These days, most authors understand the importance of being able to reach their audience through an email list. After all, as industry expert Jane Friedman says,
Email has so far proven to be a more long-term and stable tool than social media, which is constantly shifting… You truly own your email list.
It’s not appropriate (or, strictly speaking, legal) to use your personal email account to send author communications to your fans. There are requirements for mass emails, including giving subscribers the chance to opt out if they wish. Plus, it’s good manners to contact only people who have specifically asked to receive news about your books.
For this reason, savvy authors choose to set up an account with an email list provider. Not only does this make it easy to stay compliant with the law, but your marketing efforts will be dramatically simpler when you have access to analytics, automated messages, and other features.
That said, with a large number of email list providers available, it can be difficult for an author to know which company to choose. The “best” email list provider for you undoubtedly depends not only on your goals, but also the stage you’re at. There’s a big difference between an author with multiple streams of income and a thousand subscribers, and the first-timer with a single book and twenty supportive fans.
However, to help you get a sense of the most popular options, I asked BAIPA members and other writing friends to weigh in with a few comments about the email provider they’re currently using. Some were happy to be credited, while others preferred to remain anonymous. Here’s what they said:
- “Overall, I rather like Mailchimp. It suits my purposes well, and it’s not difficult to navigate. There are some more advanced features that aren’t intuitive, but their how-to articles are easy to follow (though sometimes I have to dig to find the right one). It would be nice if their picture modification software was a little more robust, but it’s not hard to edit the picture using another tool and upload it to Mailchimp. New users should be aware that you’re required to upgrade your level of service to a paid version once your email list gets large enough.” — Kelley Way, attorney
- “What I don’t like about it is how funky the image alignment and placement is, how limited the templates are. I think I’m comparing it to WordPress and other web builders where there is much more control. I like the reporting. Lots of useful data.” — John Byrne Barry
- “I have been using AWeber for many years, for my business as it pre-dates me being an author. I originally picked them because I like the way they do autoresponders and they have awesome live customer service, which I desperately needed and still use often. They talked me through many processes with a steep learning curve, and also did troubleshooting for me when I needed it. It has definitely been a good choice for me.” — Lorraine Segal
- “I am using a AWeber now, and I have used Mailchimp in the past, and I even explored MailerLite. Given that I wanted to have an easy way to do landing pages and some other things, AWeber seemed like the best alternative. It also has great tagging features, that I don’t totally understand yet, but it has made it easy to do segments etc.” — Ruth Schwartz
- “I switched from Mailchimp to AWeber mainly because of AWeber’s reputation for excellent customer service, and they didn’t disappoint me. Their support reps are always available via chat, and their advice is targeted and helpful. AWeber even converted my Mailchimp lists for me, then created a personalized video to show me where I could find my new AWeber subscriber list.” — Matty Dalrymple, The Indy Author
- “MailerLite has worked out OK. I did need my son to set up the automatic RSS feed from my website. I write my post on my WordPress site and then MailerLite picks it up and automatically sends it at a specific time every Saturday. There is no phone service at this time. There is 24/7 chat, and they are very responsive. They are somewhat helpful. I find the site a little confusing, but better than MailChimp. MailerLite is pretty strict about subscribers being legit, and will automatically remove subscribers if the e-mail bounces back a couple of times.” — Arlene Miller
- “Mailchimp made me feel so stupid even though I am usually fine with figuring out new tech stuff. Went to Mailerlite and it was SO much more intuitive and even fun.” — LS
- “I hated designing MailChimp newsletters so much that I never sent any — so zero delivery there, and zero growth! Whereas with MailerLite, writing / designing / automating newsletters was fun, so I WAS sending them, and my subscribers have been growing steadily.” — CV
- “I like that I can use my brand assets and colours, and there is a selection of fonts, layouts and designs that allow a little more personalisation than some other platforms.” — Jo McCarthy, Firain
- “I really like using Flodesk. It’s easy to understand. My newsletters are so pretty and it’s a fraction of what I paid with Mailchimp.” — KS
- “I use ConvertKit. I started with Mad Mimi (which is AWESOME to start with – cheap, simple, easy to use, all you need and nothing else). I later outgrew it so I switched to ConvertKit. Very happy with my decision – it interfaces with most of my tools, has wicked deep features, good stats and great customer service.” — Ariane Cap
- “I love the simplicity of ConvertKit’s user interface, and how they truly understand what creators want from their email tool. And I was impressed by their company values when I attended their conference. However, I do feel ConvertKit is pretty expensive for what you get, and at the price level I pay, I’m disappointed that the analytics are not more comprehensive.” — Pauline Wiles
- “My audience responds well to text-based simply designed emails that are the default in ConvertKit.” — JK
- I use Constant Contact, the paid version. You can start with the free version. The support is fantastic. In my presentations, I often have a lead magnet which feeds into my mailing list. CC help me set that up. I also have the option of setting that up as a text-to-join opt-in.” — Janice Litvin
- “I’ve used Drip for 7 years. Mostly I’ve liked it, but they are recently downplaying the role of tags, which makes me nervous, since CRM is a tag-based industry.” — Steven Kessler
- “I love using SquareSpace for my website and email newsletter… even so, I prefer to have a SS expert available for help when I hit a wall. I tend to need help most with sending newsletter e-blasts, largely because I don’t send them as often as I should.” — Beth Ann Mathews
- “Squarespace is OK to get started but has limitations, plus you have to pay for it. It’s easy to set up. Hate Mailchimp – painful to set up.” — LA
- “I experimented with Squarespace email when they first launched the service. At the time they didn’t offer A/B testing or auto re-send — two features I use on the regular, so I didn’t stick with them. If they offer those features now, I’d consider switching to streamline my routine.” — DG
Further resources to help you evaluate an email list provider:
- How to choose your author newsletter platform by Pauline Wiles
- Best email services for authors by Dave Chesson
- BAIPA is hosting a deep dive into Email Marketing Success on August 6, 2022. If you miss the live session, members can access the replay by logging in.
If you’re happy with your email list provider, or would like to share words of caution with others, we welcome your comment below.