Simple Steps for Building an Email List

September 9, 2016

One of the best ways I have found to promote and sell my books over the years, is through email lists. This is something that marketing experts and author coaches will tell you is a must if you plan to be successful as an author, but many authors don’t understand how to make it work for them. In this post, I want to outline some simple steps for starting and building an email list, and then at the end, I’ll cover how you can make your list work for you once you have it going.

I will say that one precursor to setting up your email list, should be having your own website. If you don’t yet have your own author website, stop reading now and check out this post I wrote for If you have an author website, you are off to a great start. Keep reading.

Starting Your Email List

#1. Choose an Email List Management Company

In order to be compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act, you can’t just simply start emailing people and say you have a list. There are rules you have to follow to stay out of trouble. The best option is to choose a reputable company that specializes in email list management. I currently use TrafficWave. I have used them for years and love them. I have tried others, but they are the most affordable and I don’t have to worry about my rates changing. However, something like Get Response, while much more expensive, is also more compatible with WordPress plugins and tends to look more professional. Unless you are running an online business, the simplicity of TrafficWave and their fixed rate is what I would recommend.

#2. Set Up Your First Email List

Once you know what company you are going to use, you can go ahead and set up your account and start building your first email list. If you pay per subscriber or list, you may only want just one. Because I use TrafficWave, I can have unlimited lists and unlimited subscribers. I use that for all it’s worth.

Here are some of my email lists and the number of subscribers:

  • My “Just for Authors” email list: 400+ subscribers
  • Main email list for my teen girls ministry: 3,000+ subscribers
  • Teen girl devos mailing list: 3,000+ subscribers
  • Teen prayer team email list: 10 subscribers
  • General reader list (for this website): Roughly 1,000 subscribers

That’s over 7,000 subscribers just on those five lists alone, and I also have lists for book reviewers, coaching clients, book launch bonuses, and a few other things. So using TrafficWave where I can have unlimited lists and subscribers is perfect for me.

I would recommend your first mailing list be for your author website. If people go to your website, you want them to be able to subscribe to stay connected and get updates from you. We’ll talk about how you can get subscribers in a minute, but for now, just get it set up and on your website. Whatever mailing list provider you went with, should be able to walk you through setting up your email list.

#3. Add Your First Email

The first email you add to your new list should always welcome subscribers and thank them for signing up. If you promised them a free gift for signing up, you will usually want to let them know how they can access that in this email. You can also share what they can expect to see from you in the future, and the best way for them to contact you (do you want them to reply to the email or contact you some other way).

Depending on the expert you ask, most agree that your first email should not be salesy in any way. It should be purely informational and benefit them, not you. If you use autoresponders, you can set up a chain that sends out emails at pre-selected intervals, some of those can (and probably should) be about your books, but not the first one.

Another quick tip is that people are busy.

Keep your email short and to the point.

Bullet points work great, short sentences.

Use white space to break it up.

Keep any instructions clear and easy to understand/follow.

#4. Create a Sign Up Page on Your Website

Once you have your first email written, you are ready to create a sign up page on your website. I highly recommend having a stand alone page on your site for your newsletter, AND having the option to subscribe in the sidebar and/or under blog posts, as well as other key places on your website. You want it to be easy for them to sign up. Name, email, done. But you also want to have a place where they can go to learn more about your list, thus the dedicated page. The dedicated page can also be used for funneling traffic directly to your list, which we will talk about in the next section.

Your email list provider should have instructions for embedding the sign up box on your website. A lot of times it is just an HTML code, but some companies have widgets or plugins you can use specifically for your email list sign up forms. If you want to get really high-tech, you can use a plugin such as lead pages that will give you more options and layouts. However, you should also just be able to build a regular page on your website and embed some code to get the sign up form to work. This is the option I use. It’s simple and effective.

Building Your Email List

After you have your list set up, you are ready to start promoting it to build your subscriber base. Here are a few simple ways you can do that.

#1. Create Value

Readers are always more likely to subscribe to your list if it benefits them in some way. Thus, creating value for your readers is the first and best ways to start building your list.

You can create value by putting together a subscribers only gift, offering ongoing valuable content to your subscribers, or even offering a free eBook. There are many ways you can provide value, just come up with a plan so you can let readers know why they should subscribe.

I have done different things for different lists. My teen girl devotions list obviously gets free devotions for subscribing. They can actually choose if they want to get devotions daily or weekly. The main ministry mailing list for that website gets a free PDF copy of our book, Mirror Mirror… Am I Beautiful? which is also available to purchase on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and other places online (it is NOT in the KDP Select program). For other lists I’ve done free reports, video tutorials, etc. that I can tell the readers about up front.

If they are getting something on an on-going basis, you may want to build up some content so you’re ready for a rainy day.

If it’s a one-time gift, you will need to figure out how to deliver it. Some email list providers let you attach content, or create download links for files. If not, you can create a page on your website where readers can go to download their gift. That’s what I’ve chosen to do. I created a password-protected page with a link to download their free gift.

Here’s an example:

Get My FREE Report

Small Tweaks = Big Changes



#2. Promote Your Value On Social Media

The next step for building your list would be to promote the value you created. The easiest way to do this is on social media.

You can create evergreen tweets and posts to use on social media. Such as:

Get my book, XYZ #FREE here: LINK #somethingrelatedtoyourbook

Did you know you can sell more books just by making a few small tweaks to your book marketing strategy? LINK #bookmarketing

You can also create graphics to share online that promote the value of your email list. Including headers for Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and YouTube.

#3. Mention the Value of Your Email List Within Your Books

You can also promote your email list within your books by adding a page to let readers know how they can access the free value you are offering either in the front or back of your book. Some authors put this back in the appendix or with their author bio.

#4. Promote Your Email List Value in Your Tagline

Adding a link to your email list value in your tagline on social media, or in your author bio at the end of guest posts and even blog posts on your own website is a great way to funnel traffic to your list. If people are already checking you out, reading your stuff, they are more likely to subscribe to your list to get something valuable from you.

All of my business cards point to the value of my mailing list. They have my contact information, but they also point to where they can get free value by signing up for my list. Whether that’s a free report or daily devotionals.

#5. Host a Subscribers Only Giveaway

One really quick way to build your email list, is to host a subscribers only giveaway. Let people know that anyone who subscribes by x-date will be entered to win something. Whether it’s a free book, an Amazon gift card, or whatever it is, it provides incentive. If you have a paid subscription to RaffleCopter, you can use their system to make sure people subscribe to your list for the entry before unlocking other entry options. I LOVE RaffleCopter, but am still using the free version at the time of this post. You can find a helpful post about running an online giveaway with RaffleCopter here.

I know an author who does a subscribers only giveaway every month. Sometimes it’s just for an eBook, other times there are some pretty awesome prizes. You don’t have to do anything to enter to win, as long as you are subscribed, your name is in the hat. I don’t necessarily recommend doing that, but it works for her. Giveaways that you can promote are great for building your list. Whether it’s once a month or once a lifetime.

#6. Write a Blog Post (Like This One)

Write a blog post about the topic of your value and let readers know they can get more info by signing up for your list. Make sure the post itself provides value, but let them know they can still learn more, or get more, but by signing up.


So there you have a four simple steps to starting your email list and six ways to build it. I hope you have found them helpful. If you have found something that works for you, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.

Building an email list is one small tweak you can make to your book marketing strategy that lead to big changes in your book sales. Find out more small tweaks you can make in my report, Small Tweaks, Big Changes. Get it free by signing up above (see what I did there?).

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  • Reply Emma September 13, 2016 at 6:44 am

    Thanks. This is great.
    I have an email list on my blog too. I use SendPulse email marketing service to collect email addresses and send newsletter for free. Setting up a content offer has indeed helped me get more subscribers, so it does work.

    • Reply Heather Hart September 13, 2016 at 9:42 am

      Awesome, Emma! SendPulse looks like a great option for someone with 2,500 subscribers or less. I know some free options like that put ads in your emails, have you ever seen anything like that with SendPulse?
      Heather Hart recently posted…{Review and Giveaway} The Biggest Story

      • Reply Emma September 15, 2016 at 7:12 am

        There’s a company name mention at the very bottom – “Sent via SendPulse”. I’m not sure if you can call it an ad. It certainly doesn’t get in the way.

  • Reply Monday Must-Reads [09.26.16] September 26, 2016 at 1:54 am

    […] Simple Steps for Building an Email List – Books, Faith & Coffee […]

  • Reply Jaime Hampton October 4, 2016 at 8:42 pm

    Heather, do all of the providers require an address to be displayed at the bottom? I don’t have a PO Box and don’t want my home address broadcast to all of my subscribers. I just wanted a very simple website and an easy way to send blog updates to any followers, but it just seems like there’s nothing ‘simple’ about creating a web page 🙂 Is there any way around getting a PO Box?

    • Reply Heather Hart October 5, 2016 at 8:49 am

      Hey Jaime, it’s actually not the providers that require it, but the law. It’s part of the CAN-SPAM Act. If you don’t have it listed, you can be prosecuted. PO boxes are not expensive, and I highly recommend one. You can even have the post office forward any mail that is addressed to your PO box directly to your home address so there is no added hassle. The only other option I could think of would be to work with either another author or someone local that could share a PO box or local address (maybe a community center, church, etc.). But as I mentioned, depending on where you live, PO boxes don’t run very high.
      Heather Hart recently posted…Discover the Power of Teamwork: Join Our Team

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