How to Set up a Mailing List for Authors, Get Subscribers, and Sell More Books
If you’re a self-published author and you don’t have a mailing list or newsletter set up, this should be your number-one priority.
Why is a mailing list so important for authors?
It allows you to directly target readers who enjoy your books, update your fans with new releases, and boost your leverage for professional collaborations. Trendy marketing tactics may come and go, but your mailing list will always remain one of your most powerful marketing tools.
Mailing lists do require an initial time investment to set up; once you’ve done the hard part, you can sit back and collect those all-important email sign-ups. This post will show you everything you need to know about:
- Setting up a mailing list for authors
- How to get more subscribers (even if you haven’t published yet)
- Using your mailing list to sell more books as a self-published author
How to Set Up a Mailing List for Authors
Choose a Mailing List Provider:
The right mailing list provider for you depends on your budget, amount of subscribers, desired features, and more. You’ll need to shop around to find the right fit, but common providers include: Mailchimp, MadMimi, and AWeber. (I personally love MadMimi; it’s affordable and easy to use).
Mailing list providers are priced based on the amount of subscribers, but they usually have an inexpensive introductory plan for beginners. Here is a basic comparison of the pricing plans for the top mailing list providers:
To see more detailed information, visit the pricing plan pages for each mailing list provider:
Create a Reader Magnet to Attract Subscribers:
If you’ve ever wondered how to get more newsletter subscribers, the answer is: reader magnets!
A reader magnet (or lead magnet) is something you offer readers for free in exchange for signing up. Here are some reader magnet ideas for authors that will make your subscriber list grow:
- Free ebook: Can be a novel or short story. Be sure not to pick a book that is available elsewhere. You want to provide something exclusive for your readers.
- Free “slice-of-life” chapter: For example, if you write Romance, offer readers an exclusive “honeymoon” chapter. If you write Sci-Fi Space Exploration, give readers a peek at what life is like on the newly colonized planet.
- Custom playlist: I’ve seen many successful authors offer custom Spotify playlists based on their book. Think of it as the official soundtrack to your book.
- Quizzes: Quizzes are another creative option that are great for attracting subscribers. Engage your readers by creating quizzes like, “What Character Are You?” based on your own book. You can do this using a third-party service that collects readers’ emails at the end of the quiz.
Put Your Newsletter Sign-Up Link Everywhere:
Once you’re all set up with a mailing list provider, create a sign-up landing page using their platform. When you have the link, be sure to put it everywhere, including:
- Front matter and back matter on all of your books*
- Pop-up or sidebar on your author website
- Dedicated newsletter page on your author website
- On all social media profiles
*NOTE: Your newsletter sign-up link will work hand-in-hand with your front matter and back matter to help collect sign-ups. Read our guide about front matter and back matter to learn more.
Distribute Your Reader Magnet:
If you offer a free ebook or chapter, you’ll need to use a third-party service to distribute your lead magnet once readers sign up for your mailing list. Services like Instafreebie (now called Prolific Works) and BookFunnel are great for this. These services allow you to set up a professional looking landing page where readers can download their freebie.
It will look something like this:
If you use Instafreebie/Prolific Works, create a private giveaway and upload your reader magnet. If you use BookFunnel, create a download page that does not collect emails. (You’ll see how this comes together in the next step).
Edit Your Mailing List Confirmation Message:
Readers should receive an automated “thank you” email after opting in. Be sure to edit this message and include a link to the private giveaway page or download page you created so readers can claim their freebie. If your giveaway page is password protected, don’t forget to include the redemption code in this email.
For Reader Magnets that Aren’t Books:
-If you’re offering a custom playlist, feel free to include the playlist link (instead of a giveaway/download page) in your automated “thank you” email.
-Quizzes are best used as a standalone technique to collect sign-ups. Instead of including a link to your quiz in the automated “thank you” email, consider putting it in a blog post. Quizzes also perform well when shared on social media. As sign-ups start trickling in, you can export the subscribers to your mailing list provider.
How to Get Newsletter Subscribers if You Haven’t Published Yet
Including a sign-up link in your book is a great way to collect subscribers, but it’s not your only option. You can jumpstart your mailing list before you even publish or have an online presence.
Simply create a public giveaway page on Instafreebie/Prolific Works with a free ebook as your reader magnet. Unlike private giveaways, public giveaways are discoverable by readers on the Instafreebie/Prolific Works platform. They can claim your freebie by signing up for your newsletter. Then you just export the subscribers as a CSV file and import them into your mailing list provider.
While these subscribers tend to be less engaged (compared to those who sign up after reading your book), this is a great way to get started. It can also boost your subscriber list if you’re not gaining traction using other methods after you publish.
How to Use Your Mailing List to Sell More Books
Mailing lists give you so much control over your marketing strategy. As you gradually collect sign-ups, you are creating an audience that trusts you, is engaged, and is more likely to buy your books in the future.
Take advantage of your mailing list with the following tactics:
Announce New Releases: This is one of the most important reasons for setting up a mailing list. Whenever you have a new book release, you can directly target readers who already love your work.
Sales and Promotions: To maximize your efforts during sales, let your mailing list know your book is discounted.
Build an ARC Team: An “Advance Review Copy” team can help you get reader reviews on day one of publishing. You can directly reach out to your mailing list to build an ARC team and maximize your book launch. (Read our step-by-step guide to create an ARC team and get reader reviews).
Leverage for Cross-Promotions: As your mailing list grows, it will become an important tool for professional collaborations. Many successful indie authors cross promote with other authors in their genre. If you meet an author in your genre who you click with and trust, consider cross-promoting each other’s work through your mailing lists.
Author Mailing List Tips
Landing Pages for Different Reader Magnets
As you add more books to your backlist, you may start to offer different reader magnets. For example, book one in your series might offer a custom playlist, while book two might offer a free slice-of-life chapter. This means you’ll need to create separate landing pages through your mailing list provider tailored to each reader magnet.
Trim Your Subscriber List If Needed
As mentioned above, mailing lists are priced based on the number of subscribers. If your list is taking up too much of your budget, consider removing inactive subscribers. It’s not worth it to pay for a 10,000-subscriber list if a tiny fraction of them are opening your emails.
Ready to Publish?
If your mailing list is good to go and you’re ready to publish, consider using PublishDrive! We can publish and distribute your book in over 400 online stores, including Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple Books, Google Play, and Kobo. We also offer flexible pricing plans for authors at every level. Whether you’re a newbie or a publishing pro, our pricing options will maximize your take-home royalties.