10 email marketing tips from best-selling authors

October 5, 2017

I asked best selling authors that use MailerLite to share their best practices in email marketing. Here are their TOP 10 tips.

#1. Start as early as possible

Ann Omasta:

For authors just starting out with a mailing list, I know it can seem overwhelming, but it is absolutely doable and so worthwhile.

In less than a year, I have gone from having my mom and dog on my mailing list to over 30,000 subscribers. These subscribers have helped me form a street team, they follow my social media accounts, and they make my book launches more than me just shouting out to the ether that I have a new book available.

Include a sign-up link for your newsletter in the front and back matter of every book, as well as in a prominent spot on your website. These organic subscribers are your biggest fans.

Group giveaways on InstaFreebie and BookFunnel (MailerLite has integrations with both of them) are another great way to get a group of subscribers. These subscribers may not yet know you or your writing, so give them some freebies and nurture them into fans.

Ann Omasta Email Example

 #2. Organic sign-ups are king

Elise Noble:

I include sign-ups links in the back of all my books, and in a number of them, I also offer a free short story in return for joining my list – these vary from 3k to 10k words and relate to the book they’ve just read. Mailerlite’s forms and automation are brilliant for this – I collect the reader’s details on a landing page then use automation to send an email with the download link. I use BookFunnel for delivery, which works brilliantly.

Elise Noble Email Example

#3. Set expectations

Anne R. Tan:

Always tell a new subscriber how they got on your list, what to expect, and make it easy for them to unsubscribe.

Anne R. Tan Email Example

#4. Never “pimp” or promote your books right off the bat

C.J. Pinard:

It’s best to do some kind of giveaway or share free books for your first couple campaigns, like you are gifting them a thank-you for subscribing or being a loyal subscriber. Putting the posts together is time-consuming, but worth your time. Make the post pretty and aesthetically pleasing.

Give stuff away at least once a month—or at least share a friend’s giveaway. People like winning stuff!

Anne R. Tan Email Example

#5. Underpromise and overdeliver with a newsletter

Ann Omasta:

For example, I offer 1 free book to readers for subscribing to my reader group, but then I send them 4 over the course of a few weeks. In my automation emails, I hint that there are more great things coming, but I don’t give specifics. This seems to work well to entice subscribers to stick around to see what else I’m going to give them.

Ann Omasta Email Example

#6. Make reader group members feel like privileged insiders

Ann Omasta:

I want them to feel like they get to have the inside scoop on any freebies, sales, giveaways, etc. that I know about… including those from other authors. I don’t want to seem too sales-y, so my newsletter often includes information about book deals from author friends. Rather than saying “Please buy my book” over and over, I want my message to be, “I thought you might want to know about this awesome deal.”

Ann Omasta Email Example

#7. Respect your readers

Anix Nichols:

Respond to every email, be respectful even if reader is critical about your work, survey your readers from time to time and ask for their help for names, covers, titles, etc. (I often run cover polls. The difference between the two options can be as small as the font type, but the readers enjoy having a say, and the author benefits too – especially when there’s a clear preference for one over the other).

Alix Nichols Email Example Alic Nichols Email Example

#8. Make the most of Mailerlite’s tools

Elise Noble:

I tend to send my newsletters fortnightly, and on the weeks in between, I use the non-open data to send a different newsletter (a shorter one) to the people who didn’t read the first. This seems to drop into a few extra inboxes and therefore makes the most of my list. I also use the link-click tracking to work out roughly what percentage of my readers buy from each store. That can help me decide where to target advertising and also work out whether it’s worth me going into KU or staying wide.

Elise Noble Email Example

#9. Research what other writers are doing

Elise Noble:

My advice for an author starting out: Research what other writers are doing. What do you like? What don’t you like? Take elements and give them your own spin in your newsletters. Also, don’t be afraid to ask your readers what they want too. A simple survey can give you loads of information, such as what genres they prefer, how often they like to receive newsletters, and what kind of content they enjoy reading.

Elise Noble Email Example

#10. Relax

Debbie Cassidy:

To any author starting out with email marketing I’d say, relax. Just have fun and enjoy books together, ones you are writing and ones you are reading. Don’t just sell, sell, sell, but get to know your readers and allow them to know you too. Do use automation but give it your personal touch and voice.

Debbie Cassidy

P. S. Still don’t use MailerLite?

Get started with a free plan that includes up to 1000 subscribers all features. Like automation, landing pages and integrations with Instafreebie, Bookfunnel and many others. Click here to sign up. 

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  • I do giveaways monthly as well as give out free books. Not just from me but from other authors. I also try and do Newsletter Swaps where I will have a couple of authors in the NL and focus on them.

  • Britney King

    Once you’ve provided value don’t be afraid to ask for the sale. I think many authors are shy about asking their lists to buy their books. However without book sales a) it would prevent many of us from continuing to work as writers as it isn’t without cost to produce quality work and/or maintain a list and b) you want to develop and audience whom is used to buying from and supporting you. I know personally when I sign up for a list it’s because I want to hear about what they offer.

  • Lincoln Cole

    I’ve had tremendous luck with automations recently, and I’ve grown my list quite a bit while using my welcome sequence to filter out people who aren’t really interested in what I have to offer. It’s been one of the newest features I’ve been able to capitalize with to grow and refine my audience.

  • J.M. Miller

    Great info! And thanks so much for the giveaway! I like to keep mine short. People tend to skim or delete altogether if they see too much text, which is also why I think having great media attached is also essential. Good graphic, gifs, and/or vids are sure to help keep their attention.

  • Lori Remenicky

    I like to do small giveaways each month such as a $5 gift card or I giveaway swag I’ve collected from other authors at signing events.

  • Melissa Banczak

    I don’t ask for anything until my third automation in the welcome sequence (about 17 days after they sign up) I ask for a review and about 1 percent so far do it. (My list is still pretty small) I started getting more emails from readers when I began including a personal story related to my book. In my second automation, I share a photo of my smiling greyhound and a short note about how she inspired the dog in my book.

  • Automations have been fantastic with retaining readers and actually getting them to read and review my books. Also, the auto resend to unopens has helped boost clicks.

  • Eric J. Gates

    For me the crucial issue is one of RESPECT – You need to respect your newsletter readers above everything else. Don’t send them newsletter emails every week, or even every few days. (Personally I’ve found that one every three weeks works best – and gives me a low unsubscribe rate and a very high open rate). Also feature an email where they can write to you in the newsletter and ALWAYS reply to every email you receive from them, and not a template reply either – get their names right and respond to them in a chatty, personal style – make them part of your family.

  • Newsletter swaps have been successful for me as I build my list. I try to include at least one other author’s book in each newsletter.

  • Helen Scott

    I survey my readers to find out how often they want to hear from me then with segmentation and a custom field I can e-mail them as often as they want. Some/most want to hear from me all the time, others only once a month, and still others only when I have a new release. They each get what they want that way.

    I also do a giveaway in every newsletter. It can be anything from a $5 gift card to a set of signed books or a big giveaway that I’m part of with a few other authors. This way they can always get the excitement of the possibility of winning something, and if you make answering a simple question (ex. Do you read in KU?) the entry then you gain info about your readers at the same time.

  • Eva Gordon

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/d736ecf47c1194ec06caa0e161f8bb073d6ac513ea3e6b54ed1e0ecb8bfdee6a.jpg I write paranormal romance, fantasy and science fiction. I enjoy sharing research information with my readers. For example I share how while I volunteered at a wolf sanctuary I got the idea of writing wolf shifter novels. As a former biologist I often do a short article about animal myths or biology. I also do character interviews, giveaway, book club questions and share my author friends’ book deals and releases.

  • Instafreebie (and its integration with mailerlite) has been invaluable in helping me build my list. Making good use of mailerlite’s tools including segmentation (groups) and automation is also so crucial to my own list management.

  • Indica Snow

    My biggest success has come from being personal with my readers. Chatty, warm, accessible. But something not a lot of other people are doing is including their pet. I have roughly a zillion adorable pictures of my cat (give or take a few billion) and I include a picture of her in every email I send out. I get fan mail for her; I had one reader say she wanted to start a fan club!

    By including pictures of my cat, I draw my readers in.

    Also, my biggest suggestion is to do what works for you and stick with it. Don’t flip and change all the time. There is no single way to write a newsletter that won’t make someone unhappy, so stop trying to please every single person on your list. It isn’t going to happen. Be you, and if people unsubscribe, that’s okay. They weren’t a good fit anyway. :)

    But I’m looking at some of the other advice on this thread, and I’m doing the exact opposite, and thriving! My emails are super long. I rarely use GIFs or memes. I send out every single week.

    So just because it works for someone else, doesn’t mean it’ll work for you. Do what is true to you, and let the chips fall where they may.

  • Anne R. Tan

    Thank you for including me in your article. Along the line of pets, I like to include my READER’s pet occasionally in the newsletter. Yes, my readers send me pictures of their pets.

    I don’t like to do cash giveaways because I don’t want subscribers who are on my list for gift cards or other prizes. The only prizes I give away are e-copies of my books and the option to name a minor character in my stories.

  • Jody Kessler

    Make your subscribers feel special. Some things I have done are: Give them exclusive giveaways or excerpts from your newest release. Show them the cover reveal before anyone else. Try a poll or survey. Keep it fun!
    Be professional but personal. Readers enjoy learning something about your life. Sharing a picture of my dogs brought more email responses than I would have guessed. They replied with their own personal pet stories and pictures of their dogs.
    Don’t make your newsletters too long. People are busy and many readers skim.
    Always include a buy link to your other works and use pretty graphics showcasing your book covers.

  • Douglas Dorow

    Give the reader/subscriber options on how they want to interact with you; do they want to be on your regular email list and get an email update once to twice a month? or do they only want to hear from you when you have a new book to release. Hang onto the subscribers by interacting with them on the frequency they want.

  • Debbie Herbert

    I try to be very generous with contest prizes, free books, etc. And I always have a short, personable letter letting them know what I’m up to–cat photos and videos included.:) Be sure to mention you’d love to have them follow you on social media to keep the conversation going.

    My most successful contests are in my automation series for new readers when I ask them to respond with their favorite sort of paranormal hero, favorite book settings, etc. This type of open-ended question allows for a conversation to develop with readers.

    Finally, don’t be afraid to get a little personal. I mention in one of my automation emails that characters with autism appear frequently in my books because I have a son with autism and it’s a challenge that’s near and dear to my heart.

    Have fun with it!


  • Charlotte Byrd

    I send out an email every day to my readers and always include recommendations from other authors (they are books that I swap with – I promote their book to my Newsletter and they promote my book in exchange). i also send out FREE book giveaways that I’m participating in on Instafreebie/Bookfunnel. My readers are happy to get free books and we all get new subscribers.

  • I’ve found success with larger chunks of snippets of books in the onboarding sequence. I always tried to keep it short and sweet, introducing potential readers to me, my works, etc. But then I realized the best way to do that was to SEE my work. A link out to an extended excerpt has nothing on the actual excerpt in the bottom of the email. If you’re not in KU, you can send even bigger chunks. For me, the max I can disperse is 10% of a story, but even that gives new readers a taste of what my writing is like. Seems to be working extremely well!

  • Monica Burns

    I’ve tried a number of things. I’ll do author spotlights, I’ll add in my favorite recipes with links on my newsletter website, I’ll to a single winner giveaway of one back list. I keep things in the same place in the newsletter. I always have my face up front and my chatty message. I keep it folksy. Readers want to know authors, not just what they have coming out. I share quite a bit of personal stuff with readers, triumphs, losses, etc. I’ll do the occasional survey, and to the best of my ability I keep it like a real newsletter. I do limited sale info and more of a newsletter where it’s fun stuff. That helps with open rates from regular readers.

  • Kacey Shea

    Exclusive content does well – an interview with a character or deleted scenes. I’ve also found sharing first chapters or punchy excerpts work really at hooking readers in and moving them to 1-click. Always keep it positive. Always keep it clean. Thanks for all these tips!

  • Sarah Darlington-Author

    I’m an author, so I follow about a billion newsletters of other authors—trying to figure out what to send and what not to send in my own. I’m still not exactly sure what works best… but let me tell you what I like/dislike from a readers perspective. Here goes. These are just my opinions, others might feel the opposite. My favorite lists to follow have inside content that is short and to the point—I don’t want to read about your cat😬, sorry. I like a beautiful graphic at the top, that clearly states your author name—so I know who’s newsletter I’m reading. I don’t always want a free novel! 😬 Sometimes the only book I’m interested in is yours! Lately, I feel like freebies are a dime a dozen. I like polls! I like excerpts! I like teasers! But not all at once, this going back to the short/sweet newsletter being my favorite. I like to know when a book goes live early. I like to know if a book hits the top of the charts. I really only want to hear from you about once a month.
    Okay that’s all I got! Keep working hard fellow authors!!! I love getting your newsletters!

  • These are great tips! Having a good incentive for people to sign up (free preview, etc.) has worked really well for me. A good welcome sequence (automation) makes a big difference, too. Not only does it help my readers get to know me (and vice versa), it’s a great way to dole out info instead of dumping it all in one email, and I think it helps readers create an association between you & your books. That way you’re not a stranger popping up in their inbox, you’re a recognized name/brand — and they get excited when they see your emails.

    Great post!

  • I love to underpromise and overdeliver. Subscribers to my list are promised a free book, but end up getting a lot more free goodies if they stick around. Thanks for the tips!

  • ➡ Ilma Nausedaite

    Authors, thank you a lot for the comments!

    The Amazon gift cards go to Bridgid, Cecelia Mecca and Douglas Dorow. We will contact you.

  • What works best for me is being myself! It can be scary to open up, but actually, the best responses I have had from my readers/customers have been when I have been 100% me. Apologising for a mistake (like sending out an email with a broken link – it happens), or even sending them a picture of my cats and asking to see their pets. The emails that provoke a natural dialogue between readers and I are 100% my most favourite ways to communicate. :)