In this article, we will cover several techniques to help you grow your email list to 10,000 subscribers or more.

It will take some time, but it’s doable. With 10,000 subscribers, you can figure that 1%-3% of your list will buy your book when it comes out. If you have 10,000 subscribers, you’ll sell 1000-3,000 books. If you’re independently published, that can add up to quite a bit of income. If you write multiple books each year, you may earn enough to live on by selling books to your list of 10,000 readers.

Before you grow your email list, you must have a newsletter worth reading. To learn what your newsletter should include, listen to the following Novel Marketing episodes:

Public Service Announcement: Avoid “Me Mail.”

What is Me Mail?

MeMail is an email newsletter that is all about “me.” If you are creating the email, it’s all about you. Your readers don’t care about you. They care about themselves. They want to know what you can do for them. Is there anything in your email for your readers? 

For example, around Christmas time, I’ll see authors write newsletters about their Christmas plans and their families. Readers care about their own Christmas plans. 

Consider offering something in your newsletter that will help your reader with their Christmas. Perhaps a short Christmas vignette they can read aloud with their family or 

tips related to the season. You might even consider saying, “Merry Christmas. Here’s a 10% discount,” but don’t merely talk about yourself and your plans.

You need to write emails that are interesting to your readers. If you don’t, none of the techniques in this article will work for you.

Spam is in the eye of the beholder. Create emails worth subscribing to.

Thomas Umstattd, JR.

9 Tips for Growing Your Email List from 0 to 10,000

Tip #1: Offer a Carrot

You’ve seen the image of a donkey chasing a carrot dangling from a stick held by the rider. The rider could beat the donkey with the stick to make him move, or he could dangle that delicious carrot in front of his nose to motivate him to move forward. 

It’s more effective to lure the donkey with a carrot than beat it with a stick.

In a similar way, you want to offer people a tantalizing newsletter, but you also need to give them a reason to move and sign up for your newsletter right away. The carrot is a prize readers receive immediately after they subscribe to your email list.

What kind of carrots effectively lure readers?

Short Story

You might have a series of short stories you’ve written. When people subscribe, they get your short story to enjoy.

Tips Sheet or Guide

Tip sheets, guides, and checklists often work best for nonfiction writers, but the possibilities are endless. 

Free eBook

It is very easy to give away an ebook from your backlist to incentivize readers to sign up for your email newsletter.

Audiobook

Your book on audio is a highly valuable carrot for readers who listen to podcasts and enjoy audio content. While it is a lot of work to create an audiobook, It’s relatively easy to send your readers a copy of your audiobook. 

Audiobooks are only becoming more popular. Listen to our episode on Why Your Book Should Also Be an Audiobook

Discussion Guide

A discussion guide for your novel or nonfiction book is a great addition to your readers’ experience. They can subscribe to receive a list of questions that will enhance their book club’s discussion or accelerate their personal growth.

For more ideas on creating a discussion guide and other resources, check out our episode about How to Create Book Club Resources for Your Book.

Easter Egg Guide

Many novelists like to hide “Easter Eggs” throughout their stories. In this sense, an Easter egg is a little something extra the author includes that only their biggest fans will notice. It might be a character from a past novel who makes a cameo appearance, a prop that links to another story, or a personal allusion to the author.

While your close friends and family might easily see the hidden Easter eggs, your newer fans might need a guide. Your super fans will want to know whether they’ve found all the eggs, and your guide is their answer key.

Three Requirements for Your Carrot

A good carrot will make the rest of these tips easier.

Valuable

Your carrot must be something your readers want. It must be valuable or have a high perceived value. For example, an audiobook costs around $30, so readers are thrilled to get it free.

Digital

Your carrot must be digital. Sending physical items through the mail or hand-delivering them takes loads of time away from your writing. Physical products aren’t an immediate reward.

Immediate and Automatic

Every email marketing service allows you to immediately and automatically deliver your carrot to your readers, though some services make it easier than others.

Once you set up your carrot (sometimes called a reader magnet or a lead magnet), your email marketing services will do the rest, and you can return to writing.

Tip #2: Host a Viral Contest 

I recommend a tool called King Sumo. Entrants get one entry when they enter the contest and bonus entries when they share the contest on Facebook and Twitter and when other people enter the contest using their magic link. 

Suddenly, everyone who enters your contest wants to persuade more people to enter. By the time the contest ends, your email list has grown exponentially.

But you must use bait that attracts the kind of fish you want to catch. Don’t give away an iPad, or you’ll attract fans of iPads. Give away your book or a collection of books like yours. Your email marketing service charges you by the number of subscribers you have. You don’t want to pay for subscribers who want an iPad but don’t like to read.

When I worked at Enclave Publishing, we gave away a collection of all the Christian Science Fiction and Fantasy ebooks we had published. There were 52 ebooks, so we pitched it as a year’s worth of reading.

The people who entered that contest were exactly the kind of readers Enclave catered to. The bait fit the fish.

Tip # 3: Host a Webinar 

If you’re going to host a webinar, it’s important to use a tool that collects email addresses when people register. I have used a dozen webinar platforms, and Crowdcast is my favorite. It has been the best tool for growing my email list. Zoom is cheaper, but it’s best for smaller meetings.

Crowdcast runs in a browser, so attendees don’t need to download special software. 

Attendees can ask questions and vote on which questions are most important. I can answer the most popular questions first. Attendees can also join me on screen. 

Consider hosting a book discussion, launch party, Q&A, or even a webinar to speculate about the plot of an upcoming movie or book in your genre. 

You might consider co-hosting the webinar with an expert in your field or another author in your genre. Partnering with another author or expert is one way to introduce them to your audience and vice versa.

When you use a tool like Crowdcast, people register with their email addresses, so even if they don’t make it to the live event, they still get the recording via email, and you still get their address.

Tip # 4: Simplify Your Sign-Up Form

Make your sign-up form simple. It might seem simple to you because you know where to find it and how to sign up. But your readers need it to be obvious and easy.  

Collect as little information as possible. My sign-up form only requires an email address. Research shows that every additional field on your form raises the barrier of entry and deters people from signing up. If you do not use the automated personalization feature in your email, there’s no need to ask for their first name.

Tip # 5: Collect Email Addresses at Offline Events

If someone has met you in person, they’re much more likely to sign up for your email list. 

Tear-Off Cards

Hand out cards to your audience where they can write their email address and return the card to you if they want to receive whatever you’re offering. I often do a book giveaway. Attendees enter by handing in their email address cards, and I draw a winner. 

Sign-Up Sheet

Pass a sign-up sheet clipboard around the room. Put your email address on the first line as an example of how to fill out the form. No one wants to be the first or only one on the list. 

The problem with the written addresses is that you have to manually type the email address into your software. Reading people’s handwriting is challenging. If you get one character of their email address wrong, their email will bounce. Entering the addresses manually also takes a lot of time. 

It’s easiest to collect email addresses electronically and online.

Online Electronic Sign-Up

Most people have smartphones. Ask everyone to get out their phones and walk them through the process of signing up for your email list while you’re speaking to them. 

Create slides with screenshots of the sign-up form and lead them through each step.

You won’t have to decipher handwriting, risk typos, or spend time entering them manually.

Whichever method you use, make sure people clearly understand they are signing up to receive email from you in the future.

Tip # 6: Include a Privacy Policy Near Your Sign-Up Form

Assure your readers that you will never sell their email address, and then keep that promise. Your privacy policy is legally binding. If you break that promise, a reader can sue you in court, and you will lose. 

Tip # 7: Use a Non-Evil Pop-up 

Everyone is hesitant to use a pop-up form on their websites, but a pop-up window will increase your email sign-ups by 50%. 

Do not use a pop-up that pops immediately, every time, on every page. That’s annoying. No one is ready to act that soon. In the same way that you’d want someone to know you before you ask them on a date, you need to let readers get to know you before you ask them to join your email list.

Use a pop-up that only pops for your biggest fans. You can set your form to pop up after a web visitor has scrolled 75% of the page or after they’ve been on the page for a while. 

On AuthorMedia, the pop-up doesn’t pop right away. There is a delay. Only those who have spent time reading the post will see the form. When it does “pop,” it slides onto the screen from the corner. 

Pop-ups work, but only if you put them on a timer and set some parameters. Sumo and Bloom (Affiliate Link) allow you to set the pop-up to delay 30-45 seconds before it pops. 

This will reduce reader frustration and might even increase your sign-up rate. 

Most authors who have built a list of 10,000 or more have used a pop-up form.

Tip # 8: Install MyBookProgress

One reason people subscribe to your email list is to find out when your next book is coming out. Most author websites have very little info about the author’s progress.

MyBookProgress is designed to show people, in real time, how you’re progressing on your book. It has a built-in subscribe tool that allows fans to subscribe to your list so they can get updates.

You don’t have to create a “carrot” to use MyBookProgress because the information about your progress is the carrot! Your true fans will love it.

Watch this one-minute video that explains how MyBookProgress works.

Storm Hill Media now owns and maintains the plugin.

Tip #9: When People Ask How to Stay in Touch

At the end of a podcast or radio interview, when the host asks how people can stay in touch with you, send them to your website to sign up for your email address. 

You may be tempted to send them to a social media account, but the likelihood of them seeing your content on Facebook is slim. The space is too crowded, and the algorithm only shows your post to a tiny percentage of your followers. 

By contrast, your email will be shown to every person on your list, and 20%-40% of the people who receive it will open and read it.

Email is a much more reliable and effective tool than social media.

You can grow your email list with a tantalizing carrot, an interesting reader newsletter, and a strategy. Building an email list takes time and careful thought, but you can do it. If you’ve had success (or frustrations) with these strategies, share your experience with us at AuthorMedia.social.

Related Episodes

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