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How to Build an Author Email List (With Lead Magnet Ideas)

Updated: Aug 1, 2023

You may have heard the term “email list” and wondered if you should have one. I strongly recommend building an email list if you're trying to grow your audience and sell more books. Building an email list is a rather simple process that requires effort and a bit of creativity. In this post, I’ll tell you what an email list is, share how to build an author email list, explain why they’re important, and provide some helpful tips.

What is an author email list?

An author email list, mailing list, subscriber’s list, or newsletter is a collection of email addresses that an author gathers from individuals visiting their website or blog. When someone adds their email address to your mailing list, they permit you to contact them by email at any time. Authors can take advantage of this tool by sending marketing materials, like book updates, offers, and event information, to multiple recipients at once.

How to build an author email list

You can learn how to build an author email list by following these five simple steps:

1. Choose an email service provider

The first step to successfully building an email list is choosing an email service provider (ESP). As an author, you can use an ESP to manage your subscriber list, send bulk emails, create professional emails, and assess the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. Some ESPs allow you to use their services free of charge if you're managing a small email list. As your mailing list grows, you may start to pay a fee depending on your needs. Here are some popular providers that you may consider:

2. Create a space for an email submission form

Next, create a space for an email submission form. This form allows people to subscribe to your mailing list by typing their email into the form. You may use your ESP to create one. If you have an author website, consider including the submission form there. When you add the sign-up form to your website, subscribers can learn about your brand and sign up for your mailing list in one place. Most authors place the submission form on their website’s home page and about page. Here are five popular websites that authors use to build their websites:

3. Attract subscribers using a lead magnet

Once you have an email submission form, encourage people to sign up for your mailing list by using a lead magnet. A lead magnet is a free item or service that you can give to people for subscribing to your email list. Essentially, it gives people a reason to subscribe. Promote your lead magnet on social media by sharing it and running ads. You can also consider asking people in your network to share it. Here are some common types of lead magnets that authors use to attract new subscribers:


Authors can offer people a quiz and require that the user provide their email address before viewing the results. Many people like taking online quizzes as they provide an opportunity for self-discovery (even if it’s only to uncover which type of vegetable you are). Three types of quizzes that authors use include:

  • Fixer quiz: Find out what’s wrong with your ____. I can find out your weakness in ______.

  • Score quiz: How well do you know ____? What is your _____ score?

  • Type quiz: What character are you? What is your ____ type?

If possible, aim to relate your book to the results. For example, if an author writes a book about their struggle with weight, they may create a quiz about body image or eating habits. In this case, the results may include the message, “Throughout my life, I’ve struggled with weight. But through my struggle, I’ve learned a lot about humankind’s obsession with this measurement. And then I wrote a book about it. It’s called BOOK TITLE.”

Free downloads

Many authors build their email lists by offering free downloads. Here are some freebies that authors can offer to coax new subscribers:

  • Advice: Non-fiction authors may share their advice or expertise on a topic. For example, an author writing about sales may offer ten strategies to increase sales.

  • Book club guide: Most book club guides include discussion questions, additional reading material, and, occasionally, a list of the author’s favorite recipes for a book club meeting. If you’ve already released your book, offering a book club guide can entice new readers to purchase it.

  • Book’s prequel: If you have a book series, consider offering a free prequel.

  • Chapters: Authors can share a sneak-peak chapter if they’re releasing a book soon. If your book is already out, consider writing a bonus chapter that you can share.

  • E-book: Some authors exchange their short e-books for a subscription.

Exclusive giveaways or access

You can offer exclusive giveaways or access to new mailing list subscribers. Often, authors use this strategy to convert people from social media followers to email list subscribers. Consider offering giveaways like a chance to attend a conference or a one-on-one writing session with you. You may also offer exclusive access to subscribers to attend a webinar or training. When promoting a giveaway on social media, ensure that people have a few days to participate.

4. Send a welcome message

Once people subscribe to your mailing list, politely welcome them. You can use your email service provider (ESP) to create a message that new subscribers receive automatically after signing up. It’s effective if this message relates to the lead magnet that originally intrigued them. You can also simply thank them for subscribing and let them know they’ll hear from you soon.

Along with planning a welcome message, consider creating a series of drip emails that will send to subscribers once a week for the next four-to-five weeks. Typically, authors ensure that the copy of these emails relates to their lead magnet or book. The messages can be short or long, as long as you’re connecting with your audience.

5. Share quality content

As subscribers can unsubscribe from your mailing list, a crucial step to building your email list is to share quality content. When a person provides their email address, it’s a big deal. So aim to reward their commitment by sharing content that adds value to them. For example, you may share advice on a particular topic. Consider sending the following information about your book:

  • Preorder offers

  • Release day reminders

  • The reason behind the book and how it can help readers reach their goals

  • Virtual book club dates

Why should I have an author email list?

Here are some reasons I recommend building an email list:

  • With a reliable internet connection, people can send and receive emails from anywhere at any time.

  • Unlike social media trends, email remains a relevant communication tool with personal and professional uses.

  • Authors own their email lists, meaning you may always have a list of contacts you can reach when marketing your book.

  • Email is a versatile communication tool, as you can include text, large files, graphics, and videos in your messages.

  • Email seems personal because they’re messages between two individuals.

  • Most individuals are more likely to engage with an email than a social media post.

Tips on building an email list

Here are some of my tips for building an author email list:

  • Be authentic in your messaging: Your subscribers likely appreciate getting to know the authentic you, so reflect this in your messaging. If you feel comfortable, let them into your life and aim to foster a sense of closeness between you and your subscribers.

  • Share what subscribers can expect: In your email submission form, consider briefly explaining what they can expect from signing up. For example, mentioning you’ll be sharing exclusive content can help encourage people to subscribe.

  • Consider your email frequency: Depending on your genre, plan to send at least one email a month, and at most, one email a week. If your expertise is business-related, consider emailing once a week, but if it’s lifestyle-related, once or twice a month.

Whether you’re in the midst of the writing process or have already finished your book, now is the perfect time to consider a marketing strategy. To help you get started, I’m offering a FREE download of my guide, 10 Things You Need For A Successful Book Launch. This valuable resource is packed with expert tips and strategies to empower you to craft an effective book launch and connect with a larger audience of eager readers.

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