Obtaining readers for your book is hard enough. It takes intentional marketing strategies, review management, and other techniques to build an audience. But how do you take a stranger who bought your book on Amazon or received a copy from a friend and get that person on an email list where you can stay in touch with them?
This is a question that plagues all writers, but one proven way to do this is through reader magnets.
What’s a Reader Magnet?
Reader magnets are free resources you create to incentivize book readers to join your email list. As you can imagine, this is easier said than done. And some approaches work better than others. We’ll explore several strategies for converting readers into subscribers, with some that work well for fiction and others that are better for nonfiction. We’ll also look at examples of how authors have used these strategies successfully.
But before we do, let’s answer the question I bet a lot of you are asking.
Where Can You Tell Your Readers About Your Reader Magnets?
Short answer: In your book!
At the end of his popular book Ego is the Enemy, bestselling author Ryan Holliday has a page titled “What Should You Read Next?” which says:
I have prepared for you—my book-loving reader—a full guide to every single book and source I used in this study of ego. I wanted to show you not just which books deserved citation but what I got out of them, and which ones I strongly recommend you read next.
He then invites readers to visit a specific URL and join his email list, promising to send them, “a collection of my favorite quotes and observations about ego—many of which I couldn’t fit in this book.”
And you don’t have to wait until the end of the book to offer a reader magnet. Some authors do it before their first sentence. It’s smart not to wait too long — because most people don’t read a book from cover to cover.
In his New York Times bestselling book Launch, Jeff Walker ends his introductory chapter with this sentence:
One more thing: Make sure you go to [URL] to get all the extra training videos and resources that go along with this book.
At the end of the second chapter, he invites readers to visit his website to read the full case study of a story he just referenced. He does that again in the fourth chapter with a different case study—and one more time in the thirteenth chapter. He closes the book by again inviting people to sign up for supporting resources he created just for readers of the book.
Now, you might be thinking, “Doesn’t this get annoying for readers? All these reminders to join the email list?” I say no, and here’s why.
In the examples I just mentioned, the authors strike a smart balance. The freebies Walker and Holliday offer relate directly to what people are reading; due to their length, they don’t really belong in the book. This way, readers don’t feel shorted or spammed, and they get an opportunity to go deeper if they want to.
Now that you get the big picture, let’s look at some ideas for nonfiction reader magnets, then we’ll talk about fiction.
Nonfiction Reader Magnet Ideas
Nonfiction reader magnets are usually easier to create than their fiction counterparts. That’s because authors of nonfiction can easily guess what their readers might be interested in.
When a reader picks up a nonfiction book, it typically means they want to learn something. They’re trying to create a change or transformation in their own life. And just to be clear, this doesn’t only apply to self-help books. Even in the case of memoirs and autobiographies, readers are drawn in by the opportunity to learn and grow.
This realization can generate ideas for free resources you might create. Let’s look closer at two specific examples.
Idea #1: Create a Free Online Course
When it comes to using courses as a content upgrade, Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome has mastered this technique. In his wildly successful book Will It Fly, Pat created a free video course as a content upgrade for everyone who purchased his book.
First, Pat used the course as a reader magnet to convince book buyers to join his email list. Then, once people were enrolled, he used the free course as a launch pad for a premium course people had to pay in order to access. This allowed him to not only grow his email list, but his revenue as well.
If the idea of creating a course sounds intimidating, remember that as an author on your chosen subject, you’re already a content expert. Platforms such as Thinkific and Teachable make creating online courses surprisingly simple, at least from a technical standpoint. Plus, the video component of a course can help your readers get to know you, which deepens the connection moving forward. That said, there is a simpler approach.
Idea #2: Create a Free Ebook
Ebooks are easier to create than video courses, and often easier to deliver. If creating an online course isn’t your thing, consider putting together an ebook with additional information the reader will want.
Fiction Reader Magnet Ideas
At first glance, fiction reader magnets may seem more difficult to create. However with a little bit of creativity, writers of fiction can still develop compelling freebies.
There is one big difference between fiction and nonfiction, however. In storytelling, you want your reader to feel immersed in the world you’ve created. You don’t want to “pop the fictive bubble,” as novelist and writing coach Ted Dekker puts it. For this reason, it’s smart to only mention reader magnets outside of your story, so as not to distract from the tale.
That said, in writing, rules are made to be broken, and if you have a map of your world, a genealogy, or some other resource you think readers will be dying to get their hands on, you can certainly ignore my advice. Here are two ideas for fiction reader magnets.
Idea #1: Use The Kobayashi Maru Tactic
Although I cannot take credit for the method, I have officially dubbed it the Kobayashi Maru Tactic.
For those of you unaware, I am a huge Sci Fi fan. And that extends to Star Trek. In Star Trek, the Kobayashi Maru was a starship mentioned as part of Captain Kirk’s impossible test. But, even though the name of the ship was mentioned throughout the TV series, the ship was never revealed. It just grew within the readers’ minds and became an unseen part of the story. Only when the movie was released did viewers get to see the Kobayashi Maru.
You can use this tactic to create reader magnets just like author W.H. Lock did. In one of his stories, Lock wrote a character who was always greeted by, “I thought you died back in Cleveland.” But here’s the thing. Lock never revealed what actually happened in Cleveland. Not until he offered it to readers as a short story, in exchange for signing up for his email list.
Do you have a hidden chapter, side story, or alternate ending your readers might enjoy? Tell them about it, and give them a chance to join your email list to get it.
Idea #2: Create Supplemental How-Tos or Further Reading Related to Your Book
Suzanne Woods Fisher is a well-known author of historical Amish and Quaker fiction. Her readers find that period and lifestyle fascinating. So, for one of her book launches, she created a guide explaining the difference between Quakers and the Amish, as well as beautiful Quaker quotes designed to print and display.
You can also create supplemental material that pulls your story into reality. Perhaps one of the best examples of this is with the Harry Potter series. Throughout Rowling’s books, the characters gobble down delicious treats, one after the other—leading to fans creating Harry Potter-inspired recipes and cookbooks.
Although these recipes weren’t specifically written by JK Rowling, they could have been. And you can use a strategy like this to create your own reader magnet and offer it as a free add-on to people signing up for your email list.
Perhaps you’ll offer some barbecue recipes to allow readers to experience, in their own homes, the fare featured in your Western romance. The ideas are endless.
Idea #3: Give Away a Preview of Your Next Book
Here’s one final idea that’s worth a quick mention. If you’re writing a series, or if you know what your next book is going to be about, you, as a self-publisher, can give away the first one or two chapters from your upcoming book—along with the promise that you will notify readers when the book is available for purchase. This can be an effective reader magnet because it promises more action and adventure at a time when readers are craving just that.
You work hard to attract readers. You want that hard work to grow your community and raise your baseline potential for future books. So make it easy for them to stay in the loop.
Each of the methods I’ve shared has a degree of creativity to it. Yours will require some creativity as well. The big idea is simply this: What’s something your readers would love to have that you can create and offer for free? Once you know the answer to that question, you’ll be able to level up your book marketing.