How to Build Your Author Email List

And Why I Deleted 3,200 Subscribers

Marketing is one of the biggest headaches most authors face. Whether you’re published through a publisher or indie pubbed, getting the word out about your books to readers can be time-consuming, frustrating and expensive. Often what works for one author, doesn’t for another.

One of the best ways to market your books is through your email list. But HOW DO YOU GET READERS TO JOIN????

A few ways for readers to join your list may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many times I’ve visited an author’s site and couldn’t find a sign-up link or page:

  • Place a sign-up link or widget EVERYWHERE. On your website, especially on the Home page. On your blog too, if you have one, and in your signature line.
  • On Twitter you can Pin a post to the top of your page with a link to your sign-up page. And if you’re offering a Freebie, let readers know too. This is my pinned post. It’s nothing fancy.
  • Most mailing list providers (Mailchimp, Mailerlite, Aweber, etc.) will help you create sign-up forms and links for your Facebook page.
  • If you run a contest, ask readers to sign-up to your mailing list, but let them know they can unsubscribe at any time.
  • Make a post on Twitter and FB and ask your friends and followers if they would join your list to check out your newsletter.
  • Put links to your newsletter in the back matter of your self-published books.
  • Give links to blog sites when you’re a guest blog.
  • Give away a freebie as a thank you to new readers for joining your list. Yes, it’s a bit of a bribe, but they can unsubscribe at any time.

Doing most of these things only got my list up to about 250 subscribers. Not too impressive. So now what?

Several months ago, I took part in a multi-author promotion to help build my newsletter list. About 40 authors were involved. The author who organized it, set up a webpage where each participating author either gave away a free book or a discounted $.99 book.

The organizer listed the book by genre so readers could pick and chose which ones they wanted. A large prize was offered for signing up to this contest: A Kindle Fire and $300 Amazon Gift Card. All authors donated $10. The first ten authors who signed up (me included), had the option to pay a little more and have all readers entering the contest agree to opt in to these authors’ newsletters. Of course, they knew they could unsubscribe at any time. I continue to see this type of mega giveaway by even larger author groups and larger prizes of $2,000 or more.

The pros and cons to this mega giveaway method.


  • After the contest, I received a large CSV file with all the names and email address and confirmation. The newsletter mailing service may request confirmed opt-in names. The number I received was 8,000 names!
  • I received a small bump in sales during the contest across all my books.
  • I started a review team and a street team. My street team is over 200 now.
  • I switched from Mailchimp to Aweber to import this list, mainly because I liked all the added functions in Aweber and the customer service was great. I couldn’t get any customer service help with Mailchimp while on the free account. I set up two separate auto-responder emails for the contest list and my regular list.
  • I started getting more engagement with my newsletter subscribers. Great!


  • I did have some back and forth with Aweber customer service until they validated the large list. Not surprising. They wanted to make sure I wasn’t going to spam these 8,000 people. I gave them the link to the promo site where the contest was hosted, and I was approved. I also added a double opt-out in my emails to cut down on spam complaints.
  • About 2000 subscribers unsubscribed with the first couple newsletters. Not surprising. These were probably the contest junkies.
  • It took me a couple weeks to write and set up two sets of seven auto-responder emails (I work 2 day jobs), created new sign-up forms, changed links, created a thank-you/welcome email. And set up through Bookfunnel a link to give away my free book.
  • My free email list was now pretty expense ~$69/month. I figured this was the cost of business and sales and reviews would pick up—not so much.
  • My open rates for that list has never been great. More than half opened the first email for the free book.
  • Six months later, my open rates were <20%. That list saw several unsubscribes, but there were still 3,200 who had never opened one email. They never unsubscribed so probably just marked it as spam.
  • According to Jim Kukral at SellMoreBooksShow, he recommends cleaning house on your newsletter. If they’re not opening your newsletter, they’re not buying your books, then they’re not your targeted readers. Dead weight. Sooo, I recently deleted 3,200 subscribers from my list. Ouch!
  • If they later become fans, they can always sign-up another time. I ended up with a little under 3,000 remaining subscribers.

Bryan Cohen also from SellMoreBooksShow, recommended Mailerlite as a newsletter provider. Aweber was great, but pricy for my budget. I now have switched over to Mailerlite. They’re much cheaper and easy to use. I love them! If you want to check them out:

Mailerlite Info.

Was the mega contest push worth it? I think so. But putting out new books and letting readers know you have a list via blogs and social media may be the best way to build your list, in my opinion. Have you found other ways to build your list? Please share here in the comments.

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