How to sell books with email marketing: a guide for self-published bookmakers

In the dynamic world of self-publishing, one’s success often hinges on effectively using a variety of marketing strategies. Email marketing is among the most powerful strategies, providing a way to connect directly with your audience. 

Despite its wide use in other industries, many self-published bookmakers haven’t tapped into email. But if you’re here, you probably know how lucrative email marketing can be for self-publishers. Marketing emails have a significant impact on the purchasing decisions of 59% of respondents of a recent SaleCycle survey, and more than half of them make purchases through these emails on a monthly basis. A report by McKinsey & Company found that email outperformed Facebook and Twitter combined in acquiring customers by 40 times. Email marketing also offers an unbeatable ROI, generating $36 for every $1 spent on average. And these are just some of the stats that we could share.

Email lists are the foundation of successful book marketing strategies. For indie self-publishers, it’s a way to communicate with your dedicated fans outside the control of social media algorithms. That means you control who and how often you notify your audience of new book launches, products, or updates. Here we demystify the concept of email marketing, helping self-publishing creators leverage this channel to sell more books. 

What is email marketing?

Let’s start with the basics. Email marketing is a direct communication channel where businesses send emails to a group of people who have opted in to raise awareness about products or services, cultivate relationships, and convey information. For self-publishers, the “product” is your book, and your “customer” is your audience.

The opt-in nature of email marketing lends itself to a higher level of engagement. When individuals subscribe to your mailing list, they express an interest in your work and permit you to enter their personal space—their email inbox. This increases the chances of them actually reading your messages and fosters a loyal base, as these subscribers have willingly chosen to stay updated about your work.

The importance of email marketing for self-publishers

Building an email list may seem daunting, especially starting from scratch. But here are compelling reasons why email marketing is indispensable for self-publishers.

  • Direct reach: Email marketing ensures your message lands directly in your audience’s inbox, increasing visibility.
  • Cost-effective: With a high return on investment, email marketing is a budget-friendly choice for self-published authors, photographers, and bookmakers.
  • Personal touch: Tailored messages encourage a more intimate connection and enhance fan engagement.
  • Controlled audience: Emails reach those genuinely interested in your work, leading to higher engagement and conversion rates.
  • Measurable impact: Tools enable tracking open rates, click-through rates, and conversions, allowing you to adjust your strategy based on data.
  • Establishes authority: Regular quality content helps establish you as a genre authority, enhancing your reputation and credibility.
  • Continuous engagement: Regular updates and interactions keep your audience connected and build anticipation for future releases.
  • Long-term relationship: Consistent, valuable communication promotes long-term relationships, building a loyal fan base and improving current and future sales.

An effective email marketing strategy can enhance your relationship with your audience, drive engagement, and, ultimately, sell more books.

Person researching how to do email marketing for books

Using email marketing to sell books

With a clearer understanding of the what and why of email marketing, it’s time to delve into the how. Here are practical strategies to help you sell more books with email marketing.

Setting up an email list

The foundation of your email marketing strategy is your email list. You’ll need an email marketing service provider, like Mailchimp or ConvertKit, to set it up. Once you create an account, you can create a signup form to gather subscribers. Embed this form on your website, blog, and social media platforms.

Acquiring new email subscribers

Growing your email list is all about providing value. A few idea starters include:

  • Provide an incentive like a free webinar, a discount on your photography book, or a helpful guide in exchange for their email address.
  • Use your social media accounts, website, and blog to promote your email list.
  • Organize contests or giveaways where joining your email list is part of participation.
  • If you attend events or creator meets, invite attendees to join your mailing list.
  • Encourage your existing subscribers to forward a friend your email. Consider offering incentives for successful referrals.

Crafting a welcome email

Your welcome email sets the stage for subscriber expectations. Introduce yourself, thank the subscriber for joining, provide them with the promised incentive, and give them an idea of the content and frequency to expect from your emails.

Creating a follow-up email strategy

After the welcome email, develop a sequence of follow-up emails. This could include sharing insights about your creation process, revealing what inspires you, or discussing your journey as an indie creator. The goal is to keep the reader engaged and give them a reason to look forward to the next email.

Person using a calendar to schedule their self-publisher book email marketing

Planning your email schedule

Consistency is crucial in email marketing. Whether you send weekly, monthly, or quarterly emails, adhere to a schedule to stay on top of your subscribers’ minds and build anticipation.

Sending unscheduled emails

Surprise your subscribers occasionally with unscheduled emails. Include exclusive content, a spontaneous discount on your book, or even a thoughtful holiday message.

Deciding what to write

Ensure your emails provide value. You can share writing tips, recommend books you’ve enjoyed, discuss your experiences as a creator, or delve into the backstory of your book. The key is to balance promotional content with informative or entertaining content.

Share news about your work

Consider sharing behind-the-scenes of upcoming books, cover design reveals, release dates, or any other updates related to your work. This keeps your fans connected to your journey and builds anticipation for your next book.

Offer sneak peeks

Sneak peeks are an excellent way to pique interest. An excerpt from your upcoming book or a look at your editing or creating process can engage subscribers and provide useful information for their journey as a bookmaker.

Organize giveaways or incentives

Everyone loves a good giveaway. Whether it’s a free copy of your book, access to an exclusive photoshoot, or a chance to name a character in your next book, giveaways increase engagement and spread word-of-mouth about your work.

Remember that email marketing isn’t just about selling—it’s about creating meaningful connections with your audience. You’ll increase your book sales and cultivate a loyal fan base by providing value and engaging content.

Email marketing case studies

Although email marketing has proven effective across many industries, it’s especially important for the top self-published bookmakers. Below are a few case studies that showcase the power of email marketing in the book world.

Leveraging current clients for new books

Photographer Jesse Freidin considers email a key part of marketing his photography business. “I do a monthly newsletter and have found it effective and easy. Every time I send it out, people reply—asking me how I am, chatting about my current work, or booking a new session,” he writes. Each time he launches a photography book, he emails his ever-growing client base about the release and sees the sales roll in. 

Building a fan base with serialized content

Fantasy author Robin Sloan uniquely leveraged email marketing by offering a serialized novel sent via newsletters. Readers had to subscribe to his mailing list to receive weekly chapters. This not only built Sloan a dedicated fan base of over 6,000 subscribers but also provided an engaged audience for his future work.

Pre-launch buzz through email marketing

Young Adult author Sarah Maas used email marketing to create pre-launch buzz for her new book. Through email, she revealed cover designs, shared sneak peeks, and offered exclusive pre-order bonuses. These buzz-building strategies built anticipation for the book and ensured it hit the ground running upon release.

Scaling book sales with targeted emails

Author Mark Manson took email marketing to another level when launching his book, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck. He used targeted emails to share personal stories about the book’s theme, creating a deeper emotional connection with his readers. Manson segmented his email list based on their engagement level and tailored his emails accordingly. For example, subscribers who frequently opened Mark’s emails received more detailed content and special offers. This approach resulted in significant reader engagement and contributed heavily to the book becoming a bestseller.

Person looking at their phone

Building an email list

Creating an email list might seem like an uphill struggle if you’re just starting your self-publishing journey. However, with a few creative strategies, it can be an enjoyable process that connects you with an audience. Here are some practical ways to build your email list.

  • Use your website. Your creator or author website is the perfect place to invite visitors to subscribe to your email list. Incorporate email subscription forms on every page, and make sure they are easily findable and quick to fill out.
  • Offer incentives. People love freebies. Offering a bonus like a promo on your last book, a free print, or a useful photography guide can entice visitors to subscribe. You could also offer behind-the-scenes content or sneak peeks of upcoming work.
  • Leverage social media. Use your social media platforms to invite followers to join your mailing list. You can host giveaways, contests, or gated Q&A sessions with a subscription to your mailing list being the entry ticket.
  • Harness your blog. If you maintain a blog, use it to gather subscribers. Offer blog content early to email subscribers or create subscriber-only content.
  • Network at events. Invite attendees to join your mailing list whenever you attend photography events, book readings, or creator meets.
  • Promote your list in your books. Include a call to action in your book, inviting readers to join your email list for bonus content, exclusive meet and greets, and more.
  • Collaborate with other self-publishers. Collaborate with other bookmakers to host joint giveaways or events, cross-promote each other’s mailing lists, or contribute to each other’s newsletters.
  • Prioritize quality over quantity. It’s not just about having a massive email list but having engaged subscribers. Make sure you’re offering quality content that appeals to your target audience.

Remember that cultivating a dynamic, engaged email list is a process. It requires patience, consistency, and genuine, consistent effort. But the rewards of audience engagement and book sales can be immense.

Keeping email subscribers engaged

Engaging your email subscribers is crucial to maintaining a healthy list and eventually boosting your book sales. Here are several strategies to keep your subscribers hooked.

  • Provide consistent value. Unfailingly deliver content that provides value to your subscribers. This could range from bookmaking tips and genre-specific conference recommendations to guest interviews with fellow creators and insights into your creative process.
  • Use personalization. Personalizing your emails can go a long way in boosting engagement. Use your subscriber’s name in your emails, recommend books based on their preferences, or segment your list to deliver more targeted content.
  • Maintain a regular schedule. Be consistent with your email-sending schedule. Consistency helps build anticipation for your emails and keeps you top-of-mind for your subscribers.
  • Engage in two-way communication. Encourage your subscribers to reply to your emails or ask questions. These exchanges foster a sense of community and can provide valuable insights about your audience.
  • Celebrate milestones. Share your achievements and milestones with your subscribers. Whether it’s the anniversary of your first book launch, reaching a subscriber milestone, or winning an award, celebrating these moments can cultivate camaraderie.
  • Ask for feedback. Occasionally ask your subscribers for feedback about your emails. What do they enjoy most? What would they like to see more of? Asking for subscriber feedback shows that you value their opinion and helps you tailor your content to meet their needs better.
  • Offer exclusive discounts or early access. Give your subscribers benefits they can’t get elsewhere, like exclusive discounts on your books or early access to your new releases.
  • Share real-life stories or experiences. Sharing personal anecdotes or experiences helps to connect with your audience on an intimate level.

The goal is to keep your subscribers engaged and make them feel valued. With these strategies, you can turn your email list into a vibrant community of fans eagerly awaiting your next book.

Email marketing is an under-utilized powerful tool for self-publishers, allowing you to build a dedicated community eager to engage with your work. From building your list to keeping subscribers engaged, email can offer personal, meaningful interactions with your audience. 

At the end of the day, your fans aren’t just customers—they’re your community. And with effective email marketing, you can strengthen that community, one email blast at a time.


Blurb is a platform dedicated to empowering self-published creators, and we understand the importance of effective marketing for your books. That’s why we provide the tools for creating stunning books and resources to help you navigate the exciting journey of self-publishing. Blurb can help you sell your book through distribution channels like Amazon, Ingram, and our bookstore.

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