Email Marketing and List Building for Authors with Philip Duncan, Part 3

Email Marketing and List Building, How To Write the Future podcast, episode 40

Quote from Email Marketing and List Building, How To Write the Future podcast, episode 40


In “Email Marketing and List Building for Authors with Philip Duncan, Part 3,” host Beth Barany, creativity coach, and science fiction and fantasy novelist, chats with Philip where he recommends how frequently authors should send out email newsletters to readers and explains what a “reader magnet” means, plus how you can get started in creating your own.

If you haven’t already, listen to Part 1, and Part 2 here.

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Philip Duncan is an award-winning and Amazon bestselling fiction author. He’s the host of the Powerhouse Authoring Summit and has been a featured guest on several other authoring summits. He specializes in email marketing and list building for authors, where he now spends all his time helping authors start, grow, and scale their audience through email marketing.


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The How To Write The Future podcast is for science fiction and fantasy writers who want to write positive futures and successfully bring those stories out into the marketplace. Hosted by Beth Barany, science fiction novelist and creativity coach for writers.

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Episode 40 – Email Marketing and List Building for Authors with Philip Duncan, Part 3


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All right.

Hi everyone. Beth Barany here with How to Write the Future Podcast. This is the future. The future is now. We are here together to explore how can we write optimistic stories so that we can have a positive impact on the world.

I believe that just as important as craft is learning how to market our work. I’m doing a series of podcast episodes, talking to various experts about how we can improve as marketers for our own fiction.

In that light, I’ve brought here Philip Duncan here with us today and to share with us his genius about one of the most powerful things you can do as a fiction writer, which is have your own email list.


This is part three of my conversation with Philip and the final part of our conversation. So be sure to listen to parts one and two from last week and the week before to get all caught up. And then join us back here for the final part of our conversation.

Also, be sure to download Philip’s checklist on email marketing. That link is in the show notes.

So, let’s move into the writing.

Let’s Start with Email Newsletter Frequency

Let’s talk about how frequently you recommend people sending newsletters and let’s break them up into the writer who has not yet published, the writer who only has one novel published, and then the subsequent group writers who have two or more books out.


Yeah. Whenever I ask a question or somebody asks me a question, I always look at myself as an author first. What have I done and what have I grown into? And then when I take people on, I have private clients, what do I have them do and, what do I recommend to them?

You said they’re in all different boats. Some people have a book, some people are pre-book, some people have 15 books.

How often should I email? I recommend to people just getting started — because it can seem overwhelming and daunting, at minimum just send an email a month. I think that’s super easy and doable. Any longer period of time, people are gonna forget who you are.

Now, this doesn’t include your onboarding sequence. People should be getting that as soon as they sign up for something because they need to know that they signed up for it and not forget you.

A month doesn’t need to go by before they hear from you for the first time. But when they’re in your regular, group of people that you email, I think for a very new person– let’s say you don’t have a book or maybe you just have one book, you don’t feel like you have a ton to talk about.

Once a month I think’s awesome. I think that’s more than enough– 12 emails a year. It’s not that daunting.

I always sit down day of and write my emails and send them. I know people who write their emails in advance and have ’em scheduled out.

I just usually always write what’s on my mind.

And then for people who have a little bit more to say, I think that’s where you can start trickling into the biweekly, once every two weeks, which I think is the most common that I’ve seen from what I work with and what I come across.

That’s typically what I tell people a month, once a month, or twice a month.


And how often do you send out a newsletter?


I’m two to three times a month for my reader’s side. I started once a month.


Yeah, and in all transparency, I’m doing once a month right now. I’m between books. I’m working on a new book. I’m actively working on a new book. But for a while, I wasn’t actively working on a new book but, I was doing other things related, and I just knew that I just had to keep up that once a month. And I found little things to say, and I participate in giveaways, so that’s also what I’m doing every month is I’m like, Hey guys, here’s a giveaway. Check it out if you need something for your TBR – to be read pile in my genre.

You mentioned the onboarding sequence.

Can you tell us what that is and a few tips to help people get started with their onboarding sequence and why it’s important?

Onboarding Sequence


Yes, it’s super important. One of the things I didn’t figure out early on– I get to teach people the way to do it, to avoid the way I did it– An onboarding sequence is if somebody signs up to be on your email list, the way I’ve seen it is typically two to three emails.

Maybe you just send one, but it’s like just a sequence of two to three emails– is the way I have it laid out. And, it fires off automatically. If you signed up from my email list, you would automatically get this email. It needs to be automated because you don’t have to, it is just because it does, right?

You’re never gonna be sitting there every time somebody signs up or every morning you wake up and have to resend these emails. So automating it is really important, and then this is your only time to make a first impression.

Just a real bare-bones outline of a first email for onboarding:

It’s just like, Hey, thanks for signing up, I appreciate you taking a chance on me, whatever. Here’s the reader magnet in case you didn’t download it yet. And then I usually give ’em the layout, what to expect from me so there’s no surprises. It’s like, Hey, you know, you probably hear from me once a month. I’ll share things that I’m interested in, stuff about what I’m working on with my writing, my characters. Just lay out what you’re gonna write about so they have an expectation. So there’s no blindsiding. Oh, you’re emailing me, what is this nonsense?

And then, just give ’em some kind of personal touch. Maybe don’t bombard them with the most personal story you have in the holster in the first email but give them some insight into who you are, so they’re interested and excited to be on your list and they want to stay.

Now that being said, people are going to unsubscribe. There is no avoiding that. Just get used to looking at that number and feeling like you wanna cry a little bit, cuz it never goes away. But if you can get them hooked, or it’s like a, with a book, right? You’re a writing coach. You have to hook the reader early or they’re gone and there’s no getting them back.

If you mess up that first sentence, that first paragraph, that first chapter, even if the rest of the book’s a thousand times better, the person’s never gonna get that far. If you don’t hook ’em early with your first email, they’re not gonna get to the second email, the third email, and then they’ll never get the rest of your emails ever again.

That’s really how I structure it. And then, I said, it’s just two to three emails, real simple. First email goes off, there’s a two-day delay, second email goes off, and then they flood into your, regular newsletter and you just set it and forget it.

That’s great. So email number one: Hey thanks for taking a chance on me. By the way here’s the link to your reader magnet. Here’s how often I’ll send my newsletter. Maybe the topics you cover. A little story about who you are so they get to know you. And that’s number one. That triggers immediately.

And then what goes into email number two that you say could go out two days later? 

And then also what goes into email number three?


Yeah. For a two-email sequence, I usually have a three-day delay, and then the second email goes out. Again, this isn’t set in stone. This is just what I’ve learned and implemented. The second email for me is typically: Hey, welcome back. I might even either at the very beginning or near the end– you wanna make sure they get your reader magnet cuz they need to see your writing, right?

Another opportunity for them to get that. Cuz you’re not gonna continually send it to ’em down the road, so we need to get ’em in early. That’ll probably be in there. I’d have to check whether I have it in the beginning or the end.

And then, I think the second email is really just like the Wild West for me.

What do you want to share? This might be a great time to use that storytelling ability and make sure you tie it into your writing.

Let’s say the first email is a personal story just to get people insight to who you are. Let’s let the second email and or the third email be a story so they get to see how you write, and then tie that into your reading or your writing.

And then that’s a good way to try to get them into your world to read your stuff, but it also shows a story of who you are. But it can showcase your writing too if you do it correctly. I think that’s a good way to structure the second, and or third email. I think mine’s currently two.

I have clients who have three. So then the third one can just be, I don’t know anything really. The shortest of the ones for me cuz they’re getting ready to into the regular things.


What do you say in the third one?


Man, I’d have to check what my clients do.

Beth Barany

Oh, you don’t have one. Yeah.


Mine’s two. I should add a third one, but things have happened in my life. I could add a third one. What would your third one be?


My first one is, Hey thanks for joining. Here’s your goodie. By the way, more goodies are coming.

That’s pretty much it. It’s really short cuz really I would just want them to grab the goodie.

And then the second email has, be sure to get your goodie, and oh I have a new goodie for, and here’s a bit about me. And that’s where I show my picture and say a little bit about me and show that kind of high energy gadget kickass heroine type thing.

And then I actually don’t share much about myself in this little sequence. So you’re encouraging, this is encouraging me, and to go back in and add a little bit more about me.

And that’s the three emails really.

It’s Get Your Reader Magnet is Day zero.

Day two I think it is or day one I can’t, here’s another goodie which is bookmarks. I love sending bookmarks to people. And a little bit about me.

And then day three is another goodie. You know I can’t remember now And I just worked on this for one of my series. Because I have three series I’m now linking them I have different onboarding for each of them. And then I link.

I’m giving away the first in series, and that’s my reader magnet

The Reader Magnet

Let’s move over to Reader Magnet.


People are probably like: What is that?


What is that? What is that? Do I need it? And I should just say in full disclosure when I first started my author newsletter, I did not have one. And then I’ve experimented with different ones. So, tell us what it is why they’re useful, and, yeah, I’m curious.


Yeah. You didn’t have it. I’ll make you feel better. I didn’t even know what it was. Reader magnet made no sense to me no matter how you explained it. I was like, what is happening? I don’t get it. I knew what a business magnet was or a lead magnet, and I guess somewhere along the way, reader magnet took over the authoring world.

Simply put, it’s just a piece of writing, of your writing, that you’re giving away for free in exchange for that person’s email for the way I get emails. Because without that, there’s no real incentive for them to give you their personal information, like their email address.

Like, Hey, sign up for my email list. That’s it. They’re gonna be like, why? This doesn’t make any sense. Or, Hey, get my free novella, my 20,000-word novella, or short story that I wrote just for you so you could have it for free. And, all I’m asking in exchange is for your email.

They need to some incentive in order to give you their email or you’re just never gonna get the email. People are like, I don’t have a book published yet. What do I do?

For me?

I just took the first chapter of my very first book. You could do first two, three chapters. I was just like, get the first chapter of my debut novel for free as a thank you from me to you for taking a chance on coming onto my list. And that worked beautifully for a long time.

And then you could do full books, short stories. I don’t know of anybody that does this. You can get real brave with audiobooks, but that’s down the line. People do character sheets.

You just have to have something and do not let that stop you from getting started. It’s simple to get something to get started. You can always change it later.


I’ve changed mine multiple times. I used to do –I had the first three– they were cut chapters –the first three, the moment before the story started: Here you go, guys.


A pretty cool one.


Yeah, I worked really really hard on that. I did that for a while. I also have done a prequel and it used to be even up on Amazon but I’ve since taken it down. I used to share a fairytale that my main character in my fantasy series loved. It was like who she admired and wanted to model her life on. I wrote that and gave that away. And then I gave away the first two chapters of Henrietta the Dragon Slayer. And then now I’ve just changed it around, so now it’s gonna be the first book because I’m gonna be writing more.

I do wanna say and maybe play the devil’s advocate that at the beginning an attractive feature for people to sign up for your newsletter is if they’re waiting for the next book. if you have book one or even if you don’t have a book out and you say it’s coming sign up so I can let you know when it drops.

That will work for friends and family and people who like your blurb and your hook and things like that. And then when my first book did go out and I did a big publicity push around it, then it was sign up for book, so you’ll get notified for book two. And that was all I had for a while. And by the time book three came out that’s when I started giving away parts of book one and things like that.

I think it is okay for fiction writers if they don’t have anything to use the coming soon hook, especially if by then you’re marketing your book with your book blurb and getting people excited that it’s coming.

So that’s my take because I find it’s a lot of pressure to not only edit and finalize a novel try finalize some kind of goodie that needs to be as good as the novel cuz I-I’m someone who edits my books tremendously before they go out and a draft in 50% edit is just not gonna look as good as the final draft.


No, you would never, that’s great point. Never put out unpolished tossed together, 50% of the way, cuz we’re trying to showcase our writing. That might not showcase your best ability, right?

I’ve never heard of that first method that you’re talking about with sign-up to hear about when my book drops and stuff like that. The only issue I have with the way I get emails is the sites I use, you have to have a reader magnet, or else you can’t join.

You have to have one on Story Origin, Prolific Works, Book Funnel, to my knowledge.

Now if you’re gonna go the social media route, then you could, right? Which is probably what you’re talking about. You’re teasing with the blurb. You’re telling people about it.

To me, that probably has a much lower ceiling and this is why you’ve changed things and you’ve probably growth since then. That’s only gonna get you to a certain level. But that’s all you got, just start, right? Don’t be like, it’s gonna be a year before I can start.

Just start with something that’s gonna give you some groundwork to get going and then you can adjust along the way.


Absolutely, there’s a saying in business Minimum Viable Product – MVP. And I noticed it’s more important that you take forward action and start than it is to wait until you reach some threshold. That could be a long time down the road so my mantra is always what can I do today to move it forward? What am I ready content-wise to put out there to announce or to share or to do?


Do it. Right? The best time to do it was yesterday, and the second best time is today. I think especially with authors, they get hung up on these, especially when it ventures outside of them just writing the book. Cuz that’s what we actually love to do. When these other things come into play, like marketing and getting an email list, it’s real easy to take a step back and be like, I don’t want to do this.

And it’s easy to not do it. Listen, I was there, I was like, this is daunting. I don’t know how to start, where to start this, I don’t get it. But you have to, you just have to. I don’t know how else to say it. You just have to.


Yeah, And the first step would be get educated.

How can people find out about you, and reach out to you, get on your list learn more about email marketing from you? The best way to do that.


Oh my God. I never go to my own website, so I don’t know. I think it’s Philip S, I believe. And it’s Philip with one l.


Thank you so much, Philip, for speaking with us.

Everyone check out Philip’s website, Philip S Philip with one L, and be sure to check in our show notes or show description for the checklist on email marketing.


This is the end of my mini-series of my conversation with Phillip Duncan about email marketing.

What is one action you can take for your email marketing? Let me know.

And I just want to end on this note. Your stories are important. Your vision for the world, we need it. So, get moving on your book and on your marketing. And I wish you all the best. Because the world needs your stories.


Thank you so much, everyone for listening to my podcast. Your interest and feedback is so inspiring to me and helps me know that I’m helping you in some small way.

So write long and prosper.

Are you stuck and overwhelmed by world building? Then…

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Image of Beth BaranyBeth Barany teaches science fiction and fantasy novelists how to write, edit, and publish their books as a coach, teacher, consultant, and developmental editor. She’s an award-winning fantasy and science fiction novelist and runs the podcast, “How To Write The Future.”

Learn more about Beth Barany at these sites: 


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