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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Clemmer

Reader Magnets vs. Permafree Books

One of the most popular strategies for finding more readers and selling more books is to use reader magnets—free goodies you can give to people who follow your emails. But that’s not the only way to go.

There is another similar strategy that other people swear by—making the first books in your series perma-free so that anyone can discover them, and if they like them, read the following books.

While you can integrate both strategies into a working system, which is a better place to start? Here’s a short list of the pros and cons of each strategy:

Reader Magnets


Short and fast. Reader magnets are like party favors for people who are already interested in your books. There’s no expectation for them to be literary masterpieces, so they can be as short and sweet as you like. Sometimes a single scene or short story is enough—meaning less commitment and time spent that would otherwise go to a book with a royalty.

Instant mailing list. Readers have to be interested in your reader magnet to download it. This is done by their signing onto your email list in order to receive the book. This is one of the easiest ways to get subscribers, and many of these sign-ups will become serious fans in the future.

Flexibility. You can have one reader magnet for your entire list or pump out a new one for every book you write. The style and frequency of your reader magnets is also entirely up to you and has more flexibility than a standard published book.


Marketing. It’s easy to market a book on a book marketplace like Amazon, where readers type in keywords of genres they’re interested in and you can optimize your book for the top of the list. Many promotional services will require your ASIN or bar code as well, which your reader magnet won’t have. The best way to market a reader magnet is to stick it inside of the cover of a book you are selling and hope people follow along—or to enter it into a group promotion.

High Production Costs. Your reader magnet might be a single scene that follows the events of your novel, but you need to treat it as a novel on its own. This means giving it a professional cover and production job—even if it’s only a few pages long. If you’re a new writer, this can be frustrating and overwhelming.

Perma-free First Book


Discoverability. Unlike a traditional reader magnet, you can publish your free first book anywhere. Readers who want to snatch something for free will find yours easily, and fans can find you even if you’re not actively promoting the book.

Low-risk for readers. Some people don’t like giving away their email addresses—but they might still be curious about you and your books, and they could still become loyal fans. Having a book that is permanently free is like leaving a door open for more people.

Easy lead-in. If your free book is the first book in a series, readers who enjoy it will have an obvious path to follow—especially if you link to the second book in the end. While not everyone writes in series, this is a powerful strategy for those who do and can grow your sales as more readers decide to move forward with future books.


Freebie seekers. There are many people who will snag a free book with no intention of ever purchasing the others in the series. There are also a lot of people who love downloading free books but never get around to reading them. If you move forward with a perma-free first book, you can expect that you’ll get proportionately little in way of response.

Time investment. While a reader magnet can be as short as a single scene, perma-free books work better as full-length titles comparable with the other books you publish. This means that you’ll need to block off a significant amount of time to write and produce a book that you won’t even charge for later, which should be taken into account if you’re wanting to get the most out of your writing.


Fortunately, this isn’t an either-or scenario. Many authors will have perma-free first books and offer reader magnets on the side to get as many interested readers as possible. The style of books that you write and your publishing agenda will determine which of these will be more effective at attracting the readers that you want to attract.

Bonus tip:

If you’re a newer author and trying to get established, you need as many new readers as you can get. Don’t worry about royalties for your first book or two, because the readers that you win over for free now will become paying fans further down the road.

If this article helped you, please consider donating a coffee at the link below so that I can continue to write more about the intricate world of self-publishing.



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