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How I Get 5,000-20,000 New Readers on My Email List Every Month

Sell more books and grow your audience with this effective strategy


How I Get 5,000-20,000 New Readers on My Email List Every Month

By Russell Nohelty

In my career as an author, one thing has been responsible for more of my success than anything else, and that is the ability to work together with other authors on big promotions (which, of course, helps me grow my audience and sell books). I have run anthologies, been part of author book bundles, and tabled with authors at shows to minimize costs and maximize exposure for us all.

However, all those other promotions pale in comparison to what I’ve gained by working with other authors on group builders to build up my mailing list. I’ve participated in over 50 of these promotions in the last two years, and in the last 12 months alone, these promotions brought in 140,000 leads for myself and over 150 other authors with whom I have worked.



Now, I run somewhere between 1-4 group giveaways for authors every month, with each one netting between 3,000-8,000 new readers in just a couple weeks’ time. If you add that all up, I am pulling in between 5,000-20,000 new potential readers each and every month.

That’s a ton of potential readers. It’s mind-boggling really, to think that I’ve found a way to bring unlimited readers into my ecosystem and share my work with them.

Since dedicating myself to building my mailing list in this manner, I’ve met thousands of amazing people, and launched my biggest book ever when I raised $39,000 for my Lovecraftian anthology Cthulhu is Hard to Spell.

I have been a proponent of building a mailing list for years, but I could never scale very large, nor very quickly, in the early years of my career.

In my first 2 years trying to grow my audience, I was only able to add 3,000 people to my mailing list, combined. That’s less than I get during one group builder now, which still blows my mind.

After I learned about group builders, I was able to explode my mailing list, and my fanbase in the process.

There’s no better way to build a mailing list quickly than using group giveaways, and it’s simpler than you think to create an effective one that can add thousands of new leads to your list.


Step 1: Choose a Giveaway Platform


Many people choose to run giveaways through their social media accounts, but if you are going to get serious about doing giveaways, I recommend choosing a platform that specializes in managing them, so you can cut down on the headache of keeping track of entries and choosing a winner. The right platform will do that all for you and provide a handy spreadsheet which you can disburse to the other authors working with you once the giveaway is done.

There are three main platforms for running giveaways: Rafflecopter, KingSumo, and Gleam. Some people also use Upviral, but it’s very expensive, and I have not found it any more useful than the more modestly prices options.

Honestly, I feel the same way about Gleam, which is less expensive than Upviral, but more expensive than the other options. I pretty much exclusively use King Sumo, but there are also reasons to choose one of the other platforms as well.

I like King Sumo more than any other platform because it offers a lifetime payment option, which allows you can buy the service once and use it forever without every paying a second time. This is very appealing to me, because I hate monthly service plans.

If you are like me, then I recommend buying the $197 lifetime access WordPress plugin from KingSumo. It’s simple to install and easy to use.

However, if you don’t have WordPress, then they also offer a $97 option to use their cloud-based website option, which you can then embed in any website.

When you are just getting started, they also offer a free option as well, which allows you to use most of the functionality of the site without paying anything at all.

The cloud-based option has similar functionality to the WordPress plugin, it is simply preference as to which one you should buy.


Why would you use another service?


While KingSumo fits most of my needs, it is not perfect. For instance, in order to enter a KingSumo giveaway an entrant is required to enter their email address. While 90-99% of the time I want people to join my mailing list, sometimes I run giveaways which are targeted at building my Bookbub, Amazon, or other social media accounts exclusively, and that is when I use Rafflecopter instead of KingSumo.

Rafflecopter allows you to create a giveaway where you don’t need to input your email to enter. This is very effective for people who are wary of entering their email, but are perfectly happy to follow you on a social media platform of your choice.

These types of giveaways offer much less of a prize incentive because most people are more than happy to follow you on social media with very little encouragement. If you are trying to keep your first giveaways modestly priced, or running them without a group behind you, then using Rafflecopter to build up your social media accounts is a great option to keep your costs down.


Step 2: Choose a Fandom

One of the biggest problems people face when they start hosting giveaways is overcoming their desire to give away their own books.

This is folly, because the hardest part is getting people to care about your books – and people can’t do that if they have no idea you exist.

That’s why you’re running a giveaway in the first place, after all. So that you can get more fans for your books. If everybody loved your books, you would have tons of raving fans already, and giveaways would be unnecessary.

The two biggest factors in a good giveaway are the enthusiasm people have to enter it in the first place and virality of the giveaway after somebody enters to share it with their friends. People have to be really excited about your giveaway or they won’t enter, and even if they do enter, they won’t share it afterwards, which means you won’t get new entries.

Since you’re a young author, people just aren’t that excited about your work. That’s okay. People honestly aren’t that excited about my work, either, except for those already in my own little fandom.

That is why I’m running these giveaways in the first place. Given that the general public don’t care much about our work, it behooves us to pick a fandom people DO care about very deeply.

Think about a franchise like Harry Potter or Game of Thrones. People from all walks of life would LOVE to win a big prize pack from those fandoms, right?

And if you write YA fantasy or epic fantasy, then there’s a good chance that a lot of those fans who are in that fandom will like that work, right?

This is what we’re doing with giveaways. We’re trying to choose a fandom that is LIKE our books, but much more popular than our books, so we can introduce those fans to our work, and have confidence that some percentage of them will become fans of our work.

You probably already have a few fandoms in mind who would be perfect fits to bring more fans to your work, but if not, then you can ask people who already enjoy your work, or you can go to Facebook Audience Insights, in the Business Manager and do some research.



Facebook Audience Insights allows you to search existing fandoms and find the right target for your own giveaways. Ideally, you’re looking for a fandom with at least 1,000,000 people in it. The more people it has, generally, the more rabid the fandom.

If you don’t want to do all this work, an easy first giveaway choice is to offer an Amazon gift card. Everybody needs an Amazon gift card, right? Some people need baby formula, and others need books, while some others might want to buy a movie.

And therein lies the problem with Amazon gift cards. EVERYONE needs an Amazon gift card, including people who are not in your target readership.

Amazon gift cards are a great no hassle giveaway option, because Amazon already has a rabid fanbase and built in virality, but they sell so many things that you will likely get a lot of people who are outside your target market.

Still, for dipping your toes into giveaways, Amazon gift cards are a great beginners’ choice. The first giveaways I ever ran were for gift cards. I don’t recommend you sticking with gift cards, though, once you learn the ropes of running giveaways.



Step 3: Choose a Budget

The next step to running a giveaway is choosing the budget. Getting a group of authors to agree on anything is a nightmare, but if you go to them with a fully formed cost, then they can choose to join or not very easily.

The budget will also inform the number of authors you need to join your giveaway to make it a success. There are two main pieces that go into the budget, but the most important part is the prize pack.

The prize pack is the group of gifts you are offering to the winner of your giveaway. Here is an example of a prize pack. I used this recently for a giveaway to great effect.

You need an enticing prize pack to excite people into enter your giveaway and share it once they do, so you need to make it really good.

I have found the best budget for a prize pack is between $200-$300. This allows you to offer between 8-12 amazing prizes while keeping the budget manageable, especially at the beginning.

Don’t make this part hard on yourself. Just go to Amazon and type in the name of your fandom. Then, watch what comes up as the best sellers with the most reviews. Those are going to be the most enticing things that people are the most excited about and should make for excellent prizes. Plus, using Amazon allows you to ship from one place, instead of dozens, and cut down on a lot of headaches.

If you don’t want to run ads, then you can end your budget here. However, the second part of your giveaway budget is advertising. Advertising is a great way to create more virality for your giveaway, but advertising requires a bigger budget. I recommend a budget of $50-$100/day in advertising over the course of a 9-12 day giveaway, which is the length of my average giveaways.

Once you have your budget, you need to decide how many authors you want in your giveaway so you can know how much to charge them all. If you have a budget of $1000, and you want ten people in total, then you’ll each need to pay $100 to break up the budget evenly.

For your first couple of giveaways, I recommend having a budget of $250-$500, and expecting 9 other people to join, so you can each pay $25-$50 each.

The Amazon gift card is even more effective here, because you can then charge $25-$50 to each person, and depending on how many people join can determine the size of the prize pack. If 20 people join, you could have a $500 prize pack, assuming you are not running advertising.

Honestly, the winners of all my giveaways have the option to choose an Amazon gift card if they would prefer. I still use it to this day.



Step 4: Find the other Authors

Once you have the fandom and your budget, it should be relatively easy to find other authors you know to join in with you. Likely, you are friends with authors who are looking to grow their mailing list as well, and they probably write in similar genres to you.

Go to them first and try to get them to join you. Once you have a couple who are interested, then you can post onto author forums to try to get others. However, please be careful because many groups do not allow self-promotion and since you are offering a service, moderators will often delete your post or ban you.

If you have problems finding authors in your genre, then I recommend expanding out to all authors and offering an Amazon gift card as a prize. It’s a broad approach, but you can whittle down your list to the responsive people afterwards. It is also a good idea to try an Amazon gift card your first time out so you can prove yourself.

Using an Amazon gift card means you can open your pool of participants from a single genre to every genre imaginable. Be warned, though. If you do not have a tight genre and aren’t paying attention to who’s engaging with you, then you risk your list being pollinated with people who don’t read your genre.

At the beginning, this might be less of a concern for you though, as building your confidence in running giveaways and having a “seed list”, a list of people on your list at the beginning to build on in the future, may be more important than having a tight list full of genre specific readers.

Once you have built a bigger list, it will attract better known authors, and people who want to know how you have build your own fanbase. This is when filling your builders becomes much easier. The bigger the list, the more power it brings with it.



Step 5: Running the Giveaway

Set up a Google Form to get the information you need on your builder, and during the signup process get everybody to join a Facebook group for the giveaway.

You’ll want to set up a Facebook group for your giveaway, so you can manage the giveaway appropriately and make sure people are sharing the giveaway with their audience. The authors you work with, especially at the beginning, likely all have very small lists and audiences, so it’s important that you’re all sharing with your lists and on social media to maximize the giveaway.

Once you have the giveaway set up, send the link to all the participants through the Facebook group and make sure that post to verify they are doing the work. If they don’t do the work, don’t give them the list. Make this clear at the beginning.

For many of my giveaways, getting the list at the end is contingent on sharing every day and sending two emails to their list on two separate weeks. The participants have to post that they have accomplished these tasks each day with photographic proof, and those that don’t are deleted from the group. I have not had to delete a participant in a very long time, because my expectations of them are set up in advance.

This is one of the most important aspects of running the giveaway. Set expectations early and make sure everyone is on the same page. Remember, you are the leader and people’s attitudes are contingent on your attitude.

Once the giveaway is over, I use a service called BriteVerify to make sure all of the emails are valid, and then upload the list to the group for everyone, and tag them on it.



Are these Builders GDPR Compliant?

I am not a lawyer, so I can’t answer this question 100%. However, I make sure my giveaways are NOT targeted at the EU. In fact, my giveaways specifically say that EU residents are prohibited from entering. All of my advertising is focused on the US market, and in the text of the giveaway it twice explains that the people are signing up for ALL of the email lists from the sponsors.

I also make sure to list out all the sponsors clearly at the top of the giveaway. I still sometimes get people complaining because of getting multiple emails, but I can always drive them back to the giveaway page to show them why they received the email, and it prevents people from signing up at the beginning who are not willing to get multiple emails from authors.

[Note from Nick: so long as your signup form tells people they will receive marketing materials, tells them they can opt out, and links to your privacy policy, you should be good to go, and won’t need to exclude people unless Giveaways are unlawful in themselves in that country. Check out our free training on GDPR here]



The Main Reason to do Group Giveaways

Marketing is very expensive, and pooling money allows you to offer bigger and better prizes to your audiences than you could do alone. Since books are generally prices between $2.99-$5.99, the profit margins are very small, so anything you can do to cut down the cost for getting new readers is beneficial.

Additionally, sponsoring giveaways makes you look awesome to your existing audience since you are offering cool prizes all the time.

If you only have a little money for marketing, your marketing dollars go further when you work together. The average giveaway I run costs between $1,000-$2,000, which means if you only have $1,000 for marketing for the year you could do one giveaway, or you could join many different group giveaways throughout the year.

For me there is no contest on the most effective strategy for building my own readership. If I have to make a choice on where to spend my marketing dollars, I will choose group giveaways every time, because they allow me to expose myself to new potential fans consistently, and the more often you can find new fans, the quicker you will gain your first 10,000 readers.

You don’t have to take my word for it, though. Google around and see how I’ve built a robust audience not just through my email list, but on Bookbub, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube. I’ve also built my own mailing list, as well as places like Amazon, which are not as easy to verify. Almost all the audience growth you witness on those platforms happened because of giveaways. There really is no better way to build an audience quickly and cost-effectively.


Russell Nohelty is a writer and speaker. He runs Wannabe Press and The Complete Creative, a teaching academy that teaches creatives how to build a better business. If you would like to start growing your own audience, you can watch a free seminar where Russell shows you how to grow your audience from scratch starting today. You can find it by clicking here.


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And with our new custom platform you get:

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  • Full video courses: We’ll give you six full modules on how to run effective joint and group promotions, so that you can make the most out of the available genre promos running inside the community network. We’ve also added courses on turning ideas into full books (and getting them published), running bestseller multi-author boxed sets, and in the coming weeks we’ll also be adding full courses on email list building, advertising, email marketing, writing, and publishing. The whole shebang.
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  • Subscribe to the genre promos that suit you – meaning you only get notified about promos in your genre
  • Join discussion groups by topic – so you can focus on the marketing / publishing / writing threads that interest you most
  • Searchable member directory – you’ll be able to search the member directory by genre, keywords, and other factors. Meaning, you can easily reach out to people who fit in with what you’re working on (making it simple to team up, create promo groups, or even support groups inside the app)
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  • Group messaging – Especially useful for coordinating a promo or setting up a private support / discussion group, you’ll be able to add multiple members to a chat room and keep in touch quickly and easily without leaving the site
  • Sub-Genre Rooms – so we can cover as many different genres as possible, if your specific sub-genre isn’t covered in the main top-level spaces, we can create new group chat rooms inside DTN to make sure you can connect with others in your exact niche, in addition to the broader exposure of the main spaces.
  • Accountability Partners – we’ll match you up with an accountability partner to help you hit your goals and stay on track. Whether you’re focusing on hitting your word-coat goals, building your email list, setting up your ad campaigns, or something else entirely, we’ll help team you up with a partner who’s going through the same thing and help keep you both on track to succeed.
  • Community Support – we’ve split out community discussion groups to cover topics focusing on list building, email marketing, advertising, writing, publishing, and more, so you can get the help, support, and guidance you need to break through whatever’s holding you back. Even if you’re not sure where to start, we’ve got you covered.
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Membership with The Dream Team Network means you get instant access to a full suite of detailed video training on the Top 4 promotions we’ve covered in this article – and many other topics too – and access to a wide community of authors, ready to get stuck in and work with you to grow your business (we’ll help hook you up, too) and a whole host of other member benefits.

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  1. J C Steel says:

    Thanks for this article, Russell, Nick – I joined a giveaway that Russell ran recently, and I can confirm it was a very effective list-building tool. I’m still working the data I received to convert it from ‘fans of a similar type of sci-fi’ to ‘fans of ME’, but I’ve got 3,800 chances to do that I didn’t have prior to the builder.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      Awesome results!

    2. Russell says:

      Yay!!! I’m so happy you were satisfied with the results 🙂

  2. I take care to join giveaways only in my genre, and also do swaps with authors. This keeps my list smaller but tighter. Dedicated fans stay on the list.

    1. Russell says:

      This is important, and why I don’t generally recommend Amazon gift cards. However, for somebody that wants to run giveaways, it’s a good way to get started.

  3. Scarlet says:

    Just a quick note – King Sumo now offers the option to grow your social media as well using more entries as incentives if entrants complete a customized option (follow on bookbub, like a facebook page, etc.), so this eliminates the need for rafflecopter (which has never worked as well for me as King Sumo). If your plugin doesn’t have this option, you may need to upgrade it, or contact King Sumo for a new download to install on your website. I think the web-embedded option has this too, but I found giveaways run through the cloud based one didn’t seem to ‘go viral’ like the plugin giveaways.

    1. Nick Stephenson says:

      thanks for the tip!

    2. Russell says:

      That’s interesting. I haven’t used the cloud-based option much. I prefer the plugin, and I use a lot of social media building options. However, you can only use the plugin with wordpress and some people don’t have that option. Thanks for the insight!

  4. Paige Skeen says:

    Great info! Thanks for sharing. I plan on joining (probably not hosting) a few group giveaways soon to get my feet wet. 🙂

    1. Russell says:

      Awesome! It’s a good way to scale quickly and get yourself in front of a lot of new readers!

  5. Danie says:

    Thanks, Russell & Nick,
    I have done two giveaways on my own but not a group giveaway yet.
    I agree with Elizabeth on keeping the genre tight, lessening the chance of readers who have zero interest in my books.
    I’ll absolutely explore this option.

    1. Russell says:

      It’s a good way to get a lot of readers quickly and cost-effectively.

  6. Luigi says:

    My question is: How do those platforms contact people to enter the Give-away? Do they have a huge mailing list for all types of goods?

    1. Russell says:

      So there are two different types of ones that I run. One is based on sharing, so everybody inside the giveaway has to share with their list, and the second is ad based, so I use Facebook ads to drive traffic and then people sign up through those ads.

      I’m not sure if that answers your question. If you are asking about sites you can ping to add your giveaway, then yes, they would have a big mailing list and a database.

      However, I rarely use those.

  7. Yolanda says:

    Having a huge list isn’t that great. It means more costs to even have an email list. My question is what are your open rates and CTRs? Because I’ve done list builders and what I end up with is freebie/gift card hunters who don’t care to actually open MY emails and they don’t remember me and mark my emails as spam. IMO it’s not worth it. Organic growth is better.

    1. Russell says:

      Sure, organic growth is better, but you don’t really get traction very fast.

      When my list is pruned, I get about 20% opens. My CTR varies, but it’s higher than industry standards.

      I only prune every 3-6 months, though, so I often have a lower CTR and open rate before I prune my list.

      I used to run ads for signups to get a free book from me, and my open rates and CTRs are equal or higher with giveaways than with my organic ads.

      When I was going all “organic”, I barely had 3,000 emails in 3 years, and my open/ctr was the same as it is now.

      Now, I get 3,000 emails a week. Maybe you had a bad experience before.

      You are always allowed to use whatever methods work for you, but most people do not get any organic signups, so inorganic reach is better than nothing.

  8. So, I may have read this wrong. Do you have to direct them to your own website – or is there a site where the competitions are run?

  9. Thanks so much for this very helpful article. I’m still trying to get the hang of doing these giveaways.

    1. Russell Nohelty says:

      You’re welcome!

  10. Amy says:

    Thanks for these ideas. I have used joint promos through Nick’s DTN and they work some of the time. I have a hard time finding other writers in my genre here. The size of the other authors’ list is key. Anything less than about 2K isn’t very effective. I would like to try using BookFunnel’s promo tool more, and will try that because it’s free. I love the idea of coming up with a prize pack. I’ve done Kindle Paperwhite giveaways using KingSumo, and if I also throw in free popular digital books from my genre, it’s a hit. I recently doubled my list. What do you recommend for prize ideas for adult fiction that’s not fantasy based? I can’t think of anything else my readers would want besides books. Also, can you suggest other places to find indie authors in women’s fiction (not romance)? Thank you.

    1. Russell says:

      I would find something like LIfetime that might have Women’s Fiction fans in it, and then create something with maybe some of their more popular movies or something like that. I did some great ones with pamper me kits too some years ago.

  11. I’d never thought of doing a group contest. Great idea!

    UpViral is totally worth the price. All the emails are automatically vetted to be valid so it helps by cutting out that second step of using BriteVerify. Also, you could use it in place of a Facebook group to make sure the other authors are sharing because you can easily see how many entries each person has inside the UpViral dashboard.

    1. Russell says:

      Yes, Upviral came into prominence after I started doing them, but it’s definitely another avenue.

  12. Nick_Stephenson says:

    Got questions? Drop ’em here!

    1. J.B. Stevens says:

      Hi Nick, I don’t mind paying for advertising, but I’m not sure where to pay. I wanted to do a King Sumo give-away with a bunch of signed books from famous crime fiction authors. Also, do you give all of the prizes in one… or do you have numerous people winning small prizes?

      1. Russell Nohelty says:

        Facebook advertising.

  13. Tricia Copeland says:

    Have you compared this method with ones like Bookfunnel and BookCave?

    1. Nick_Stephenson says:

      BookFunnel / BookCave aren’t really methods, but they’re great options for software / sites that can help boost visibility with this!

  14. Gabriele Marchingiglio says:

    Hi Nick, Russell and everyone! This is very very interesting and I’d love to do it myself. The reason I didn’t join the Dream Team Network is that I’m Italian and haven’t translate my books, yet “hope it will happen soon”. Do you plan to do that for other markets and with Italian authors, as well? Do you think I could start that process myself? It will be worth?
    I’m following all the steps you teach in your videos and mails and I can’t wait to see the results but without all those platforms that you have for English language, it sounds like impossible or merely unworthy, though I’ve done it all properly

  15. J.B. Stevens says:

    Hello! I see you said to advertise and pay for it, but I didn’t get where to advertise/pay? Please let me know. Thanks!

    1. Russell says:

      You advertise on Facebook and then pay Amazon to ship your package to winners.

  16. A, Cynic says:

    All the email subscribers in the world might be great but what’s the point if they don’t generate any income? The Amazon rankings on Russell’s books are terrible and Nick’s aren’t much better. I suspect there’s a lot more money in selling courses than there is writing books.

    1. Russell Nohelty says:

      I don’t sell my books on Amazon. I’ve been a six-figure author since 2017. I sell on Kickstarter, though my direct store, through substack, and at conventions. Amazon is a terrible place to judge rank or success of an author.

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