Five favorite authors/bloggers and their email lists

I’ve written plenty about why I hesitate to create an email list (except for the one that automatically sends out emails to subscribers when I’ve published a new blog post), but I want to make one thing clear:

I have subscribed – and will most likely continue to subscribe – to email lists of authors and bloggers who make good use of those lists.

My list of favorite authors/bloggers for this post is as follows:

  1. James Scott Bell
  2. Joanna Penn
  3. K. M. Weiland
  4. Gina Horkey
  5. Jeff Goins

This is not a complete list of my favorite authors and bloggers whose email lists I proudly continue to occupy, but it’s a start.

James Scott Bell was among the first to respond to the tweets I sent out about my intentions for this blog post.

He retweeted one of my tweets – but it wasn’t the one I’d addressed to him. It was one that read, “Authors & bloggers who use their email list well tend to put helping & connecting before selling. I don’t unsubscribe from those.”

He embedded that in a tweet of his own that read simply, “Agree.” Made my morning. Made it better, anyway.

I included Mr. Bell in this project, because I was reading his own words about email lists in his book, How to Make a Living as a Writer, and it got me thinking.

Actually, I have to give him credit for the idea behind this blog post.

Here’s some of what I was reading in his book:

“I want my email to look like an email, as if coming from a friend. Because that’s what my readers are to me.”

He keeps his emails brief – with “content that is both relevant and pleasing” – and sends them out roughly once a month.

“My emails usually have three things: something personal about my writing life, a link to a new deal or a reminder about an existing one, and something amusing that makes the email fun to read.”

He quotes Scott Smith, “a king of email list building”:

“ ‘Subscribers aren’t afraid to leave a list because they know it’s easy to find 30 more. Really, the only way to stand out is to showcase a genuine, helpful personality…’”

There’s more to it in How to Make a Living as a Writer

So, while I’m still just lingering near the email list fence (feet still planted on the “I don’t wanna” side), I’m writing this post to show my appreciation for those who use their lists in a way that doesn’t make me want to unsubscribe from them.

Joanna Penn also responded promptly, and she even asked me to send her a link to my blog post when I’d published it.

And I, wide-eyed and open-mouthed, thought, “O-okay! Sure! (Yay!!)”

I’ve been enjoying two of Ms. Penn’s books, Business for Authors and Successful Self-Publishing. I also just downloaded her novel, Stone of Fire, which is on my fiction reading list for May.

I signed up to receive a free novel from her – Day of the Vikings – and received an email with a link that led me to a bookfunnel page that gave me a choice of formats (I love bookfunnel pages! I chose Kindle). The same email told me I’d receive another free book in a future email. The following emails would include her “behind-the-scenes exploits.”

My first email from The Creative Penn was an interview on “How to Self-Publish in India, with Rasana Atraya.” The email includes a link to an audio recording of this interview. I’m a little embarrassed to admit I just found out about her podcast. Podcasts are like snack-size audiobooks. I’m a fan.

She also directed me to her Facebook page, where she posts photos of her research trips, book recommendations, and more. I don’t spend much time on Facebook (Twitter is my favorite social media app, by far), but it’s good to know where my favorite authors like to spend their online social time, however limited it may be.

I knew from perusing the blogs and reading the emails from the people on my list that they genuinely care about connecting with and helping those who share their email addresses with them, but I wasn’t sure whether to expect a response (let alone one within the first few hours) on Twitter, since they all have well over 10,000 followers each. 

But I guess the main reason I wasn’t expecting a reply was that I hadn’t done anything like that before – addressing a tweet directly to well-known authors and bloggers about a post I planned to write that would include them.

I’m stepping into new territory, here, at least for me.

The graciousness of the responses I’ve received, though, is consistent with the tone of their blogs and email letters. These are people who know how to make the most of an email list.

And they’re wearing me down.

Which is why I’m lingering at the gate.

But I still hesitate to approach it, thinking, “What do I have to offer my subscribers? What can I give them that will help them in some way? And why on earth would anyone want a monthly email from me?”

James Scott Bell’s words on what he includes in his emails gave me some ideas.

K. M. Weiland’s response gave me some more.

In her own words (copied from her tweets),

“I’d say that having a list is a super valuable thing for any businessperson to cultivate these days. As for what to share, it can be very little really – just blog post roundups, that kind of thing. I put out two e-letters a month, featuring a “what I’m up to” editorial, helpful links, a giveaway, quotes, and a Q&A feature.”

She also shared a link to her e-letter back issues. I already get emails with her latest blog posts, but I checked out this link and then signed up for the e-letters. And she gave me some free books just for signing up. Free books!

Gina Horkey has used her blog to grow her own business and to help others to do the same. The friendly and relatable style of her blog also characterizes her emails.

She shares this about how she views her subscribers:

“I’ve never really thought too much about it, but I guess I see them as peers and friends. That’s how I talk to them anyway – I feel privileged that they let me into their inboxes each week, click open and sometimes click through to read my posts. I try not to violate that relationship by not emailing too much, not being overly salesy and putting their needs ahead of my own.”

She wrote me this when I asked how she’d built her email list:

“I started my email list in July or August of 2014 – just a few months after launching my blog. I had [around] 100 subscribers on 1/1/15 and really decided to focus on it in 2015, because I knew that building an email list was the best way to build a tribe/communicate with one’s audience.

“I started a list building course at the end of April, 2015 and started incorporating tactics like giveaways, content upgrades, and upside down homepages as well as launched 3 free courses/tutorials. These are the methods that helped me grow my list from 469 subs in April, 2015 to over 5,300 just a year later. I was able to go from 100 to 500 by installing a content magnet (free downloadable) and popups on my site.”

So, by offering free and useful tools to those interested in building a career as a freelance writer or as a virtual assistant, Gina has made thousands of connections with people grateful for her help and interested in learning more. The testimonials on her website are encouraging, mainly because they are the heartfelt messages of those whose lives have been improved by working with Gina.

That should be everyone’s aim. That objective should be at the heart of every email crafted and sent out to subscribers.

And while I haven’t been able to take advantage of all the deals presented on these blogs and in some of the emails I’ve received, I haven’t unsubscribed, because I don’t feel pestered into buying something.

I feel valued. I feel as though I could reply to one of these emails and expect a thoughtful reply. I don’t feel the “why did you even sign up, if you had no intention of buying my stuff?” vibe.

That’s where the “Did you forget to buy my ____” emails come from. Ever gotten one of those?

I don’t mind the general reminders that a particular book or program is still being offered at a reduced price. What I don’t like are the targeted emails that say something like, “So, Sarah, I noticed you didn’t buy <that thing I was trying to sell you in my last email>. Did you forget to buy it? Or would you tell me why you’re not interested, because I don’t understand why you wouldn’t be? Unless you’re not as driven as I am to succeed…”

Delete and unsubscribe. Nobody wants that in their inbox.

Jeff Goins first drew my attention with his books, Wrecked for the Ordinary and You Are a Writer. That’s when I first signed up for his email list. I’m in the middle of The Art of Work, right now.

He also provides many free and helpful resources on his blog, which is chock full of articles written with a view to help fellow writers and other creatives.

When I first signed onto his email list, Jeff sent me an email that began by offering me some free resources available on his website. Then he told me a bit about what set him on the path to writing for a living and gave me an idea of the mission behind his blog and his books. I’ll include some words from the email here:

“I started this blog to share my writing journey with you, because maybe like me you’ve felt alone. Maybe you’re confused or struggling and just want to know that your voice matters.

“Whether you’re a writer, artist, or aspiring entrepreneur, is a community for people in pursuit of meaningful work. And it’s my job to walk along with you and encourage you any way I can.

“I believe every person’s story is significant and we all have a responsibility to do work that matters.”

So, to recap, some lists are worth staying on. And I’d like to thank the five authors and bloggers I’ve mentioned in this post for showing me that email lists are not, in fact, the devil.

And someday I might just give in and start creating one of my own. No promises. I could always draft up a sample email to get a sense of what I’d want to include in it – and how I’d want to write it.

For now, though, I’m working on clarifying the focus of my blog and finishing my current writing projects. With sick kids at home and a depleted staff at work, just getting my daily writing in has been a challenge.

But I can’t let another week go by without thanking these five and all those who have encouraged me to rethink my squeamishness about starting my own email list.

Oddly enough, I do have a MailChimp account, and I even played around with WordPress’s widgets and found out I could set up a pop-up subscriber window for MailChimp. So, it can be done, without paying more money. I just don’t want a pop-up window that blocks the blog post visitors are trying to read. I hate that.

I especially hate the ones that make me choose between “Sign me up” and “No, thanks. I don’t want to succeed” (or “No, thanks. I’m totally fine with mediocrity”). Really?


Anyway, I’ve given you some idea of why I hesitate to create an email list of my own, and I’ve shown you five favorite authors and bloggers who use their email lists well.

I wonder how many of my readers have faced the same challenge or felt the same reticence when considering this step. It’s something that every blogging expert has told me I need to do, and yet I’ve put it off for various reasons.

I’ve even felt the need to rant about it in a blog post.

If you have an email list of your own, and you send out a regular email to your subscribers, what do you like to include in it?

I’m looking forward to your comments. And thank you so much for stopping by and reading this.

Off to get more coffee. Our five-year-old spent most of the night coughing (having taken the torch from one of his older sisters). So, I’m running on fumes once again. Fumes and coffee.

Take care, and have a great week! 🙂



12 thoughts on “Five favorite authors/bloggers and their email lists

  1. I’ve been resisting the clarion call of starting an email list too. Like you, I wonder what I’d have to talk about. The internet is vast and my voice somedays is nary more than a peep in the wilderness. I think I’ve unsubbed from more email lists than I belong to, and that’s taught me a lot about content and relevancy.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve looked into the self-hosted blog option, and it only costs a mere $3.99 per month if you pay for a full year (at least) in advance, and if you want extra security for your blog, that adds to the cost. And we just don’t have room in the budget for that — not right now, anyway. So, as much as I’ve read and heard from blogging experts telling me that’s the best way to go, I’ve stuck with my free blog, though I did splurge on a domain name–which I have to renew every year, along with the cost of routing it to my WP blog. But $26 total is way less than the cost of a year’s worth of self-hosting. Plus, it just sounds like it would be a bigger time-suck. Maybe I’m wrong about that. If WP ever chokes and accidentally deletes my blog, I have copies saved of several of my posts, but much would be lost, and I’d really be annoyed. Yet I’m still not ready to take on the self-hosted blog. Something about the “all the bells and whistles” packages that I see on expert bloggers’ websites…just makes me nervous. It feels like it would require more of a time commitment than my life right now would allow. I don’t really like the static landing page that is supposed to get people excited about my content. I don’t have time or money to get a professional headshot (enter webcam). And I guess I just have this inner “Oh, yeah?” contrarian streak. Sounds like you have one, too. 🙂
      I’ve unsubbed from SO many lists –mostly because of the tacky or downright pushy sales tactics used by the blogger who writes them. They illustrate beautifully what NOT do do. So many out there, too. But there are good ones, too, thank goodness, and I get ideas from them on what I could do, even if very few people subscribe to my list. I’ll wait on creating one, though, until I’ve had a chance to create a pretend e-letter to see what I could share with my blog readers. Thank you for being one of them! 🙂 I look forward to your comments, and thank you again for taking the time to visit and share your thoughts. They’re waking me up faster than this coffee is (which is getting cold, now). Take care, and have a great rest of your week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. I am starting to grow an email list but don’t want to pester the people on my list, especially while I’m still growing my content and working on my book. I’d like to offer freebies exclusive for the list at some stage but at the moment I’m thinking of a monthly email about what’s going on, a round up of new blog posts etc. And I want it to sound like it’s coming from me and not just trying to sell, sell, sell!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have the same concerns when it comes to sending out e-letters to subscribers. I want to make them worth opening and reading, and I’m not sure yet what to put in them to make them worth anyone’s time. I love the idea of freebies, and I’d like to create a free downloadable something that would be (I hope) valuable to my blog readers. I just haven’t settled on that something. I’m pretty good at trial and error, though — usually with a lot of errors but eventually with something that looks more encouraging. An occasional giveaway is also a fun idea, though I could only give away one something at a time, and it wouldn’t be huge. Still . . . book money is book money, right? 🙂 Thanks so much for taking the time to read my post and to share your own ideas. Have a great rest of your week! 🙂


  3. Beautifully considered. I send out a newsletter every two weeks, but I like to think of it more as a ‘letter’ than a ‘NEWS-letter’ – that is, I write to my subscribers as though I’m writing to a friend. Over time and correspondence, they DO become friends 🙂 I usually include a little behind-the-scenes info (I run a literary consultancy – – often from my laptop while travelling round Europe) and share any offers, updates, etc. to do with my business, as well as any links to interesting blogs and articles I’ve come across – as well as links to my own blog posts, if I have any to share. I think people really do appreciate keeping it casual and friendly, and I always invite people to hit reply and write back to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Sophie! I love how you treat your subscribers as friends and peers, sharing links to things that have interested or helped you so they can enjoy and benefit from them, too. Oh, wow, though . . . consulting and writing on a laptop while traveling Europe! Can I say I’m just a wee bit jealous? Because I am. Safe travels, and thank you so much for sharing what you include in your e-letters. I’m feeling an itch to write my first pretend e-letter, just to see what I can offer my readers now. We’ll see. 🙂 Take care, and have a great week!


  4. Beautifully considered. I send out a newsletter every two weeks, but I like to think of it more as a ‘letter’ than a ‘NEWS-letter’ – that is, I write to my subscribers as though I’m writing to a friend. Over time and correspondence, they DO become friends 🙂 I usually include a little behind-the-scenes info (I run a literary consultancy, often from my laptop while travelling round Europe) and share any offers, updates, etc. to do with my business, as well as any links to interesting blogs and articles I’ve come across – as well as links to my own blog posts, if I have any to share. I think people really do appreciate keeping it casual and friendly, and I always invite people to hit reply and write back to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Once again I agree with you! 🙂 Email lists should feel personal, not cold and they shouldn’t be simply about selling whatever it is they’re selling. As you said, they should be like an email from a friend. I only have the general one all blogs come with – the one that informs my followers of new posts. I wondered whether I should set up a separate mailing list, but I’m not sure what I would tell people! Everything important is on my blog, so I’d repeat myself most of the time which doesn’t add anything.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve always been glad people could subscribe to receive an email whenever I published a new blog post, but, I’m glad I’m not the only one who wondered what she would put in an e-letter in addition to that. Thanks to the five people I wrote about in this post, I have some ideas, but I’m still gonna try and write a sample e-letter (privately) to see if I have anything to share with subscribers that I wouldn’t necessarily want to put in a blog post.
      Oh, and about the 26th, I had a thought for the post: does it make sense to maybe have an author interview (me interviewing you) and also a giveaway? Or is that overkill? I have so much to learn.
      Thanks, Sarina, for your thoughtful comment, as always. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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