Mark O'Neill

90% of what I do is daydreaming. The rest is typing.


Building an author mailing list

An author email list is essential to owning your fans on webspace that you control.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

While you are busy writing the first draft of your manuscript, it’s also worth beginning to take a look at some of the other elements you need for self-publishing success. Writing a book is only a tiny part of the work. Like the foundations of a building, you have to put lots of other little things in place for the whole thing to be a success. One of them is building your author mailing list.

The author mailing list

You can see how many Amazon followers you have, but you will never know who they actually are!

Amazon and other eBook platforms are never going to give you the contact details of your customers. It’s the same with social media platforms – if you were kicked off Facebook tomorrow, you would never have your fans’ contact details to tell them.

That’s why, from day one, you must have your own mailing list. Own your fans. Get them onto your own real estate. Social media is all well and good, but you operate on the whims of digital landlords like Mark Zuckerberg. Don’t rent your fans – own them.


One option is SendFox. They have a really cheap lifetime plan at $49. Most competitors charge that per month. Set up an email automation sequence for new subscribers, along with a freebie to entice them to sign up. We will discuss in a separate post what that freebie should be. I used to use SendFox, but now I am back to Mailerlite because I feel it is more robust in what it offers.

Once you start gaining traction with newsletter fans, you need to do the newsletter properly, otherwise you are going to be labeled as a spammer. The email newsletter funnel sequence needs to be properly configured to introduce yourself to the reader, and show them why they should invest their precious time and money reading your work.

But at the same time, you should not be overly commercial either. Nobody likes advertising shoved down their throat. They also want to feel they are gaining something by reading your newsletter. It’s an art and I am still learning it myself. But I’m getting there, and my aim is to show you all the pitfalls, so you don’t fall into them.

mark o'neill newsletter ninja

A great book to read is Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque (as well as its sequel.) Tammi does an excellent job of explaining how to run an effective author newsletter.


sendfox email automation

Starting an author newsletter is essential, but what is even more essential is not abandoning the subscriber at the sign-up stage. This is when you’ve got them and piqued their interest. You need to use this time to turn them into a lifelong fan.

Email subscribers have a very short memory. They sign up for your freebie, then move on to something else. So you have to stay fresh in their memory, otherwise the next time you send an email, they are going to automatically mark you as spam.

This is why an automation sequence is so important. Sign up for an email service that offers automations, such as Mailerlite. You can then write a series of emails to the subscriber, and specify to the email platform when each email should go out, and under what conditions.

The first couple can be in the first week, but then you should scale it back to once a week or once every fortnight. You don’t want to annoy them. Wait a couple of weeks after the first week, and then automate an email to go out asking for an online review for your freebie.

Email automation is such a fascinating thing that I could talk about it for hours. You can set conditions for every conceivable situation – those that opened an email get one email, those that didn’t open an email get another email. Those that unsubscribe get one final email, trying to persuade them to reconsider. Automation is such an underused thing that, once you start using it, you’ll wonder how you managed to live without it.


What is the best email mailing list provider?

That depends on what you’re looking for in terms of features. A cheap and cheerful one is SendFox. If you want something with a good free plan, along with automations, then I highly recommend Mailerlite. Along with the free plan, Mailerlite’s paid plans scale according to the number of subscribers you have.

Why can’t I use Gmail for mass-emailing my readers?

Simply because Gmail is not designed for emailing large amounts of people at once. Gmail has strict controls in place and will disable any account that sends out large numbers of emails at the same time, or within a narrow time frame.

How can I persuade someone to sign up for my email newsletter?

The best way is to offer what is called a “lead magnet.” This is a free gift which is only available to those who sign up. You could offer a free eBook, an information product, a discount code….it really all depends on what industry you’re in. Also, make sure you are providing quality content in your newsletters, otherwise people will just start unsubscribing.

How do I avoid being accused of sending email spam?

The key to avoiding accusations of spamming is to only send emails to people who have explicitly given you permission to do so. This means building your mailing list through opt-in forms on your website or social media, and making it clear what type of content subscribers can expect to receive. Additionally, always include an easy and clear unsubscribe link in every email you send. Finally, you should always enable a function called “double opt-in.” This is where someone is not added to your list until they click a confirmation link sent to their email address. Virtually all mass email services provide this.

How do I increase the chances of someone opening my marketing email?

One of the most important stats when it comes to emails is the “open rate.” What percentage of your recipients are actually opening your emails? To increase your open rate, start with an enticing headline, something that doesn’t sound spammy or sales-y. Make the person curious to open the email. Plus, if you build a reputation as someone who continually sends interesting helpful emails, then people will start to look forward to your emails arriving, and they will open them without a second’s hesitation.

Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill

Mark O'Neill is a bestselling award-winning self-published author of the Department 89 spy thriller series. He has also written two other series - The Scorpion and The Undertaker. His books have been translated into German and partly into Spanish. Mark lives in Germany with his wife and dog.

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