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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

7 Irresistible Ideas for Reader Magnets

If you want to grow your email list, one thing you need is a good reader magnet. A reader magnet is a free gift you give readers in exchange for their email. For fiction writers, the most popular reader magnet is a piece of your own writing, but there’s still a lot of variation, and some authors choose to offer something different entirely.

In this list, we'll start with the more conventional written offerings, and then move on to creative alternatives. There's no one way to get readers excited about your books, so pick whichever feels right and matches what you believe your target audience would love the most--and which fits inside your resources and talents.

Who doesn’t love a free book? A sample novel, often the first in a series, makes a tantalizing gift for even reluctant readers. Format and polish a full-length novel just as you would any other books and give it a sizzling cover. You can choose to deliver the download as a file through the body of your email, through a service like Book Funnel, or through a free coupon at an online retailer.

Maybe you don’t want to write an entire book and give it away for free, and maybe the first book of your series really should be listed on Amazon with the others instead of given away separately. That’s fine. One of the most popular reader magnets is a shorter novella, often a prequel or spin-off to your series. You’ll treat this novella the same way you would treat the novel above, but it doesn’t need to be as long or as independent.

If a novella still sounds like a lot, offering a short story is another option. However, you must keep in mind that you still need to publish even a short story with the same production quality as your novel and make sure it is a full and accurate sample of your writing. The better and more enticing your story is, the more confident readers will be in following you and buying your future releases.

The sample chapter is a technique that has been around for decades and is an old favorite of traditional and indie authors alike. Instead of writing something new to win readers on your list, you can wow them by sharing a piece of what you’ve already written--and whet their appetites in the meantime. The only downside to this strategy is the advent of the “Look Inside” feature on Amazon and other retailers and the ability for curious readers to download samples of the first 10% of your book for free without signing up for anything. Sneak peeks of unreleased books can work as an alternative if you publish frequently.

Some writers stick with non-written options, and one of the top moves is to host a private fan group, usually on Facebook. Readers who want something special can join the group to build your social media following while bolstering their own excitement about what you’re writing. Using tools such as giveaways and exclusive spoilers, there’s no end to what you can turn your group into with some imagination.

One of the greatest honors a writer can bestow on a reader is a glance at what happens on the other side. Whether it’s screenshots of a rough draft, epic writing soundtracks, or merch photos, your mailing list can easily be a hub of what the life of an author amounts to--and that alone is enough to attract many readers to sign up.

Quizzes, printable board games, recipes, maps, etc.!

Some people really like working outside the box. A few years ago, I encountered an author who had a radically different signup offer than I expected: a print-out board game based on her books. I signed up to her list without hesitation, even though the game was a simple roll-and-move sheet with no strategy and limited playability. I was simply mesmerized at the idea of being able to dive into her world so quickly and easily. It was fun. It was cool, and I felt like I had stumbled on something exclusive and valuable. Similar offers can be personality quizzes, maps of your fantasy realm, or a recipe for a dish mentioned in your book. Have fun with this and don’t be afraid to step out of the box!

What are your favorite mailing list goodies? Please share in the comments below or join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers for more discussion!


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