Email List Building Strategies For Writers – How To Grow Your Email List Fast

In the past, I’ve really struggled with is building my email list. After getting it to a level I was tremendously proud of, it languished there for a long time, neither growing nor shrinking.

As I inch ever closer to the release of Pariah’s Lament, marketing has consumed my focus. And during that research, the signs have pointed to the email list as one of the most effective methods.

While trying out different email list building strategies, I came across one in particular that produced truly incredible results. I’m talking 750+ email subscribers for about 1 hours work.

For me, this is one of the best email list hacks, if not the best. In the sections that follow, I’ll answer all of those questions that have strangled you with frustration for too long:

  • Why do you need an email list?
  • How can you grow an engaged email list?

And I’ll show you:

  • How to build an email list fast
  • How to build an email list for free
  • How to build an email list from scratch
  • How to build an email list without a website

Why Do You Need An Email List?

Statistically, the email list is the superior means of selling books in comparison to every other platform.

Those who join your email list have volunteered their personal information (their email address) to connect and follow you. They want to hear from you. They want to buy your books (though there are a few steps to come before simply thrusting your book into their face).

So when it comes to launching your book, your email list of engaged and loyal followers will be excited to buy your book, shooting you up the charts and planting a nice big grin on your pretty face.

That’s what we all want at the end of the day, isn’t it? It’s therefore important that we invest some time and effort in email list building and studying how to get email subscribers.

fantasy worldbuilding guide

How To Build An Email List Fast

In my quest for expansion, I stumbled across Nick Stephenson. I could relate to Nick’s story a lot. He’d written books, self-published them on Amazon but wasn’t really getting the results he hoped for.

Years went by and nothing changed until he decided to dive into the world of marketing. He learned whatever he could from all different types of industries and applied them to the world of book marketing.

Nick Stephenson focused his efforts on building his email list. By using the techniques he’d learned, and after a lot of trial and error, he managed to grow his mailing list to 15,000 subscribers in just six months.

What did all of this email list building give him? Readers! Instead of sitting idly waiting for readers to come to him, he went out and found them.

There are a number of email list building strategies which can be employed to help you build an email list from scratch. Let’s look at them.

How To Build An Email List From Scratch

Nick adopted an email list building strategy called ‘book funnelling’. That is, making one of your books free to download on Amazon, either permanently or for a limited time.

Contained within that book is an advert for another free book which readers can get if they join your mailing list, or ‘book club’ as Nick prefers to call it—it definitely sounds better than ‘mailing list’. So what you’re doing is funnelling readers toward your email list.

You can find out how Nick sets up his books by heading over to his website, https://www.yourfirst10kreaders.com/. I highly recommend joining his mailing list. It includes a free course on his book funnel approach, plus lots of other great tips to grow your mailing list.

I’ve had mixed success with this method. Despite my free short story book hitting #1 in the fantasy anthology charts and staying in the top 10 for weeks, I didn’t get many subscribers from it.

There are better and more effective email list building strategies, though this is one that’s certainly worth doing.

A Guaranteed Way To Grow Your Email List Fast

I was completely surprised by how easy it was to do this.

It’s all about giveaways.

Yes, giveaways. Giving away free books, anything free (that people want of course). To enter, all a person has to do is join your mailing list.

This sounds ridiculously easy, doesn’t it? It pretty much is. I’m not trying to con you. One of my more recent giveaways saw me attract 457 subscribers. Here’s the proof.

email list building strategies

My ‘Bundle of Writing Gifts’ consisted of paperbacks of my two books, Flying on the Ground and A Fantasy Writers’ Handbook, Stephen King and Margaret Atwood’s books on writing, a free tshirt featuring the cover of Flying on the Ground, and some bookmarks. Stuff I had on my bookshelves already (new copies).

Now some of those people do unsubscribe. They may only be interested in the prize and don’t care for your scribblings. Out of those who have subscribed, however, I think fewer than 10-15% have unsubscribed, which is a good retention rate if you ask me.

Picking The Right Giveaway Prize

It goes without saying that you need to give away things that people want.

So some key questions to ask yourself:

  1. Who’s my target audience?
  2. Will they want this prize?
  3. What can I do to make this stand out from the crowd?

So to give you some more ideas, you could try:

  • If you’re a romance writer, you could put together a fine bunch of romance books, plus your own of course, as well as some nice chocolates and maybe even a little bottle of bubbly.
  • A Kindle pre-loaded with copies of all your books.
  • As a fantasy writer, you can bundle up some of the most popular fantasy novels. I do it all the time and get great results. And the email subscribers I get are fantasy fans, so when I start sending them lots of free fantasy stories and books, I begin to win them over. 

How Do You Set Up A Giveaway?

As you no doubt noticed from that image above, I used a website to host my giveaway. That particular website is called Woorise.

Let me jump ahead a few steps to explain why you should try and host a giveaway without using these sites.

These websites do nothing but host your giveaway. They don’t promote them. That you have to do yourself. To promote them, all you do is fill out a form on giveaway directory websites and include the link to the giveaway form page (such as Woorise). This form page is literally just a landing page with a signup form.

So the idea clicked. If it’s just a landing page, why don’t I just make my own free one on Mailchimp and link it to my mailing list so people are automatically added (often a premium feature on a lot of email list giveaway hosting sites).

So here’s how you can do it too:

  1. If you’re using an email list management website like Mailchimp already, great. If not, I recommend giving it a go. With Mailchimp, you can create a free account and build a list up to 2,000 subscribers. Beyond that, you have to pay. If you use another website to create landing pages, by all means use that. There are loads on the web. I’m most familiar with Mailchimp so for ease I’ll discuss that, but regardless, the principles remain the same.
  2. On Mailchimp, head over to Create. Select Landing Page. Next, give it a name, link it to your chosen audience and click create.
  3. Once you’ve completed the other details, head over to the design section. Here’s what I’d recommend:
    1. An attractive background image of your giveaway prizes or a bright, yet inoffensive solid background colour;
    2. Clear, easy to read text. A nice big title advertising the competition, and a clear, succinct description of the prizes;
    3. If you’re including your own books in the prize, I’d add a couple of short reviews of your books that you’re offering (if you have some). This helps defeat any cynicism in the mind of the potential entrant. Here’s the layout I used for my Bundle of Bookish Joy giveaway:
email list building
How do you build a mailing list?

4. The form you use is all-important. The way I believe I’ve been able to retain so many email subscribers is because I asked a targeted question when people entered. Specifically, I asked them what they were interested in, and gave them options: i) my fiction; ii) free books; iii) writing-related content. Using this information, I can add tags to each subscriber so that they receive content that they are more likely to be interested in, and therefore engage with. Hopefully, it’ll make them less likely to unsubscribe.

Let’s look at how I reached all those entrants.

I mentioned giveaway page directories before. There exists on the web scores of these websites. They each have loyal and dedicated followings of bargain hunters who are on the lookout for some cool free stuff. Including yours!

I have to admit, I never knew these websites existed. Some of the stuff you can win is incredible. You have to do different tasks for different giveaways, but for our purposes we’re just focusing on obtaining an email address.

A lot of these directory websites don’t charge you to list your giveaway. Others may ask for $20+, some just a few dollars. It’s up to you how much you want to invest.

The forms on these websites are straightforward. Some of them ask you for an image. I tend to take a screenshot of my landing page sign up form, cut out the crap around the outside, and upload that.

Below, you can find a list of sites you can list your giveaway on.

Where Can You List A Giveaway?

  1. SweepstakesBible.com (paid)
  2. Online-sweepstakes.com (free)
  3. Contestchest.com (free)
  4. Contestgirl.com (free)
  5. Giveawaymonkey.com (paid – cheap)
  6. Theprizefinder.com (free)
  7. TrueSweepstakes.com (free)
  8. SweepGrab.com (free)
  9. Sweetiessweeps.com (paid)
  10. Giveawayfrenzy.com (free)
  11. Totallyfreestuff.com (free)
  12. Giveawaypromote.com (paid)
  13. Winasweepstakes.com (free)
  14. Giveawaybase.com (paid)
  15. SweepsAdvantage.com (paid)
  16. Sweeties Secret Sweeps (free)
  17. Infinite Sweeps (free)
  18. Reddit – r/contest, r/freebies, r/freebiesuk, r/giveaways, r/efreebies (all free)

There are many more websites. A quick Google search will give you a few more lists. You can also try searching for giveaway groups on Facebook and other social media platforms to share your giveaway on.

But using some of these sites alone, I reached a lot of people, and with the method used above, I managed to get a 25% conversion rate, which I’ve very happy with (that is the number of people who clicked the giveaway URL and then entered the competition). I’ve since been able to increase this to between 50-60%. Take a look for yourself.

How do you build a mailing list?

And as a little bonus, here’s the list of top referrers:

Email list building

The top three referrers all allow for free listings, so there you have it.

The only downside to using your own landing page, like through Mailchimp, is that you can’t track data like this list of referrers above. However, you can experiment with sites like Woorise to see which sites to focus your efforts on. You’ve got a bit of insight here to get you on your way, at least.

One of the best things about this email list building hacks is that you don’t need a website to do it. All you need is a Mailchimp account. 

Thank you for reading this guide on email list building strategies. I hope you’ve learned something new and that you benefit from the same great results I have so far.

Thanks for reading. Below, there are some other guides of mine you may find useful:

List of Fantasy Publishers

List of Fantasy Journals and Magazines

List of Online Writing Groups

fantasy worldbuilding guide

24 thoughts on “Email List Building Strategies For Writers – How To Grow Your Email List Fast

  1. Great info! I will definitely checking out Woorise. I currently write reader magnets and advertise them on FB. I netted over 1,000 new subscribers that way. Of course, quite a few unsubscribe again, but that’s okay. It’s part of the business.

    1. I’m delighted you found it useful! Woorise is ok. I’d give it a go for a first time giveaway so you can track the performance of your referrers but I wouldn’t pay for it. A free landing page is all you need!

      Thanks for stopping by!

  2. Sweet post. I recently got into Mailchimp and managed a measly 6 subs (hey, it’s better than nothing) offering free poetry and short stories. It appears to be steadily growing. I also started a Teespring store with merchandise to promote my work and inspire people, with a discount promo code that subs can use. Twitter and Instagram and supposed to be the best for business advertising.

    How did you give away books from King and Atwood? Did you own the books? I’m confused.

    Keep posting these, you’re helping a lot of people. Cheers.

    1. Thanks for stopping by! Mailchimp is a great resource, though it does take a little while to get used to all its features. There are so many! 6 subs is good! Rome wasn’t built in a day. I’d play around with giveaways. You can reach whole new audiences by having to do very little work.

      I already had spare copies of those two books so they were a fine choice to give away. I think it’s all about offering things people either want to read or will find useful, so that’s the formula I’m applying to my prizes moving forward.

      I’ll certainly be doing more posts on marketing. Experimenting with Amazon SEO at the moment so that could feature next!

  3. Thanks Richard. All these info tips are really helpful especially for someone like me who only joined FB a few years ago. So all social media is still a magic box to me. I love writing my scifi and horror thriller hut am clueless on the marketing, email list etc side of things. Just giving away free books has not worked, so looking forward to trying new ideas.
    Thanks again
    Rob

    1. Thanks for stopping by Robert! Marketing always had a question mark hovering over it for me too. I think it comes down to combining your free books with well known titles too. I’ve been designing prizes based on their appeal or their usefulness and it seems to be working well enough so far. I’d definitely give this a go and see how you get on. You can reach a whole new audience and it involves minimal work!

    1. You’re very welcome! I think the list of giveaway sites is a great resource. You can reach whole new audiences by having to do very little work. Good luck with the book!

    1. Thanks Raimey! Delighted you enjoyed it! I’ve found this the most effective and quickest way of growing a mailing list. Will keep on experimenting and share any further results I get!

    1. Thanks! I’m delighted you found it useful. I’d definitely recommend checking out Nick Stephenson’s free book called “Reader Magnets” (on Amazon). It’ll tell you what you need to do to get a book funnel set up and running. I’ve not had much response so far, but I’m getting lots of downloads so I’m hoping it’s more of a long-term method.

      1. I’ll have to check it out! If you’re a podcast person, you might be interested in the Novel Marketing Podcast, which does talk about some things like lead magnets. I think they have some episodes about mailing lists (I haven’t listened to those just yet).

  4. I’m slightly confused by the use of the word ‘giveaway’. It reads as if you’re actually holding a prize draw, but to entice the public in you’re giving away copies of your own books. Is that what you intended? I also don’t understand how you have copies of the books by Margaret Atwood and Stephen King’s books in sufficient numbers to bring the punters in – this also made me think you meant prize draw instead of giveaway.

    Don’t get me wrong, I think you’re absolutely right about building a mailing list, and about using this method to do so, and I definitely think you’re onto something with the do-it-yourself idea (which I always think is best as you can tailor it to your needs, not generic ones. But I’m still confused as described above!

    🙂

    1. No problem! I just use the term giveaway as it seems to be commonly used in the industry. It’s essentially a single prize draw for a bundle of writing related gifts. I had spare copies of King’s and Atwood’s books so thought they’d be suitable to use. And it worked! So in the future I’ll look to include other books from big names and bundle them up with my own. It just makes the prize more appealing.

      Hope that helps!

  5. Ah, that makes much more sense – I hadn’t heard the term in that context – obviously I have a misspent old age! But when people talk about giveaways on their Goodreads profile, I always think it means giving copies of your books away. That’s why I was confused. I was kind of thinking, oh, how on earth are you going to get enough copies…?

    But I do think it’s a great idea. So did you get an overall prize winner, then?

  6. Well, well done you! It’s an excellent idea, and as I have two new novels that I’m working on, I’ll probably give it a go nearer the publication time. I’ve already thought of something I have that I could give away as part of the prize. You’re very enterprising, Richie! <3

    1. Good idea. No reason why you can’t start building your list now to get a few engaged readers onboard so when it comes to launch day you have an audience waiting to buy!

  7. Thanks, though as of today I am on the penultimate chapter of the second book, so no time right now. But it would certainly be something I can do in the hiatus between this and the next draft. Speak soon!

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