Email List Building Post

If you’re a regular listener to The Author Biz podcast, you know that I and most of my guests believe an author’s email list is one of their most valuable business assets.

One excellent way to grow your email list is by actively encouraging your website visitors to sign up.

Here’s a simple two-step process to encourage people to sign up to your email list from your website: 

Step 1 – Ask
Step 2 – Make it easy

That’s the process in a nutshell.

Now the tactics for encouraging people to sign up can make the process seem more complicated than it really is.

Before we get to my two steps, let’s talk about some of the tactics that are working, and in some instances working well for people right now.

Screen Shot 2016-01-28 at 6.14.12 AM1.    Offer a free book or books for signing up to the email list. (Offering an incentive to encourage site visitors to sign up is often referred to as a Lead Magnet. You’ll see my lead magnet for this series as a blue button at the bottom of this screen)
2.    Have a pop-up show up over the content your site visitor is reading.
3.    A combination of those two things.

The free book tactic is being used by a number of authors with varying degrees of success, but it’s not for everyone. If you write a series, have multiple books and have the rights to those books, it’s certainly worth exploring.

The pop-up option is an entirely personal preference. Pop-ups work, but some people hate them.  I dislike them, but I use them because they’re effective.  On my CrimeFiction.FM website the pop-up attracts twice the number of subscribers that my fixed sidebar signup form gathers.

I consider pop-ups and free book offers to be tactics and those change on a fairly regular basis. Since we’re talking about foundational principals in this email series, I’d prefer to discuss the process of asking people to sign up and making it easy for them to do so.

The Ask

Asking people to subscribe to your email list from your site can and should be a simple process, which begins with building a subscription form at your email marketing provider.

You’ll notice the default options and colors on these forms tend to be bland and ugly, but they can be modified to match the look and feel of your site.

When building, or updating your form you’ll want to give some thought to what you’re going to deliver through your newsletter.  Will you be sending it out on a regular basis or only when you have new releases?  Will you alert subscribers to news like contests and discounts? If so include that in your ask.  Here are a few examples:

Subscribe to my newsletter
Learn about special deals, giveaways, and other reader perks.  Never miss a new release.  


Join My Mailing List
Get Latest Releases and Exclusive Offers


If you’d like to receive updates, news, and previews, please let me know by entering your email address in the box below.

It doesn’t need to be complicated and is in no way intrusive. You’re asking your readers and fans if they’d like to be notified when you have something to say.  And if they sign up then THEY WANT TO BE NOTIFIED.

Make it Easy to Join your Email List

The second part of the simple two-part formula is to make it easy, which meansmake it easy for your readers to find and complete your subscription form.

The best place for your subscription for, or link, or button is where readers will see it.  That’s not in the middle of your site, or at the bottom, or on your contact page.  It’s on the homepage, or better yet, on every page.

If you have a self-hosted WordPress site, you can put the code in a text widget on the upper right or left of your site. Or, you can use a WordPress plugin from your email list provider. (Note – This link goes to our affiliate link for Blue Host, the hosting company that we recommend. You’ll get a better price by following the link and we earn an affiliate commission from Bluehost.)

If you have a site, things get a bit more complicated. You can simulate a subscribe form the way I describe in this post:

If those things seem overly complicated you can take the easy, yet still effective way out. Just add a Subscribe link to your main menu and direct it to the subscription form you get from your provider.

Some of you will have sites that aren’t built on WordPress. You may be on Wix, or Squarespace, or even Blogger. The same information applies. If you can add a subscription form, that’s the best way to go. If not, a menu item or a prominently placed button that links to your signup form will work. 

One last thing on making it easy for site visitors to subscribe to your list. Avoid asking for unnecessary information. A year ago nearly all sites were requesting both first name and email address. Now, many are just requesting the email address.

I’ve experimented with both options and prefer first name and last, but that’s purely personal preference. I like having the option of personalizing my messages. However, asking for just the email address simplifies things because you don’t have to clean up the mistakes people make when entering their names.

The information you request, like so many things with your website, comes down to personal preference.

Email List Marketing Providers

Several email marketing providers do what you’ll need to stay in touch with your readers. Companies like MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact, iContact, Get Response and others are all good options.

However, there’s one difference, especially early on. MailChimp has a free option for up to 2,000 subscribers. If you’re just getting started, free is good.

Here’s a current list of prices and beginning tiers for the providers I mentioned:

  • Mail Chimp – Free for up to 2,000 subscribers and 12,000 emails per month
  • AWeber – $19 per month for up to 500 subscribers
  • Constant Contact – $20 per month for up to 500 subscribers
  • iContact – $14 per month for up to 500 subscribers
  • Get Response – $15 per month for up to 1000 subscribers

There are others as well, but I’m including the ones that I have used.

The features of each provider are different, but they all do the basics.

Interestingly enough once you get beyond the free tier at MailChimp most of the vendors are priced similarly.

I currently use MailChimp for both The Author Biz and CrimeFiction.FM.  For both those sites I use a feature called “Automation” which automatically sends out an email, or a series of email, when a trigger event happens. That feature is not available in the free version, so I currently pay them $13.50 per month.

I know some of this topic may be confusing. If any part of this is unclear please let me know in the comments below.

The Essential Elements of an Effective Author Website series continues with a post on the importance of adding fresh content to your site.

If you’d like to download the entire series as an e-book, that will be available soon. You can signup to receive a free copy the minute it becomes available by clicking the button below.

Yes, I want the ebook!

Creative Commons images by ALESSA_ABRAMOFF