Getting Your First Mailing List Subscribers

Mini Case Study – 6 to 420 Subscribers in 10 Days without a Platform

I have gotten a lot of value from other posters in the 20Booksto50k group so I thought that I should share a bit of how I got 400+ subscribers in 10 days. Warning: this is a lot of common sense, lots of what you can read in the recommended threads in this group, etc. However, there aren’t as many resources for when you are starting with zero on your mailing list. Keep in mind that you don’t need to do any of this. It’s just an example of what I am doing. Your mileage may vary.

Find my write up on best practices on group giveaways here.

The context:

I had like 5 likes on my Facebook page, 6 on my subscriber list, and only have had a website up for a week. My first novel comes out on November 20th. I have no foothold in the writing industry beyond a novella published years ago by a defunct small press until a defunct pen name.

What I have in my corner:

I do have a lot of online marketing and freelance experience, so I have a variety of skills and the mindset to promote my work.


I want to give myself a launchpad of 1000 subscribers by November to be a starting base for the rest of the series. I have book two 25% done and book 3 10% written along with a trilogy of full-length novels completely finished to do a semi-rapid release schedule in 2020.

How did I get 400+ subscribers?

My reader magnet is a novelette prequel story which I plotted after watching Chris Fox’s video on a reader magnet and I tried to incorporate his elements: centered on a fan favorite/MC, a story that doesn’t need to be read to understand the series, then have it be about something that readers would be interested about. In my case, my MC killed a master vampire with a wooden spoon in Oklahoma which was referenced in the first book.

The first 120+ subscribers came from a fiverr paid promotion (instabooks – $15) which was recommended from another paranormal/urban fantasy author Kirsten Oliphant of Create if Writing. I was riffing off her launch a book in a month post.

The rest have come from two group Bookfunnel cross promos which were free. My views to download rate is at 70%. I have had 10 unsubscribers. These were three promos that succeeded but I believe that these worked because of some specific factors.

  • My cover might have been DIY, but it was genre-appropriate and I studied the top books in urban fantasy. I also have previous limited experience with graphic design, so it didn’t look shabby compared to the others.
  • I re-wrote my blurb again and again to intrigue, not summarize while utilizing popular keywords for the urban fantasy genre. Human readers (not just computers) are skimming. If they want a werewolf story then that is the keyword that they are looking for so don’t be shy about saying what creatures/tropes/etc are in it. I used this article about 17 tips on blurbs as a reference.
  • I only choose promotional opportunities that were targeted to my ideal readers. There was no drive-by spraying of my urban fantasy novel to cozy mystery readers or all genre promos.
  • I prioritized promos with the best book covers that I could find. Good covers will make your cover look better, in my opinion, while bad covers will bring yours down. I also looked for the promo hosts that seemed the most organized or with the largest following. I had an eye to the quality of the books so I would be comfortable with recommending them to my newsletter.
  • I believe that I was accepted for these free promos even without a list because I had a book that fit, a sharp presentation, and I wrote a nice note when I applied.

I hope this is helpful for other newbies looking to establish themselves!

Check out my launch checklist here.

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