Email Lists Rock, But Not At All Costs

By Karen Dodd           May 27, 2013



As a fiction writer, you might wonder why the heck you’d need to have an email list—particularly if you currently have nothing to sell. You are doing a great job on building your author platform on social media, so why would you also want to build a list of readers and subscribers?

This is a great question and I think it can be a confusing topic.

Email list-building usually seems to be associated with making more money. While that’s always nice, (I like money!) it may not be what you’re focusing on right now. I’m betting that more than anything you’re looking to engage with and cultivate potential readers for your books.

Am I right?

What Exactly is An Email List?

Simply put, this is where you prominently display on your website or blog, a form for people to sign up to receive your weekly or monthly tips and updates. You never want to say: Sign up for my newsletter (boring)! Rather, you want to entice them with: Get Karen’s FREE Fiction Author Platform Blueprint! Enter your name and email below:

You’ll often hear this ethical bribe referred to as a “freebie” or “free, irresistible offer.” If you don’t have a freebie yet it can be as simple as Get Karen’s hand-picked top fiction author platform posts delivered to you weekly via email! Enter your name and email below:

If you have a blog the assumption is that you write and share on a particular aspect of writing. That said, you need an email list before your book comes out, so you have more followers and readers.

Why is Having an Email List an Integral Part of Your Author Platform?

The short answer is that even with a large following on social media, having someone choose to have your updates and tips come into their email inbox on a regular basis is the most ezinemailboxpersonal and authentic connection you can make with people.

It’s called “permission marketing” and it’s still the most powerful reader-attraction tool out there!

Consider your email list as your little black book. It’s yours; you own it and although people are free to unsubscribe (they won’t if you consistently provide good content), no one can ever take your list away from you. Nor can you lose it to a social media site that crashes or closes down your account.

I have recently talked to a number of colleagues in the past few months whose websites or servers have been hacked and they were able to keep their followers posted via their email list. Priceless.

The BIG Email List No-No!



What actually gave me the idea to write this post was attending a local networking event last week. I was dismayed and disappointed that within several days of the event, I started receiving fellow attendees’ ezines, newsletters, and promotions.  I had not given permission to put my name on their lists, nor had I shown any interest in their businesses.

Please—never, ever, ever (have I been emphatic enough?) add someone to your email list without their expressed permission. Period!


But here’s what you can do:

  • When someone asks what you write about, or better yet are asking questions, say something like: “That’s a great question (and give them a short answer). You know, I offer a lot of free tips and tools to help writers with that. I don’t email too frequently but would you like to be added to my reader list?” Remember, nobody wants to be added to another email list.

 Then I discreetly write a little note on their business card that it’s okay to add them to my list.

  • When you’ve had a real conversation with someone (not just collected a bunch of business cards from folks you didn’t personally speak with), send them an email thank you with a personalized subject line, such as: Thanks, Susan! In the body of the email, copy and paste your last email update and let them know that this a one-time thank-you gift and that if they’d like to continue receiving your free tips and tools, they need to subscribe.

I have used this technique for years in my other business and after every networking event I had new signups and I never received one complaint. The keys to success seems to be: how I worded the subject line, the introduction, and the fact that I put it in red italics that I only send one unsolicited copy. After that they had to choose to subscribe.

People appreciate your trustworthiness and honesty. It’s all about connecting with people authentically.

Some platform enthusiasts say that building your email list takes priority over developing your social media strategy. Ideally, you should do it simultaneously.

Remember, this is not necessarily about creating more content that is new. Your email list can be as simple as focusing on your most popular blog posts or a simple but powerful tool that addresses your area of expertise or writing.

Think re-purpose versus more work!

Do you currently have an email list and/or a great “freebie?”  Or are you wondering what you have to offer your readers? Why not share your success or questions?   I’d love to hear from you. Please click here to comment.


Karen Dodd



Article written by Karen Dodd

Author / Columnist, Entrepreneurial Woman Magazine

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