A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Free Email List For Authors #2

beginners guide to creating a free email list for authors

Creating a Free Email List

Last week I wrote about the importance of having an email list when it comes to marketing your books. I also gave a number of suggestions as to where you could go to get your list up and running, and how to do that with a free Mailchimp account.

What I didn’t address, and the the topic of this week’s post, is how do you get people on your list? If you have wondered how to go about setting up an email list, this short series is for you. It’s the guide I wished I had when I was first trying to set one up.

Adding People to Your Email List

There are a couple of ways that you can add people to your list:

Manually adding email addresses – Once you have created your list with whatever site you chose (see last time), you will have the opportunity to add contacts directly to that list, by typing in names / email addresses.

This is a good method to get started, as you can quickly get names on your list. HOWEVER, the names that you add must have given their permission. A good way to get started here, is to ask friends and family.

Capturing email addresses from a signup form – A more effective way of getting names and emails on your list is by asking people to submit their details online, which are then automatically added to your chosen list, which is what I will be focussing on today.

Never buy email lists or share with someone else – Hopefully this is obvious, but if it’s not, then read this: do not buy or share email lists, as the people on those lists have not given permission for you to hold their details or contact them (because that’s the whole point of having a list). Think how you feel when you get a cold call from someone trying to sell you something that you hadn’t asked for. Infuriating. And Illegal.

How to Capture Email addresses Online

A Beginner's Guide to Creating an Free Email List For Authors

Now, by capturing, I don’t mean go looking around the internet grabbing any email addresses you see (see above point), like a pirate on the high seas of the internet. No. Don’t do that. What I mean, is having a form of some kind, where people can give you their email address in return for whatever it is that you are going to send them.

The first thing you’ll need to get in place is somewhere to host your capture form. For most people, that will be a website, and for many others that will include a blog of some description.

Where do I Get a Website or a Blog?

There are many places to get a FREE website up and running, and I’m not intending to get into that here, but I will just say that the king of blogs is, arguably, WordPress. Most of the blogs you will read are likely to be WordPress, who offer a FREE variety.

There are many other excellent choices for both blogs and websites, and I recommend spending some time with Google (other search engines are also available), and looking at your options.

Creating a Signup Form

This will be specific to the provider that you chose to host your list, but generally, all providers will have broadly similar features. My list is hosted on Mailchimp, which is one of the more popular (not necessarily best) providers. It can become expensive when you have thousands of subscribers, but if you’ve got under 2000 it’s free. I will explain this process using Mailchimp as the example (updated after latest Mailchimp updates)

The first step is to create yourself a signup form. Once you are logged in to Mailchimp, you will see at the top right of the page, a little box that says ‘Create‘. Click it and you will see a pop up window with your options. The one you are looking for is ‘Signup Form.’ Click that and you will then be prompted to choose the list you want to sign people up to. Hopefully you have created a list. If you haven’t, jump back to last week to see how to create your list. Select your list from the drop down menu to move to the next step.

Embedded Forms

You will then be presented with the embedded forms page. The options here relate to having a form that you can add directly to your website or blog. Once you have set up the options, several lines of HTML code are created that can be copied and pasted directly into your site. Most website creators will have an option to add custom HTML, which is where this code needs to be pasted. On a WordPress blog, you can enter this code in one of the widgets, ‘Custom HTML’. You can find this in the menu by going into Appearance–>Widgets–>Custom HTML

Customise Signup Form

The tabs at the top will give you a quick option to set the look of your form. Choose from classic, condensed, horizontal and unstyled. Pick one that you like the look of.

More Customisation

Above the style choices are a number of other drop down menus: Stats, manage contacts, add contacts, signup forms, settings. ‘signup forms‘ is the one you want. This will give you more clever options like pop ups, but for now, all you need is ‘Form Builder‘.

Form Builder

This is where it starts getting clever and the place to be to make the form look exactly as you want it. Here you have three options:

Build It

This is where you get to select which fields are included in your form and what order they appear in.

A Beginner's Guide to Creating a Free Email List For Authors

In the main body of this window, you will see your form along with every field that is included. To remove a field, simply click the one you want to remove, and you will be presented with an option to delete it (as in the above image).

Above this window you will see ‘Signup form URL: HTTP://xxxxxxxxx this, surprisingly, is the URL of this form. You can copy that link and past it as a link on your website or blog, so you don’t need to show the form directly on your site. For example, if you click the ‘Send me my story’ button on this blog page, you will be taken to my signup form.

Similarly, you can change the properties of a field by clicking it. You can change what it is called, if it is a required field or if it is visible. You can also add fields in this way, using the selections available on the right of this window.

It’s usually good form to have as few fields as possible on these embedded forms. Do you really need to know your reader’s date of birth or their shoe size? If you don’t need that info, don’t include those fields when you are building the form. The more fields a reader is expected to fill in, the less likely they are to do it. For obvious reasons, you must have email address as a field, but that could be all you need. GDPR and marketing permissions will make the form longer (not much), perhaps too long to add to your website or blog. In these cases, you may be better served linking to the external URL of your signup form (see above).

Design It

A Beginner's Guide to Creating a Free Email List For Authors

Now you’ve got the fields you want, Design It will help you make it look exactly as you want. As you can see from the above image, you have a LARGE amount of scope for customisation. You can change the background colour, the text box colour, the text colour, the button colour, etc. Click the section you want to alter, then change some settings. This bit is reasonably self-explanatory. Just give it a go!

Translate It

Translate your form into other languages (that was way).


I had to mention it, because it’s important, but Mailchimp makes it easy. If, when setting up your list, you chose to make it GDPR compliant, you will have some additional GDPR fields available to you. You can use these to move subscribers into a particular segment of your list to ensure that you only communicate with people that have given you permission to do so.

I’m not going to say any more than that on GDPR. Mostly because it makes me feel poorly.

Response Emails

A Beginner's Guide to Creating a Free Email List For Authors

The final bit I want to mention, whilst not crucial, is worth spending a few minutes on. As you can see above, there are many forms that you can include in your email signup process.

Some of the ones you might want to look at, at least initially, are:

  • The signup thank you page – once people have signed up, this is the page they will see
  • Opt-in confirmation – if you have set up double opt-in (you require subscribers to confirm again after they have given their details)
  • Confirmation thank you page – after they have confirmed. I use this page to present them with a free gift (more on that next time)
  • Final welcome email – the final email they will receive, welcoming them to your list
A Beginner's Guide to Creating a Free Email List For Authors
My Sign up Thank you page

All these pages work exactly the same as they did for the signup form I described above, and you are free to add any info you wish, as in the above example, which is the page you receive when you sign up to my newsletter.

The confirmation thank you page can contain info about you and your newsletter, with a link to where readers ca download their introductory offer.

Okay, so by now, you should have set up your list and added some names to it, either manually or through a website form. Next time, I’ll be looking at some of the ways you can persuade people to join your list (because just putting the signup form there is not enough!).

Subliminal Marketing

Well, not really, but if you clicked on any one of the images in this post, you will have been taken to the signup form for my newsletter. If you haven’t, you can always


My question to you: how do you / would you go about enticing people to your list?

2 thoughts on “A Beginner’s Guide to Creating a Free Email List For Authors #2

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