smart email list building

3 Smart Email List Building Tips for Authors

8 Mar 2021 Publishing

Guest post by: R.J. Weiss

Afraid there’s too much competition for the attention of your potential readers in the crowded social media space?

You’re right! There is.

This is where email marketing shines.

Email newsletters get opened at a far greater rate than social media posts do.

Let me show you the three most important tips for building an email list and making sure it works for you.

What you offer people is known as an email opt-in. The biggest mistake authors make is creating an opt-in that offers little or no incentive for signing up.

The most common poor opt-in offer is: “Subscribe for Updates.”

smart email list

While updates on when you’re releasing a new book should be included in your emails, it’s not an overly enticing reason for people to sign up.

Give your audience a strong reason to sign up for your list (and to sign up today).

Provide a reason that gives them immediate value.

If you’re a non-fiction author, write about interesting articles you read over the past week and recommend.

If you’re a novelist, perhaps provide access to a short story you wrote.

Test a few opt-in offers to see which works best.

Many landing page builders allow you to test different email opt-ins in minutes — e.g., a weekly newsletter vs. a PDF download of your favorite books.

smart email list building

Email offers you a regular opportunity to strengthen your relationship with readers. Whether weekly or monthly, every email you send builds your relationship with a reader.

The stronger that relationship, the more likely they will buy your book.

You want it to become a question of whether they’re going to buy your book, when they’re going to buy it and how many people they’ll tell about it.

Some authors have spent so much time building trust with me by providing immense value — not only in their books, but also in their newsletter itself — that their book becomes the easiest purchases I’ll make all year.

Getting people on your list requires getting traffic to your opt-in pages.

This traffic can come from anywhere you have your readers’ attention. Make a habit of sending them to your website to sign up for your list.

And be sure to keep delivering value. This starts with the book itself. Many non-fiction authors include a bonus from their book. For example, a nutrition book might provide a PDF download for a list of recipes.

smart email list building

Here’s where you can really leverage your social channels.

An email list offers more control and better access to your audience. The goal should be to migrate readers from your social media channels to your email list.


  • Link to your email list in your social profiles.

  • Post on social media that you’re releasing a newsletter.

  • Occasionally post about your email list itself.

You want your social followers to know you have an email list and that it’s the place to be to get the most value from you.

Authors Doing Email Right

Cal Newport is the author of six self improvement books. He manages to sell a lot of books, though he doesn’t use social media.

Cal writes a weekly blog for his subscribers.

smart email list building


  • Cal has published a book every 2-3 years for over a decade. Between launches, he sends his list a weekly short blog post — often on the topic he’s in the midst of researching for his next book.

  • He also uses his list to conduct mini-research experiments for his books and blog posts.

  • Beyond selling his books, Cal also launches higher-priced and more in-depth courses.

Ryan Holiday has written eight books on marketing, self-improvement, and stoicism. allows you to sign up whenever he publishes a new article.

smart email list building


  • A prolific reader, Ryan sends his primary email list titles of the books he’s read each month.

  • Two separate daily newsletters, The Daily Stoic and The Daily Dad, help attract a wide audience.

Emily Oster is an economist who has written multiple books on parenting.

Her insightful newsletter comes out once a week.

smart email list building


  • Her newsletter often tops 2,000 words and delivers value to her reader.

  • Her latest newsletters have been mostly on children and COVID-19.

  • She encourages feedback, and often bases her next newsletter on that.

Email marketing may feel overwhelming, but if your goal is to sell books, take it seriously. Few marketing approaches offer you as much control for so little cost.

R.J. Weiss started writing The Ways To Wealth in 2016 and now reaches over 200,000 monthly readers. Subscribe to his email at his homepage.