How to Cultivate a Quality Email List

noisetrade books

Despite some folk predicting the demise of email, the email list is growing in importance (especially for indie authors). I’ve blogged before about Amazon’s changes over the last year and a half that have been gradually throttling indies. The price gap between tradition and indie has closed. Free as a temporary promotional tool (pulse) has lost its potency. And now Kindle Unlimited is choking indies further.

All of this should have succeeded in convincing the indie author of the importance of owning direct access to readers. It should be evident that Amazon blitzes and Bookbub bursts are no longer the panacea many made them out to be (the horror).

I’ll be the first to admit my idiocy. I’ve blogged steadily for eight years, and I’ve only collected emails via my blog for the last three. I resisted forever, mainly out of laziness and lack of direction. The focus of my blog has meandered from Industrial Hemp, to humor, to wine, science fiction, the Simpsons and now mostly subjects of writing, publishing and geek culture. Until just recently, my email list languished around 500 subscribers.

Over the last several months, I’ve retooled my indie author business to grow sales via my own website. I still sell stuff on Amazon and Kobo, and I hope I always will. But I no longer drive traffic there. If the connection to my stories is made by me, I want the buy to happen directly. If Amazon and Kobo bring me new readers, then they can have a cut. If they do nothing to get the business, then why should I pay them 30% royalty?

Due to this new focus on my personal website, I’ve put renewed efforts into the old email list. In the last few weeks, I’ve grown it to 1,500. I hope to forge it into a *solid 2,500 by the end of the year. (*40% open rate and 10% action rate.) Here is how I’ve done it so far.

Cultivating an eMail List Requires Gathering Emails First

There are lots of ways to grab emails, some less ethical than others. For clarity, I’m talking about growing a list of people that actually care about what I’m doing and creating. An email list that provides somewhere in the neighborhood of a 30% to 40% open rate and a 5% to 10% response rate (clicking through links, downloading stuff, etc.) is tough to cultivate and maintain. But that’s what I’m talking about–quality emails from real fans. The good news is that new platforms are rolling out all the time. Out of my two current favorites, one has been around for a couple years and two others are brand new.


NoiseTrade has been around for indie musicians for what seems like forever. NoiseTrade for books started (I believe) in 2013. Although I monitored NT for over a year, I didn’t create my first products on the site until this past December. At first, all I did was throw up a couple of shorts and a novel from my Lost DMB Files series. No promotion. No nothing. Just created the product pages, uploaded and published. That effort got me 12 emails over a few months.

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