Email Lists: How to Build an Email List for Authors

Lise Cartwright
February 21, 2020 | 14 mins


That's the sound heard across the world as another budding author's head hits their desk, beaten and despondent with their yet again, failed attempts at building an email list.

I get it.

You're so focused on writing your book, that you hadn't even thought about how to build an email list of raving fans. 

But you know it's important – it doesn't matter if you're self-publishing or traditionally publishing a book. Today's modern author needs an email list.

Related: How to Become an Author

Either way, you're not convinced… what's so important about having email lists, and why are they so hard to build?!

It's time to ditch the overwhelm and find the clarity you need.

Because once you know the steps you need to take to start building that email list little by little, the sooner you can get back to your favorite pastime… writing!

So if you're ready to take this journey with me, let's break this all down so you stop feeling overwhelmed, and start feeling clear and confident on how to build your email list.

Let’s get started.

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Here’s how to build an email list in 7 steps:

  1. Choose your email platform
  2. Decide on your free gift
  3. Create your landing page
  4. Deliver your free gift via email
  5. Write a welcome email sequence
  6. Add to your website
  7. Promote your landing page

What is an email list?

An email list is a list of email addresses of people that have subscribed to your blog, website, or other channel. Email lists give you direct access to communicate with your fans, readers, and/or subscribers, which allows you to build a relationship of trust and value.

For example, let's say you place an online order at a new website you stumble across. During checkout, you enter your email (as well as other information). Once you hit “Submit,” you enter the online store's email list, and you start receiving emails from the company.

Why are email lists important?

Email lists are important because it allows you to continue a relationship with people who are interested in your products and services even after they finish reading your book.

Having direct access to communicate with your fans and readers is powerful, because you can build trust and offer even more value, which places you in a great position to offer even more products, services, and content.

As an author and entrepreneur, building an email list has been a huge step asset to my own business. I talk a bit more about this process in my interview below.

YouTube video

#1 – Choose your email platform 

What is an email platform you might be thinking…

Let's start with what it's not.

It's not your Gmail, Yahoo, AOL or Hotmail account.

Those are your personal email service providers. You use those when you're communicating with family and friends or when you conduct your personal tasks (like buying things on Amazon).

What is an email platform? 

An email platform is a database that holds your email lists, and allows you to communicate with your subscribers, or fans, in mass.

Better yet, think of it as your online home's lounge. Your website is your online home, your email platform is the lounge you invite your readers to come join you in.

Just like book writing software allows you to write and publish your book efficiently, an email platform service allows you to build, nurture, and communicate with your fans.

So you want an email platform that is easy to set up, allows you to easily invite people into your ‘lounge' and hang out with your readers as often as you wish.

Here are some popular email platforms:

#1 – Mailchimp 

You might have heard of MailChimp as a good starting email platform, mainly because they offer a free version and you're looking to test the waters before you start paying.

However, MailChimp isn't designed for authors or creatives. It's designed for ecommerce businesses and has some not-so-supportive charges (even on the free plan) that won't serve you as an author… Step away from MailChimp, my author friend!

#2 – MailerLite

A better solution would be either MailerLite, who offer a similar free plan (first 1,000 subscribers for free) or, 

#3 – ConvertKit 

This is what I personally use, and through this exclusive offer you will get a free plan to get you started.

Any free plan you start with will have limitations, which is why I would recommend starting with a paid option. But you get to decide what this looks like for you.

Free or paid, pick one. If you don't like it, you can change it later.

Whichever platform you choose, go ahead and set up your account.

Tips for choosing an email platform: 

  1. Don’t use your personal email service provider
  2. Start with a paid plan if you can, to avoid any limitations
  3. Do your research, but don’t get stuck in decision overload

#2 – Decide on your free gift (aka reader magnet)

Now that you've got your email platform account set up, before we go any further, we need to figure out what we're going to offer our potential readers to encourage them to join our list.

This is where your free gift/lead magnet/reader magnet comes in.

The purpose of a reader magnet is to serve as a free gift that either supports your reader as they read your book, or aligns with the topic of your book and helps them enjoy and experience the topic even more.

Related: Book Funnel

It should be a free gift you provide within the first few pages of your book. 

As a non-fiction author, my books focus on teaching my readers something, so I create PDF workbooks as my free gift. These allow my readers the ability to actively participate in my book as they read through it.

Other reader magnet ideas might include:

  1. A checklist or cheat sheet
  2. A video tutorial
  3. A digital download (like a desktop wallpaper, phone background, etc.)
  4. A downloadable printable (like a pretty quote, coloring pages, etc)
  5. A resource library
  6. Templates
  7. The next book in your series
  8. An audiobook version of your book

Once you've chosen your idea, create it.

Sites like allow you to create easy digital downloads and printables and if you're wanting to create video tutorials, a free screen capture tool like is also a good solution.

Once you've created it, move on to the next step.

#3 – Create your landing page to capture emails

Now we're starting to get serious as we get closer to building your email list!

Remember how we talked about your email platform being like your virtual lounge? 

Think of your landing page as your virtual party invitation. The one you're creating to host people in your virtual lounge.

Ok, ok, I know it's becoming a stretch to use these analogies, but I wanted to help you picture something you're familiar with.

Maybe an image will help.

Below, you'll see the flow your reader will take for this whole process. 

Right now, we're at step 3.

The Reader To Email Lists Flow

Here's an example of a landing page I have for my free gift, which is a workbook for my book, Capture, Convert, Captivate: How Creatives Can Use Email Marketing To Connect With Their Tribe, Make An Impact, And Create Consistent Income!

Email Lists Landing Page Example

This landing page is hosted on my website with the email capture form created by ConvertKit and embedded on my landing page.

You don't need to do that.

Instead, you can use ConvertKit's free landing page builder.

Here's a quick video from ConvertKit on how to create a landing page using their free tool.

Here's what one of their landing pages looks like as if your reader had just clicked on it from insider your book:

Email Lists Landing Page Builder By Convertkit

As you can see, it doesn't look that different from the one I created on my website.

There is only one call to action on your landing page… your reader has to enter their details to get access to your free gift.

ConvertKit's landing page tool will allow you to create this page in under 10 minutes!

Go ahead and create your landing page now.

Once completed, move to the next step.

#4 – Deliver your free gift by email

Now it's time to get your free gift into the hands of your new raving fan.

But how do you do that?

This is where I see a lot of new author's stall… unsure on how to easily deliver their amazing free gift into the hands of their new subscriber.

Which is why I'd suggest ConvertKit again for a new author.

ConvertKit allows you to attach your free gift in two ways:

  1. Upload it directly to ConvertKit, perfect if your free gift is some type of digital download like a PDF
  2. Provide a link to where your free gift is located, perfect if you have a screen share video tutorial on Loom.

This is done as part of your landing page setup. ConvertKit calls it the “Incentive Email”.

Free Gifts To Email Lists Via Convertkit

The first step is to click on the grey button called “Edit Email Contents”. Once you do that, you'll see the following screen:

Convertkit Incentive Email To Email Lists

It’s important to customize each part of your email message, so let’s walk you through the process now.

#1 – Add a clear, attention-grabbing subject line

The first part of your email to customize is the subject line. This is the short amount of text your subscriber will see when your email lands in their inbox, before they actually click to read. 

It’s important to make your subject line clear (to show the purpose of why you’re emailing), but also attention-grabbing (so they actually open it). 

Here's some suggestions for your email subject line:

  • Your workbook download is inside!
  • Important: digital download waiting for you
  • Just one more step…
  • Your download is one click away

You get the gist. Make it something that relates to what they just signed up to receive.

#2 – Add the email body text 

The next step is to review the message, which is split into three parts.

  1. Intro: This first part is the introduction, which should be welcoming and short. Try something like: “Thanks so much for signing up to receive the Capture, Convert, Captivate Workbook. To get instant access, click the button below and it will start to download onto your computer.”
  2. Button: Change this to be more actionable. Something like: “Click here to download your workbook!”
  3. Follow up: This is the last part of your email, where you can let them know what's happening next. You could write something like: “I'm excited to hear how you go with the book and workbook. Over the next few days, you'll get more tips and strategies for email marketing from me. Stay tuned! -Lise”

Once you've finished, simply click on the big “X” in the top, right hand corner. It's automatically saved.

#3 – Add your free gift

This is the final step for your delivery email. 

Send Lead Magnet To Email Lists Via Convertkit Walkthrough

As I mentioned before, you've got two options. You can either provide a URL/link to your free gift or you can choose the “Download” option, which will allow you to upload your free gift.

Either option is fine.

Add your free gift either by URL or by uploading it.

Don't forget to click “Save” as you're going through this process.

Once your landing page and incentive email are complete, double check that you've named your landing page something appropriate.

For example, I'd name mine something like: CCC Book Freebie (the CCC stands for Capture, Convert, Captivate, the title of the book).

All done? Great job!

But we're not done yet.

Now we need to welcome our new readers into the lounge!

#5 – Write a welcome email sequence

The steps on how to build an email list might seem complicated right now. But once you've completed this process once, you can easily replicate it again… much like writing a book!

Now, you could walk away from this process now and feel quite satisfied with what you've achieved.

But, if you're a savvy author (which I know you are), you'll want to ensure that you've set up all your list building assets so that they fire right from the start.

Which is why it's important to write a welcome email sequence that all your new email subscribers go through.

This welcome sequence triggers a day after they download your free gift.

What is a welcome email sequence? 

Your welcome sequence is simply a series of emails, sent out over 5-7 days (one per day) that introduces you and your reader to each other.

It's an opportunity for you to surprise and delight your new reader with more tools and resources, behind-the-scenes information, and a glimpse into who you are as a person.

This is about building a real, tangible relationship with your reader!

Here are the components of what each email should include:

Email #1: Introduce yourself + their no. 1 problem

This is the email where you get to share more about you, what you stand for, how you can help and ask them about what problem they have right now.

What's the #1 thing they are struggling with as it relates to what you do?

Email #2: Solve their no. 1 problem!

You want to solve the most common problem that your subscribers are facing right now. This will likely be something that has to do with the free gift you've just given with them.

This email should contain 2-3 strategies that your new subscriber can implement now to solve that issue. Or it could be links to more resources, stories etc on your website.

For example, I like to send my subscribers to my “Start Here” page, where I can provide even more information, videos, blog posts, resources etc.

Email #3: Surprise & delight

The aim of this email is to solve another common problem your subscribers face by offering them another bonus resource!

BONUS: Make it accessible ONLY to your new subscribers. They will love you forever if they know that only subscribers can access this.

Email #4: The next step

This is where you'll provide your new subscriber with the next step in your relationship… whether that's to register for a free webinar, purchase a new book you have, book a call with you… anything that gets them closer to being a customer and raving fan for life.

It goes without saying that you want to make sure it's of value to your new subscriber and is the natural next step in where they're at.

Email #5: The survey

This is where you'll ask your new subscriber to share more information about themselves.

A simple Google form is the best option to create this. 

You'll want to ask no more than three questions, and make them multiple choice or check boxes where possible.

Use this survey to learn more about where your new subscriber is at, or what their favorite books are.

In the P.S. of this email, you'll want to know what happens next. Here’s an example:

P.S. You'll be hearing from me once a week starting next Tuesday. This is when my new blog posts go live and I always send these out to my subscribers. I'm excited to hear more about you and how I can help!

Go ahead and write out your own email sequence. 

Once you've got it written, plug it into your ConvertKit account.

Depending on whether you have the free or paid version, you ideally want to set this up as an email sequence.

If you've only got the free version, you'll only be able to set this up as a broadcast. This means you'll have to schedule these emails every week.

A sequence is automated and sends out all the emails automatically.

Here's more information on how to set up your email sequence. Then you'll need to connect your landing page to your sequence, which you can do here. This will ensure that your sequence sends out automatically when a new subscriber joins your email list.

Once you've completed this step, you're almost done with setting up your email list process.

#6 – Add to your website

The next thing you want to do — as you implement the steps on how to build your email list of raving fans — is to add your landing page URL to your website.


Because we want to make sure that if people don't join your email list from your book, they at least have the opportunity to join it if they visit your website.

Here’s some ideas on where your landing page URL can go on your website:

  1. As a link in your menu bar (you could call it “Free Gift”)
  2. As an image added to your sidebar that links to your landing page
  3. Add a link to the bottom of each blog post
  4. Add it as a footer link to the bottom of your website

Basically, anywhere you can think of on your website is a great idea!

BONUS: Add your landing page URL to all of your social media profiles too! Your Instagram bio, your Twitter bio, your Facebook Page and so on.

#7 – Promote your landing page

Don't stop at step 6 above!

As an author, your best way to capture raving fans into your email list is to promote your landing page wherever you can.

Got a podcast interview coming up? Ask if you can include a link to your free gift (your landing page) in the show notes.

Doing a guest blog post on a prominent website in your niche (*cough* like *cough*), link to your landing page.

Part of a private Facebook community that allows you to promote on a certain thread? Link to your landing page.

Participating in a Twitter chat? Make sure you mention your landing page if it's applicable.

Belong to several Pinterest group boards? Make sure you've got 15+ pins created for your landing page and pin them at least once a day to your group boards.

This is building an email list 101.

And of course, you can run Facebook ads, Google ads etc if you wish, but I don't recommend that when you're just starting out.

BONUS: Automate your email list building efforts

Almost everything that I outlined in step 7 can be automated through the use of social media posting tools like Buffer, HootSuite, CoSchedule, MissingLettr and so on.

These tools allow you to schedule your social media posts (aka your post about your free gift + landing page link) as far in advance as you wish.

I recommend scheduling at least 7 days of posts on a Sunday or Monday so that you only have to worry about it once a week.

Your next steps for building email lists

If you’re here, it means you’re ready to take the leap and start building an email list of raving fans.

We can even help you build your email list and get your first 300+ subscribers.

What are some of the best email list building strategies you’ve seen?

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