6 Common Mistakes in Building Your Email List

In a past post for Write2Ignite, I noted the benefits of building your platform with an email distribution list.

In another post I shared several practical considerations to consider.

Today, let’s examine 6 common mistakes authors make in trying to grow their email list:

1. Not having an unsubscribe option:

      If you’re sending your newsletter through your own email provider, you won’t have an unsubscribe button. However, the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 requires us to provide a way to unsubscribe from our email list.

     Using a reputable e-newsletter distributor such as MailerLite, ConvertKit, Constant Contact, MailChimp, and others protects senders from inadvertently violating CAN-SPAM.

2. Spamming friends and family:

     It’s tempting to just send our e-newsletter to people we love and assume they’ll love to hear about our writing. If they have not chosen to subscribe, they may designate the email as spam. If they do, that will affect where it’s delivered. We don’t want major email providers such as Yahoo or Gmail to designate our correspondence as junk or spam mail. Again, don’t do anything that would be in violation of CAN-SPAM!

     And by the way, if someone does opt-out or unsubscribe, we are required to process their request within 10 days. Another good reason to be using an email service rather than your own email provider!

3. Not telling people what they’re subscribing to:

     I recently visited the websites of several author friends for the purpose of subscribing to their blogs and newsletters. What I found surprised me:

  • Not stating the frequency: The sign-up form said nothing about frequency. Am I signing up for a weekly newsletter? Monthly? Quarterly? With no way to know, I was hesitant to subscribe.
  • Not stating the theme of the content: I also had no way of knowing the theme of their content. Is the newsletter geared to providing tips and advice to other writers? Book reviews for readers? For those who write for children, is the newsletter geared to the children or to their parents?

4. Making them search:

     One writer acquaintance offered her website link to sign up, but when I arrived on her site, I could not find a subscribe form—not even a button to click.

     Other sites offered the option, but I had to scroll down to find it.

  • A bit of advice: ensure your subscription box/form is “above the fold.” That phrase is a holdover from newspaper jargon. Major headlines are always located in the top half of the newspaper, sparing readers from having to unfold the newspaper for urgent news. On a website, the equivalent would be the portion of your web page that automatically appears on the screen without requiring the reader to scroll down.

      Yet another author had an arrow on her home page pointing to a plus sign with the words “Click here.” No mention of what I was clicking on. That plus sign led me to another page with a subscription box for her blog. Save the mysteries for your books, not your website!

5. Piggybacking:

     One author’s site offered the option of subscribing to her monthly newsletter, but under the subscription box she noted that subscribers would also receive her blog posts. Since I don’t know how often she posts on her blog, I was hesitant to subscribe.

6. Not offering an incentive:

     This is a mistake I’m guilty of making. I don’t offer a free incentive, often referred to as a “lead magnet,” to subscribe, but I’m working to correct this. The incentive could be as simple as a free devotion or a series of devotions. It could be a short e-book or a printable photo. If we’re asking people to give up their email address, let’s offer them something in return!


Did this post help you look at your website more objectively? What steps will you take to eliminate obstacles readers bump into on their way to subscribe to your newsletter?


12 thoughts on “6 Common Mistakes in Building Your Email List

  1. I haven’t reviewed these guidelines since my site was constructed about a decade ago. My designer was aiming for elegant and non-spammy. I despise those pop-up boxes that interrupt the reading experience, and I also hate commercialization. Therefore, my signup area is more discreet, and I’m comfortable with that. I know how the marketing game is played, but I choose to go about it on my own terms, since I am chronically ill. My open rate is high for my newsletters and my blog, and my subscribers rarely ever unsubscribe from any of my mailing lists (I have several), because I promise them up front that I will not spam them. I am my brand. I predominantly write fiction. Your post inspires me to make a few simple changes to update my invitation to subscribe, which I’ll discuss with my design team. Thank you, Ava, for addressing this topic.

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