Monday 13 February 2017

Five Ways to Build Your Author Email List (and One Way Not To)

By Iola Goulton

Over the last year, Australasian Christian Writers has had several posts on author platform and marketing. We’ve had posts on the importance of building your author brand and platform. We’ve had high-level how-to lists on building your author brand and website, or building your author platform.

And we’ve posted on the importance of having a website (a must-have), a blog (a maybe), and an email list.

But is an email list a must-have or a maybe?

I think it’s a must-have, as I explained in Do Authors Need an Email List? And all the book marketing experts I follow agree. Chris Syme says:

And that leads to the subject of today’s post: How does an author build their list?

First, Don't Do This:

Don't add people you know to a list on Word or Excel or Gmail or Hotmail, then email them. 

I’ve received these emails. I even saw it recommended in a marketing book a few years ago, that authors “add people you know to your opt-in list”. Yes, this author was ahead of the times in actually having a newsletter list, but did she not understand the meaning of the words “opt in”?

Adding people to your list without their permission is against the law.

You can only email people who have given you permission to email them (which is where Seth Godin’s phrase ‘permission marketing’ comes from). And you must give people the option to unsubscribe.

As I’ve said before, the best way to ensure your email list complies with relevant laws is to use one of the major email list providers, such as Aweber Email Marketing, MadMimi, MailChimp or MailerLite.


1. Email and Ask

Email friends you think would be interested in joining your newsletter list, and ask if they’ll sign up. You don’t have to rely on email. You could also send a text message or Facebook DM, Tweet them … even talk to them. The point is that you’re asking for permission.

And they can sign up though the link you provide (which you’ll get from your mailing list provider), or you can add them directly into your mailing list. But only with their permission.

2. Ask at Events

Ask for newsletter sign-ups if you’re speaking at an event, such as a writer’s conference or retreat, or a book launch. The less technical among us have a physical sign-up sheet, then add people to the list manually. A more technical person could have a QR code on a bookmark, or a PC/tablet so people can enter their own data.

3. Ask Online

Use a plugin such as Bloom or SumoMe to prompt website visitors to sign up for your email list. Pin a post on Twitter. Add a sign up button to your Facebook page. Include a link to your signup form in the bio you use for guest posts.

Friends, family and colleagues may well agree to sign up for your newsletter just because you asked them. But strangers are unlikely to give you their email address unless there’s something in it for them.

That ‘something’ is a giveaway of some kind—my subscriptions did increase when I started offering new subscribers a gift (I offer a list of Christian publishers for my Christian Editing Services list, and a list of my favourite Christian authors for my Author list).

4. Host a Giveaway

A lot of blogs host giveaways, but most are of the ‘leave a comment to be in the draw to win’ variety. That isn’t helpful for collecting email addresses—no one wants to leave their real email address in a blog comment. But authors can use tools such as Rafflecopter or KingSumo to run giveaways where they collect email addresses in exchange for an entry.

But I’ve found having a giveaway isn’t enough. It has to be promoted. And that’s where my final suggestion comes in:

5. Join a Cross-Promotion

A cross-promotion is where you join forces with other authors to host a giveaway. There is generally some cost involved in this, as setting up and hosting the giveaway takes time, effort, and technical know-how. But the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, as it means it’s not just you promoting your giveaway—all the other authors involved will be promoting it as well, which means you’ll get in front of a lot more people.

Today is the last day of my first-ever cross-promotion, joining 17 other authors in an Instafreebie promotion of non-fiction books for writers.

I’m thrilled with the results. 

I started the promotion with 142 people on my Christian Editing Services list, and I’d doubled that within the first two days of the promotion. And that’s with my hyper-niche title. A couple of authors, whose books had broader appeal, added over 1,000 people to their lists.

At the time of writing, 355 people had downloaded my free ebook, and I’d added 325 to my newsletter list. Some people downloaded the book and immediately unsubscribed. That’s okay—I’m on MailChimp’s paid plan, which means I pay more to have more subscribers. I don’t want to be paying for people who don’t want to hear from me.

Click here if you’d like to sign up to my newsletter list. Or click here to see the 18 books in the cross-promotion. But be quick: it finishes today (well, it actually finishes at midnight Sunday, But I’m not sure in what time zone).

I’ll be back next week to talk more about giveaways and cross promotions.

Meanwhile, do you have an email list? What mailing list provider do you use? What’s the most successful way you’ve found of building your email list?

About Iola Goulton

I am a freelance editor specialising in Christian fiction. Visit my website at to download a comprehensive list of publishers of Christian fiction. 

I also write contemporary Christian romance with a Kiwi twist—find out more

You can also find me on:
Facebook (Author)
Facebook (Editing)


  1. as a reader It really annoys me when I get added to lists and it has happened. Another thing is if you add someone to a mailing list like from Mailchimp etc and the reader then unsubs they are given the option to say why. If there are a certain amount unsubscribing because they were added without permission the account will be cancelled.

    Iola I heard if people subscribe to a list due to one of the giveaways and too many unsubscribe it can affect the account too. I have subscribed and I know wait a few months to then unsub.

    1. It is annoying to be added to someone's list without permission, and awkward if they're not using a proper email provider because there is no easy way to unsubscribe.

      I hadn't heard too many unsubscribes could hurt a MailChimp account, but it doesn't surprise me. I've had about 10% of people who downloaded my book unsubscribe, but I think some of those were actually unsubscribed by MailChimp as the email addresses were undeliverable. Let's hope that doesn't work against me.

    2. I think its more if they put added without permission. One of the mass giveaways said to only sign up for the newsletters you want as if too many sign up and then unsubscribe it can get the account cancelled. I think if they put I no longer want the email would be ok.

    3. I've accidentally unsubscribed twice from the newsletters I selected in two of the large sweepstake giveaways. They draw the winner and send you an email that asks you to unsubscribe now if you've changed your mind to prevent the authors being penalised. I'm not sure how I managed to unsubscribe to all of the newsletters? Next time I'll pay closer attention to the email instructions to work out what I'm doing wrong.

  2. Iola, excellent post! I use MailChimp and one of my goals for 2017 is to grow my newsletter list. I'm looking forward to hearing more about your experiences with the multi-author promotions.

    1. I think that's a good goal, Narelle. I've finished the first promotion with just over 500 people on my email list, which is a good base.

      What pleased me even more about the promotion was that I've had several email messages from new subscribers, thanking me or asking me questions about Christian publishing.

      The emails are great for two reasons - it means people are reading and liking what I've given them. But it's also given me a heap of ideas for future blog post. That's an unexpected bonus!

  3. Thanks for sharing this knowledge. I think this is the best book publishing company list where you can publish your own ebook.

  4. I'm attempting to establish an e-mail subscriber list using Mailchimp and I don't seem to be getting anywhere with it. Not all of us are that tech-savvy.

  5. Thanks for that, Iola. I don't have a subscriber list yet, so have bookmarked this for future reference. I also find it really annoying when I do subscribe to someone's list and then get bombarded with emails from them, sometimes several times a week. I unsubscribe from those ones pretty quickly. Thanks for sharing.


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