Why email is the #1 promotional tool for authors

Last updated 13 June 2023

Written by Jin Wang

Why email is the #1 promotional tool for authors

Last week, I took you inside the secret statistics of successful author websites. When I looked at traffic sources – how people get to your website – I was shocked.

Firstly, traffic from social media accounted for only 7% of all visits. So for the amount of time authors spend on social media, it doesn’t seem to be driving much traffic to ‘home base’.

What was more staggering though was only 1% of traffic came from email. Australian authors are not building their audiences through subscription.

For them, having a professional website, running a blog, and time spent on social media is more of an expense than an asset.

The Australian publishing industry has changed

A recent study by Macquarie University (thanks for the heads up Meg!) found that over 50% of authors spend more time promoting their work than they did five years ago.

Almost half of the authors surveyed believe they have the greater responsibility for promoting their work.

We all know that most authors would rather be penning than promoting, so here’s help.

In this 3-part series, we’ll cover:

  • why an email opt-in list is the #1 tool for authors.
  • I’ll show you the tools you can use to set up your own list.
  • I’ll introduce you to authors that are shining examples, and give you some ideas for what to send in your emails.
Want my 12 email list ideas that turn fans into loyal true fans?
Click here to get it

Email vs. Social

What about your social media followers? Isn’t social media the new email?

Let’s look at how social media and email compare.

The reach of email vs. social media

  • How many tweets do you ‘actually’ read on a given day? The vast majority of Twitter users only see a small percentage of all updates from the people they are following.
  • Facebook culls items in your feed that it thinks won’t interest you. This robs you of the opportunity to connect with readers. The ones you’ve worked hard to get.
  • Of the emails that enter your inbox every day, how many do you at least speed-read? 90%?

With these and countless other statistics that show how effective email marketing is, authors are starting to realise that email is still the number one way to reach people.

Social media is great for broadly engaging with an audience, but it can be unreliable and ever-changing.

Building an asset you own

More important than reach though, is ownership. Your website, and your email list is yours. You own it.

Your followers on Twitter? You don’t own these contacts. Twitter does.

Social media is a bit like fast food: it’s quick, cheap, and you get instant gratification.

Your website and an email list is like slow food: more work, but more nutritious, and better for you in the long term.

As an author, your primary goal isn’t getting followers on social media – it’s to get your social fans to subscribe to a database you own.

Readers are granting you permission

In today’s media saturated world, marketing has shifted from ‘interruption’ based (think TV ads), to ‘permission’ based.

When a reader opts-in to your email list, they’re expressing interest in what you have to say. They’re proactively granting permission for you to speak to them.

Email as a form of communication is special in that it’s intimate. It nurtures relationships over time.

It’s like your own personal conversation with your reader. It allows you to get right in front of your reader with longer form content. It’s non-intrusive. They get a notification of something new, but they don’t have to open it right then and there. And unlike your social posts, they don’t get buried.

Building relationships

Email forms the foundation of a lasting relationship that can go a long way in getting your book sold and building your true fans.

Through email, you’re able to establish a connection with your audience, and be in direct communication with them, which is essential for any brand.

Most people receive loads of email every day. The mere fact that they give you permission to add to their already overflowing inbox is huge a sign of trust. Don’t abuse this trust.

Is an email list only for published authors?

Your email list will allow you to build an audience of followers that anticipates your work. So this doesn’t mean you have to wait for your first or next book to come out, to launch a list. Start collecting followers. Imagine launching your next title to a list of 1,000 email subscribers.

Types of email lists

Still have reservations about collecting email subscribers? I bet most of your concern is centred on sending email.

Let’s look at two main types of emails.

Option 1: Newsletter

A typical newsletter will send readers emails on a regular schedule. Traditionally, a newsletter is a branded highly-visual HTML email. It leads in with a ‘welcome’ message, and follows with a collection of news, both your own and shared from other sources.


  • You’re committing to a set publishing schedule (well, a pro and a con).
  • Your subscribers know what to expect.
  • The content doesn’t always have to be about you, you can share interesting book industry news.


  • You’re committing to a set publishing schedule.
  • Curating content from a wide range of sources is time consuming.
  • Often news is time sensitive, so you’re producing content that isn’t ‘evergreen’, it will date.
  • We recently setup Rachael Craw’s email list for the release of her second book, ‘Stray’.

Rachael choose to go with a quarterly email that offers snippets of her work, video greetings, competitions, and general updates on the world of her ‘Spark’ trilogy.

Option 2: Notification

Another option for your email list, is to send a notification broadcast to your list any time you publish a new piece of content.

Some common examples of new content could be a blog post, podcast episode, interview, opinion piece, or video.


  • A great way to promote your blog posts.
  • Your email is focussed on one goal, readers will click for one piece of content.
  • Can be automatically sent when you publish a post (though not recommended).
  • Notifications are much faster to create.


  • Unless you’re committed to a blogging schedule, your email sends will be erratic.
  • You may end up sending too many emails to your readers.
  • When focussed on one piece of content, can be more hit or miss.
  • Your blog content must be valuable to the reader.
  • More on automatic and manual emails sent in a later post in this series.

How I use my email list

Why email is the #1 promotional tool for authors

It’s possible you were notified of this article via my email list. My email list is a channel to my readers that offers useful evergreen strategies and tips for authors. I use social media to share time-sensitive news, chat with the author community, and drive traffic back to my site.

Let’s connect on Twitter!

My stats are 62% new visitors, to 38% returning.

So that’s the way of email for authors. My next post in this 3-part series covers the what and how.

To be notified of the following parts in this series. Subscribe to my email articles.

Interested in an email list, but not sure what to tell people every week or every month?

12 email list ideas that turn fans into loyal true fans

Want my 12 email list ideas that turn fans into loyal true fans?
Click here to get it

In this age, you can’t just write a book, have it published, and hope that it sells.

Even if it’s simple, you need to have a solid marketing strategy in place to grow your audience long-term. Building your email list should be an essential part of that strategy.

But there are so many email marketing options out there. Which to choose? Where do you start?

In the next part of this series, I simplify all of that. We’ll look at:

  • Choosing a free email service: Mailpoet or Mailchimp
  • How to add a signup form to your website
  • Getting subscribers and promoting your email list

There are so many email marketing options out there. Which to choose? In this next article, I help you choose.