May 26, 2021
There’s a lot of advice out there about reader magnets (i.e. ways to entice readers to part with their email address in exchange for some awesome freebie). What’s not up for debate is how effective the right reader magnets can be. Building an email list is one of the most important things any author can do, whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction. So, I thought I would address this by telling you about 9 of the best types of reader magnets—both fiction and nonfiction.
The Best Fiction Reader Magnets
Whatever kind of reader magnet you choose, it’s a good idea to offer it at the beginning and at the end of your book. Right before the story starts and directly after it ends. Add email integration, and you’ve got an automated collection system!
A prelude or prequel can be an excellent reader magnet when done right. It should feature characters from the book in which it appears, but it doesn’t necessarily have to tie directly into the book.
There’s a couple of different ways to use a prelude as a reader magnet:
- Write a standalone story that can be read before or after your book.
- Write a story that leads into your book.
- Write a story about your Big Bad (if you have one) in which the reader sees how the antagonist came to be a villain.
When you put your reader magnet into the front and back of your book, make sure to tell the reader whether it’s okay to read it before the book. Most readers will head for the reader magnet after they read your book, but not all of them. The last thing you want is a confused reader because they read the prequel first!
2. Side Story
A side story can happen before, during, or after the events of your book. It can feature secondary characters that don’t have quite enough in them for a full book. Or, it can feature main characters.
If you use a secondary character or characters, make sure they’re fun or interesting enough to serve as the protagonist for a short story or novella. The last thing you want to do with your reader magnet is bore your readers!
3. Post-Credit Scene
Another good idea for a reader magnet is a post-credit scene. These could be considered an epilogue of sorts; not essential for the wrapping-up of the narrative, but interesting enough that your readers will exchange their email address for it.
Depending on your genre, this could be something funny, touching, dramatic, or simply interesting.
4. Bonus Content
Your reader magnet doesn’t have to be a narrative-style story. It can be something that is entertaining and adds to the depth of the world and characters you’ve created. Some great ideas of bonus content include:
- Redacted government files (spy thrillers).
- Police reports detailing an incident mentioned in the book (crime novels).
- Love letters or text message conversations (romance novels).
- Excerpts from history books (science fiction novels).
With a little creativity, you can create something that fits your story and genre well.
Tips for Fiction Reader Magnets
Use these tips to build the reader’s curiosity and make them want to see the reader magnet when they’re done reading your book.
Wink and Hint
As you write, try to pique the reader’s interest, creating a question that the reader wants to know the answer to, but will only get it if they download the magnet.
An example I like to use is the Kobayashi Maru in Star Trek. Throughout the series, the Kobayashi Maru starship is mentioned in reference to an impossible test that Captain Kirk took. But the audience never learned any more details about it.
At least, until Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan came out. Then, we finally got to see what all the references to the Kobayashi Maru were all about. Then we got to see a slightly different take on it in the 2009 Star Trek reboot.
Keep it Exclusive
The best reader magnets also have a hint of exclusivity. If you only allow people to get your reader magnet by signing up for your mailing list, tell them that. In short, don’t sell your reader magnet or give it away anywhere else. And make sure the reader knows that.
Front and Back Matter
Again, and I can’t stress this enough: Put the offer for your reader magnet in the front and back matter of your book. If you’re not sure what that means, click here to check out an article on the parts of a book.
Reader Magnets Not to Use
Now that we’ve covered what works, let’s talk briefly about what doesn’t work well for fiction reader magnets.
- Samples or Excerpts – Samples of the next book aren’t usually enticing enough to get readers to sign up. The Amazon “look inside” option already allows people to read a nice chunk of your book before they buy it. For most indie authors, samples and excerpts simply don’t work well.
- Random Short Stories – The reader needs to think you’re the best thing since sliced bread in order to be enticed by a non-related short story you wrote. As much as we all like to think our writing is the best thing ever and deserves to be on the “Best of All Time” lists (like this one), most readers want something that relates to the book they just read and the characters they’ve come to care about.
Best Nonfiction Reader Magnets
Nonfiction reader magnets are a little different. But, they also need to tie into the book without being absolutely essential. They need to be a bonus that the readers can use.
5. Case Studies
Case studies are great if you have them to share. They provide proof that you know what you’re talking about (which readers always appreciate). They also help provide the reader with a deeper understanding of the subject matter and the tactics for implementation.
6. Cheat Sheets
Cheat sheets are great for distilling the main components of a complex problem down to a page or two. These sheets are generally aimed at one particular challenge or problem that readers frequently come upon. They are best practices for solving that problem or challenge.
7. Condensed Notes
Whereas cheat sheets focus on one specific problem, condensed notes take all the important overall themes or ideas of a nonfiction book and put them in a short, easy-to-read format. Readers can download and print the condensed notes for later reference.
8. Supplemental Videos
A short companion video or videos can also be a great reader magnet. This may be a screen recording of you explaining certain steps that you already went over in the book. Or it could be a deeper delve into a subject that your readers want to know more about.
9. Pre-Populated Excel Sheet
If your nonfiction book talks about recording data in a spreadsheet like Excel or Google Sheets, you could offer a copy of the prepopulated spreadsheet to readers. This will save them the trouble of filling out the formulas in all the right places. It’s also pretty easy to create since you already have one of your own going. Just make sure you’re giving out copies and not sharing your original with readers!
Reader Magnets Work
Not every reader will part with their email address for your reader magnet, and that’s okay. But the more you give the reader in the magnet, the more they’re likely to become a fan. So put some effort into the reader magnet, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction. Some authors do well offering the next book as a reader magnet. Others do just as well with novellas or mini video courses.
One thing’s for sure: Reader magnets work. You just have to find the right one for your audience and make sure they see the offer.
Dave Chesson is the creator of Kindlepreneur.com, a website devoted to teaching advanced book marketing which even Amazon KDP acknowledge as one of the best by telling users to “Gain insight from Kindlepreneur on how you can optimize marketing for your books.” Having worked with such authors as Orson Scott Card, Ted Dekker and more, his tactics help both Fiction and Nonfiction authors of all levels get their books discovered by the right readers. He’s also the founder of Publisher Rocket, a book marketing software, and Atticus.io, a book writing and formatting software.
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