Mailchimp: Ten Reasons it’s the Best Program for Authors Since Twitter

I’m so pleased to welcome friend, therapist and author Toby Neal to my blog! I invited Toby to write this post as soon as I saw her gorgeous email newsletter. Best to hear all about it from a pro – here’s the scoop:

Mailchimp is the best program since Twitter for authors.

In my minibook on author platform building I recommend building an email list of “Book Lovers.” These are hard-core fans of your work, people who are chomping at the bit for your next ass-kicking mystery (or whatever). But how? A year before my first book came out, I began copying emails from the comments left on my blog (I didn’t know this wasn’t kosher at the time), as well as work contacts, my kids’ friends’ parents, etc. – but I didn’t know what to do next.

One day I got an email from another author friend and she had done such a beautiful branded email announcement that I searched all over and found the company she used right at the bottom of the page. (Duh! But that’s often how I roll with techie things.)

Mailchimp is the bomb diggity! It’s the best thing since Twitter for authors, even technophobes like myself. Oh, how I love this program, and here’s why:

1. It’s FREE! Unless you go above 2,000 subscribers, then it’s cheap. (Who has 2,000 subscribers, anyway? I can only dream!)

2. Using your chosen cover art and matching the color scheme by creating a template, you can achieve a super-professional, good looking, “branded” email that fans will recognize at a glance. (Full disclosure: my webgal did this for me. She matched my website, Twitter, and Mailchimp template. Pay for this. It’s worth it, and it’s a one-time expense!)

Toby’s Mailchimp Newsletter Banner

3. Mailchimp has a widget that can be embedded into your blog so that people subscribe to email updates and get automatically added to a chosen list. (Again, my webgal did this, but she gave me the name of the widget, which is Gravity Forms. It’s on their website, so you DIY peeps can DIY.)

4. It’s got a cute little monkey dude who semi-mocks you as you muddle through doing what you have to do. This helps me not take it too seriously.

5. It’s truly user-friendly. I keep saying how non-techie I am, and I was able to import the entire list of Gmail and Hotmail contacts I’d been hoarding into Mailchimp, and develop different email lists without a professional Lamaze-coaching me!

6. Mailchimp breaks down what happens after every email campaign—how many people opened the email, how many forwarded it, how many unsubscribed from your “awesome newsflash” spam, how many tweeted it out (links embedded already) FB liked it (also already embedded) and so much more.

7. It compares your results with industry standards! I found it discouraging about half my subscribers didn’t open the email, until I found out that most campaigns only have a 20% open rate.

8. It helps you analyze what might have helped one campaign over another by creating a “Master Campaign List,” in which you can look at your wording, who opened what, etc.

9. Mailchimp respects spam laws—almost to a fault. When manually inputting any new email address, it requires you to click ‘Yes’ twice to confirm that you have subscriber consent. If anyone dislikes the email and complains, which they can do with a click of a button, it sends you a castigating email and threatens to cut you off from future use. (I did get one of these, because I had input the same name twice using different email addresses. Oops! I’m scared straight!)

10. You can configure different lists within Mailchimp (I have a sublist of Book Reviewers within my Book Lovers list) and it can autosend newsletters to different sublists on a preset schedule.

People say email is dead. I find that just as erroneous as saying print books are dead! Many people still rely primarily on email to communicate, and Mailchimp is the easiest, most attractive, cost-effective program I’ve found to develop your fan list. (Oh, and I am NOT receiving any sort of compensation from them by writing this blog post. I know how your skeptical little writer-minds work.)

If you aren’t developing an email fan list, why not?

Toby-Neal_OptimizedToby Neal was raised on Kauai in Hawaii and makes the Islands home after living elsewhere for “stretches of exile” to pursue education. Toby enjoys outdoor activities including bodyboarding, scuba diving, photography and hiking as well as writing. A mental health therapist, she credits that career with adding depth to the characters in the Lei Crime Series. Visit Toby Neal’s Blog and follow her on Twitter!

About Toby’s novel, Blood Orchids: Hawaii is palm trees, black sand and blue water—but for policewoman Lei Texeira, there’s a dark side to paradise. Lei has overcome a scarred past to make a life for herself as a cop in the sleepy Big Island town of Hilo. On a routine patrol she finds two murdered teenagers—one of whom she’d recently busted. With its echoes of her own past, the murdered girl’s harsh life and tragic death affect Lei deeply. She becomes obsessed—even as the killer is drawn to Lei’s intensity, feeding off her vulnerabilities and toying with her sanity.

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50 Responses to Mailchimp: Ten Reasons it’s the Best Program for Authors Since Twitter

  1. Jodi @ Heal Now and Forever September 3, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    This is what I use and allows you to tweet from the email that you love so much! I love Mailchimp. It is sooo easy and versatile. I don’t even use half of what is available. The only problem, is that the rss feed does not automatically put your latest post title in the subject line. (Not many email services do) So I do it manually. I think a catchy title would get opened more than “Newest posts from…”

  2. Molly Greene September 3, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    I LOVE your newsletter, too, Jodi – the “tweet this” option and share buttons right in the email is a huge plus to me (as you know!). Now it’s my turn to learn the system and test it out. Thanks, I’ll remember to change the subject line. Accck! Pressure’s on!

    • Toby Neal September 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      I think the key to keeping subscribers is to REALLY “add value” to being on that list–they really DO get to be the first to hear about the new book, etc! I love the “tweet this” and FB this” feature too, and the fact that it’s always building itself through the widget in my blog is so awesome.
      Can’t believe it’s also FREE.

  3. Raine Thomas September 3, 2012 at 5:01 pm #

    Great post, Toby! I also use Mailchimp for my newsletters and I love it. Being able to track the number of people who open them and allowing readers to tweet them right from the newsletter are very valuable tools. Thanks for highlighting the best features!

    • Toby Neal September 3, 2012 at 5:59 pm #

      You are so right, Raine. Everyone should know about Mailchimp!

    • Molly Greene September 4, 2012 at 7:27 am #

      Hi Raine! Just wanted to say thanks so much for stopping by and leaving a comment!

  4. Jacqui September 3, 2012 at 5:45 pm #

    I’m a MailChimp fan also. I was so happy when I found it. BUT, much to my surprise, I am approaching 2000 subscribers and rates aren’t cheap-unless I’m reading something wrong. Or have a different def of ‘cheap’. I think that when I get 100 more subscribers, my rate will jump from FREE to $30 a month.

    Does that sound right??

    • Allan Douglas September 4, 2012 at 6:59 am #

      You *could* get a little dastardly and extend the time before switching to paid subscription by reviewing your subscriber list. Look for those folks who rarely if ever open the emails you send and (gasp) unsubscribe them, Trim out the deadwood to make room for new growth. When you get (or if you have) 2000 dedicated followers, it should be worth investing some money to keep them up to date as you should be getting a good return on that investment by way of sales.

      Just my 20 cents worth (inflation you know).

      • Toby Neal September 4, 2012 at 8:11 am #

        Yanno, Doug, that is a GREAT idea!! Thanks!

        • Allan Douglas September 4, 2012 at 8:20 am #

          I’ve been told that I’m full of ’em… or maybe that was “You’re full of ‘it'”. Either way, I don’t see much sense in paying good money to maintain people who’ve lost interest or joined on a whim.

    • Molly Greene September 4, 2012 at 7:18 am #

      Hi Jacqui! I believe Aweber starts at $20/mo for 500 subscribers and Feeblitz is also $30 month, so Mailchimp’s pricing is right in there. We’re all deeply jealous of your subscriber figures, by the way.

  5. Pauline Baird Jones September 3, 2012 at 6:25 pm #

    wow, great summary and information! i’ve pretty much given up on email, but you’re making me rethink that…. thanks so much!

  6. Dannie Hill September 3, 2012 at 6:42 pm #

    Thank you again, Molly! You know the most interesting people– and Toby did a great job of making me think spam isn’t that bad if handled correctly. I’m going to give it a try. I might do a test run on my family– if they get mad it’s not that important, lol.

    Thank you, Toby and Molly. I have Toby’s book and it’s near the top of my TBR list.

    • Toby Neal September 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

      Yay, great to hear and I hope you enjoy it! Aloha

    • Molly Greene September 4, 2012 at 7:26 am #

      Ha! Dannie, thanks for the kind words. I think we all try out our new ideas on friends and family first!

  7. Ciara Ballintyne September 3, 2012 at 6:53 pm #

    I use Mailchimp as well. I’m led to understand there are more sophisticated newsletter programmes, but for what I want and need to do, and my level of technical expertise, Mailchimp is just perfect!

    • Molly Greene September 4, 2012 at 7:29 am #

      Ciara, I’ve heard Aweber provides better analytics but Mailchimp allows more options to beautify and customize your newsletter. Someone else may be able to shed more light on the pros/cons re: the two. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  8. Maddie Dawson September 3, 2012 at 7:45 pm #

    Wow, this is such a great post! I learned so much from it. I even went and downloaded your book, Toby…and can’t believe how much information is out there that I never knew about. I’ve published seven books and never dreamed there are so many ways to get people to know about them. Thank you, thank you! I’m such a technophobe, and it makes me feel better to read that YOU say you’re one, too…and yet you learned this. I’m going to get MailChimp.

    • Toby Neal September 4, 2012 at 8:13 am #

      Thanks for popping in Maddie, if I can learn it anyone can!

  9. RachelintheOC September 3, 2012 at 8:32 pm #

    You’re absolutely right, Toby. Mailchimp is terrific.

    On top of all that you’ve mentioned, you can now connect it to Hootsuite (not sure about Tweetdeck) so you don’t even have to leave the app to get updates, open and bounce rates, etc. It’s great!

    A few more tips: use hotlinks in the email — you’ll get better CTRs. Also, if you use the & sign in the title, you get better open rates (ie, pack your news into the subject line). This shows you have SO MUCH to share you couldn’t fit it into one sentence — & people are interested to know about what that & is.

    Thanks for writing this — email is still considered the best marketing there is, believe it or not.

    • Toby Neal September 3, 2012 at 11:15 pm #

      Fabulous suggestions Rachel–when are you giving a Mailchimp webinar??? Sign me up, I’m going! I feel like I’ve found stuff by bumbling around. Awesome!

      • Molly Greene September 4, 2012 at 7:25 am #

        I agree, Toby. Rachel? Mailchimp webinar? Let us know. Toby’s post has us all ready to fire up our own Mailchimp accounts.

  10. Allan Douglas September 4, 2012 at 3:14 am #

    I’ve been using Mail Chimp for the past couple of years to send email notices of posts to my various blogs, and I agree with your evaluation. I’ve found it easy to use, the analysis tools are useful and it can be made very attractive. Your recent e-mails, Toby, have been some of the most impressive I’ve seen in a long, long time: very effective.

    At present I’m testing a WordPress plug-in that automatically sends an e-mail with titles and links embedded. But not because I was dissatisfied with MailChimp; because I tend to forget to go compose the weekly e-mail in MailChimp. When i was composing an e-mail as part of my post scheduling process it was quite effective. MailChimp is great and I too recommend it.

    • Molly Greene September 4, 2012 at 7:23 am #

      Allan, I agree! Toby’s newsletters are downright gorgeous. FYI, let me know if you’re interested in writing a guest post about the WP plug-in you’re testing, we love to hear about new tools.

      • Allan Douglas September 4, 2012 at 7:50 am #

        I’d be happy to, Molly. I just installed it last week, so I’ll need to run it through it’s paces before forming any opinions, but I’m always happy to share those opinions. Thanks for the invite!

    • Rachel Creager Ireland January 17, 2013 at 3:15 pm #

      I don’t know why you’d need that, as most/(all?) WordPress templates have a subscribe option, and subscribers can choose the level of notification they receive, including email. Something I’m missing?

      • Molly Greene January 17, 2013 at 3:39 pm #

        Mailchimp goes way beyond a WordPress subscribe tool – you can upload gorgeous headers, use whatever copy/content you want and brand the message. You should check it out!

  11. Gae-Lynn Woods September 4, 2012 at 6:21 am #

    Thanks, Toby! Your newsletter does look great. Demystification of technology and how to leverage a tool that most people think of as spam is fabulous.

    And thanks to Rachel for the extra tips!

  12. Kimberly Gadette September 4, 2012 at 8:35 am #

    I’ve been terrified by the mountain awaiting me as I gear up to self-publish for the first time. Knew nothing of this. Thanks so much to you, Molly and to Toby Neal, for this article. Saving it for sure. And Rachel, if you’re having a webinar about it, count me in!

    • Molly Greene September 4, 2012 at 8:50 am #

      There is a lot to learn and I’m still trying to climb that mountain, too. We can do it with a little help from our friends!

  13. Lorca Damon September 6, 2012 at 2:56 am #

    I am always surprised by the cool new stuff that keeps coming out to help us authors simply do what we do! Thanks for sharing this!

  14. Liz Long September 6, 2012 at 7:27 am #

    Quick question for ya–I don’t have a mailing list, but realize I should start one up before I release my next book–but that probably won’t be for a while. So do I start a list now (without anything to really announce yet) or wait until it’s closer, ask those who want to sign up to do so, and then start emailing? I’d hate to jump the gun since it’ll be a while before I have any big news to give them!

    • Molly Greene September 6, 2012 at 9:32 am #

      Start now, Liz! I assume you mean add a “subscribe by email” button to your blog? However you do it, begin now so you’ll have a list when you’re ready to announce. You can email excerpts, book cover when it’s ready, etc. etc. etc. to build excitement. Hope this helps!

  15. Holly Robinson September 10, 2012 at 6:06 am #

    Okay, Toby, you convinced me–great info here! The thing that pushed me over my technophobic ledge is the cute little monkey dude who will made fun of me as I muddle through–yep, if it’s so simple a monkey can do it, maybe I won’t screw it up too badly! Thanks for offering yet another helping hand to writers everywhere with your terrific advice.

    • Toby Neal September 11, 2012 at 10:31 am #

      Yes, seriously girlfriend. If I can do it anyone can! Though I do recommend the designer-ccordinated graphics, Betsy Cohen at does great work.

  16. Michele September 10, 2012 at 11:24 am #

    I have used Get Response and didn’t like it. I also couldn’t keep up with it. Maybe I need to rethink this and try MailChimp.

    • Toby Neal September 11, 2012 at 10:29 am #

      It really couldn’t be easier, Michele!

  17. Kim Savage September 22, 2012 at 12:15 pm #

    Molly, I’m enjoying following your blog and am learning so very much. I just self published my first novel and am new to blogging and all that comes with promoting your own book. Your tips are going to help, I’m sure.
    Do you happen to have a previous post in your archives or any advice as far as how to quickly build your following/subscribers so that I actually will need MailChimp? (LOL)
    I know guest bloggers are highly effective. Do you have pointers for reaching out to them, effectively and in a professional manner? I am really at a loss for content as I try to ‘blog’ in an effort to promote my debut novel. Thanks in advance for your helpful reply and for the great info you’re providing to newbies like me!

    • Molly Greene September 22, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

      Hi Kim and congratulations on your book launch! Now the real work begins (acck!). Sorry to say I haven’t yet written a post about increasing subscribers but I am keeping notes for one. Laura Pepper Wu wrote a great article here: Also, Google Problogger and read some of his stuff – even join a webinar, it’s worth it.

      As for guest bloggers, this is another great post idea. Meanwhile, what I do is observe via Twitter what others are expert at or “do well,” and DM them to ask if they would be interested in writing a post about that topic on my blog. Always gracious, never any pressure, completely understand if time won’t allow it. If they do accept, always offer to include links, book covers, etc. to help your guests self-promote. Hope this helps!

      • Kim Savage September 22, 2012 at 2:11 pm #

        Thanks so much for your helpful (and prompt) reply! I’m off to check it out. Happy writing!

  18. Jennings October 2, 2012 at 3:54 pm #

    This is great! I’ve been looking for something like this! Ok, not for my whole life, but you know, for… months. Since my first book was published. I do send out announcements to people in my own email list (friends, neighbors, the moms on the basketball team, etc) but it’s just an email. I would LOVE to send a great looking, branded email. And FREE is excellent!

    Thanks so much!

    • Molly Greene October 2, 2012 at 4:07 pm #

      You are so welcome! Congrats on your book, and keep in touch and let us know how it goes.

  19. J. Rose Allister May 5, 2013 at 8:08 pm #

    Coming in wayyy late to this party, but I was wondering how you guys using MC get around the fact that it wants to use your snail address as part of your lists. Does this mean subscribers have access to my personal information?

    • Molly Greene May 6, 2013 at 10:45 am #

      Good question, Rose – I use the term “General Delivery” and I see other people doing this as well. Mailchimp will accept this:
      J. Rose Allister
      General Delivery
      Smithville, CA

  20. Vivette Hauser September 22, 2013 at 10:27 am #

    Hi Molly,

    This sounds like an amazing tool and I love the fact that it comes with an integrated subscribers widget. I will definitely save this info for future use. Now I just need to figure out a content strategy and sent cadence. Any good insights on that?


    • Molly Greene September 22, 2013 at 12:19 pm #

      Hi Vivette! I post on my blog once a week only and it works for me – also keeps the pressure down. I don’t send a newsletter at all, I use my weekly blog post send & add other info. So if you’re asking about newsletter content, you can use blog posts, guest post links, interviews you’ve done, book sale links, etc.

      • Vivette Hauser September 29, 2013 at 11:06 am #

        Thanks for the reply, Molly. That is helpful advice. Makes absolute sense. I just subscribed to your newsletter. That’s bound to give me the best insight 🙂 Sometimes I am just too complicated for myself. Have a nice Sunday!