Reader Magnets for Fiction Authors

reader magnets for fiction authors

For self-published authors, there is no more powerful advertising tool than an engaging newsletter. But building an army of loyal subscribers is difficult. Most authors struggle to eclipse 1000 subscribers, and many of the readers on these lists don’t buy their books. So what is a self-published author to do? I have the solution. Today, I bring you the ultimate guide to reader magnets for fiction authors.

Over the last 12 months, my statistics prove my newsletter sold 44 times more books than thousands of social media posts. Yes, 44 times more. 

I’m not telling you to ignore social media. It has some benefits for authors. But there’s nothing like a newsletter to sell your next book.

The Challenge

Authors face the Herculean task of cutting through a deluge of content. Every minute, the internet swells with more blogs, podcasts, and videos. For self-published authors, this means that the traditional “If you write it, they will come” approach falls flat. How do you get a reader’s attention?

The bitter truth? A good book does not guarantee an audience. 

This is where reader magnets come into play.


Reader magnets lead readers to your next book or your backlist. They are pieces of content designed to showcase the author’s voice and offer value. Some take the form of lost chapters. Others are prequels, character backstories, or worlds rich with untold events that didn’t make the final cut in your novel.

In exchange for a reader’s email address, you offer a free gift. Many of these new subscribers are “cold”, meaning they aren’t familiar with your work or ready to buy. That’s okay. Once you have their email address, you introduce yourself and offer more valuable content over a period of weeks and months, “warming” the subscriber into an interested buyer.

Why A Newsletter Always Wins

Newsletters are the number one marketing platform for authors, whether self-published or traditional. Emails don’t compete with millions of social media posts and YouTube videos. They arrive in a reader’s inbox and contain anything you want to say.

But selling books requires more than marketing. It requires relationship building. 

Introducing yourself in a crowd of people (for instance, on Facebook or Instagram) guarantees everyone else will be screaming over you to be heard. With an email, you take the relationship slow and allow the reader to learn about you, while you showcase your generosity.

By offering something away, you give the subscriber a risk-free way to sample your storytelling. And you give the reader an opportunity to talk with you, something they can’t do with Stephen King or James Patterson.

Examples of Reader Magnets

Your reader magnets are only limited by your imagination.

Provided you can give something away to an interested subscriber 24 hours a day, you’re on the right track. That means you want your reader magnet to be a digital product. Whether you’re asleep or on the golf course, readers should be able to download your giveaway without causing additional work for you.

Since the possibilities for reader magnets are endless, I encourage you to use the following list for inspiration. Use any of these options, or create a new one. It’s up to you! You are a creative, after all.

A. Short Stories or Novellas: These bite-sized narratives are perfect as reader magnets, giving a tantalizing taste of your writing style while keeping readers hungry for more.

B. Full Novels: This is a controversial selection. Do you really want to give away an entire novel? You might, if the offering not only grows your list but sends readers to your next books. Suggestion: Give away a prequel or book 1 in a series. This will increase the likelihood the reader will go on to buy your other books.

C. Deleted Scenes: Disagree with your editor? Did you cut a scene which, now that you consider it, adds value to the story? Share the deleted scene as exclusive content.

D. Behind-the-Scenes Content and Commentary: How did you come up with your story idea? Is the location based on where you live or visit? Share commentary on characters and scenes to give your readers a peek behind the curtain.

E. Companion Pieces: Exploring the lore or history of your universe can attract readers who crave depth and complexity in the worlds they dive into.

F. Artwork: Would your book cover make for an awesome screen background? Do you have any other art related to your book that you can give away?

G. Audiobook Samples and Exclusive Stories: Tempt your potential newsletter subscriber with a sample from your audiobook. Or read an exclusive short story and give it away as a reader magnet.

H. Interviews or Q&A Sessions: These provide readers with a voice, allowing them to interact with you in a way that fosters community and loyalty.

I. Character Profiles or Backstories: Got a character sheet on your protagonist? You should. Jazz it up and make it available as a magnet.

J. Maps or Illustrations: You might think this suggestion only works for genres where maps play an important role, such as fantasy. But everyone appreciates a map. You might make a map of the creepy town where your thriller takes place, or design a layout of the city where your romance takes place, including that coffee shop where your lovers met.

K. Exclusive “Prequel” Stories: This is what I do. I offer a prequel novella which links to the first book in my thriller series. Prequels set the stage for your main narrative, offering a backstory that enhances the reader’s understanding and enjoyment of your books.

L. Book Trailers or Visual Content: Have some talent in video editing? Put together a cool trailer for your book and share it as a magnet.

M. Epilogues or Sequel Previews: Tease your potential subscribers with ‘what happens next.’ 

N. Sample Chapters or Excerpts: This is the weakest of the reader magnet suggestions, as readers can already preview your book on most book seller platforms. But some swear by this technique.

O. Cross-Promotion Materials: Have a favorite author you enjoy cross-promoting with? Feature characters or settings from the other author’s books in yours as part of an exclusive reader magnet. Of course, ensure you have permission from the other author before you do this.

Hosting Your Giveaway

Looking for a place to host your reader magnet? The platform you choose should integrate seamlessly with your mailing list service, ensuring that the process of gaining a subscriber and delivering your content is easy and smooth. Here are some suggestions that can automate your workflow:

1. BookFunnel: A popular choice among authors. BookFunnel provides not just distribution services for your reader magnets but also excels in automating the collection of email addresses. It integrates with most email service providers, making the addition of subscribers to your mailing list practically hands-off.

2. StoryOrigin: Similar to BookFunnel, StoryOrigin offers centralized tools for delivering reader magnets, tracking downloads, and managing cross-promotions with other authors. Its mailing list integration is straightforward and efficient, making your marketing campaign a breeze.

3. Prolific Works: Formerly known as InstaFreebie, this platform is designed with reader magnet distribution in mind. With its ability to collect reader information and sync it to your mailing list, Prolific Works is a robust tool for growing your subscriber base.

4. Mailchimp: As a mailing list service itself, Mailchimp has landing page and form builders that allow you to distribute reader magnets directly. When readers sign up to receive your content, they’re automatically added to your mailing list.

5. SendOwl: Though primarily an e-commerce solution, SendOwl can be used to deliver digital reader magnets automatically after someone signs up for your mailing list, which can be integrated with several email marketing platforms.

6. MailerLite: This is another email marketing service that includes a feature to deliver content upon signup. Its automation features make it simple to send out your reader magnet as soon as a new subscriber joins your list.

These platforms simplify the distribution of reader magnets and streamline the process of building and managing your mailing list. By automating the subscription and distribution process, they allow you to focus on what you do best—writing the stories your readers can’t wait to get lost in.

For videos, I suggest uploading the content to YouTube or Vimeo and making the video “private”. Use your email provider’s autoresponder to send the reader a direct link.

That’s a Wrap

And there you have it. These reader magnet suggestions should give you everything you need to grow your email list.

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