6 Ways to Write a Quick Free Ebook to Build Your Mailing List

by | Oct 29, 2014

By Nina Amir

Nothing matches the power of a large mailing list when it comes to marketing your books, products or services. That’s why it behooves aspiring and published authors to focus time and energy on list creation. You can do this effectively using your writing skills. Simply produce a quick ebook and give it away for free as a subscriber call to action.

While you can build a strong platform on Twitter, Google Plus or Facebook, you don’t have any control over these social media sites, nor can you claim to “own” the list of contacts you accumulate there. However, if you create a list of followers using an email marketing service, like MailChimp.com or Aweber.com, you do own that list, and you can use it to directly contact people interested in you, your book(s) and your services or products. This gives you great freedom and ability to effectively reach and market to your potential readers, clients and customers.

Create a Free Ebook Offer

Few people today want to sign up for a newsletter—they are too busy and have email boxes too full already. They will sign up for your list if they receive a valuable product in return, such as a free ebook, white paper, report, or manifesto. They also will add their name and email address into a form if they can receive a beneficial audio recording, course or video series.

Since you are a writer, producing a written product, like an ebook, may seem easier—and faster. By all means, use your strongest skill—writing. Once you have an account with an email marketing service, create a short ebook to help attract subscribers to your primary list or a specific list, such as one related to your latest book project or one you know you will want or need to promote at a later date.

If you are in the midst of trying to complete a manuscript, don’t go into overwhelm because I’m telling you to also produce an ebook. You can create your list-building giveaway fast in a variety of ways that require little writing.

Here are six ways to put together a short ebook, all of which can be done quickly, effectively and with the smallest amount of writing. For each one, remember to include your bio and any promotional material, such as contact information or an “About” page on your company, at the end of the book. Don’t write more than 10,000 words. You want to produce a short ebook quickly.

  1. Write a short ebook: I can think of many book structures you can use to write a short book fast from scratch. For example, you could compose a Q&A book . Think of 10 questions you get asked often and answer them. Add an introduction, and viola! You have a book. Or compose a short prescriptive nonfiction book by writing about five (or some number under 10) steps you employ to do whatever it is you do. Or create a list of 10-25 tools, tips or resources; put these into a tip book along with an introduction.
  2. Blog a short ebook: Create a blog plan for a series of posts on a topic you know your potential readers, clients or customers will find of value. For instance, you could write 5-10 posts that elaborate on a concept in your upcoming or published book. You also could write a series of posts that discuss solutions to common problems experienced by your clients or customers. (This becomes a problem/solution book). Once done composing and publishing this series, add an introduction and a conclusion. You might also write one extra chapter (of blog-post length) with additional information; this offers readers of your blog something new they haven’t previously read—an incentive to sign up for the mailing list even if they read the series of posts.
  3. Use an event transcript as the foundation of your ebook: If you often offer teleseminars or webinars, you can record them with whatever service you use, such as Gotowebinar.com, Freeconferencecall.com, or Gotomeeting.com. When done, download your recording and have it transcribed. (You can find inexpensive transcriptionists on Odesk.com or Elance.com.) You then have two choices; you can edit the transcript so it reads like an ebook and use that as your free offer, or you can provide the raw transcript. The former option requires more work, but with just a bit of effort you can produce a nice ebook from an hour-long webinar, especially if you plan out that webinar knowing in advance that the information you speak will later be printed. Add an introduction and a conclusion, and consider including a link to the audio.
  4. Podcast or speak an ebook: For those of you who feel you just can’t do one more thing, but you have a podcast or often have time to talk into your phone or a digital recorder (like on a walk or in the car), this is the easiest way to produce a short ebook. “Speak” it. Plan out a short ebook. Then speak this book during your podcast sessions—one by one, a bit like “blogging a book”. Or, if you don’t have a show, use a digital recorder or a transcription service provided on your computer or with your word processing system. You also can purchase a program like iDictate or Dragon Naturally Speaking. Then edit, revise, and add an intro and conclusion.
  5. Repurpose existing material into a book: If you have material you have already written and published on your blog, for other sites, as articles for magazines, or even for your upcoming book, reuse it. Many authors give away sample chapters to their upcoming books, for instance, or they “book their blogs” (repurpose existing posts) rather than “blog their books.” You might even find you have enough old newsletter articles for an ebook. With a little time spent editing or revising, and possibly adding a bit of new content, you’ll have an ebook finished in no time.
  6. Create an ebook consisting of templates: If you can provide some sort of done-for-you service, like five blog-post templates, three press-release formats or 10 fill-in-the-blank ways to write a book synopsis, package this up into an ebook. Again, add an introduction, and maybe a few tips at the end, and you have an ebook. You’ve hardly written anything at all!

No matter which type of ebook you choose to create, be sure to have your manuscript professionally edited, a professional cover designed and the whole project converted into PDF format. (You can choose to convert it to mobi or epub also and upload it to Amazon or elsewhere if you like.)

Don’t Stop at One…

These six options provide you with ways to create a free ebook quickly and with little need to write much new content at all. That means they don’t take you away from the writing of your “real” book. Once you can offer your new short ebook as a free “gift” to new email-list subscribers, though, you’ll be surprised at how many will sign up. And you’ll realize the value of that list when it comes time to promote your new book (or product or service)—especially if that ebook you created relates to your new book. It will have generated a potential readership ready and eager to purchase when you tell them it has been released.

For this reason, you might want to create additional short free ebooks to build specific list segments, or interest lists. Then, you can market to these at any time—when you have a product, service or book to launch on that particular topic.

If you’ve created a short, quick free ebook to build your mailing list in some other way, or had great success with this strategy, tell me about it in a comment below.

Nina AmirNina Amir, is a Contributing Writer for TheBookDesigner.com. She is also the author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, and transforms writers into inspired, successful authors, authorpreneurs and blogpreneurs.

You can learn more about Nina here.

Photo: bigstockphoto.com

tbd advanced publishing starter kit


  1. vana

    Very helpful article!
    Thank you :)

  2. Ernie Zelinski

    I totally agree with this statement.

    “Nothing matches the power of a large mailing list when it comes to marketing your books, products or services.”

    The top internet marketers such as Brendon Burchard and Eben Pagan say that a great email list will beat social media 10 or 100 times to one. In fact, using his great email list and those of his partners (such as Brian Tracy, John Gray, Mark Victor Hansen) has helped Brendon Burchard sell over 100,000 copies of his book “The Charge.” Brendon is presently using his email list and that of his partners to promote his new book “The Motivation Manifesto.”

    Having said that, I must admit that have been too lazy to develop much of an email list even though I have at least 5 ebooks completed, but yet not published, that I could use to develop such a list. The important thing is that developing a great email list such as Brendon Burchard’s takes a lot of work, hiring someone else to help you develop it, and developing relationships with prominent people such as Brian Tracy and Mark Victor Hansen.

    As an aside, allow me to share another book marketing technique that is much more effective than social media and can be much more effective than an email list. In fact, this technique has helped my “How Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” outsell Brendon Burchard’s “The Charge” on Amazon this year even though Brendon uses a powerful email campaign and I don’t. Remember that Brendon also has a much bigger platform than I have.

    The technique is the old fashioned way of getting people in the media to write about your book. One book marketing expert recently stated that this traditional method doesn’t work anymore. Quite frankly, she doesn’t know what she is talking about. Even though my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” was released over 10 years ago, here are three major media that mentioned the book in the last year:

    The AARP Bulletin posted this article on their website in September:
    “6 Retirement Books You Should Read Now”

    “10 Great Retirement Books” in “US NEWS”

    And in today’s print edition of “USA TODAY”, you can read this article that mentions both of my retirement books.


    For the record, the AARP article helped “How to Retire Happy,
    Wild, and Free” stay in the top 500 ranked books on Amazon.com for most of September and in the top 1,000 ranked books for the month of October. I estimate my increased pretax profits due to the AARP mention to be around $25,000.

    In short, I am a big fan of email lists but not a big fan of the work involved to develop such a list. So I look for other ways to market my books that will still help them outsell the competition. As Seth Godin recently said, “It doesn’t matter how it gets done. As long as it gets done.”

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    The Prosperity Guy
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 225,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 275,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Nina Amir

      Sounds like that’s working really well for you. I’m glad. I’d suggest a combo of the two, personally.

      • Ernie Zelinski


        No doubt that I should have followed the advice of Internet gurus such as John Reese (the first guy ever to make $1 million in a day marketing on the Internet) who strongly advocated email marketing over social media. John Reese even killed his Facebook account with his 5,000 so-called friends a few years ago to show his displeasure with social media marketing and his strong belief in email marketing.

        The thing that I have noticed is that email marketing is much, much less effective than it was even two or three years ago. For example, even with Brendon Burchard’s powerful email list of 1 million or more names, and the mega campaign this week assisted by his many well-know internet marketing partners, I noticed at one time today that my book “How to Retire Happy Wild, and Free” was ranked 842 on Amazon.com whereas Brendon’s “The Motivation Manifesto” was ranked 977.

        This shows me that his email marketing campaigns are not bringing anything near the results he used to get. Plain and simple, most people have seen too many of these types of email marketing campaigns.

        Of course, we could discuss other factors here such as book titles and book covers. Let’s leave it for another time, however. Perhaps even at the San Francisco Writers conference in February, for which I registered several months ago. Incidentally, I am going to the conference, not so much because I need any help in writing or marketing my new books, but because since my last trip to San Francisco in 1995 I have always wanted a reason to stay at a prestigious hotel on Nob Hill such as the Mark Hopkins.

  3. Nina Amir

    I’m so glad! Good luck!

  4. A.K. Andrew

    Really liked all these ways of making the most of the material we already have as well as providing new content. But you present it in a way that makes one feel it’s all within the parameters of what we are already doing. I am working a a series of short stories for this. How many pages do you think is appropriate for a free ebook, sign up incentive, of short stories? Can’t decide how much to include? Thanks for another great post Nina. Much appreciated.

  5. Jonathan

    Great article, Nina! Encouraging and very practical.

  6. Andrew Claymore

    I couldn’t agree more if I tried, Nina! I’d been hearing David Gaughran insist on the importance of a mail list for close to a year before finally setting one up. What really made it work for me was writing a prequel novella to an existing novella series and making it a freebie for signups.
    I put the signup link and offer of the freebie at the end of each novel.

    I’ll probably put out a few shorts as well and send them to subscribers on a semi-regular basis so they still remember who I am when my next title comes out.

    Folks are leery of handing out their contact information, so we definitely have to provide immediate value in return.

    Great post!

    • Nina Amir

      Thanks, Andrew! Yes, building a mailing list is key! I have a great mini-course on one, but I actually need to take my own advice and implement this on a few of my others! It works like a charm.

  7. Colin Dunbar

    Hi Nina
    Thanks for a great article. Crazy, but I’ve been going nuts the past couple of months trying to think of an “ethical bribe” for a new project… Your fist suggestion turned the light on for me.



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