ve talked about progress and posted teasers since I know readers are waiting for it.

      One problem I have is that I’ve never had a talkative audience. All those things that normally work to get readers conversing with an author haven’t moved my readers at all and I know that’s part of the difficulty. If some of them hadn’t come and left reviews on my site or on Facebook to let me know they’re passionate about the characters, I’d be completely in the dark.

      Anyway, I always promote the mailing list at the end of blog posts and stuff, but my desk time is limited due to chronic health issues, so I’m a slow writer. I think I started my mailing list last Sept., and I’m recently up to 66 subscribers. It would technically be more, but I had several that never opened one e-mail, so I ended up deleting them from the list. Currently have a 54.8% open rate and 9.5% click rate.

    2. CK, in terms of getting more free downloads, I have found the free ebook submission tool at to be invaluable. You have to pay $15.00 every time you use it, but it garners me TONS of downloads. They access more sites than, say AMC’s free book submission page (though that’s great, too). Just a recommendation to get even more people to your free book and hopefully onto your email list!

  33. A lot of great ideas here! I’ve been thinking about giving away a free short story with email subscribers so I’m definitely going to implement this soon.

    Just one note, it’s against the Amazon Affiliates TOS to send affiliate links via email. I’m not sure what other affiliates allow this so be careful! 🙂

    1. Hi CK.

      There are two parts to the puzzle. Mailing list sign-ups will be a function of the traffic you are driving to places where you have a link to your mailing list sign-up. So even if you have all the right things in place, if you aren’t pushing any traffic to those links, you won’t see an uptick.

      For the links in your books (I need to start putting them in the front too, along with a short blurb – I see more readers asking for this), those will obviously be a function of sales, and increasing traffic to those links will involve all the usual advice for increasing sales.

      This can be frustrating at the start – it seems like a chicken/egg situation, i.e. you need a bigger list to increase sales, but you need increased sales to get a bigger list. But you have to persevere. Make sure the text around the sign-up link is enticing. If possible, try and tailor it to the book in question. This is particularly easy to do if you have a series, but it’s possible in any situation. With a series, you can say something like “The next Buster Grogan adventure will be released shortly. Sign up here [clickable link] to get an automatic email when it is released.” etc. But you can do it with standalones too. E.g. “I’ll be releasing another novella about star-crossed rocket scientists in the next few months, sign up here…” etc.

      Each time you have a sales spike – from a 99c sale, or an ad, or a big review site/guest spot etc. – you should see a corresponding uptick in mailing list sign-ups. Then the next time you release a book, you should be able to throw it a little higher in the rankings, and grab a few more names. It takes a while to build, but keep at it and you’ll soon see a difference.

      For a permafree book, you have to keep throwing exposure at it, and the best way is through ads on that book. But make sure you are cross-promoting that freebie wherever you can – on your site/blog, and in the blurbs of your other books. The latter is especially important to catch any spill-over for when those books get any exposure/ads/sales spikes etc.

      Finally, for mailing list sign-up links that are not in your books, and are on your site etc., try and push whatever traffic to them you can. So if you are doing an interview somewhere, make sure to mention that readers can try your work for free, and including the (clickable) link to the page where they can download your book and sign-up to your list. Make sure to mention it anywhere else you can think of that readers might see, in your bios, about pages, Amazon author pages etc. Some places won’t allow hotlinks, so skirt around that by telling readers to go to your site. And so forth.

  34. Thank you very much for these tips that are so easy (and free) to apply. I’ve just recently published and I’m trying to focus on the important parts of marketing and promoting. This is a straight forward message that email lists should be a top priority. I’ve just now created the sign up page to my site, and I plan on using the other tips shortly.

  35. So, what do you do if you make it super easy to sign up for the mailing list (including in front and back matter of a free book) and all that, and still aren’t getting many sign-ups? I even have a series book readers are waiting for and made it clear that news will be in the newsletter, but the list is still really small. After doing any incentives I can think of, I’m boggled.

  36. Thank you David, what great info! I am a new aspiring fictional christian author, just working on my 1st book. Sadly being christian, my sales will probably be lower, but it is a genre I refuse to give up. My hope is that my books will grab readers of both christian and non-christian alike. It was suggested to me, by my mother actually, to try and get my name out there before I was ready to publish. I thought that was great advice. So I set up a web page on wordpress where I post inspirational blogs, poems, and short stories. I also went to twitter, for audience.

    The advice you give here has been very helpful. It’s a scary thought but I am considering through your advice removing all of my widget buttons and leaving just the email sign up. Your advice is wonderful and greatly appreciated (-:
    ~Heather Ann~

  37. Great tips, thanks so much for sharing. I haven’t been focusing as much on building my email list as I should, but I did make some changes to my website today that I hope will help. These are some great tips, too.

  38. Thank you! This a fantastic article with some really great advice. It’s use goes far beyond book sales, it can literally be used to contact with clients regardless of the sales vehicle. Thanks again for taking the time to write this piece.

  39. I really had trouble setting up mailchimp, getting the account was easy but having the widget connection took an entire weekend, and a tech guy from CreativeSmitten via Mojo helped me. I still don’t have the double opt-in confirm type of widget, just the single opt-in. So conforming with this rule is easier said than done. I finally gave up on having that, at least for now. I think I’ll upload the first books in my series to Noisetrade and hopefully I can just download the email addresses and keep my own list. I’ve tested the mailchimp three times, and it works and the email registers every time, so I don’t know how mailchimp enforces the double opt-in rule. Ya, this was a great idea, it’s an excellent site, very navigable using smooth Frisco-style software.

  40. Hi David, Long time follower, first time ‘commenter’. I was very excited when I initially read this post and was inspired to give it a go myself… but the risk manager within wanted to see how you progressed with this one. Any follow up posts/comments on how this worked for you? I think what’s key for many authors out there wanting to build their subscription list, is that you grab these opportunities early, before everyone else joins the band wagon (maybe I’m too late already!). Marti

    1. I talked about the results a little here:

      But note that, from what I can tell, writing/publishing books seem to be outperforming the rest by a good stretch (unless you are Koontz or Picoult). Definitely a no-brainer for a perma-free. And it didn’t seem to cannibalize my sales. But that’s a sample of one, and I wouldn’t necessarily go and throw everything up there permanently or anything like that. But it’s worth experimenting with (or watching other authors do it – I’ve seen a couple of posts lately about NoiseTrade) and/or watching how the site grows.

      1. Hi David, Just a courtesy update to thank you once again for the feedback and to let you know how I went. Pleased to report, my subscription list is finally off to a good start. I agree with your comments regarding writing/publishing books outperforming other categories (dung beetle picture books are obviously suited to a niche market). I haven’t had spamming problems (I use MailChimp too). I did add extra text to the book blurb, along the lines of ‘Download my book now and also receive my monthly newsletter’. Once again thanks. Marti

  41. Thanks for the article David. I uploaded one of my novels (the first in a series) to NoiseTrade a few weeks ago and have been happy with the results so far. It’s a great marketing tool and, as you mention, an ideal way to let readers get acquainted with the first book in a series. I also just downloaded your book and, as an indie writer from the 1990s who has some catching up to do on all the new platforms available to independent authors, I’m looking forward to reading it. One small quibble with your post: You mentioned that by uploading books to NoiseTrade one is putting them in the “public domain,” which is not at all the case. I’m sure you know that a work that falls under public domain is one that’s no longer under copyright protection, either because the copyright term has expired or it didn’t meet the requirements for copyright in the first place. Authors who upload their work to NoiseTrade retain their full copyright ownership in the work; the work is not being put in the public domain. Perhaps you meant to say something along the lines of making one’s book files “freely accessible” or “publicly available” can be a cause for concern among authors (and I share this concern but am willing to take the risk on NoiseTrade). Thanks again and best wishes to you.

  42. Reblogged this on The Author Who Supports and commented:
    Hi guys, thought this was a cool idea for creatives trying to get downloads…could be worth a go to spark interest in your book and build your readership. Let me know if you give it a go, I’d love to hear your experience…thanks!

  43. Hi David:
    Thanks for this. Have uploaded & been offered a spot on their newsletter but the mail looks a bit generic. Did you do this and was it worth the money? I have a new release due & am hesitantly wondering if it might be worth a spot of investment in that. Any advice?


    1. Hey. I didn’t take a spot in the newsletter. Downloads were going well without it so it wasn’t a hard decision. It’s tough to say whether it’s worth it or not. I won’t be able to place a value on the email addresses collected for my mailing list until I first contact them and see what the response is. I will probably do some kind of follow up post, so it might be easier to figure out all that soon enough.

      I did see a few indie names in the mailer, so you could always try contacting them to see if they paid for a spot and if they felt it was worth it. Just make sure you are comparing like with like in terms of genre, and whether it’s the first book in a series that they are advertising (which has the potential of sell-through to the other installments etc.).

      For the prices I saw, you can get lots more downloads with other sites. But the twist here is the mailing list boost – and I can’t say what that’s worth just yet.

  44. Great post David. For someone thinking of starting out as an Indie, and looking of ways to build up a mailing list this comes as bang on target. Thanking for posting such relevant and timely information. Will try to follow your posts for more such great tips. One more piece of advice required. When starting out as an Indie, an author should focus on low cost and more customers or respectable costs but less readers?

  45. I love the Noisetrade idea and have a book on it myself. However, I hope they change their search criteria. Currently, it’s set up in a way that works better for the music industry–by like artists. For books, it should allow for more specific keywords. It’s hard to find exactly what you’re looking for there. ‘Like authors’ doesn’t cut it for me. Hope the upgrade!

  46. Oh wow… David, thank you so much for this.

    In case anyone is feeling squeamish about giving away a free book, it’s COMPLETELY worth it in this case. Building your email list = making money long term. Think of it as a great investment that just costs you time.

  47. I hopped on a few weeks ago after I saw a Hugh Howey link to his book on it. So far, I’ve been pleased at my visibility (I’m a teeny fish in this pond) and the number of downloads/email addresses. I also saw a nice bump in sales on other books in my series over at Amazon… (I need to put new links in the NoiseTrade version to better track if that caused the bump)

  48. This is great, David. I had some technical promblems downloading your book to my phone last night – I emailed support but haven’t heard back yet. Anyway, I managed to sort it this morning on my own by connecting my phone to my computer where I did manage to download the mobi file – all is good and I’m looking forward to reading it shortly. As for your question about follow-up emails asking for an opt-in conformation, I would find that more than polite given most people know plugging your email into a website in exchange for something free usually means you’ve been added to their list. Great work. I will try this myself when my first ebook is ready to go 🙂

  49. Just tried to download a book, without much success. Could be my browser [Opera] or possibly time of day [early morning Australia, afternoon? in the US].

  50. Thanks for sharing David! I wasn’t aware of NoiseTrade. My only concern is Amazon not being happy about it, but I’ve uploaded my novel so I guess I’m rolling the dice alongside you.
    I bought Let’s Get Visible when it first came out. Definitely a must-read for any indie author 🙂

    1. Thanks for that extra detail, and I’ll check out the podcast.

      A question: If you received an email which said something like “Thank you for downloading X, if you want to be added to the mailing list for future releases, click here”… how would you feel about that?

  51. As a regular user of Noise Trade and after listening to the founder, Derek Webb discuss his intentions creating the site, (, the emails are meant to be free market research, not as a mailing list thing. I think I’ve received emails from artists, but it’s not a surprise. (If so, it’s a welcome one.) You basically give them the right to do that by typing your email in for your download. They have done this for years and Derek is pretty strict on artists’ rights. I trust him and NoiseTrade. I am going to try and add an excerpt from my book there- the same content as in the preview on CreateSpace. You can’t lose, I say!

    1. I haven’t interacted much with other downloaders, but for me, personally, I’d say yes. When I give my email address, I do expect to be added to an email list. And if I like the artist’s music, then I love receiving their updates. If I don’t like the music, it’s easy to unsubscribe.

  52. This is great news all around! I’ve loved the indie music on NoiseTrade for ages, how cool that writers can take advantage of it now too! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

    1. That’s weird. I just did it now myself as a test and didn’t get anything like that at all. I don’t know what’s the cause as I can’t replicate. I’m wondering if it is some spyware from elsewhere, or if it’s an issue native to the site. Can you give more info? At what step did the issue arise? I clicked on “Download Ebook” then a screen popped up asking for my email address and if I wanted to tip, then a second screen came up with a choice of file formats. And I downloaded the mobi with no issues.

    1. There are some big names with sample chapters up there (Dean Koontz), short stories (Jodie Picoult), and full novels (Hugh Howey), and I can see advantages to all of those. Probably pick of the bunch is a permafree first in the series. In that case you have nothing to lose in terms of any cannibalization of sales on Amazon (except some small visibility loss perhaps – more than offset by boosting your list IMO). I decided to put my biggest seller up there. That’s more of a risk, but Visible is in a slow patch right now anyway, so I figured what the hell. I’m doing little to promote it at the moment as I’m keeping my powder dry until the 2nd edition of Digital goes live. But this allows me to collect emails of people who might be interested in purchasing that when it’s out, so I’m willing to chance it.

    1. Sure. I get there’s a fine line here – but that goes for anytime we put communications into the world whether they fall under the ambit of spam legislation or not. I guess what I’m saying is that it’s all about how you do it. If you follow up the free download with a polite Welcome message (or whatever) asking if they want to be added to your list announcing future new releases (or whatever), then I think that’s going to be fine. And you wouldn’t have to do it individually, you could do it with one (bcc) email if you wanted.

  53. Wow. Thanks for the info. I do worry about the Amazon Price Matching thing, but the fact that you can do short stories, samples and other works is good to know.

    1. Hmmm, lemme see… So I was going to segregate this list anyway – to monitor performance against the list in general. I guess I could mail them a Hello Email, and get them to double opt-in at that point. Should be pretty easy, and maybe it will weed out anyone that doesn’t want to truly be on the list (which I really want to do).

      EDIT: And I’ll add a note to the post to read the comments for important CAN-SPAM info – thanks!

  54. Yes, very clever. As long as you’re building YOUR email list. I’m assuming they let you integrate into your own service provider like Aweber/Mailchimp?

    1. Hey Jim – sorry that could have been written better. You can download a spreadsheet at any time with the email addresses of everyone that has downloaded your book. So it’s building your list, no worries on that front! I’ll change the above to make it clearer.

      1. So the only issue with that is it’s not can-spam compliant then. Adding someone to an email list that that they didn’t “click to confirm” or “double opt-in” for is against the rules of the FTC. The way around that then is to NOT take the spreadsheet and add them to Mailchimp/Aweber, and personally email every person one by one. That’s not spam, technically.

        But doing it the other way is. Tread lightly. I wouldn’t do it.

        I still think this is a smart idea, but it needs to have third-party email integration built-in for those reasons stated above. I’m very sensitive to can-spam and playing by the rules as I send out a lot of emails (only double opted in confirmed) for my businesses. If they add that in, I’d recommend it and use it.

      2. The other option, David, is for them to double-opt in the person into a list on their mail platform and let you send to it. But then, you’re building their email list. They own it. Technically you’re also relying on them to be can-spam compliant. Again, not something I would do. The only way this really makes sense is to add a third-party email integration in.

        Or to your other point below, you “could” personally email every person and ask them to double opt in to a list. But that would take time, and frankly, it’s klunky, and borderline spammy. I’m just saying, many people, will take it as spam. Email is a tough thing. It has to be done right to avoid pitfalls.

  55. Hi David,

    This is a really useful information, so thank you for writing such a great post. I’m having a bit of a dilemma about it all though.

    Are there any tips for avoiding publicly posting your home address on Mail Chimp?

    The only reason I ask is that unless you agree to publicly post your home address, they won’t let you use their service, and they quote ‘international spam laws’ at you instead.

    Which spam laws insist you post your home address in every email you send? Seriously, is that even real? Anyway, The reason I am a tad wary of this is that some BS company in India has already used my home phone number fraudulently, so I had to have it changed and submit police reports to the online fraud squad in the UK. I’d had that phone number for twenty years. It was awful seeing it get stolen like that.

    Anyway, this newsletter seems to post my home address to every person who signs up for it, and I’m not flippin’ moving because someone steals my house online. So, are there any hints about how to avoid posting your personal information all over mail chimp, or is privacy invasion a cost of using their service?

    1. Hi Claire – There are a few ways you can get around giving out your home address. Some people use their business address or that of a relative. Others pay a small amount to a business address service or hire a PO Box.

      1. Thanks, David. I might try a PO Box. My relatives would have me shot if I used their addresses lol, but I checked on the Royal Mail site, and the pricing isn’t too bad for a PO Box.

        It is a great newsletter software, I’m just wary of posting my address on it. Thanks again :).

      2. I understand it on some level, but I guess I don’t see newsletters as spam. You know, if I sign up for one, then I’ve requested it. That’s not spam. Spam is emails that I don’t want. Although, from what I read on Mail Chimp, it seems that some people have unauthorised mailing lists, and that’s probably the problem. Unless the email is unwanted, I don’t see why it needs an address, but a PO Box should do the trick. 🙂

        I did chuckle at the:
        Content is exempt if it consists of:
        religious messages;
        political messages;
        content that broadly complies with the marketing mechanisms specified in the law; or
        national security messages.

        So, no addresses needed for politicians, lawyers, priests or government bodies because those are always trustworthy… er, apparently :p.

      3. I *think* services like MailChimp are uber-careful so that they don’t get flagged as spammy by email providers like Gmail. I don’t know if this is stuff that people like Gmail watch in particular, or whether keeping their nose extra clean acts as a deterrent from shadier types using their service, but MailChimp has a great record at avoiding spam filters (which is crucial) and I imagine they want to keep it that way.

      4. I think you’re right. That kind of security does help us out in the long run. Unfortunately, like every other part of the net, someone somewhere has used a good thing to do something bad, so security levels need to be stricter because of it. But at least with Mail Chimp, the emails will land in the right inboxes and not the junk mail.

        In my experience, an email can be blacklisted for all kinds of things. I regularly get blocked from Comcast because I’m British, which can be awkward when trying to talk to my American friends. Usually, I advise them not to use Comcast, assuming they get my email.

        I guess most companies use mailing lists for advertising their wares, and in some respects authors are the same, but it gets a bit awkward when you’re a public figure rather than a company, which I don’t think is factored into the system.

        I imagine someone really famous trying to set up a mailing list and having to use their home address to do it, and just can’t see it happening. But then, they probably have publicists who do it for them. At the end of the day, I guess the system isn’t built for individuals. It’s built for companies, so I’ll just have to adapt and stop complaining :). But thank you for the advice. At least there is a way I can use the system. My next challenge is to see if anyone actually signs up for a newsletter :p. I hope so.

  56. I believe that there are a lot of new opportunities for authors to gain exposure to their books, especially self-published authors. What I am referring to is subscription-based reading.

    A couple months back, came out with unlimited reading for $9.95 per month. Then, this month, launched and offered unlimited reading for $8.95 per month. Then another company, announced that they are launching in February, 2014 and will be offering unlimited reading for $4.95 per month.

    How good are the royalties? Well, with oysterbooks and scribd, they don’t publish their royalty model however, NOKBOK does. From what I understand, they take all gross revenue from their website each month, from all sources including advertising and 10% goes to charity, 30% to NOKBOK to operate the site and the remaining 60% goes back to the authors in the form of royalties. Sounds like they take this total and divide it by all reads, for all books, to get a royalty per read. Then they pay you the royalty per read times the number of reads your book got.

    The good thing about subscription-based sites is that the reader has no risk. If I am an unknown author, who is going to pay to read my book? They don’t want to pay money and take the risk. However, if the reader can read one book or a thousand books for $4.95 per month, my book has a much better chance of being read and reviewed. If reviews are good, I’ll receive more and more reads which means more and more royalties.

    So in summary, I believe that self-marketing may become less and less important. Authors may choose these sites as opposed to placing their books with a publisher because the royalty rates will be much higher and for $4.95 per month, the readers will certainly be there looking for good material to read.

  57. David – HOW does one add a Mailchimp signup form to an ebook? It’s not obvious. Might be worth blogging about this, because I can’t find the information anywhere. (I’m using Scrivener to create my Kindly and epub files, by the way).

  58. High five on a fantastic post. Thanks David! I hope you don’t mind if I copied your mailing list link page formatting. I really enjoyed how clean you made it. MailChimp is slick like that once you turn the dials. Thanks to this post, you helped me learn how 🙂

    Thanks for putting out great stuff – just finished Let’s Get Digital and your podcast with Joanna Penn. Off to pick up Let’s Get Visible…

  59. David, I started with MailChimp but ran into a problem; my home address is listed on the confirmation message and I cannot see how to remove that. My search for a solution has not been successful. Is there any way to remove the address from the confirmation message? Thanks!

    1. Hi Melissa, As far as I’m aware, you have to provide a postal address of some sort to comply with CAN-SPAM legislation. Some people choose to get a PO Box or use some other business address.

      1. Oh that’s interesting. Okay, well, check out their subscriber/send limits etc. to make sure you don’t have to switch too quickly etc. (And let us know what TinyLetter is like to use!)

  60. The author with the biggest mailing list wins indeed. However, It’s not just about sheer number of subscribers. If you have a large mailing list but terrible engagement and open rates then a list isn’t worth much. It’s all about degree of trust and engagement.

    A loyal email list is worth a lot of money. If you can email 10,000 list subscribers and 10% of them (1,000) end up buying a $20 book you’ll generate $20,000 with one email. Pretty good. Amplify the numbers to 100,000 list subscribers and it starts to get scary. You would generate $200,000 in book sales with one single email. All because you have a large mailing list of people who love everything you do, make and send.

    A more accurate statement might be: “The author with the biggest mailing list of ideal fans and customers who adore everything he/she does, makes and sends wins”.

    For a few dozen more ideas on growing a mailing list check out this post:

  61. If you have a website with decent traffic, you’re going to benefit from giving (one of) your books away for free. Or you could give away the first chapter that has an amazing opening ending in a cliffhanger.

  62. I am in the process of converting my backlist of three thrillers published between 1990-2002. The film rights for one were sold, and another was an international bestseller. I own the rights to them. Should I upload them all to KDP Select at the same time, or just do one? I know that this doesn’t have much to do with MailChimp, etc., but it’s a question that needs answering.

  63. David, Thanks for this post! Lots of great information and it reminded me to link Facebook with MailChimp. So that’s something I can cross off my list. 🙂 Really looking forward to Let’s Get Visible, because I’m certain it will contain a few golden nuggets.

  64. If you’re having trouble getting people to sign UP for your mailing list, here’s a few ideas:

    When you do a giveaway as part of a blog tour, or social media chat (like take a week and chat every day at a certain time on the #giveaways about your, um giveaway, on Twitter) direct people to sign up for your newsletter to enter. This will allow you to capture their information and save you from having to transfer information over from Rafflecopter.

    Last year, this time, I did a blog tour of virtually signing ebook files for each reader, so each reader had a completely unique file emailed to them. My email newsletter form asked them which format they needed (so I know who has a kindle and who has a nook), and one of their hobbies so I could make it clear it was a note JUST for them. In the email I sent back, another individual thing, I explained how to sideload the file. This brought me 249 new signups to my newsletter when before I had NONE.

    Finally, another idea would be for authors in a similar genre to band together and agree that when one has a new release, or runs a big sale (like $.99) and with no greater frequency than once per month, you will all alert your newsletter people, perhaps even including a special message from the other author him or herself. Readers like to be treated like they are special and in the know, at least the ones who reach out to hear from authors do. Never forget, to all of them, we’re ALL bestsellers and it’s neat to say “Oh yeah, this book I’m reading? Yeah, I know the author.”

    Make sure you always make the ASK, ask for people to signup for your newsletter, ask in the email for them to forward their newsletter to a friend they know also reads book like these, ask for the sale “Why not try TITLE by AUTHOR for only 99 cents and enjoy the few hours escape to SETTING?”

    BTW I LOVE mailchimp, David. And the stats after you send out a email are cool to see who opened, who didn’t, who clicked, etc. Lists are great too so you can narrow your focus even more for certain events when you want to reward loyal followers.

  65. One of the last things I want is another mailing list clumping up in my inbox. I never end up reading them. I hardly even look at the title as I delete it. Or, I never see it at all if I set a filter up to move it to it’s own folder in my email account. Some day when I think about how much junk I have in my email account I just go ahead and delete it all, all the contents in the folder and then I might go to the website to unsubscribe. I don’t trust the unsubscribe stuff though so it’s easier to avoid ever signing up for email lists or just let them pour in to be filtered out and deleted later.

  66. Great post, David, and even better to have you back. I hope Let’s Get Visible isn’t treating you too badly, or I’ll have a word!

    I’ve had a mailing list for a few months now, and link to it in the back of all my books. I also link to my Facebook and Twittet profiles, and have had more success with the latter (a flurry of likes after a recent big free promo), but it’s always good to have the option there for people.

    And y’know, it’s a great tool to have for, what, five minutes of work?


  67. David, clear and helpful as always. To be honest, I’m continually amazed at the number of self-published writers that don’t request reviews and invite readers to contact them in the back matter of their books. I can’t speak for everyone, but in my experience it’s been the single most effective thing I’ve done. I believe a reader’s interest is fairly perishable, and if they just completed your book and feel good about it, you’ve really a very small window to motivate them to act on that positive feeling. I ask for both reviews and direct feedback.

    Another area that I seldom see discussed much is correspondence with readers. That’s more a personal thing with me, because I’m admittedly not very good at social media. I much prefer to engage readers who contact me in one-on-one correspondence, and I maintain a running correspondence with many of them, based on friendship and shared interests. They’ve become not just readers or customers, but friends.

    The correspondence does take time, but I don’t regret a minute of it, because I enjoy it, and readers in return have been amazingly loyal and supportive. When I launched my second thriller in September, I had two dozen reviews in a week, and fifty before the month was out, and DEADLY COAST was a solid seller from day one. It is a cumulative process, and the list grows slowly, a few each week. But in my view, it’s the old question of quality vs. quantity. I believe 500 fiercely loyal readers trump 5,000 mildly interested readers every time.

    And the entire process starts, as you pointed out, with a compelling invitation in your back matter. Thanks again for a great post.

  68. You can create several different types of lists as well. One for new releases and maybe another like an “insiders” list. They see blog posts and other content before everyone else.

  69. Great post, David. Any pointers on gathering email addresses? With so many people using Facebook and the like, the thought of compiling one is a bit daunting—though I see the value. I guess I’ve been figuring that my blog takes the place of a list. Thoughts??

    1. The prime spot is right at the back of the book. Most of my sign-ups come from there. Your website/blog is important too, and I would recommend adding a link to your Facebook Page also. For the latter, MailChimp have an app which works with Facebook Pages very well.

  70. I’ve been offering free bonus chapters to my series as a draw to get people to join my list – and I had a good number of people sign up before I published my first novel! I also give my list the heads up on new books first. I just gave them the first glimpse of my cover and the description before I gave any of that out on my blog or social media. It’s exciting to see the response from my list.

    If they feel like they’re in an exclusive club, they’ll stay! I know that’s why I stay on the lists that I do.

  71. Thanks, David. This is an important article for me. It’s been almost a year now since I started following you. For most of last year I stood outside the game, watching, learning, and writing. Well, I did it, I finished something and published it on the last day of 2012. I’m in the game now, and I even received some praise from people I don’t know. I was surprised at how big an impact a compliment on my writing can have on me. It is scary. And it’s thanks to you and Konrath and a dozen others who shared their valuable time and hard earned experiences with complete strangers. I want to thank you for that, sincerely.

    But I forgot about the mailing list. At the time I thought it arrogant of me to even consider doing something like that and wanted to wait for the second book. That was stupid of me and makes no sense now. I didn’t do a launch for the first book, but I will for the next one, and this time I will have a mailing list in place.

    Thanks again and have a great evening.

  72. Hello!
    Good to have you back after so long. I’m Romanian, so when I’ve decided to try and selfpublish you were my main resource of ideas and advice. I’ve followed your advice, I’ve joined Absolute Writer and started bloging more frequently and now I’m trying to build a readership and thanks to you, it works. Small steps, but definitely a progress.

    I’m stll not at the stage where I need a mailing list, but I’ll keep in mind to set one up a few months before publishing.

    I’d need some pointers, if you don’t mind: I have more than 600 haiku in English and only recently I’ve started to share these on my blog, due to National Haiku Writing Month, challenge I entered to only to learn discipline in writng. I’ve also started writing prose again recently and it’s kind of a mix on my blog. My questions are: 1. Do I need 2 blogs or can I keep only one? and 2. Do you think publishing my haiku poems months before my novella would help? 3. do you think having both prose and poetry published would disorientate readers?

    Waiting for your answer. Good luck with your book and have a pleasant evening!

  73. * Bookmarked * Another solid post, David. I’ve admittedly been procrastinating on this front. Even after setting up a Mail Chimp account several months ago, which I used to announce my latest book releases, I’ve not swapped out my old method for collecting reader info (having them email me) for the new sign-up page. So gracias for the kick in the ol’ pantalones. Also, do you know of a good resource for setting up a Facebook author/fan page? Been dragging my feet here as well. Oh, and welcome back to your blog 🙂

  74. Wow, that was really useful and hands-on advice, thanks a lot for sharing! Another thing on my to do list, I guess…. And yes, I wish I had known about this before I uploaded my books, because now I need to re-upload them 😉

    Is there a way to create an automated answer email to send out a code for a free ebook, for example, as soon as someone subscribes?

    1. Saoirse,

      After people sign up for your newsletter, MailChimp sends them an email, asking them to confirm the subscription. After they confirm, they get a “welcome email.”

      You can customize the beginning text of the email, so it’s a good place to insert a Smashwords code to a free ebook or insert a link to an article/short story only accessible to subscribers.

      The process is automated–just make sure that you customize the welcome email when you design your signup form.

      PS For anyone in the “hodge podge” boat, you can also customize your MailChimp signup form so that readers can choose their segment of interest: ie self-publishing tips, romance novels, contests, etc. Then you can send email blasts to one particular group or to all of them, depending on the situation.

      If interested, I’ve done a post showing how to do exactly that — with screenshots —

      The tradeoff with using this method is that your form may come across as more complicated than it is…which may make people less likely to sign up.

  75. David,
    many thanks for this blog post. You’re reinforcing my tentative idea of setting up an email list for my writing endeavors. I like how you only send out a message for a new release or an event, that sounds very doable and easy to handle for subscribers.

    I use AWeber ( for my other business, and I’ve been very happy with them. MailChimp starts to cost money as soon as you go for a double opt-in, and then AWeber is actually cheaper than MailChimp.

    Oh, and I’m reading “Let’s Get Digital” at the moment, and it’s a huge help for setting up my first ebook on Amazon. Thank you so much for that book!

  76. Setting up a mailing list has been a stumbling block for me. It’s strangely difficult to find good recommendations for a list program. I think I’ll take MC out for a spin and see how it handles.
    Thanks David, and good to hear from you again.

  77. I followed your advice about creating a mailing list awhile back and I’m so glad I did! I’ve collected a nice list of fans and I can’t wait to see how it helps my upcoming release. I also mentioned the new release mailing list on my author bio on Amazon and I saw an increase in subscriptions after that. Great advice, as always.

    1. My list is a bit of a hodge-podge of people who like my shorts, my historical stuff, and my self-publishing stuff – so I don’t really know how many sales I’m going to get from it before I actually hit the list. If you are writing in one genre though (esp. a series), you should be able to watch the growth of your list and estimate future sales from it.

      1. I wish I had the mailing list up from the start. I’m sure there are folks that enjoy your book and think they’ll check back to see when you get the next book out but forget about it. This way, you can remind them!

        Even with a hodge-podge list, the most important thing is just visibility! If your book doesn’t get noticed it has no chance of selling. Speaking of visibility…I can’t wait for the next book!

        BTW, David, not sure if you’ve heard of Bookbub, but I strongly recommend it. Worked wonders for me last month.

  78. For anyone looking for a solution simpler than MailChimp, there’s TinyLetter, which I highly recommend. (It’s owned and powered by MailChimp.) I didn’t start growing my list until recently. Wish I had done more from the start.

    1. Oh I hadn’t heard of them. Thanks for the tip. What are the advantages over MailChimp? Is the interface for designing emails a little more intuitive? That’s my only real grip with MC.

      1. The interface is not much different from what you would use writing an email. It doesn’t have all the fancy design stuff, borders and art and such. You can insert an image, but otherwise, it’s just a text email. Subscribers can reply to you and then you can write them back. They have a very short video on their home page.

    1. Torn in what sense, Stan? I can’t think of one good reason not to do a new release mailing list. It’s an incredibly powerful tool – probably the most powerful one at your disposal. If you are worried about readers, the only people that will sign up are people that want to hear about your new releases as soon as possible. You are doing them a service!

      1. Well, I’ve signed up for several of them, mostly from big-name authors. And I can honestly say that I’ve read each and every one that came to me, but never — ever — used that email to go purchase a book.

        Speaking purely for myself, they just seem too, I don’t know… Just too “come buy my book” like…

        The ones I’m referring to are from Grisham and Clancy, and for me as a big fan of these guys, it just seems almost disrespectful that they won’t blog or share their lives or tell me how their lives are going until blam, they’ve released a book. Or have upcoming events they want you at.

        And I just have this feeling like, but wait, is that all you care about? You want me to buy your stuff, but you won’t give me what I want?

        Who knows… Maybe I would be super private, too, but I think you need to engage your audience if you’re ever blessed enough to have one.

        (Sigh. I’m so torn about hitting post because, I don’t know… This all sounds weird and stupid and probably a lot of people will rip me for saying it, but it’s how I feel…. You asked, and I answered as honestly and respectfully as I could. And David, if people start to rip me or this comment, can you just take it down? I don’t want the drama.)

      2. The commenters here are far too nice for behavior like that 🙂

        Let’s look at your reasoning though. I can understand what you are saying, but it sounds like you thought you were getting one thing when you signed up, only to be hit with another.

        I make it very clear that my mailing list will only be used for new book announcements. If people want to know what’s going on with me in general, I have my blog, Twitter, and Facebook – and there are links to all those at the back of my books too.

      3. Totally agree. What I said DOES NOT apply to most indie authors, and certainly not you. Hell, we’ve never met, but I’d drive two hours to meet you and buy you a beer.

        You share, you engage, you even answer foreigner’s comments from far lands! : )

        Maybe a better way to phrase what I’m saying is that new authors would need to do more than JUST do this.

    2. Stan; I’m glad you did press the post button because what you said makes a lot of sense. I also want to connect in a more personal way with writers I like.

      However, I think the mailing list is a must, and as long as you use it as you say you will use it, then, as David says, you are doing them a favor.

  79. You’ve been missed, David. Glad to hear it’s because of a new book (and not something awful).

    Terrific advice, as usual.
    As for the pig guts jewelry…? Oh. My, my, my. 😀

    1. Thanks Jaye. Aside from wrestling with the book (I swear, if Amazon stops changing things for 5 mins, I will actually finish it!), there was the whole Christmas period (I flew home for a bit), and then helping out with the gallery. I think I needed a little break too.

      I’ve been lurking at your blog though!

  80. Reblogged this on Shadow Tower Archive and commented:
    Okay, sensible and practical advice for writers, whether hard copy, Ebola or fanfic. Fanfic writers get a slight edge, as faving and following usually accomplish this automatically. I gotta remember to get one of these… you know, once I manage to finish editing…

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