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The good, better, best of building an email list

There are many ways to promote a book.  Authors can do endless marketing for their works, but there are also things that you’d be better off by totally ignoring them.  One of the most common questions we get from the floor is what type of marketing works best for authors?

You might have heard your fellow best-selling authors talk about book marketing and what strategies and type of campaigns proved successful for them.

So, we asked authors (and their marketing teams!) with over 50,000 units sold in under one year from the day of their marketing launch.  While there is no single answer, building email lists emerge at the forefront of their marketing campaigns. Yes, that’s right!—building an email list—but, don’t get it wrong—it is not the generic type. Take note, you’re building a list of readers who will love and buy your book.  You’re not blasting out emails; you’re building a following!

While many authors and their marketing teams talk about building an email list as essential to their marketing success, only a few offer an explanation of what a mailing list is and how to build it.

If you have ever wondered whether you should spend more of your time and budget on email marketing (readers’ mailing list), then this article is for you.

Let’s cut to the chase and dive right in.

 Is the mailing list (readers) worth your time? 


Toby Neal, USA TODAY bestselling author of thrillers and romance with over 30 titles, has this advice, “ I would say, and many others have said, your strongest marketing tool is your email list. I’ve been working hard to build a large, strong, robust, and responsive list. 

Toby Neal The BookWalker


When confronted with the prospect of building an email list, most authors would either zone out or zen out, and you can clearly hear these words, I don’t know how to do it,’ ‘It’s expensive,” I am not that techy,’ and ‘I just want to write.’

Indeed, there are marketing strategies you can do away with, but building an email list is not an option; it has been proven time and time again by many bestselling authors to be indispensable.

If you’re not trying to build a list of reader emails, in reality, your marketing strategy is getting expensive and costing you more than it needs to be.

Here’s why and the data.  Don’t be surprised to find that email produces better results than social media in the areas of engagements, click-throughs, and conversion.

  • The average email open rate is between 12-25%
  • The average click-through rate is roughly 2.5%
  • The average click-to-open rate is between 20-30% 

That said, you can expect a paltry click-through rate of 0.07-09% on Facebook! Why? The algorithmic changes in Facebook seriously limit the organic reach of posts, as Chad White from Litmus explained.

  Author Mailing List. Is it important


This post is not about social media versus email marketing—they are like apples and oranges—they are very different in execution and serve different purposes.  This post is about knowing what tools to use— when and how—it’s like knowing when to use a parasol and when to don your hat, gloves, and jacket.  Email marketing, Social Media Marketing, and print advertising are your tools but don’t mistake tools for a strategy. 

Sidenote: If you need a snapshot of Why Mailing List Is Your Best Friend, click the link to the article.

When we ask authors how they would promote their books or about their marketing strategies, we often hear these in our webinars; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, NYT, and Magazines.  These are (advertising) tools and don’t mistake tools for a strategy. 

Use your tools to drive traffic (funneling readers) to your mailing list, and continue the readers’ discussion or build a relationship therenow, that is a strategy.  Readers don’t buy books immediately after seeing an advert about your book—they need to be reminded, as the science of people suggests, at least 20 times why they need to read your book.  Building a reader’s mailing list is vital because it allows you to continue a relationship with readers who expressed interest in your books after seeing your adverts and decided to sign up for your mailing list. 

President Woodrow Wilson said, “We should not only use all the brains we have—but all that we can borrow.”

Think of it this way.  Imagine that you’ve put in a lot of effort marketing your book through social media; what happens after you stop your budget spending?  What did you get? What’s the ROI?  What happens to the likes, loves, and shares?  Yes, you are right—minimal.  And then this, what happens if these channels change their Terms of Service? Remember when Facebook had a massive clampdown on visibility?  What happens to your followers?

To grow your book’s readership and reach, you must identify which tool outperforms the other and is worth more of your time and resources.  This is where building an email list performs better than social media.  And this is why successful authors from the indie space and even traditionally published authors continue to invest time and resources in building their reader mailing list.

Use your tools to drive traffic (funneling readers) to your mailing list, and you continue the discussion there.

While building a reader mailing list is a big thing for traditional publishers, it is quite the opposite in the indie space; the mailing list is often neglected and overlooked. 

We understand that building a reader list requires time, patience, and technical prowess, but authors should never dismiss building a mailing list.  If you want to sell more books, share your ideas or reach your intended readers effectively and positively affect someone’s life with your works, you need to have a reader mailing list.

When someone subscribes to your list, they are saying,  ‘ Yes, tell me more about your books, ‘ Yes, I want to know more about you, and ‘ Yes, I am interested in what you write.

Your email list, when built properly, is a collection of readers who have the potential to become super fans, and through your emails, you can help them make that transformation.

 “If there’s one thing all professional platform-builders agree on, it’s the importance of building your list,” advised Michael S. Hyatt, Wall Street Journal Bestseller, CEO, and founder of Michael Hyatt & Company.

Mailing lists are important because it allows you to continue a relationship with readers who expressed interest in your books after they saw your adverts and decided to sign up for your mailing list. 

Here are the steps involved in getting started with your mailing list.
It would help if you’re building three things today and should continue focusing on reaching your readers and growing your fan base.

  • A well-designed landing page/website with your own hosting.  ( You can’t underestimate the importance of a well-designed, optimized landing page.  There are free sites/versions, but we don’t know if it is worth your writing time to go through all the hassles of creating your website;  and it may not even be optimized. )
  •  An opt-in mailing list. ( Again, there are free versions; Mailerlite and MailChimp offer free accounts  )
  • And tons of ideas for publishing blog posts. ( Now, this is the easy part for you! )

We can hear someone screaming; I don’t have the time! I just want to write! Say no more.  We are here to help you grow your audience and reach more readers.  If you are the DIY type and looking for more tips on how to grow your mailing list, please subscribe to TIPS & MORE newsletter.  We give tips and more marketing tips, but please if you’re the DIY type, don’t make us do the hard work for you.  We learned the science and art of marketing to people through years of trial and error; it’s our trade secret.  Please don’t feel bad and be angry if we can’t share the secret sauce and the full recipe. 

How can you help me? What does a media manager do?

Street Team_The BookWalker

Our media manager will help you build and grow your reader mailing lists to sell more copies. Typically, a media manager will help you with:

  • Email Integration: This is where your media manager is most creative in finding your readers and making them want to give you their email addresses.  Here’s a genius and a strategy.  Tip: Care for your readers.  This is an example of when social media is used to build your email list.  Tip#1 Do a giveaway.  Run a campaign on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram; pick one, but instead of hoping and waiting for their likes and shares, ask them to comment or review.  And the genius part? Winners will be announced only in your email newsletter—readers need to sign up—and if they are interested, they can join your mailing list.
  • Mailing List Management: Make sure emails are targeting the right audience by segmenting your mailing list to increase conversion.
  • Content Management: Knowing when to engage your readers and how often. What readers want to hear from you.

Perhaps, you’re still wondering why go through all the hassles?
It is about your readers.  Imagine a reader looking for a book like yours, never engaging, never finding, never buying.  Would you just let them wander out and wonder why?   If you were that reader, how would you feel if an author greeted you and took the time to engage and learn more about you? That is what building a reader mailing list is about—finding, engaging, and re-engaging your readers.

Yesterday was all about distributors. Today is about the readers. You can get closer and personal to your readers and would-be-fan with email marketing ( again, not the generic type of email marketing.)  Don’t miss the opportunity!  Please subscribe to TIPS & MORE newsletter for more marketing tips! Or email us at

Key Takeaways

Mailing lists can be a very effective tool for authors to reach their audience and promote their work.  By collecting the email addresses of people who are interested in their writing, authors can send targeted and personalized messages directly to their fans, keeping them informed about new releases, upcoming events, and other news.

Mailing lists offer several advantages for authors, including:

  1. Direct communication: Mailing lists allow authors to communicate directly with their readers, bypassing intermediaries such as publishers or bookstores.
  2. Targeted marketing: By collecting information about their readers’ preferences and interests, authors can send targeted and personalized messages that are more likely to resonate with their audience.
  3. Building a community: Mailing lists can help authors build a community of dedicated fans who are invested in their work and are more likely to spread the word to others.
  4. Measurable results: Mailing lists provide a way for authors to track the effectiveness of their promotional efforts and make adjustments as needed.

That being said, building and maintaining a mailing list can be time-consuming and requires effort and dedication.  Authors need to create content that is engaging and relevant to their audience and be consistent in their messaging and communication.

Overall, a mailing list can be a very effective tool for authors, but it requires careful planning and effort to ensure that it reaches its full potential.

Editor’s note: This article was first published in October 2017.  It has been updated and expanded.

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