How to Start, Build, and Grow Your Email List

One of the most essential steps you’ll ever take when preparing for your book launch and starting your career as a serious author is your email subscription list. Having a good, strong, dependable email list of actively engaged subscribers is crucial to your success as a writer and your book’s success. And as daunting as it sounds, it’s really not that difficult to get one started! But before we dive into the how-to of list-building, let’s first lay the foundation on the why.

Do I Really Need an Email List in 2021?

Yes. More so than ever. And here’s why…

Think of it in terms of where you live. Having a dependable list of subscribers is like owning your home, while relying on your social media accounts to reach readers is like renting.

Your profile and your feed on all social-media platforms are nothing more than rented space! Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, heck, each and every one of the social media platforms is owned by some huge corporate conglomerate. They only allow you to rent space on their platform. Each and every contact you’ve developed on each platform, you have borrowed from those site owners. So, if they decided tomorrow they are rich enough and don’t want to fool with social media anymore, and they decide to shut them down… guess what happens to all your content and all your contacts? That’s right… they’re gone!

However, the space you’ve created on your website and/or email account is technically your space. Once your subscribers give their permission for you to contact them, you own the right to contact them, and you own all the content you send to them every time you email them. You can say what you want and do what you want without fear of being locked in “Facebook Jail.” That alone should be reason enough for you to have your own email list.

Am I saying to get rid of social media? Absolutely not! In fact, ride that wagon until the wheels fall off! But instead of depending on social media to grow and reach your reader list, start thinking of it more as a support system rather than your go-to way of communicating.

Okay, so where do I begin?

Decide on Your Author Email

Easy-peasy. First thing’s first, make sure you have created an author-ish email account! And by author-ish email account, I mean, not the one you created in middle school (I’m talking to you [email protected]!) It needs to be clear this is your professional author email account. Pick an email prefix that is clearly related to you as a writer, such as [email protected] Got it?

Pro Tip: If you are fine with having an extension that says “@gmail.com or @outlook.com” you can leave it at that. However, if you have or want to have your own domain extension for your website and email (i.e., mine is [email protected] because my Google domain for my website is christinakayebooks.com), you must first buy your domain on Google Domains, GoDaddy, etc., and set that up. All domain sellers also offer you at least one email box for free or around $5/month.

Pick Your Email Hosting Service

The very next step is to pick your email hosting service. Here are some of the most common email hosting services out there:

Pro Tip: I highly recommend MailerLite. They are more affordable, user-friendly, and they even have newsletter templates specifically for authors!

Create Your Lead Magnet

Next, you’ll need to create your freebie aka Lead Magnet! This is crucial to building your subscriber list, and it’s pivotal in any author’s marketing campaign. A Lead Magnet is a downloadable resource (usually a pdf) you offer to readers for free in exchange for signing up for your email.

Some common Lead Magnets authors use are as follows:

  • First 1-2 chapters of your upcoming release
  • First 1-2 chapters of a backlist book
  • Free entire copy of a backlist book
  • Character Interview with any of your lead characters
  • Behind the Scenes Sneak Peek into your upcoming release

For my current Author Lead Magnet, I am using the tried-and-true “first few chapters” download.

 

Whatever you choose to go with, simply create your lead magnet in Word (or Docs) and save it as a pdf. Quick and easy!

Pro Tip: You can also use Canva to create a beautiful and enticing Lead Magnet. Either way, make sure it’s not too long (no more than, say, 20 pages), visually pleasing (include images if you can), and relates to you, your books, and your brand.

Okay, I’ve Got My Lead Magnet, How Do I Send It to Readers?

The key idea behind a lead magnet is that it’s so appealing (and free) that readers are willing to jump at the chance to give you their preciously guarded email address just so they can get their paws on what you’re offering. And here’s how that works.

Step 1: Create a Landing Page

Step 2: Attach Lead Magnet to Landing Page

Step 3: Send the Landing-Page Link to Everyone

I highly recommend you start by sending it to all your established friends and family, as they’re most likely the ones who will jump at the chance to support you! Then you can post on your social feeds. Without sounding too salesy, simply explain to folks that you’re starting your first newsletter and you’d love to give them something free in exchange for signing up.

Now, just sit back and watch your subscriber list grow daily! Your email hosting service will do all the behind-the-scenes work!

I Have 50 subscribers Already! Now What?

First off…congrats!

Once you’ve established fifty, thirty, or even just twenty subscribers, it’s time to start nourishing your growing email list. If you create a subscriber list but you never post anything fun, entertaining, or informative, you’ll quickly lose those few you’ve started with and you’ll not be able to grow your email list. Make sure you are providing regular updates to your subscriber list and make sure every broadcast is something they want to hear about.

I always recommend starting out with just once-a-month newsletters. This takes some of the pressure off authors who are just getting started and who are in the middle of all the other things required of them for a successful book launch. You can also release your newsletter every two weeks or once a week, depending on your preference and availability. Whatever frequency you choose, just be sure you are consistent and that you never leave your subscribers hanging.

Whichever email hosting service you go with, you can even schedule your newsletter drops in advance. Let’s say you wanted to send a new email out every two weeks. You can batch several of them (meaning, write them all ahead of time in one sitting), then upload the content and schedule them to go out on whatever date you want them to.

Once again, the key to growing and nurturing your subscriber list is consistency! Do not over-commit!

Pro Tip: I recommend picking a day out of each week to be your dedicated newsletter release date. For example, at Write Your Best Book, our newsletter typically goes out every Monday morning. So by Sunday night, our content is written, images pulled, and we upload it to our hosting service and schedule it for 9 AM the next day. Being consistent works miracles when it comes to engaging and nurturing your subscriber list!

 

I Think I Get It, But What on Earth Am I Supposed to Talk About Once a Month/Week?

Great question! I’m asked this frequently. Here are some easy to write but interesting ideas for your newsletter content:

  • Announce book sales
  • Announce giveaways/contests
  • Excepts/bonus chapters
  • Share your writing process
  • Share your writing milestones
  • Share curated content that fits your genre
  • Announce book releases
  • Announce cover reveals
  • Talk about “how I stay motivated”
  • Share the story behind your current release

Pro Tip: Be sure to brand your newsletter template and each newsletter you send out. By this, I mean, use the brand colors you have (hopefully) already chosen for your marketing campaign, and use only those colors and fonts in each newsletter.

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Above all else, make sure your newsletter is full of you! Make sure your voice shines through. After all, you’re a writer, and your voice is what makes your work so unique. It’s why people want to hear from you in the first place. It shouldn’t take you more than thirty minutes each week to type up your content and schedule your newsletter.

For more advice, tips, and tricks on starting, growing, and nurturing your email list, or to ask me anything about writing, publishing, or selling your own books, feel free to email me at [email protected]

Wordplayers, tell me your opinions! Have you started an email list? What was (or is) your biggest challenge in doing so? Tell me in the comments!

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