How To Explode Your Email List

Back in 2017, Jim wrote a terrific post with tips for success in traditional or independent publishing. One of his top tips for all authors is to build an email list.

Did you follow that advice? If you didn’t, heed Debbie’s warning on how NOT to get started. Even if you’re working on your first novel, you should be actively building your list. I’ll let David Gaughran explain why an email list is the most powerful tool at our disposal.

I’m sure all of you know the power of having thousands of committed readers signed up to your mailing list, allowing you to send each new release into the charts. Even if you’re not there yet personally, this should be something you are aiming for. Every single author should have a mailing list and be seeking to actively grow it.

Now that we know why an email list is so important, how do we go about it?


To build an email list, we need a way to collect emails on our website/blog. SUMO is the #1 email capture tool. And it’s free. As of this writing, 886,114 sites use SUMO.

We’ve noticed lots of people struggle to collect emails because the tools just aren’t available or are too expensive. So we thought, why not make our tools available for you?

Our goal, plain and simple, is to help you grow your website.

— SUMO mission statement

Create a scroll bar, pop-up, smart bar, Welcome Mat, or static form to trigger visitors to subscribe to your list. If you offer a free book as an incentive (called a reader magnet), be sure to mention it in your form. No coding required. Takes less than a minute to design a form.

I’ve used SUMO for years with excellent results. I started with a smart bar that hung at the top of the website. I can’t remember why I switched to a popup. There’s no question popups are effective. They’re also annoying as all heck. So, I switched back to the smart bar. A Welcome Mat covers the entire page. The visitor must interact with the form to read the article underneath. They’re effective, but I’ve passed on articles because of them. Do what works best for you.

Pro Tip: Rather than offering the same reader magnet for years, swap it for a new freebie from time to time. Using the same one can become white noise after a while.

A Word About the “F” Word: Free

Being an author requires a long-term game plan. There is no get-rich-quick scheme. For most of us, one book won’t produce enough income to survive. Thus, we need a strategic approach to building our brand. The #1 way to do that is to grow our email list, and a free ebook campaign can accomplish that goal.

Many authors put their books into Kindle Unlimited. Which is fine, in theory, but it won’t grow your email list. Amazon won’t tell you who downloaded your book or how to contact them. Sure, you might gain visibility, but wouldn’t you rather form a long-lasting relationship with a fan who can’t wait for your next book? There’s only one way to meet that goal: grow your email list.

If you’re still not convinced, let me ask you this. How many $5 ebooks have you bought from an author you’ve never heard of without a recommendation from someone you trust? Not many, I suspect. Now, what if the book was free? You’d be more apt to take the chance, right? Of course you would.

Some of you may be thinking, offer my book baby for free? Gasp! Believe me, I get it. I know how much of your heart and soul you’ve poured into that book, but we need to shed the emotional attachment to move forward. View each book as a steppingstone leveraged for future sales. By sacrificing short-term gains, we set up long-term rewards. Capeesh? Super. Moving on…

Book Funnel

BookFunnel isn’t only a platform to send ARCs, though I do love that aspect. They automatically add a watermark to Advance Reader Copies to help prevent piracy.

Whether it’s delivering your reader magnet, sending out advanced copies of your book, handing out ebooks at a conference, or fulfilling your digital sales to readers, BookFunnel does it all. Just like you, we’re in the business of making readers happy. Let us help you build your author career, no matter where you are in your journey.

All true. You do need to pay-to-play, but they offer affordable plans. The New Author Plan is $20/yearly. If you only have 1-5 books, the New Author Plan might be enough to get started, but you won’t be able to collect email addresses unless you join a group promo. Even then, the starter plan has limitations. So, if you’re hoping to explode your email list, my advice would be to upgrade. The benefits far outweigh the cost.

Mid-List Author costs $100/yearly or $10/monthly (if the yearly plan is unaffordable right now, choose the monthly plan; you can always change it later). The premiere plan is Bestseller for $250/yearly. The plan titles are a marketing ploy to shame you into upgrading. That said, there are a few key differences.

  1. Mid-List allows 5K downloads per month; Bestseller allows unlimited downloads.
  2. Mid-List allows 2 pen names; Bestseller allows 3 pen names.
  3. Mid-List doesn’t include Priority Support, Bestseller does.

There’s one other difference worth mentioning. Mid-List has no email integration. Meaning, after a promo they’ll send a .csv file for you to upload to your list. Email integration uploads the names/addresses automatically. You can add email integration to Mid-List for $50/yearly, if you’d like. Or stick with the original plan and upload the .csv file yourself. Whatever works best for you.

Bestseller comes with 3 email integrations. Meaning, if you separate your email list into segments or groups, you can integrate a specific list for each BookFunnel promotion.

BookFunnel Landing Pages

You’ll need to do some work to setup your dashboard, but it’s a painless process. Add books and create beautiful landing pages in minutes. No coding or tech skills required. A landing page is where we send readers to download our freebie.

We have various options when creating landing pages. To grow the email list, check the box that ensures readers must give a valid email address to download the book. BookFunnel verifies each address before granting access.

BookFunnel Promotions

BookFunnel membership comes with free promotions. Hosts offer several different promo opportunities.

To grow the email list, scroll through active promotions in your dashboard and search for Newsletter Builder promos.

Check the requirements for each promo before joining. Some require a minimum number of subscribers in your email list (usually 1K).

Next, subscribe for updates in your genre. Every time an author sets up a new promotion, you’ll be notified via email. Spots fill up quickly, so don’t delay. Or host and run your own promotion and invite other authors to collaborate.

Pro Tip: When the promo goes live, share your personal tracking link in your newsletter, on social media, and your website. BookFunnel tracks your shares. It’s how you build a good reputation for future promos.


If you like BookFunnel, you will love BookSweeps.

A premiere membership costs $50/yearly, but it discounts future promo opportunities, promotions that add hundreds of voracious readers to your email list. Not freebie seekers, either. These are book buying readers. Freebie seekers join email lists to get the reader magnet, then immediately unsubscribe.

Even with book buying readers, it’s normal for a few to unsubscribe when you send your first email. This happens for various reasons. Don’t take it personally. Think of it as a good thing. Once you hit a certain number (1K-2K email addresses, depending on email provider), sending newsletters is no longer free. Why pay for a reader who has no interest in your work?

Add a Pen Name

A premiere membership allows three different pen names. If you don’t have an alternate author name, create book specific pen names. For example: I created Sue Coletta for my Mayhem Series and another Sue Coletta for my Grafton County Series. Why? Because my two series have different character types, tropes, settings, etc., all of which we can distinguish under separate Pen Names.

Create a Reader Magnet

Generate email subscribers by adding an ebook to the BookSweeps directory, where readers can download the book in exchange for their email. When we create a reader magnet in BookSweeps, we can link to the next book in the series (for sale), add testimonials, and add sub-genres and tropes. It’s an excellent marketing tool.

BookSweeps Promotions

You do have to pay-to-play, but BookSweeps offers discounts once you’ve run a promotion or two. A $50 promo becomes $25 – $35, depending on the promotion.

The best part about BookSweeps promotions is they do all the work for you. All. The. Work.

  • 5 days before the promotion they send you the group promo images for FB and Twitter; they even create a shareable image for your individual book.
  • On promo day, they send you a reminder email with links to the shareable images.
  • During the promo, they remind you when the promo will end.
  • After the promo, they send you an email on what to expect next.
  • 5-10 days after the promo, they send you the spreadsheet with the email address, a separate spreadsheet for the winner and runner-up. That email also contains links on how to upload the list to your email provider, tips for writing a welcome letter, and other valuable information about nurturing your email list. 

Pro Tip: When running a promotion on BookFunnel, Facebook, Twitter, or your website, add a Sweep in the BookSweeps giveaway directory to increase your reach. Free traffic!

Writers: If you follow this advice, your email list will explode with new subscribers.

Readers: If you join BookFunnel or BookSweeps (both free for readers), your e-reader will explode with free books. Win-win!

Over to you, TKZers. What’s your #1 tip to grow your email list? Please share your experience.

This entry was posted in #writers, #writerslife, #writetip, #WritingCommunity, book promotion tips and tagged , , , , , , , , , by Sue Coletta. Bookmark the permalink.

About Sue Coletta

Sue Coletta is an award-winning crime writer and an active member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. Feedspot and named her Murder Blog as “Best 100 Crime Blogs on the Net.” She also blogs at the Kill Zone (Writer's Digest "101 Best Websites for Writers") and Writers Helping Writers. Sue lives with her husband in the Lakes Region of New Hampshire. Her backlist includes psychological thrillers, the Mayhem Series (books 1-3) and Grafton County Series, and true crime/narrative nonfiction. Now, she exclusively writes eco-thrillers, Mayhem Series (books 4-7 and continuing). Sue's appeared on the Emmy award-winning true crime series, Storm of Suspicion, and three episodes of A Time to Kill on Investigation Discovery. Learn more about Sue and her books at

24 thoughts on “How To Explode Your Email List

  1. Good morning, Sue. Thank you for all of this information, so wonderfully presented. I’m going to send a link to your post to some folks who want/need it.

    I also naturally loved the photos. I’m a sucker for dogs. But don’t tell anyone.

    Have a great day on the mountain!

  2. Wow, Sue, you’re amazing. Lots of info here. I’m bookmarking this one. I need to reread and study. I use MailerLite for my email list. I’m eager to explore BookFunnel and BookSweeps.

    Thanks for a fantastic post!

  3. Sue, excellent info, well organized and presented, as always. Bookmarking this. Thanks, also, for the shout out.

    Where do you find all these great photos? Funny and dead on!

  4. Thanks for this post! Just this morning, I got an email from my web guru about my dormant newsletter. This tips are great. Newsletters are the one marketing tool you can control and can count on to get results.

  5. Sue, this is a very helpful and detailed breakdown of growing your email list. Way back in August 2016 I had five people on my email list, including myself and my editor. Five months later, when I launched my first novel, I had 2700, thanks to reader magnets. Now, many of them were freebie seekers, but it still gave me a decent platform for launching that first book.

    So, my tip would be a reader magnet, as you mentioned. I’m less enthusiastic these days about participating in the multi-author mailing list promotions that grew my list over the first couple of years, because many of the new subscribers were there for the freebies, which is fine, just not the audience I was looking to build. It meant I had to spend more time culling my list ever six months or so.

    Thanks for mentioning BookSweepsI’m participating in my first BookSweeps promotion this month, a Book Bub follower booster. I’ll definitely try their mailing list booster, too.

  6. Thanks, Sue! Great info…pasted into my TKZ file.

    I am, right now, in the throes of building my nonexistent email list (umm…about 45 right now). 🙁 And start a real newsletter. I’m excited about that.

    I have a phone call set up with a coach this week, and I hope to get some questions answered about my WordPress site and how to integrate my MailChimp account. And how to design a newsletter. And how to…

    Every little bit of education I can get makes me feel like I’m moving forward on my publishing journey. 🙂

    • You certainly are moving forward, Deb. You go, girl!

      I might be able to help with your MailChimp integration question. Design a signup form in MailChimp. Once you have it the way you want it, click HTML code. Copy the HTML code and paste into a HTML widget in WordPress. That’s it. When you view your website, you’ll see the signup form. BUT if you installed SUMO, once you design your form, all you have to do is tell SUMO to send your subscribers to MailChimp.

  7. Great information as always, Sue!

    I listened to a podcast earlier this year that featured tools for growing newsletter subscribers. I joined BookFunnel and BookSweeps and did a couple of promotions. My subscriber list grew by an order of magnitude. I’m signed up for some additional BookSweeps promotions in the December-January timeframe and I’ll be interested to see what happens.

    As a relatively new author, I don’t have backlist books to give away. However, I use a short story as the reader magnet on BookFunnel. It’s a great way for a reader to take a quick look at my style and content to see if they’d like to dive into one of my novels.

  8. Great post, Sue! I’ve used MailerLite from the get-go and love what do. I find their customer service unmatched.

    Glad you mentioned refreshing the Reader Magnet. Mine is still the same (oriented to my first novel), and I was planning to update it so this is my reminder!

    • I’ve heard such great things about MailerLite, Harald. I keep meaning to make the switch from MailChimp, but haven’t gotten around to it yet. So, thanks for the reminder!

  9. Yahoogroups is shutting down on December 15th. I’m in the process of moving all my lists, professional and fun, over to .io which is much more private than Google Groups. Today, I’m sending out announcements to my old lists to allow people to migrate if they wish. So far, so good. Email groups like this are excellent for the non-promotion aspects of writing. I have a group for a published anthology’s authors, a group for authors for the same publisher to have a private place to vent and exchange info which has turned into a friend group, and a group which is an alternate means to share my blog articles. Funsies lists are a fan group for an actor I’ve known over thirty years, and various reader lists for specific genres where I share mini-reviews. Simple and free is the way to go for some lists.

    • Yes, I agree, Marilynn. Yahoogroups is a wonderful platform. One of my publishers uses it, and it’s been a great place to exchange ideas and such. MWA uses io groups. Excellent, too.

  10. This is really good info, Sue. I put it on a Word.doc and printed it out for reference. I checked my MailChimp site and see that Sumo accounts for 71% of sign-ups. The other 29% is “Social Proxy for MailChimp” – whatever that means. I guess it refers to other leads like the website landing page magnet, links in book back matter, etc.

    I swear by a freebie’s value. What’s working for me is the first in a series being free with the free book being linked to others for sale in the same series. I can’t measure how much the freebie link on my landing page accounts for signups or retail downloads, but I know when I run an ad campaign promoting the freebie I get a lot of downloads. Shortly after, the paid read-throughs start.

    I’ve given away well over 10K of my first series book–probably more like 20. When I first clued into the value of a giveaway, and I thank CJ Lyons for that, I realized it was not “giving away” a valued product. Rather, I was getting the potential for that many new readers for free.

    One more thing while I’m mouthing off. I know the emotional attachment authors have with their book babies. I was that way with my first few, and it took quite a while to view a book as a commodity to be sold and bought – yes, a product as Amazon calls it. Now, I try be to detached while building and putting out the next product, however, there’s still that emotional tie while it’s going together. If I ever lose that spark, it’s time to take down the shingle. Happy Monday and enjoy your week! Now, back to work 🙂

    • I agree, Garry. There’s no question making the first in a series perma-free works, but there’s no guarantee that reader will buy the next book in the series, and you won’t have any way to track whether they do or not. You could be gaining readers from that freebie, or you could be attracting freebie seekers. It’s been proven time and again that sales drop off with each series book after the freebie. If that same reader is on your email list, however, then you’ll have the analytics to know who’s reading what. Food for thought. 🙂

Comments are closed.