Why You Need to Build an E-mail List and How to Build One

Your E-mail ListWhy do historians need to build an e-mail list as part of their platform? How do you build an e-mail list?

In this post you will discover the answers to these questions.

The first part of the post will reveal why you should build an e-mail list. The second part will discuss how you can build your list.


Why an E-mail List?

An e-mail list offers you a powerful tool when you need to promote your latest book, exhibit, article, or special event because it allows you to contact people who are interested in your work.

The people on your e-mail list gave you their e-mail address because they want you to contact them any time you have something new and exciting to share. This is called permission-based marketing.


E-mail List vs. Social Media Followers

An e-mail list offers you more control and access than social media platforms.

Social Media platforms control who sees the information you post. For example, in 2012, authors could count on their Facebook posts reaching about 16% of their friends. In 2015, that number has fallen to an estimated 1-3%; only 1-3% of the people who have “liked” your author page, or who have “friended” you, will see your latest status update.

Email vs. Social Media

The reason for this decline: Facebook is a for-profit business. The company earns money by controlling your access to your friends and followers. If you want more of your audience to see your status updates, especially ones that contain updates like “new book for sale," then you will need to buy a promoted post (a type of advertisement) from Facebook.

Purchasing ad space on any social media network will help you cut through the noise and target the specific demographic(s) interested in your new book, exhibit, or special event. But purchasing an ad still does not guarantee that your exciting news will reach all of your friends and followers.

However, if you send an e-mail to the people on your list, your message will reach the inbox of everyone on your list. This does not mean that everyone on your list will open and read your e-mail, but the chances that they will see the information you sent is much higher than 1-3%.

How to Build Your List

There are two parts to building your list: getting people to sign-up for your list and collecting their e-mail addresses.


Getting People to Sign-Up

The easiest way to get people to opt-in to your e-mail list is to offer them something valuable that is related to your book/site/product.

Ifmailing-list you write a blog that provides useful, high-quality content, you could use your blog posts to entice sign-ups. Presently, I offer a weekly digest of my blog posts to anyone who signs up for my list.

Some writers offer free eBooks or guides that teach people a skill they want to learn. For example, author Joanna Penn offers Author 2.0, an eBook that shares “everything you need to write, publish, and market your book, as well as how to make a living with your writing.”

Pat Flynn, blogger and podcaster at, offers a weekly newsletter with helpful content for those who would like to earn money on the internet.

Don’t have time to write a free eBook or weekly newsletter? Try offering a short, one-page resource list.

Historians could offer a list of their favorite books, historic recipes, clothing patterns, historic sites, period quotes, or top military officers, in exchange for someone’s e-mail address. Many history-lovers would find these types of lists fascinating and would gladly exchange their e-mail address for them.


Collecting E-mail Addresses

The easiest way to collect e-mail addresses is to sign-up for a reputable e-mail management service.

There are many e-mail management services to choose from. Before you sign-up you should investigate whether the service will allow you to:

  • Collect e-mail addresses easily
  • Require opt-in verification to help ensure that the e-mail addresses you collect belong to real people
  • Expand the size of your list automatically
  • Set-up multiple lists (useful if you have multiple products, services, or interests)
  • Send e-mails anytime you want
  • Create and send auto-responders (messages that send as soon as someone opts in to your list; this automated message would contain a welcome note and your free eBook or resource list)
  • Manage your list manually and download it when you want
  • Create and send custom designed e-mails


E-mail Management Services

There are many e-mail management services to choose from, below you will find an overview of 3 services.



About: Founded in 2001, over 7 million people use MailChimp to create and send e-mail. The service sends out over 500 million e-mails per day.

Ease of E-mail Address Collection: MailChimp provides widgets, apps, and forms that you can use to create an e-mail opt-in box right on your WordPress website or Facebook Author/Business/Fan page (not your personal profile page). The service also integrates with Squarespace websites.

MailChimpPricing: MailChimp offers 3 different plans:

Entrepreneur: Designed for those with 0-2,000 subscribers.

The “forever free" plan will allow you to grow your list up to 2,000 subscribers and send up to 12,000 e-mails per month; the equivalent of 6 e-mails to 2,000 people.

The free plan includes the ability to create custom e-mails, generate and send RSS campaigns (e-mails generated by blog posts), and analyze the open rates of your e-mails.

Paid plans in this category range from $10-$25/month and add the ability to send autoresponders, set e-mail delivery time by time zone, better analytics, and access to chat and e-mail support.

Growing Business: For lists with between 2,001 and 50,000 subscribers. This plan provides the same services as the paid Entrepreneur plan, but lists can be as high as 50,000 subscribers. The cost of managing lists in this plan range from between $30/month to $240/month.

High Volume Sender: For lists with more than 50,000 subscribers. Benefits include same as paid Entrepreneur plan, but the price starts at $245/month and goes up from there.


I use MailChimp to manage my e-mail lists. I chose MailChimp because the service offered a free plan and affordable paid plans.

Sprocket MailChimpI have found MailChimp easy to use and easy to integrate into both my WordPress websites and my Ben Franklin's World Facebook fan page.

MailChimp provides an extensive “how-to” help center that helped me set-up my list, integrate my collection forms into WordPress and Facebook, and create my RSS-driven e-mail campaigns.

Since I have a paid plan, I have made use of their chat and e-mail customer support system. The in-person customer support proved useful when I needed to troubleshoot why certain e-mails did not send when I had scheduled them to send.

I also think they are a fun company to work for and support. For example, they make hats “for cats and small dogs." I didn't really believe this, but they sent me one for Sprocket after I tweeted them about it.



AWeber LogoAbout: Founded in 1998, AWeber provides opt-in e-mail marketing for over 120,000 small businesses, bloggers, and entrepreneurs.

Ease of E-mail Address Collection: AWeber provides a WordPress plugin that you can use to integrate an e-mail address collection form into your website. They also have a Facebook App so you can collect e-mail addresses on your Facebook Fan/Author page.

Pricing: AWeber offers a 30-day free trial of their service. After your trial ends, you will be charged $19.99/month as long as your list remains at or below 500 subscribers. After you hit 501 subscribers, your monthly fee will increase.



macskin_mailpoetAbout: MailPoet has created a plugin that will turn your WordPress website into an e-mail management service.

Ease of E-mail Address Collection: The MailPoet WordPress plugin allows you to create opt-in forms for your website.

Pricing: MailPoet offers a free plan and a premium plan.

Free: The beauty of using the MailPoet plugin is that you turn your website into an e-mail management service. This means you can grow your list and send e-mails up to 2,000 subscribers before you need to pay MailPoet to unlock the 2,000 subscriber limit on your plugin.

Premium: Premium plans start at $99/year for one website. The plan allows you to send e-mails to more than 2,000 subscribers and increases your ability to analyze your e-mail open rate, reader action on that e-mail, and you will have better control over spam subscribers. As a paid subscriber you also receive priority customer service support and access to over 30 customizable e-mail templates.


I used MailPoet when I first started building my list. I used the free plan and found it cumbersome. I had a hard time creating nice, professional looking opt-in forms and e-mail newsletters. I also experienced many hiccups in trying to send my e-mails from the same server that hosted my website.

When it became clear I needed to make a change, I investigated my options and settled on MailChimp for ease of use and price. I switched from MailPoet to MailChimp in June 2014.



Email-EnvelopeAn e-mail list offers you a powerful tool when you need to promote your latest book, exhibit, podcast episode, blog post, service, or special event. It provides you with access to a targeted list of people who are interested in what you have to say and sell. And unlike with social media followers, you can reach ALL of the people on your list any time you send an e-mail.

The best time to build a list is before you need it. Use available apps and plugins to integrate the e-mail management service you choose into your website and Facebook page. It will take some time, but if you offer valuable content your e-mail list will grow.

Building an e-mail list may also help you secure a publishing contract or sponsors for your next exhibit. Publishers and exhibit sponsors love to hear (and want to know) that you have a list of highly-interested people that you can contact at any time to help make your next book or event a success.


Share Your Story

What strategies are you using to grow your e-mail list?

Which e-mail management service do you use? Do you like it?


*If you choose to build your e-mail list with MailChimp, I would be grateful if you would sign-up using my link as we would both earn up to $30 in MailChimp rewards when you upgrade to a paid account.


Website Design: 4 Must-Have Pages for Your Historian’s Website

Website DesignWhat content and information should you include as part of your historian’s website design?

Your website serves as the most important plank in your historian’s platform.

Your website serves as your online hub, the place people go to find out more information about you, your work, and how to get in contact with you.

For many creating a website can seem daunting, especially when it comes to what content you should include. (We will discuss how and where to create a website in a future post.)

In this post you will discover four pages that you should include in your historian’s website and four pages that you might include.


4 Must-Have Pages for Your Historian’s Website


1. Landing Page: The first page visitors see when they visit your website.

Landing Page ExampleThis page should contain a brief welcome, a succinct summary of who you are (1-3 sentences), an overview of the information and resources your website contains (i.e. list pages you want visitors to checkout such as your about page, blog, book page, and public speaking page), and a way for visitors to contact you, preferably link(s) to your e-mail address or primary social media account(s).

Landing Page Examples: Liana M. Silva, Keith Harris, Kenneth Owen.


2. About Page: The page that explains who you are.

The best about pages get to the point and do not stretch accomplishments.

They contain a professional headshot and contact links.

About Page ExampleSome experts recommend that you write no more than two, short paragraphs on your about page; studies reveal that people have an attention span of about 8 seconds!

You can write as many paragraphs as you like, but be as succinct as possible. Keep large chunks of text to a minimum and make the information easy for visitors to skim by adding bold section titles.

You can also add photos or embed your CV at the bottom of your page.

I opted to create a separate page for my CV. About Page ExamplesMegan Kate NelsonJarret Ruminski, Kristen D. Burton


3. Research/Writing/Book Page(s): The page(s) where historians highlight their publications.

Books Page ExampleIf you have published a book, you should create a book page.

Book pages vary.

Some historians create a web page for each book.

Others offer a list of books with a photo of the cover and a brief synopsis of the book.

Book Page ExamplesChristopher Cameron and Ari Kelman


If you have not published a book, you should still create a publications or writing portfolio page.

You publication page should list your publications much like they appear on your CV, i.e. group your publications by type and introduce each type with a bolded section heading.

Some scholars also include a brief synopsis of their peer-reviewed journal articles.

When possible, include links to your publications. Publications Page Examples: Joe Adelman, Jana Remy, and Liz Covart (I offer my page because I couldn’t find another scholar who lists publications.)

Combined Publications Page Example


Some historians like to combine their books and articles into a single publications page.

Combined Publications Page Examples: Dan Cohen and Joyce E. Chaplin


4. Contact Page: The page that makes it easy for visitors to contact you.

Contact Page ExampleUse this page to provide links to your e-mail address and all social media accounts that you check regularly.

You could also include your mailing address, phone number, publisher, and literary agent.

Some historians also use a contact form.

Contact Page ExamplesAndrew Pegoda and Danielle McGuire


5 Optional Pages for Your Historian’s Website

1. Blog: blogs provide a fantastic medium to broadcast your ideas.

If you have a blog you should either keep the blog on your historian's website or provide a link from your historian's website to your blog.

If you have a blog, make sure you update it with some regularity.


OnlineHub2. Press/Media/News Page: This page lists information about your appearances in the press, public speaking engagements, or other positive news about you and your work.


3. Resources: Resource pages provide helpful information to your website's visitors. They also serve to draw visitors to your website.

The resources you offer could be as simple as a linked list of your favorite blogs, how-to resources, or useful articles.

Other ideas include social media hashtag lists specific to your subfield, links to your favorite online databases, or favorite books.


4. Teaching: If you teach history, consider creating a page that lists and describes the courses you teach or have taught.

Provide links to your syllabi whenever possible and consider offering a paragraph or two about your teaching philosophy.


Teaching Page Examples: Joseph M. Adelman offers 4 pages about his teaching: an overview, a blogging rubric, his work at Framingham State University, and the classes he taught at Johns Hopkins University.

John Fea has a page that links to his "Virtual Office Hours" YouTube videos.

Roy Rogers provides a page that lists the courses he has taught and links to individual webpages with information about each course.


5. Services: Do you provide a professional service such as writing, editing, research, or consulting?

Create a page that explains and offers your professional skills for hire.


Share StoryShare Your Story

What pages do you have on your historian’s website?

What questions do you have about how to create a website?



Why You Need a Platform & How to Build One

  1421697146_full.pngDo you have a platform?

A platform is a suite of tools that you can use to make you and your ideas, research, books, and projects visible to the world.

In this post you will discover why you need a platform and how you can build one.


Why You Need a Platform

Publishers want historians to have platforms because they want their authors to be able to sell books through who they are, who they know, and through social media.

However, an historian’s need for a platform extends further than their publisher’s desire to sell books.

Platforms allow historians to broadcast their ideas beyond their books and classrooms: They enable historians to publicize their ideas and research to the public.

The public needs to know, and in most cases wants to know, about history. A public that knows about the past can learn from successes and mistakes and act in a way that builds a better future.

Historians have the power to affect a better future by empowering the public with information about their history.

Promoting History, Not Propaganda

Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly wrote four of the thirteen best-selling history books in the United States in 2014.

Why did their books sell so well?

Aside from the fact that Beck and O'Reilly wrote them without jargon and without copious notes and citations (or any notes or citations), Beck and O’Reilly have platforms.

Historians may not have the platform that Fox News provides these propagandists, but we can put a dent in Beck and O’Reilly's “history” book sales by building platforms en masse.

The individual platforms of many historians will change what the history-loving public understands about history and how they discover and learn about their past.

Together we can make a difference in how the public appreciates and perceives history.

We may also be able to sell more history books.


How to Build a Platform

Platforms consist of several building blocks, or planks, that you can stand on to be heard and seen as a subject-matter expert or authority.


7 Platform Building Blocks

Historians-Platform1. Website: A website should be the first element you build when you create your platform.

Your website will serve as the primary place where people go to find more information about you and your work.


2. Publications: Published writing highlights your professional knowledge and establishes you as an expert in your field.

Publications also have the ability to connect you with readers.

If you want to create a wide-audience for your work, publish in non-academic magazines, newspapers, and blogs in addition to academic publications.


3. Newsletters: Newsletters provide you with a direct link to your readers and followers.

They work in conjunction with your website to call attention to you and your work.

You will need to develop a mailing list of people you can send your newsletters to if you want to make use of this weekly or monthly platform tool. (This will be the topic of a future post.)


4. Public Speaking: Public speaking engagements such as book talks or lectures at your local library, museum, or historical society provide you with opportunities to present your research and ideas in person.

They also furnish opportunities for your audience to meet you and get to know you as a person.


2637715-15. Social Media: Social media offer powerful outreach and community-building tools you can use to connect with a worldwide audience.

The popularity of interacting and connecting with other people online has given rise to many different networks, therefore you have a choice in the way(s) you interact with others.

However, bear in mind that the information you post and the community of fans and followers you build on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc. ultimately belong to those platforms. Therefore, social media should always be used in conjunction with a personal website, e-mail list, or blog.


6. Education: Education can be an important tool for historians, although not as important as producing a strong body of well-researched and well-presented work.

If you went to graduate school and have a masters or doctorate in history, mention this fact on your website about page and in the byline for your published work.


7. Volunteer Work: People love people who give back to their communities.

If you have helped a local historical society put together an exhibit, led the quest to save a local historic site, or have participated in some other community-minded organization let people know about it.

You can highlight Uncle_Samthese humanizing activities in your social media profiles, website about page, or bylines.

Additionally, volunteer work will help you network with people the old-fashioned way: by placing you in direct contact with other like-minded people. Your fellow volunteers may become your friends and biggest supporters when it comes time to spread the message about the history you study and write about.

Although volunteer work can serve as a powerful tool in your platform, you should only undertake it if you have a passion for a cause and want to better your community.



social media - internet networking conceptA platform comprises a suite of tools you can use to make your ideas, research, books, and projects visible to the world.

This post has outlined seven different elements that you could use to build your platform.

You do not have to adopt and cultivate all seven elements, but you should build a professional website.

As you consider which of the above planks you want to use to build your platform, think about how each element will help you showcase your authority and whether they will give people a good reason to follow you and your work.

Choose elements that will help you highlight your genuine character and humanity. People like to follow and support genuine and helpful individuals.

We have just scratched the surface of platforms.

Over the course of 2015 (and maybe 2016), we will explore all of these platform elements in greater detail because we need to build better platforms if we want to convey our historical knowledge to the large public of history-lovers.

Please let me know if you want to know more about a specific platform element. I will try to write and schedule requested posts sooner rather than later. E-mail Twitter | Facebook  


BooksHere are three books about building professional platforms that I recommend:

Chuck Sambuchino, [simpleazon-link asin="B00FGVWODY" locale="us"]Create Your Writer Platform: The Key to Building an Audience, Selling More Books, and Finding Success as an Author[/simpleazon-link]

Michael Hyatt, [simpleazon-link asin="159555503X" locale="us"]Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World[/simpleazon-link]

Seth Godin, [simpleazon-link asin="1591842336" locale="us"]Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us[/simpleazon-link]