Setting up your domain for author newsletter

You have bought a domain for your future author website, developed a newsletter, and gained a significant subscriber base. Now, all of a sudden, your email marketing service (MailerLite, Convertkit, MailChimp) is saying you need to verify and authenticate your domain so your emails don't end up in your future readers' Gmail junk folder.

Not only that but they tell you that to get there, you need to do something with foreign-sounding abbreviations like DNS, SPF, DKIM, DMARC, CNAME, TXT. While they are at it, they are using confusing terms, like "hosting panel", but you don't have a website or any hosting, so you are at a loss and don't know what you do. And you don't have an email at your domain, so how can you possibly send emails from it, much less allow your email marketing service to do it?

Without getting too much into technical aspects of how the Internet, emails, and websites work, let's explain the basics so you can understand what, and most importantly why, you will be doing with your domain.

Imagine you receive an email from our friendly team at Formatting Experts in the process of having your book designed and formatted for self-publishing. At first, you may think: "Great, another useful, actionable email from my favorite publishing pros". But then the doubt sets in and you wonder – "How can I be sure they are the ones who actually sent it". It says it is from "Formatting Experts", but is it really? Truth is, anyone could have sent that email. That doesn't mean they hijacked our domain or gained access to our email service. All anyone needs to do is to "tell" their computer (or a server, which is just a remote computer) to send an email to [email protected] and it will be sent. It requires some basic technical knowledge but is perfectly doable for anyone motivated enough. A bit scary, isn't it?

This is an inherent flaw, or a limitation, in how the email's underlying protocol, SMTP, works. The solution to that trustworthiness issue is on the receiving end and this is where those scary-looking abbreviations come into play.

DNS records – SPF and DKIM

The receiver's email server, which can be one of the popular email service providers, like Google's Gmail, Apple's iCloud Mail, or a company's own infrastructure, verifies the incoming emails. When they receive an incoming email addressed to one of their users, they check DNS records, the same ones MailerLite and other email marketing providers ask you to add to your domain's configuration.

A DNS record is publicly visible information about the domain set by its owner. One of them, SPF, is a type of DNS record, containing a list of servers authorized to send email on behalf of that domain. By adding an SPF record to your domain's configuration you are saying to the receiving mail server: "Hey, if the server not listed here sends you an email, they are not authorized by me!" Another one, the DKIM record, lists the sending server's public key, which, in conjunction with the sending server's private key (it's a secret known only to that sending server) is working like an unforgeable hand-written signature confirming the email's origin.

The two DNS records, together, make it possible to ensure the sender is legitimate. If either of these two checks fails, the receiving server (e.g. Gmail) could mark the message as spam, dangerous, suspicious, or simply never show it to its recipient.

Adding those two DNS records to your domain was always possible, and recommended by email marketing services. However, it wasn't until the February 1st deadline set by Google that it became essential for even those who send low-volume marketing messages to recipients using personal Gmail accounts.

Hopefully, this simplified explanation helps you understand what the whole fuss is about.

Email addresses at your domain

The relative technical complexity of this topic left a lot of authors, and non-technical entrepreneurs, confused about what they need to do. As part of that confusion, some of them wonder if you need to pay for any extra services.

The good news – all you need to do to get this off your plate is to buy a domain and add two DNS records. A domain will cost you about $10 a year with companies like Namecheap. Namecheap, and some other domain registrars, will also give you an easy way to forward incoming emails to your regular inbox without any extra charge – this might prove useful for initial domain verification with some email marketing services.

That said, you do not need to pay for an additional email service for your domain. Once you add the required DNS records, your email marketing service will be able to send authenticated messages on your behalf. You do not need the ability to send from, or receive emails to, the email address at your domain for them to be able to do so.

A website or a landing page

Setting up a website at your domain is a completely separate issue and you don't need one to authenticate your domain for email marketing. But having one could be beneficial for other reasons. Instead of a full website you could set up a simple landing page for your books. Having one can help you grow your subscriber base through an embedded newsletter sign-up form. It also makes your marketing future-proof as you are no longer depending on on specific email marketing service provider hosted forms.

If you have been a free user of "Classic MailerLite", you are likely all too familiar with the issue. On February 1st, MailerLite closed all free accounts using their legacy infrastructure. What happened to all those hosted forms authors linked to from their books and social media? Well, they stopped working.

This goes to show that using any vendor-dependent solution (like hosted forms) can bite you in the long term. Email marketing services, like any other "platforms" you are using in your author business, are just tools that you should be able to replace at will without affecting any of your existing marketing "assets" (like your book's front and back matter). A website (or a landing page) set up with your domain is under your full control at all times.

Want to find out how to get it all set up with no hassle on your end for less than you would pay for website hosting alone? Get in touch with us and we will guide you through the process.

What next?

The easy way to complete domain authentication required by your email marketing provider, is to follow these steps:

1) Buy a domain, if you don't have one yet, preferably on, as they provide useful complimentary services and have good support. (Opt out of any paid add-ons that might be thrown at you in the process.)

2) Send us an email with the name of your email marketing service and your domain name

3) We will reply with an easy-to-follow, step-by-step guide, showing you how to set things up yourself

It's free of charge and you are under no obligation to use any of our paid services. And if you have any issues or questions, we will help you through all of them.

Published: February 1st, 2024

Domain authenthication requirements enforced by Google and other free email inbox providers starting in February 2024 seem complicated for a lot of authors. But with basic knowledge about how email works and what these changes mean, you can get this off your to-do list quickly and get back to writing books and connecting with your readers. At the end of the article, we provide simple steps to authenthicate your domain easy way.

Publishing Newsletter

Confused by outdated and conflicting advice online? Looking for reliable information to help you on your publishing journey?

If we don't keep our promise to provide useful, reliable information, you can unsubscribe at any time. We always keep your email address confidential. If you don't wish to receive any messages about our services, just email us at [email protected] to let us know and we will opt you out of promotional messages.

Turn your manuscript into a commercial-quality eBook and paperback!
Learn more