How Authors Can Dramatically Grow Their Email Lists

Posted by July 20th, 2015

Stand-OutDo you spend a lot of time promoting your book on social media but feel like it hasn’t reaped the results that you were hoping for? It may be time to focus on building an email newsletter following instead. Stand Out author Dorie Clark thinks that reaching your audience via email is one of the most effective ways to increase book sales. Read on for her advice on growing your subscriber list.


My first book, Reinventing You, launched in 2013. I tried to prepare, but despite my best efforts to interrogate fellow authors who had gone before me, I still didn’t fully understand what a book launch entailed. I was diligent in my execution yet vaguely disorganized—constantly staying up late answering interview questions, crafting guest posts, and enduring a punishing and hastily-assembled travel schedule. These were things I should have planned better, yet somehow didn’t know how to.

Two months ago, I had another opportunity to do it right with the release of my new book, Stand Out: How to Find Your Breakthrough Idea and Build a Following Around It. Here are the key things I learned in the last two years of almost nonstop book promotion.

Your email list is paramount. What sells books? Not social media. Atlantic journalist Derek Thompson shares an indicative story in which—despite one of his tweets becoming a viral sensation, with nearly 1,500 retweets and 155,000+ impressions—only 1% clicked the link to actually read his story. Note that this is a free story—not something that costs nearly $30, like your book. So what does work? Your email list. Blogger Chris Brogan famously said, “To me, the hottest and sexiest social network right now is your inbox,” and he’s right. Even if people are overwhelmed by their inboxes, they still read email, and an opt-in relationship with your readers is the most powerful force for communicating your message. I’ve used free (and freemium) tools like AppSumo’s ListBuilder to dramatically enhance my email subscription rate.

Create a worthy giveaway. For a long time, I was lazy. Sure, I knew it was important to encourage people to subscribe to my newsletter, but I didn’t give them a good reason. Only the most diehard fans would agree to subscribe to my e-newsletter when that was the only information I provided. In this overloaded age, why should anyone bother? With the release of Stand Out, I got smart and asked the talented designers at my publisher, Portfolio/Penguin, if they’d be willing to handle the layout of a workbook I had created. Using the same design themes as the book, they created a truly handsome 42-page workbook (you can download it here). Finally, this was a genuine incentive for people to sign up—and in the past two months since my book launch, I’ve added 5,490 new email subscribers as a result.

The power of podcasting. Podcasting is booming these days, and every field has its top shows. You can easily Google something like “top business podcasts” and get a list like this one that will provide a helpful starting point. Make a list of the top 20 or 40 shows in your genre (you can also check out iTunes ratings to find the most popular) and reach out to pitch yourself. (Personally, I’ve done 121 podcast interviews since February and intend to keep going.) As with any media outlet, it’s important to vet the shows beforehand to ensure your material really is a fit, and that they interview guests like you. It wastes everyone’s time to suggest yourself for an interview on a show that only features the host’s monologues, for instance. But once you find appropriate shows and start getting booked, it becomes a virtuous circle: other podcasters will discover you and start inviting you on their shows. Because most podcasts have a niche focus, it’s likely you can reach a very targeted and relevant audience. And instead of the 30 seconds you might be allotted for a television news interview or the five minutes you might get on a traditional radio interview, podcasts often run 30 or 60 minutes, allowing you time to explicate your ideas and—critically—mention your free giveaway to drive people to your website and encourage them to subscribe to your list.

Book promotion is a hard slog for anyone. But with these strategies, you can build a dedicated audience around your book that you can communicate with for years to come.

Dec. 3, 2014. Boston, MA.Portraits of Dorie Clark.© 2014 Marilyn Humphries

© 2014 Marilyn Humphries

About Dorie Clark

Dorie Clark is a marketing strategist who teaches at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. She is the author of Reinventing YouStand Out, and the eBook Stand Out Networking. You can download her free 42-page Stand Out Self-Assessment Workbook.

Follow her on Twitter @DorieClark and visit her author website,


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