Got a newsletter? Now what? How to get subscribers…

One of the first questions authors have after opening a newsletter email list account is, “Now what? How do you get people to subscribe?”

It’s not as daunting as it seems.

I use MailChimp for my email newsletter list, but the process works similarly with other services like MailerLite and MadMimi. When you open your account, you’ll design a subscriber signup form, and you’ll get a URL which links to that form as well as some html code to put on your website that will create a form on your site.


  1. The first way you begin to collect email addresses is by putting that signup form on your website  (check the top of the sidebar to see mine). MailChimp calls this an “embedded” form.
  2. You can place a pop-up on your site instead of/or in addition to the embedded form. You probably saw mine when you landed here.
  3.  Place your signup URL in the backmatter of all your published books letting readers know they can subscribe for future books releases and updates.*
  4. Include the URL at the end of blog posts, guest blogs, and virtual tours.
  5. Whenever you do a Rafflecopter giveaway make signing up for your newsletter one of the ways in which people can get contest entries.
  6. Include your newsletter link in all your bio links.
  7. Give away a free book to people who subscribe. Nothing you do will be more effective than this. You can use a backlisted book or write a new one just for subscribers. The “book” doesn’t have to be long. You’re a writer! Whip out a 10K short story. This works extremely well if your freebie is part of an existing series. Not only will it encourage people to subscribe to your newsletter, but it will introduce them to your series.
  8. Run a contest and have a prize drawing to collect email subscriptions.
  9. Participate in a multi-author organization promotion in which readers subscribe to authors newsletter in exchange for entering a drawing for a B-I-G prize. The most effective of these promotion (for authors anyway) are those that focus on a specific genre and allow participants to choose which newsletters they want to receive. Still, you will get a lot of contest-seekers who only want to win a prize, but there will be a good minority who are interested in your books, or at least your genre. The promotion services that lump all the genres together and distribute the same email addresses to everyone are not effective at all. One of the promotion services I recommend is Ryan Zee.  (His genre-focused prize genres work well for the reasons I stated. I get no kickbacks of any kind; I recommend him because I’ve used the service and had a good experience).
  10. You can join with authors of a similar genre and run your get-a-free-book-subscribe-to-my-newsletter-promotion.

Tip: If you do a prize giveaway, either your own or with service, don’t, don’t, don’t send your new subscribers a buy-my-book newsletter immediately after they subscribe. You need to give them the free book, introduce yourself, build a bit of a relationship before you start mentioning your book sales.

Newsletters FAQs

Q: I don’t have a published book yet. How can I do a newsletter?

A: You are in  perfect position to build your subscriber base by building a relationship with your future readers. Talk about what your plans are. Give them status updates. Tell them what inspired you to write the story. Share your cover. Share (carefully edited!) excerpts. Recommend your favorite reads. Share other authors’ new releases.

Q: How often should I send a newsletter?

A: When I first started mine, I figured 4 book releases a year, so 4 newsletters. Ha. Ha. Ha. That first year I sent out 17 newsletters. I had more book releases than I’d predicted (had a bunch of re-releases), plus I participated in some special sales and promotions I wanted to tell my subscribers about. My opinion is you should send a newsletter at least once a month so they don’t forget who you are, but no more than twice a month so you don’t annoy them.

Q: How do I know what newsletter service to use?

A: Three of the main ones are MailChimp (2000), MailerLite (1000), and MadMimi (500). All three are free at the start, but as your list grows, fees kick in. The numbers in parentheses correspond to how many subscribers you can have for free. If you are growing your list organically, it will take you a while to build up to 2000 subscribers (took me 2 years), but if you start doing contest giveaways and promotion campaigns, you can get there really fast — like in one campaign! For 3000 subscribers,  MadMimi would cost you $10; MailerLite, $20; and MailChimp, $50. At 10,000 subs, it would be MadMimi, $42; MailerLite, $35; and MailChimp, $75. That’s one reason why it’s important to trim inactive subscribers from your list. You don’t want to pay for people who never read your newsletter.

Q: I’m doing other promotions, do I need a newsletter?

A: A newsletter is the most direct way to reach out to readers who are interested in your books. You have complete control. You don’t have to hope they’ll land on your blog, or that Facebook will show them your post, or that Amazon algorithms will recommend your book. You control the contact. They can always not open the email, but if you’ve developed a list of your fans, they’ll want to.

Do you have any other questions? What tips do you have for building a newsletter list?

* If you want to see an example of an effective presentation of a newsletter signup URL in backmatter, download my sci-fi romance, Stranded with the Cyborg. It’s free (at least at the time writing/posting of this blog). Scroll to the end of the story and you’ll find an example of how best to present your newsletter subscription signup.

Amazon US |  Amazon UK |  Amazon CA |  Amazon AU

iBooks |  Kobo |  BN

(Note: If you bought Stranded months ago, the backmatter is different now. To see the example of how to present your newsletter info, you have to get the free version).

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15 Responses to Got a newsletter? Now what? How to get subscribers…

  1. Awesome tips Cara. Thanks for sharing on our loop today. I also have been really mad at myself for not having a sign up sheet at EVERY SINGLE EVENT I have. I know to do this but I always forget. At the end of the year, when you look up and count all those names from various events, I bet most of us authors even beginner/midlist ones could have had about 200 names at the end of the year. So at live events, don’t forget that sign up. If you have a spare ipad, you could even have the mailchimp app I think, it can sit there and people can type it in and it just goes to your list so no on sees the addresses of others which is great with the privacy issues today. Thanks again!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Events are great! Which brings up another way: Facebook events, like author takeovers. Have one of the “games” be signing up for your free book/newsletter.

  2. Amy Braun says:

    Thank you so much for this! I only have around 300 subscribers right now and definitely need more, so this is fantastic!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      You’re welcome! This is the kind of info I had needed when I first started my newsletter. Happy to share!

  3. Diane Burton says:

    Great info, Cara. I’ve done everything you mentioned except the free book. Looks like that’s next.

  4. Cara Bristol says:

    BTW, for those who may not know…the way to give away a free book is to do through Instafreebie or Book Funnel. You can send your subscribers to a landing page with a link to the book that they can download in their preferred format. Of the two services, I prefer Book Funnel, because Instafreebie will add YOUR subscribers to THEIR email list. Book Funnel doesn’t do that.

  5. Byron Cane says:

    I didn’t sign up for MailChimp because the Terms of Service stated that sexually explicit material was not allowed. I wasn’t sure in erotic/spanking excerpts and books fell under that stricture, so I created another blog instead for monthly newsletters.

  6. Thank you, Cara, this is much needed info. Sometimes I feel completely overwhelmed by everything I still need to do. It all makes sense after you sort it out for me. 🙂

  7. Barbara Bettis says:

    Great ideas, Cara. I like that little surprise drop down that your site here has, too. I’m so tech-backward, MailChimp is a challenge!

    • Cara Bristol says:

      Baby steps, baby steps. It took me a while to figure this stuff out. MailChimp is a bit of a challenge at first. It’s not intuitive. But once you do figure it out, it is super easy to use.

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