How to Get Going with MailChimp and Email Marketing

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A MailChimp Primer for AuthorsEverywhere on the blogosphere writers are hearing the admonishment, “Start an email marketing program.”

Publishers, the experts tell you, want to know that you have an email list. Even if you’re an Indie author and intend to be indie as long as you can breathe, an email list is important to your marketing efforts.

So it’s loud and clear that you need an email list, right? But did you ever notice that there’s little advice about which programs are better and how to use them? Well, I intend to clear that up today.

There are several email marketing programs available but the two most popular ones are MailChimp and AWeber. The pricing plans are similar, however, with MailChimp you can start with a free plan.

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Early on I selected MailChimp so that’s the program I’m going to show you how to use today. (Who could resist the adorable logo?)



Getting Started with MailChimp

MailChimp tries to make everything about your experience fun and easy. In the early days, once I sent a marketing email I’d receive this message: “Go eat a banana.” Which I didn’t, but that’s beside the point. The user interface is clear, and that’s what’s important.



Sign up at Decide if you want a paid account, which comes with email-based support, or if you want to figure things out on your own.

Your first step will be to create and name a list so that you can send your readers to it. Start with one. The name for the list will only be available to you so you can call it Newsletter for My Awesome Readers or simply Newsletter List #1. You decide.

Before you work on the sign-up process, you should decide on and create a giveaway. It could be the first two chapters of your newest book or the first book in a thriller series you’ve written. If you write nonfiction, it can be an ebook or a tips sheet. Again, you get to decide on what you think would most entice your readers to turn over their email addresses.

Once you know what your giveaway will be, turn it into a PDF and either create a landing page on your website for it or use a program like DropBox as your free file-sharing service.

Next, you’re ready to tackle the signup forms on MailChimp.

How to Set Up Your MailChimp Signup Forms

To work on the signup forms, go to your list and on the far right, click the arrow, and click on Signup Forms in the drop-down menu.

You’ll arrive at a page with various form options. For this purpose, select General Forms and navigate to the page where you can edit the sign-up process for your list. These are some of the forms that we’ll focus on:

To customize the signup form, click Edit. Notice how the only piece of personal information I request is the email address. The more information you request, the less likely someone will finish the sign-up process.

Above the sign-up form template, MailChimp provides the sign-up email address in addition to the option to create a QR code for it.

Next, you’ll want to customize a sign-up thank you email. See the language that I include in mine. Notice my message to readers who use Gmail.

Next, you need to send an opt-in confirmation email. I also choose to customize this email.


Next, I send a subscription confirmed email with the link to my freebie, Twitter Just for Writers.


As a follow-up to the above email, I also send a confirmation email notice.

Now you’ll want to take the URL for signing up to your newsletter and give it to your webmaster so that she or he can create a widget for your website enticing your readers to sign up.

This is what my widget looks like:


Notice that instead of the word subscribe as my call to action, I use Get It Now!

Send Your First Email Letter

Now that you have your list and your email sign-up sequence set up, it’s time to send your first email-marketing letter.

Go to campaigns and select Create Campaign. You’ll need to name your campaign and select your campaign type. Normally, you’ll select Regular as your campaign type.


You will automatically navigate to a page where you’ll select your list. The campaign name is for internal use only. The email subject line, which you’ll select next, is what your readers will see when they go to their inboxes.

You’ll have the option to auto-tweet the campaign or auto-post to Facebook. I encourage you not to do this. Auto-tweeting and auto-posting will appear as spam posts and your readers won’t engage with them or share them.

Once you decide on the email subject, your next step will be to select a template. (Make sure the subject line entices your readers to open your email.) I use a simple text template because I can always add images to it if I want to. You can select a fancier template if you’d like. My only suggestion is that you want your email to feel like a personal letter to your reader.

The first time you create a newsletter or email marketing letter, you will arrive at your template and it will have instructions from MailChimp. Erase these and start your own letter. Click on the headline or the email text so that you can click the pencil that will allow you to make edits and write your own letter.


Once you open the edit box, your email template will appear similar to your WordPress blog post template.


When you are ready to schedule or send the email, click confirm in the lower right, send a test email to yourself for editing, and schedule the email for the date and time you prefer.

You’ve just sent your first email-marketing letter. Bravo!

Frances CaballoThe author of this blog: Frances Caballo is an author and social media strategist and manager for writers. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference. In addition, she’s a contributing writer at, and blogger and Social Media Expert for BookWorks. She’s written several social media books including The Author’s Guide to Goodreads and Social Media in 30 Minutes a Day. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writers’ conferences. Not sure how you’re doing online? Sign up for my free email course.


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  1. Frances makes ALL social media doable!

  2. Hi there! I love your posts.

    You do make the steps above sound simple. Designing, signing people up, and etc all sound doable.

    But I SUCK at excel spreadsheets. As much as I can use Word programs with my eyes closed, I really don’t have the time to deal with a learning curve of putting all of my 400 emails into a spreadsheet to send over to Mailchimp (or whichever email service I ultimately use…them or Publishing Spark). Up until now I’ve been doing it all by hand.

    I have recently decided to hire someone to do all of this out-the-gate stuff for me. This person will also sit down with me and show me the ropes, so he won’t always have to hold my hand.

    I am really excited about getting my email list together, and with two more books coming out this summer, it’s got to happen now. I’m just not the one to do it.
    ; )

  3. Thank you for the post! When I started, I also used Mailchimp, but after growing my email list, I realised that the costs are eating quite a lot of my hard earned income. So I went for a search of new email service. I was so surprised about the alternatives! So many! Yet, I wanted someone who really understands authors and that lead me to two finalists – Mailerlite ( ) and Convertkit. At the end I went for the more budget friendly – Mailerlite and haven’t regretted my decision.
    Just wanted to point out that Mailchimp is not the only variant and you don’t have to be ok with their pricing 🙂
    Best of luck for all the writers!

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