#20BooksLondon – notes about email lists

This might be my final post from 20BooksLondon (I will look over my remaining notes and see what I can decipher to see if any of them might make a useful post). There were lots of fantastic sessions where I didn’t feel the need to take notes, and this one is as much a reminder for me as it is a sharing of info, because this is definitely one of my weakest links.

Do you have an email list? I do, but I’m not very good at knowing what to send out, so I took notes in this session, hoping my skills might improve.

All the info out there just now tells us an email list is essential for building a rabid fan base. It’s where you can rouse your fans to helpย  create a stellar book launch when you have a new release. It’s where you develop a ‘street team’ that helps you by reading and reviewing ARCs (Advanced Reader Copies) of your latest before it comes out, so you get last minute feedback and identify those small corrections we all need to make, and when you launch those reviews are ready to go, to help bolster your visibility on Amazon (if you aren’t sure about the importance of any of these things, I highly recommend reading the latest edition of David Gaughran’s excellent book, Let’s Get Digital

It’s also where you interact with your fans, exchange views, news and ideas – another of the wonders of the digital age – fans can actually talk with their favourite authors and get an answer!

My biggest personal problem with my mailing list is that I struggle to know what to put in it. I’ve participated in several list building promos, as well as adding those who contact me after they read my books, and my list currently hangs around the 1000 members.

But I’m a slow writer. I won’t ever be putting out a book a month (as the leaders of the conference do), or even 2 or 3 books a year. My main series is epic fantasy, with the emphasis on epic. These books come in at more than twice the size of most average books, and even 4 or 5 times as big as the shorter reads that are quite popular as ebooks. It takes me between 1-2 years to produce a new book. How do I keep my email list subscribers entertained for that long? How do I sustain interest?

I’m still (as you might gather) struggling with this one. I’ve made steps to be more personal, letting people into bits of my personal life (with photos – always include photos), and I share sales and freebies I’ve found, book reccomendations and once in a while I send a complete short story in the email.

Still, I don’t think that’s going to sustain the interest if I mail too often, so I’ve settled on trying out once a month.

SO please understand, the following notes are not my personal advice, and are not coloured with my opinions, they are simply a straight transcription of the notes taken at the conference. Use them as you will.

List Building

  1. Provide value and namedrop if you’ve had any interactions with big names of any sort – i.e. make yourself sound cool!
  2. Tell stories that harmonize you with your audience – include photos of you, your family, your animals
  3. Focus on THEM – ask questions, invite them to share
  4. Provide MORE value – giveaways etc.
  5. Offer community (talk about ‘us’ and ‘we’)

Email Headline

  • Make a list of readers’ favourite things/topics/genre and use those as keywords in your headline
  • Open loops e.g. ‘7 ways to… – you’ll never believe no. 3’
  • Ask what they love/hate
  • Try being funny

How often should you email?

  1. Once a week for 3 months after sign up – they won’t open them all.
  2. Have 12 different emails and test them out so you can find out which they like
  3. More regular mailings makes them more comfortable with your name
  4. Keep going!

Other content

  • Ask for favourite quotes
  • Offer monthly prizes
  • Turn quotes into memes with your book cover + quote – this also gives you more content for social media engagement

And there you have it. My challenge for the next year.

I am already planning on attending the longer 20BooksEdinburgh summer 2019 that has just been confirmed though no details yet – I can’t wait!

DO any of you have opinions on email lists? I’m always happy to learn, so please share.



  1. Great tips Debby, thanks for sharing. It is definitely something I have to start when I have more time. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. They are, I just have to find the mojo and confidence to implement them! Not to mention the time…

      1. Yeah, so true Deborah. Do you tend to call yourself Debby or Deborah? Just realised I called you Debby in last comment!

      2. Either, thanks for asking.

  2. Deb, thanks so much for sharing this. Not surprising that once again you and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to emailing lists, lol. And next summer it’s in Edinburgh? When? Hmm. food for thought! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

    1. What a great idea! Here is the current info – this is not including accommodation.
      July 25 to August 1, 2019
      There will be a two day option (just the presentations) a four day option (two days of writing and two days of presentations) a five day option (three and two), and the full monty, all seven days.
      Current price estimate is about 350 to 400 GBP for all seven days (includes daily tea, coffee, snacks, and lunch, and swag.

      1. Thanks bunches Deb. Be sure to let me know what options you choose. And where would you be staying in Scotland?

      2. I’ll keep you updated as and when they firm up arrangements. As to where I’d stay, not sure yet, though I have friends in the area so might ‘borrow’ accommodation, its too early to say for sure.

      3. Ok, thanks. I know you’ll keep me posted. ๐Ÿ™‚ x Ole from sunny Mexico! ๐Ÿ™‚ x

  3. I don’t have an email list. I probably should but I doubt I will get one. These are useful tips if you do have one.

    1. Robbie, I don’t make correct use of my email list. I’m still using it to refine what I should be putting in it, (and not making much effort to increase subscribers) against the time when I have enough books to be worth really hitting the marketing harder. It’s obviously a personal choice, but it does seem like a great idea, and lots of authors are finding it invaluable, especially pre-launch for a new title.
      My feeling is that’s great if you are producing books fast, which I will never do.
      I also worry about investing the time, and then finding, as so often is the case, that as a marketing tool it becomes old hat, and there’s something new on the block.
      I guess I will bide my time and see.

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