Using Magnets to Attract Readers

Using Magnets to Attract Readers
Terry Odell

Reader MagnetSince everyone’s probably busy with holiday prep (unless you’re like me and your holiday is over), gift giving is or was part of the mix. Today, I’m talking about gifts authors can give to readers. Reader Magnets.

Saturday, Patricia Bradley’s post addressed newsletters. Unlike social media, newsletters lists are one tool we can control. We “own” that content. If a social media platform disappears (anyone remember MySpace?), we’ve lost that audience and have no way to get in touch with our previous followers.

A reader magnet is designed to reward people for signing up for your newsletter. It can be a short story, a full-length novel, a sampler—anything that connects to your genre and would have subscribers wanting more. When someone signs up, they’re given their gift.

How should you deliver these magnets, and what form should they take?
My preference is always to make it as easy as possible on both ends.

First, you need a signup form, preferably a dedicated/landing page on your website. That way, you can link everything to that place.

Next, you want as many paths to your signup process as possible. I start with a simple signup link in my email signature line. I have signup forms on my website as well. And the dreaded popup. Everyone says they hate them, but they work, as I discovered once I got over my personal prejudice and added one.

But what I really came to talk about was the magnet itself. I have one main magnet—two short stories set in my Blackthorne, Inc. universe, featuring the head of the company.

I chose to deliver it in three formats: epub, mobi, and PDF. That way, the end user gets to choose the format, and you’re likely to satisfy more readers. Nobody wants something they can’t read. Although Amazon now wants manuscripts delivered in epub, the mobi format is still out there and (last I heard), lets readers sideload onto Kindle devices.

My least ‘favorite’ format is PDF. It’s a picture. You can’t do anything with it, and reading on a small device like a cellphone is next-to-impossible for me, especially if the offering is more than a few pages. But the takeaway here is you are not necessarily your reader, so I offer it for those who like it.

How do I create these formats? I use Draft2Digital’s free formatting service. They don’t require you put your book for sale, and they do a fine job of converting a Word document into mobi and epub. For PDF, I simply take my Word Doc and do a “Save As … PDF” and it works fine. D2D will convert to PDF as well, but for whatever reason, if you have a color image as your ‘cover’, it comes out in black and white.

BookFunnelNow that I have these three formats, I need a way to deliver them to my subscribers. I use BookFunnel. I’m sure many here are familiar with the platform, but in case anyone isn’t here’s a little about it. You need an account, which is easy to set up. Their basic plan is $20/year, so yes, there’s an initial investment, but I’m a firm believer in Do what you’re good at, do what you love, and hire out the rest. One of the perks is that if you’re using their service, and a reader is having trouble with the download process, BookFunnel will help walk them through the process, so you’re out of that time suck.

Once everything’s ready, here’s my basic workflow:

You use the signup form from my website. You’ll get a confirmation and a link to the BookFunnel page for the magnet. You download the book, and you’re added to my newsletter list.

If you’re not already signed up to receive my newsletter and want to see how it works for me, you can try it for yourself here.

(And, since it’s a new provider for me, if there are glitches, I want to hear about them.)

Another pathway to your magnet is BookSweeps. They offer a lot more, but today is magnet day. Readers can find your magnet (along with thousands of others) and when they decide they want it, they’re taken to the book’s page at BookFunnel (since that’s what I’m using) where they can download it, but they have to agree to be added to your newsletter list in order to get it.

But I digress. My focus was supposed to be the magnets themselves, so that’s it for today’s post. If you have questions, leave them in the comments. Feel free to mention other magnet delivery systems as well.

fudgeYou are now free to resume your holiday activities. And if they include food prep, here’s a recipe for a five-minute fudge you can throw together in no time.

This is my last official post of 2021. See everyone on the flip side, and have a wonderful holiday season!

In the Crosshairs by Terry OdellNow available for pre-order. In the Crosshairs, Book 4 in my Triple-D Romantic Suspense series.

Changing Your Life Won’t Make Things Easier
There’s more to ranch life than minding cattle. After his stint as an army Ranger, Frank Wembly loves the peaceful life as a cowboy. Financial advisor Kiera O’Leary sets off to pursue her dream of being a photographer until a car-meets-cow incident forces a shift in plans. Instead, she finds herself in the middle of a mystery, one with potentially deadly consequences.

Terry Odell is an award-winning author of Mystery and Romantic Suspense, although she prefers to think of them all as “Mysteries with Relationships.” Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

27 thoughts on “Using Magnets to Attract Readers

  1. This is great advice, Terry. Thank you. I was thinking concretely this morning and thought, “Oh yeah! I’d love a new refrigerator decoration!” There is, actually, at least one author who mails readers a refrigerator magnet with the cover of his new book on it. It’s cool, but your magnet concept is more practical for most of us.

    BTW…your point about social media platforms is entirely valid. That said, MySpace is still a “thing” in the world. I checked it this morning just for grins and giggles. The opening page had some very current updates about music and movies (why nothing about books, I wondered?) and is doing a beta test so that you can sign in through something called “Facebook” if you can’t remember your password.

    A belated Chag Urim Sameach to you, Terry, and Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. See you in 2022!

    • Thanks, Joe. A long time ago, I took advantage of a promotional offer and had some magnets with one of my book covers on them. I might still have one. Want it? Seriously, I’ve picked up a number of these bits of swag at conferences. But the front of our fridge is non-magnetic. However, we have a double drawer dishwasher, so I use magnets there to show which one we’re loading.

      Thanks for the update on MySpace.

  2. Great post, Terry. Thanks for the links and info on BookFunnel and BookSweeps.

    I tried your sign-up link above, and everything went smoothly.

    I take it, from what you said, that you think BookFunnel is the easiest to use (and $20/yr vs. $50/yr) if you’re just doing book magnets.

    I’d love to hear, in a future post, all the details of setting up those links between website, email platform, and BookFunnel. I hope it’s easier than it sounds.

    Thanks for all your great posts. Have a great holidays season!

  3. Very informative post, Terry.

    I wrote a prequel to build my newsletter back in December 2016 before launching my Empowered series, and it really helped with the launch of Book 1 six weeks later. I’ve thought about writing a prequel to my library mystery series, to help build that newsletter before releasing book 1 next year.

    BF really does provide a seamless download experience for the reader IMHO. I’ve also used BF to distribute advance review copies and gift books to readers.

    Thanks for the helpful advice–I can point fellow indies to this post when they want more information on reader magnets etc. Have a wonderful holiday break!

  4. So helpful, Terry! Thanks. Now I just have to write a short story as the “gift”.

    Grateful for all your practical, actionable tips here at TKZ.

    Happy New Year and see ya in 2022!

    • Thanks, Debbie. I hope there are still people around who can benefit from my posts. I always have the feeling that if I know it, everyone else must, too, but if I can reach or remind a few readers, I’m always happy to share.

  5. I’ve used BookFunnel for years. Takes all the stress out of delivery. I use their $100/year plan so it’s only one step for the reader to sign up and get the novella. I use Vellum for my formatting.

    Now, where is the magnet for your lip balm?

    • I agree. I’ve just moved up another level so that when people sign up for my newsletter, BookFunnel adds them to my mailing list. Anything I don’t have to do manually these days is a boon.

      The magnet for my lip balm? Send me an email with your address.

  6. Wonderful advice, as always, Terry. I use both BookFunnel and BookSweeps and I get new subscribers through both. When I join one of BookSweeps ads, I usually pick up several hundred new subscribers.

    Refrigerator magnets! You reminded me I gave away magnets with the cover of my first book on them. (I have a few left if anyone wants one.) think I’ll order some for the other two books.

    • Until I read Joe’s comment, I never thought about actual magnets! I’ve been so tuned in to getting my workflow set up with my new email provider that my mind totally missed the other interpretation of my blog title.

  7. Excellent advice, Terry. My process is very similar to yours. Somehow, I missed the BookSweeps email about Reader Magnet Day. Thank you!

    Happy New Year! *clink*

  8. I began a short story for a newsletter magnet, and it has turned into a novel. Would it be better to use the new novel or write another short story for the newsletter magnet?

    • Good question, Deb. And, as with everything, the answer would be “it depends.”
      A magnet should attract readers to your body of work. Do you have another book related to the one you’re considering for readers to buy? Example: I have a short story that was part of an anthology. I have the rights back, but it’s so different from anything else I write that I don’t feel it would be a good magnet, because readers wouldn’t find anything else like it.

      Or is your goal simply to get more newsletter subscribers? I tend to use full-length novels as rewards for those who have already signed up. My newsletter contains a “for subscribers only” section, and I might use it there, but only for a short time.
      However, if it’s book 1 in a series, then using it as a magnet serves a dual purpose. They join your mailing list AND (you hope) will go on to buy book 2.

      Hope this answers your question.

      • Thanks, Terry. My short story turned novel is a prequel so it would be a nice magnet. I’m hesitant to give it away, but I could try it for a limited time and see what kind of response I get, both in new subscribers and sales. I like your idea about gifting it to current subscribers as many are already loyal readers.

        • As long as there’s more for the reader after they finish the novel, it’s worth a try. Nothing says you have to use the same magnet forever; it’s a good idea to swap them out from time to time. When I do, I usually offer older ones in the next edition of my newsletter for people who haven’t seen it.

  9. Avery offers blank magnet sheets you can print yourself. It includes adhesive printer sheets and the magnet to paste it on.

    I’ve worked with and attended science fiction conventions for many years, and the freebie tables always have lots of things like magnets and bookmarks that end up in the garbage because no one wants them. Your success may vary with them.

  10. I loved your post, Terry. Book Funnel works great, but for those authors with websites that don’t limit downloads, a free option can deliver the PDF, epub, and mobi in one fell swoop while registering subscribers to your newsletter.

    It’s a straightforward process. Create the PDF, epub, mobi files, and a “how-to use” set of instructions with Scrivener. Then compress those files into a single zip file. Both Windows and Mac operating systems enable you to create a zip file. Then upload the zip file to your site. Link a download button on the confirmed-subscriber page to the zip file.

    When the new subscriber downloads and unpacks the zip file, they’ll see the instructions and can choose which file they prefer to use.

    This method of including instructions also works great for other magnets. For example, I provide subscribers with a detailed set of instructions along with the free character profile, which includes templates for both MS Word and Scrivener and the PDFs for each of the nine Enneagram Personality types.

    • Thanks for the alternative, Grant. I used to have direct downloads on my website, although I had separate files for each format rather than a zip file. What I like about BookFunnel is the end user has the option of feeding the magnet directly into their e-reader rather than having to sideload it.

  11. Good post, Terry. I do something a little different for my email list magnet. Because I started off in Historical Fiction, and because my subject matter was the birth of NYC/Manhattan in the early 17th century, I created a Before-and-After comparison infographic about NYC. PDF. Although it seems subject-specific and tied to that first novel, I’ve keep using it. And people keep liking it. (and your post made me check it again on my new LG phone, and it looks good)

    But I’m a bit of an outlier.

    • Thanks for sharing, Harald. Anything that attracts readers is a good thing. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
      I never remember phones. I hate using them for anything other than getting texts from my kids. The thought of using mine when I have a 27-inch monitor on my desk, where I am most of the time makes me cringe.

    • Glad you found it helpful, Patricia. I think you’ll like the way it’s ‘hands off’ once you get things set up.

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