How To Build An Email List?

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers says, “If you’re not building an email list, you’re an idiot.”

I’ll add; if you’re not giving away a free book on your website to build your email list, you’re an idiot.

This goes for ANY website, regardless if you offer services and products, or simply provide free information through blogging and videos. Giving away a free book is a powerful sign-up incentive to grow your email list.


I refer to the freebie website book as a ‘web book.’ You might call it an eBook.

In this post, I’ll simply refer to it as a book.

You build an email list to keep in contact with your followers just in case the social media platform you are currently using to raise brand awareness, and promotion suddenly goes away, becomes unpopular, or there is a decline in the organic reach.


Go to any top website in any industry:

  • Business & Entrepreneurship
  • Career
  • Creativity
  • Fashion
  • Finance (Personal)
  • Fitness
  • Foodie
  • Freelancing
  • Gadgets & Technology
  • Marketing
  • News, Culture & Entertainment
  • Parenting
  • Self-Improvement
  • Social Media & Blogging
  • Writing

What these websites have in common—the ones that are continuously growing their email list—is giving away something of value for free.

Aha! “Something for free?”

Well yeah, “something for free”.  Many give away a free book. Some giveaway things like a cheat sheet, workbook, free webinars, training series, and some have taken it to the next level and are giving away courses. 

Everything being offered, except maybe a cheat sheet, is more of a challenge and more expensive to create.

But not so fast! Creating a cheat sheet is not as easy-breezy as one might think. It must offer a ton of info on one sheet, and such an offer works best for an established website that has a reputation for consistently delivering exceptional content.

The offer of a cheat sheet has to make a promise and then deliver to be a sure-fire winner like the one offered by Jon Morrow of Smart Blogger (previously Boost Blog Traffic)

Writing a book to giveaway is the best option for those getting started.

If everyone is doing it, why should you bother?

Because it works!

I write books for clients and these books help them grow their email list. Sure, as with anything else some find more success than others, but all agree it’s a strategy that can work for anyone.


The book should add value and not an annoyance.

It’s annoying when you’ve got to fend off a stalker every time you hop onto a website. Like that pesky pop-up box offering you a free something in exchange for signing up to the email list.

To add insult to the annoyance is when the dumb pop-up box states something like “Do you want to stay clueless about email marketing?” It appears you only can select from two options “yes” you want to stay clueless. Or “no” you want to opt in and not stay clueless.

What if you want a third option to give the pop-up box the finger?

There are usually several other options although they aren’t as easy to find. There might be an “x” on the right or left side of the box which will allow you to close the pop-up box. If that doesn’t work, you can try clicking anywhere on the screen or scrolling down to get rid of the box.

Or you can give the box the finger, and it will go away.  Joking! But here’s what’s not funny. There are websites that will not allow you to read any of their content unless you provide an email address.

I usually jump off the site, because if the content were that good, they’d give a sample.

Very annoying. I digress.


You provide your email address to get the free book. The book cover and the copy have enticed you that the book is going to be exactly what you need.

Unfortunately, the book is a piece of crap that reads like a shitty PLR article or as if the author just threw something together. This is the kind of book you don’t want even if it is “free” and it’s not free because as soon as you throw the book in the internet trash can (delete it off your computer), the website owner has already started hounding you with a bunch of spammy emails.

Trying to unsubscribe from their list is like trying to escape from a prison camp. True story. One website that I tried to unsubscribe from took me through so many loops and mazes that I could not figure out how to unsubscribe.

As a last resort, I marked the email sender as spam. For the longest time, I was continuously getting spam from this jerk off blogger.

That’s not the way to treat a visitor to your site.

Treat visitors to your website the way you want to be treated.”    (Tweet this)

 Roll out the red, white, and blue carpet to provide them with a high-quality free book that is not terrible, and not average like many of the free books out there, but one that is exceptional.

If they want to unsubscribe after they’ve received your book, make it easy for them to do so.

Get over it that they got your free book and no longer want to be a subscriber. It’s not personal, and maybe they are experiencing “overwhelmity” —a word I made up which means to be beyond overwhelmed.

If the book was exceptional and you continue to offer value on your site, they will be back.

You will be rewarded for your ACT OF KINDNESS. 

Some will still unsubscribe, and it probably isn’t personal. Many people can’t handle being on many email lists. But many won’t unsubscribe. They will return to your site without an email invitation because of the quality of the book that you offered for free and because of the other helpful content you provide.

They will stay connected with you because they trust that you will continue to treat them the way they want to be treated.

They will tell people about your website and your free book. Later, when you respectfully start sending them emails (if they stayed on the list) they will read them, and when you eventually offer them your product and services they will take advantage of your offers, figuring if the free book you gave in exchange for getting an opt-in to your email list was awesome, the next thing that you charge them for will be out of this world.

Are you convinced yet? Giving away a freebie book on your website as a way to grow your email lists is a strategy that works. You can make it work better if your book is high quality and provides helpful information.

Books that do it better than anything else

  •     Have a hook that captures your attention right way, with a good cover and copy
  •      Is packed with helpful content
  •      Will be something you feel you need to know right away


Writing makes you write better!

Writing a book means you build things. You build your writing muscles and relationships. It shows

you’re an expert, and it allows you to promote your services subtly.

Earlier I mentioned that you might call a website (web/PDF) book an eBook or book. These two

types of book are the same although there are small differences. A website book is usually

shorter than an eBook that is sold on a site like Amazon at the sweet spot price points of 99 cents

or $2.99.

A good size for eBooks (electronic books) is twenty thousand to sixty thousand words.

If you plan to have the book printed for a physical copy, make sure it’s at least forty thousand

words or more.

A web book can be anywhere from two thousand to twenty thousand words.

If this is your first website book, aim for three thousand words which will give your muscles a

good workout.

In the New Writing and  Publishing Universe where there are website books, eBooks, and paper books rules are ever evolving and always being broken.

“Learn all the book writing rules, then invent them, then break them.”   FBK   (Tweet this)

Now let’s get to building writing muscles. Writing a short book builds muscles for writing

a bigger book, which is the new business cards.  Yes, blogging builds muscle too, but a web book builds and connects the tissues. You learn to connect the dots, and you develop the

practice of writing a connected body of work.

Builds relationships.

Assuming you already have a website up and you are courting readers with blog content. Now

you’ve pulled out an engagement ring with a book. With the book, you have shown your readers

that you are serious about providing value.

The book is your proposal and them giving your email address is their acceptance. Whereas before

they may have just dropped by your blog whenever; now you can send emails, respectfully making

them aware of all types of valuable offers.

Shows you’re the expert.   You get to show-off.

A free book is also a way to promote subtly promote your services.

What to write: Discovering an idea for your web book

Readers of your web book only care about one thing, themselves. (What’s in it for them?) WIIFT.

You can determine what’s in it for them by determining what the popular pages or posts are on

your website. Even if you are just getting started and can’t determine that yet, bring your expertise

to the table.

Founder of Ford Motor car company, Henry Ford said, “If I had asked people what they wanted,

they would have said faster horses.”

Your readers know what they want, but they don’t fully “know” what they want.

Just the other day I had a travel agent contact me, wanting me to ghostwrite a luxury vacation

book. He wanted me to write a book that conveys how much more enjoyable traveling and sleeping

in luxury is compared to a standard vacation package—and the best part about it was that Yes it

costs more, but it does not cost that much more.

People coming to him wanting to go on a nice, standard vacation, but not knowing how much nicer

a luxury vacation can be. He told me that people don’t know how much more they can get for only

a little amount more.

People know what they want: faster transportation, faster horses, but they

don’t know that they can have a car with wheels.

It’s your website, it’s your business, even if for now it’s only a side hustle. You have to know what

people want, and if you don’t know, learn what people want and show them what they want. Get

clued-in and check out what your competitors are doing. Since you can’t be them, bring your

perspective to whatever industry you are work.


Just because examples make things so crystal clear, I’m going to give you another example. If you

run a wine website, why not give potential customers a free book on which foods to pair which

wines with, descriptions of different types of wine, and other wine info.


That information may be scattered all over the internet and on your website, but why not package

it and put it in one place and make it easier for wine lovers? At the end of the book, you could offer

a discount or specialty wine for the potential customer’s first order.

HERE’S HOW to write a book to give away on your website

Before I tell you how to do it, you might need a sip of water or a leg stretch. This might feel massive

and you might be feeling a bit of “overwhelmity,” thinking I can’t even blog regularly, so how am I

going to write a book?

You can, when you settle in your mind that a book is a gift that keeps on giving. If you do

some research, come up with a great book idea and then execute it with skill, your email list will

grow exponentially.

Your book will be the little engine that could or the energizer bunny.


It starts with the “B” word. Brainstorm.   Brainstorm a list of 5 – 10 questions you get asked

frequently (FAQs).

Back to the Henry Ford quote, “How can I make my horses go faster?”

Brainstorm a list of 5 – 10 questions you should get asked (SAQs). Example: “Are horses the

only source of transportation?”

Once you come up with your list of questions, answer them.

Use whatever source you desire to compile the information, such as a Word document, software program, notebook paper, index cards, sticky notes, or whiteboard.


In addition to asking and answering the questions in about 3 – 7 sentences, make any additional

notes of what might go in your chapter.


Below is a template I created from this material. Even though I started with ten questions, I ended

up only using five, because some were redundant. You can never go wrong with having more

questions than you need because some material will be left on the cutting room floor.

Write a free book and use it to BUILD your email list


What does Derek Halpern of Social Triggers say about building an email list? He says that those who aren’t building an email list are idiots. Halpern is considered an expert on this issue and he makes a good living by teaching people have to grow their businesses.

Maybe give a small breakdown for newbies who don’t know why they should build a list and not just rely on social media contacts.

What is a top website marketing strategy to grow an email list?

Giving away a free book is a top marketing strategy to grow an email list. Everybody is doing it because it’s working. If it weren’t working, the top people and those who are growing fast wouldn’t be doing it.

I might give a list of top people using this strategy.

How can I make my book stand out?

Don’t be annoying. Create a free book that provides a ton of value so people will want to stay subscribed to your email list. Treat customers how they want to be treated (remember you tweeted this earlier).

Provide a book that is full of helpful content.

WIIFM? Why should I write and give away a free book on my website?

You build your writing muscles, which prepares you for writing a longer book. You also build relationships, because a book is a way for visitors and subscribers to get really to know you.

You show that you are an expert, and it is a way for you subtly sell products.

How do I come up with an Idea for a book?

What to write.  Readers mostly care about WIIFT. What’s in it for them? But they don’t always know what they want, or the possibilities that exist.

Founder of the Ford Motor Company, Henry Ford, said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”

Don’t overthink it. It’s not rocket science.

How to write a web book?

Come up with 5 – 10 questions your customers frequently ask, or should ask. Sometimes customers (blog readers) know what they want and sometimes they are searching. They don’t know exactly what they want, but they know they want to make a change.

How to market/promote a web book?

You can’t write a book and just expect people to know about it. You might think it’s a free book and people flock to free things. Therefore, people will find it. Well, they don’t flock to free things that don’t appear to be valuable and, most importantly, that they don’t know.

How will you end, what is the conclusion?

I will end by driving home the point that giving away a free book is a great return on your investment (ROI). A book that offers value becomes the gift that keeps on giving. I will talk about the strategy I’m using and the results I’m seeing.

In addition to answering FAQs and SAQs here are some more things you might consider adding to your book.

–          Graphics and charts can be useful additions to your book, so do include them.

–          Share a good story or a few good stories in the book, because it’s how you bring uniqueness to book. Tie your story in with the theme of the book.

–          Tell a good joke. A good joke or two lightens things up.

–          Repurpose content. You have previously shared content on your blog and other places that might have been written in the past, and it’s been archived. Dust it off, update it, make it exceptional, and include it in your book.

–          Be sure to connect the dots, meaning your material shouldn’t read like bulleted points but like a coherent article.


Even though offering a free book on your website is a marketing strategy to grow your email list, you still have to market your free book or it will go unnoticed.

Unfortunately, there won’t be thousands of people flocking to your site to get your free book if you don’t tell them about it.

Go through your entire post and pick out keywords and the key message. My message is that you can grow your email list by giving away a free book on your website. Figure out the most popular terms people searches for when trying to solve this problem.  A popular search term might be “How to grow your email list?”

The method I used isn’t rocket science. I played around with typing phrases into Google’s search bar and then let Google finish my thought. You’ve probably tried it. You type a word and Google attempts to guess what you are looking for.

There are better keyword search strategies.

Shorten your URL and use an eye-catching graphic. I use Bitly. It’s free, and it shortens urls. You’ve seen those super long urls that look like paragraphs? Not a pretty sight. Another good thing about Bitly is that it keeps track of how many people clicked on your link. That’s good to know, because if you aren’t getting clicks, you need to tweak your marketing strategy.

I also recently started tinkering around with Canvadotcom and creating my own graphics (they aren’t great, but they’ll do for now). In the past, I’d pay people to make my graphics. A good graphic included in your book and a few on the pages can raise the perceived value of your book.

Status updates on social media sites. Whatever industry you are in, there are probably places online where you can congregate and share information. Be sure to observe update status etiquette when you post. Figure out a way to share information about your free book in an interesting and clever way.

Keep in mind that to maximize who sees your post; you will need to send multiple updates about the book at different times and different dates. There are tools out there to help you do that. I share my information manually, and that works for me right now.

Go where others need help. Quora is a good Q & A forum where people ask and answer questions.  For instance, if someone were to ask how they can grow or build their email list I could respond with an answer and a link to my book. (Update: I’ve been locked out of Quora for several weeks.  I have been unsuccessful in reaching them to change my password, really disappointing).

Link from old posts. Go back and link the page that showcases your book to previous blog posts.

Marketing of your book and blog content is like the energizer bunny—it will keep on working when you have moved on to other work.

Let you in on a little secret

If you notice as of this writing, I do not have a pop-up email box that greets you like a friendly ghost when you stop by my website FBKwrites

I have a barely noticeable sign-up form at the bottom of each page.

I’m not a big fan of pop-up “Ooh! Ooh! Ooh! Pick me! Pick me!” email boxes on websites. I won’t refuse to read a website if a pop-up box appears, but I make that decision on a case by case basis. But I don’t want to use something on my website that I’m not a fan of.

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers also says, “If you’re not using an pop-up email box, you’re an idiot.”

Maybe, but I have other clever ways to build my list….keep reading.

In 2016,  I will begin to use my email service more frequently. Right now I’m not anxious to add another techy thing to my tool box that causes me to feel “overwhelmity”.

The online business world moves at breakneck speed, and things are always changing. Just when you jump on one bandwagon, everybody else has jumped off and moved on to the next thing.

Digressing a little, have you heard about that Facebook is going to do something like Periscope app? I mean seriously—how can one ever keep up?

There will always be things people tell you that you must do because they work. Writing a book to give away on your website to build an email list is one of those things, but if the strategy feels bigger than you at the time, it is okay to file it away for a later date.


My goal was to write this post, over a weekend. I worked on it all weekend, taking breaks only to bathe and eat.

At the end of the two days (Saturday and Sunday), I had a rough draft of this material after writing and researching (whoa…research!)  for more than 16 hours. Then I spent the next week working a few hours here and there to refine this post, in between doing my other work. Why am I telling you this? Because writing this took a damn long time.

What has kept me going from start to finish is not that I’m a writer and enjoy writing because I grow weary of writing. What has kept me going is that I know I’m putting something out into the universe that will help people grow their website, and it will help me grow my website by providing good content. That’s a decent ROI.

Write your book—stay in it to win it, even when the journey feels long.

This book explains the “Thick Paragraphs” method of Outlining used in the example below. It also includes 50 Nonfiction Book Outlines