Book Promotion: 10 Ways to Build Your Author Mailing List without Paying for Facebook Advertising

facebook logoOne of the hottest topics in book promotion right now is the use of strategic Facebook advertising to build your author mailing list. While this has proven a hugely successful technique for some self-published authors, such as Mark Dawson, whose highly-regarded course helps other authors emulate his success, it’s by no means a one-size-fits-all solution.

Facebook Ads Are No Gold-Rush

Many authors are disappointed when it doesn’t work for them, but it’s not suitable for all books or authors, as Mark’s first to admit, for various reasons:

  • Some books are not sufficiently mainstream or genre-specific to engage readers on Facebook
  • Some authors can’t or don’t want to invest the time required to make it work effectively (it’s a methodical, slow-burn technique)
  • Many do not have the design or analytical skills to constantly refine the ad till it reaches the necessary sweet spot
  • Many do not have the seedcorn budget required to launch a venture that is basically “sprat to catch a mackerel”, even if it does promise the potential to land giant whales

These are all valid reasons, and no-one should feel under pressure to take this route. (The same goes for any other marketing activity.) After all, there are plenty of alternatives, and if you can find other routes that you can afford and enjoy, far better to run with those instead.

Non-Facebook Ways to Build Your Author Mailing List

Diane Capri

Diane Capri, one of Amazon’s top sellers in 2013

Over on the ALLi Facebook forum (a members-only Facebook group), New York Times bestselling novelist Diane Capri recently shared a handy checklist of tried-and-trusted tactics that have worked for her, and she’s kindly allowed us to share  them below:

  • I moved my offer to sign up to the very front of my books. You’ll find it right on the title page. I repeat the invitation at the end of the book as well.
  • I do give away a free novella in exchange for sign up, and I’ve done that for more than five years.
  • I remind my social media accounts to sign up from time to time.
  • I have the offer prominently displayed on my website, on every page, in the sidebar.
  • I also have a pop-up on my website to remind people to sign up before they go.
  • I get involved in cross promotion with other authors in my genres and genres that are close to mine that are likely to have crossover readers. We always collect email addresses and share them with the participating authors. (To clarify: .I don’t share my own email lists, and I don’t recommend anyone do that. My lists are private and I never share. What I meant was that when I do a contest with other authors, we tell the contestants up front that entering the contest means they will be entered on all the authors’ lists. Then those emails belong to the authors involved, who can then use the names on their own lists or not.)
  • I’ve done several multi-author box sets to encourage crossover readers, and I include sign up invitations in those as well.
  • I run BookBub ads as often as I can, and that results in a lot of downloads and an increase in subscribers every time.
  • I participate in selective giveaways and contests that collect email addresses from readers of my genre and likely crossover genres.
  • Every time I send something out to my list I add a PS at the bottom asking them to share the email with their friends who might be interested in my work.

“In general, I do whatever seems reasonable that is targeted to improving and increasing my mailing list,” says Diane. ” I find that all of these techniques are easier, cheaper and very often faster than Facebook advertising for me.

“I do want to make clear that I think Facebook ads for signups are a good thing, and I have done them in the past. It’s just that at this point, I’d rather use my Facebook ad budget for sales ads and use these other methods for building my mailing list.”

OVER TO YOU Do you have any tips to add to Diane Capri’s checklist? Would you like to share your experience of Facebook ads to build your mailing list? We’d love to hear from you!


Facebook Ads: One Author’s Experience

Sell More Books in More Formats in More Territories: Orna Ross, Mark Dawson, Joanna Penn, Toby Mundy

How to build your #author mailing list without Facebook ads by @dianecapri Click To Tweet

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24 Responses to Book Promotion: 10 Ways to Build Your Author Mailing List without Paying for Facebook Advertising

  1. Adom Sample July 21, 2017 at 5:28 pm #

    How does one go about finding other authors willing to do a box set with you?

    • Debbie Young July 21, 2017 at 6:57 pm #

      If you’re an ALLi member, you can easily access authors in the same genre via our Facebook forum (members only). Alternatively you can seek out special interest groups of authors on Facebook as a starting point.

  2. Brad November 20, 2016 at 5:07 am #

    I like this weblog sso much, saved to favorites.

  3. Carol Anne Douglas June 20, 2016 at 1:30 am #

    Can any author use BookBub? Or does BookBub select the books it wants to promote?

    • Orna Ross June 20, 2016 at 9:58 am #

      Bookbub has a stringent selection process Carol Anne. That’s what makes it so successful: readers know they are getting a good deal.

  4. Icy Sedgwick June 19, 2016 at 7:14 pm #

    A lot of these tactics still require readers to be on your blog, or reading your books, in order to see your mailing list offer. What I’d like to see is some kind of advice for how to get people to come to your blog in the first place.

    A lot of the marketing gurus that I’ve asked advocate that you blog about your characters, or world building, or share deleted scenes, but they aren’t interesting unless someone’s read your book. So how do you get them to your blog to even see your offer?

    • Orna Ross June 20, 2016 at 10:03 am #

      It’s a slow and steady process, Icy. you are essentially trying to build readers who like your writing because it entertains, informs or inspires them (or ideally all three at once. :-)) There are no shortcuts to that process; it takes time. You have to be offering something of value, which means working out what you have to offer to the reader, and doing good SEO (and the tactics Diane mentions), so they can find you. if you don’t enjoy blogging for blogging sake, it is unlikely to be worth it. You may find this post by Atulya Bingham of value:

    • Diane Capri June 20, 2016 at 12:38 pm #

      When an author is starting out, Icy, building readership can seem like an uphill climb for sure. None of us start at the top and we all began to build using the methods with which we are most comfortable. Some authors have built their initial reader base using tools like Twitter and Instagram. Others have done well with Goodreads. There are many different ways to find and build your readership. These are the ones I’ve been using, but you may find others suit you better.

  5. Janet Hartman June 19, 2016 at 4:36 pm #

    I like the idea of using multi-author box sets to encourage crossover readers. Are the sets you’re in for this purpose free? If not, now do you divide income from them?

    • Diane Capri June 20, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

      I’ve participated sets that are free and sets that were priced at $.99 to attract readers and engage in cross promotion, Janet. One of the authors acts as publisher and handles all of the publisher responsibilities, including collecting and disbursing the royalty revenue and handling the taxes.

  6. Amazon’s Kindle devices tend by default to open an ebook at the star of chapter one, skipping the title page and other front matter, which could mean many readers miss seeing the sign-up if it’s only at the front.

    • Diane Capri June 20, 2016 at 12:28 pm #

      That’s true, Mark. I also put the signup link in the back matter. I should have mentioned that as well.

  7. Sherry Levesque June 18, 2016 at 6:08 pm #

    If you should use facebook and/or amazon ads, watch your credit card statement very carefully. They both have a tendency to take money from your account that you are not prepared to spend. In my case, had I not checked my ads twice a day, i would have been out close to over $500. That is not something I can afford. I immediately shut down the ads and contacted both companies, as well as the credit card company. The credit card representative made sure that money was refunded and that the ads stopped, unless placed by me, specifically.

    A word to the wise; keep an eye on those ads! A five dollar ad can be switched very easily to a $500 ad! Buyer beware!

    • Janet Hartman June 19, 2016 at 4:59 pm #

      Sherry, was the source of the extra charge FB or Amazon or both?

  8. Jonathan Brazee June 18, 2016 at 5:52 pm #

    All of these sound good except for one–sharing mailing lists. That’s a cultural no-no and can result in subscribers to drop out. When people sign up for my list, I promise them that I will not be handing out their contact to anyone else.

    • Diane Capri June 20, 2016 at 12:32 pm #

      Yes, Jonathan, that’s exactly right. Everything we do for promotion should be done in strict compliance with the law and best practices as well as the retailer’s TOS. My mailing list is private and I don’t share my list. The giveaways and contests I’ve participated in advise entrants that entering the giveaway means their emails will be shared among the participating authors. Other rules and best practices are involved as well.


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