When can authors skip building an email list?

Every marketing guru under the sun will tell you that your #1 priority as an author or as a business owner is building an email list.  But the truth is, there are some cases where that advice is flat-out wrong.  

Wouldn’t it be nice to know when?

What email lists are good for

An email list is kind of like buying a house. It’s a long-term investment. It takes time to grow an email list just as it takes time to build up equity in a house. In both cases, the biggest benefits in owning a list or a house comes years down the road. That’s when all your hard work pays off in dollars.

Email lists work best when you are working towards a long-term goal (e.g. attracting readers for a series,  building a business), and are especially important when you are creating a product like a book that is inexpensive and needs to reach a very large audience to be profitable.


When should you skip building an email list?

Here are some examples of times when you would NOT want to invest time in building an email list:

  • If you have no intention of distributing your book beyond your family and friends.If you were writing a book because you just wanted to capture your family’s history and no one beyond your family and friends would be interested..

  • If you’re just going to publish a book next month and then stop writing. You won’t have enough time to recoup your time investment.

  • If you’re planning to write one standalone book and then write another standalone book in an unrelated genre, you might want to skip an email list, because you’ll need time to build a list for each genre/book. The list of readers who love your gruesome military fiction are going to be pissed if you try to sell them a touching steampunk love story.  But if you plan to write more than one book in a particular genre, it’s worth doing.

  • If you’re a public speaker who is already landing paid speaking gigs and only has plans to continue speaking and you're CERTAIN you will never write another book on the topic you speak about, and you will never offer a product or service related to your book. 

Bottom Line

If you’re just looking to write one book and be done with writing, don’t bother building an email list. However, if you’re serious about building a career as a writer, building an email list should be your #1 marketing priority.