Are you struggling to get new people to sign up for your email newsletter? It’s one thing to convince your friends and family to sign up, but how do you convince a stranger to give you her email address? Strangers don’t care about you. They don’t even know who you. And besides, there are millions of author newsletters, so why should they sign up for yours?
There is a simple technique to get readers to want to sign up for your newsletter. For decades, this technique has worked for thousands of authors. And it works better than ever today. What is it?
We have a special guest today to help you learn the secrets of creating delicious reader magnets. She writes under a few pen names across several genres and is the author of the popular book on email newsletters Newsletter Ninja (Affiliate Link).
Thomas: Tammi Labrecque welcome to the Novel Marketing Podcast!
Tammi: Hey Thomas. Thanks for having me.
Thomas: So, as you may have guessed, the simple technique to get readers to want to sign up for your newsletter is a reader magnet. But what is a reader magnet?
What is a Reader Magnet?
Tammi: A reader magnet is something free that you give away so that people will join your mailing list. It’s probably going to be something story-based. Generally, your reader magnet will be a story that is related to the books that you’ve already written, or at least the genre that you’re writing in.
Thomas: A reader magnet is a little taste of your fiction. It works best if it shares characters or a fantasy world with the other writing that you do. The more similar it is to your current book you’re promoting, the better it helps promote the book. It can also help to convert readers of that book to reading your short story.
For example, maybe your readers want to learn more about the tavern in your story, that the heroes visit before they go on their great adventure. Your whole short story could take place in the tavern.
Tammi: You want your reader magnet to be a no-brainer for somebody who just finished reading your book. They want to keep reading in your story world, so they sign up for your newsletter and download your reader magnet.
Thomas: For fiction, your reader magnet will be a short story, or maybe a prequel, or a Christmas vignette between your two love interests. Whereas for nonfiction, the list of options for reader magnets is endless. Tammi, give us some examples for nonfiction that you’ve seen work well.
Tammi: What I see working really well for nonfiction are generally reference items. A checklist, a planner, a cheat sheet. Something that will take the information the person is already presenting, and synthesize it in a concise, practical way. The reader magnet may lead into a book, or a course the author is offering.
Just make sure that your nonfiction reader magnet is packed with helpful information, not a lot of fluff. Don’t use three pages of a seven-page document to introduce yourself to the reader, or try to sell them something. Make sure you’re offering something highly valuable to your reader.
Thomas: It needs to be a good experience. This is also true with your short story. Just because you wrote a short story, doesn’t mean it’s ready to be a reader magnet. A common mistake I see with novelists is that they hear an episode like this one and realize they need to write a short story to use for a reader magnet.
Then they take the very first short story they’ve ever written in their entire lives, and they make that the first impression on the reader. Would you believe that literally, every short story you write from now on will be better than that first one you wrote? The more you develop the skill of writing short stories, the better of an experience your readers will have.
And the better of an experience they have, the more they’ll fall in love with you. Because it’s not just about getting them on your email list. It’s about that introduction. You want the people who read your short story to fall in love with your characters and your story world. You need to inspire them to want more. After reading your short story, going on to buy your book should be a no-brainer. But in order for that to happen, the short story has to be a good experience.
Tammi: Yes, I agree. When it comes to writing a novel, authors would never just throw on a homemade cover or skip steps in the editing process. But when they create a reader manet, they think those steps are not as important. They’ll just throw something together in Microsoft Paint.
It’s important to put your best foot forward here. You want to make a good impression. You’re using your reader magnet to pull in people who don’t know you. You want their first experience with you to be top-notch. You want your readers to love your short story so much that they just have to go on and buy your book.
What Makes a Great Reader Magnet?
Thomas: Let’s talk about how to make your reader magnet more magnetic. The first thing is a good cover. If your reader magnet is going to share the same characters or story world as your other books, the book covers should be branded very similarly. Sometimes cover designers will give you a bargain if you’re buying multiple covers together. When they already have the files, it’s a lot less work to create another cover in the same theme.
Tammi: I would recommend using the same cover designer for your reader magnet that you used for your book series. That’s the best option. And if you tell them this cover is for a reader magnet, they might give you a discount.
The other option is to find a pre-made cover. I’ve had a lot of success with this. Try to find a pre-made cover that has the same tone as your other books. You can then give it to your cover designer, and have them modify it and personalize it to match the other books in your series. It’s really important to have similar branding across all your books.
Thomas: If you Google “pre-made book covers”, you will find whole libraries of pre-made covers to choose from. This is a great way to get professionally made book covers for not a lot of money.
Don’t worry about someone else having the same book cover. Your reader magnet will never appear on Amazon. Your reader magnet only lives on your website. It’s a creature of your website. The only way someone can get this amazing short story you wrote is to go to your website and sign up for it. If someone else does have a similar cover, it’s not likely anyone will visit both of your websites and see the cover of the book.
Tammi: I agree. The exclusivity of your website is important. I’ve done a lot of tests with this. The first time we tested it was with my friend Chris Fox, who was starting to write military science fiction. He had a prequel novella that he was using for the reader magnet.
After he had been distributing the prequel for a while, he put it up on Amazon for $0.99. Immediately his signups declined. The solution? Just make your reader magnet exclusive to your website. If the day comes that you really want to put it up on Amazon, just write a new short story for your readers. They’ll be really happy you did.
Thomas: We sometimes use the term “cookie” to describe a reader magnet. It’s a gift that you’re giving to your readers. It’s like somebody is coming over to visit and you welcome them into your house with a plate of cookies. It’s a reward for taking a risk with you.
It can be scary to give someone your email address—even scarier than giving Amazon 99 cents. I trust Amazon. I’ve given Amazon thousands of dollars, but I don’t know you. You’re some new author. How do I know you’re not going to spam me?
So, we’re talking about how to make your reader magnet more magnetic. You need a good cover, and you need to make it exclusive to your website. I would say another thing that’s important is a good title.
Tammi: The title really matters. You don’t want to just slap on the first clunky title that you come up with. Be creative. Be punny. Do the best you can with the title.
Thomas: One really good hack for writing better titles is to write multiple titles and then pick the best ones. I have learned this strategy with this podcast. For example, the first title I wrote for this episode was, “Reader Magnets for Authors”. That was okay, but not great. Next, I tried, “How to Grow Your List with Reader Magnets.” Okay, that’s better. Then I came up with, “How to Get More Email Subscribers with Delicious Reader Magnets.” The title of something is really important, especially if it’s non-fiction.
If you want your reader magnet to be extra magnetic, the blurb or the short pitch is key. It also must be well-edited.
Tammi: Yes, absolutely. This is their first impression of you. You don’t necessarily have to get a developmental editor, but you’ll want some alpha or beta readers to make sure the story is solid. You’ll definitely need someone to line edit, copy edit and proofread your story.
Your story needs to be well-written and deliver a full story experience. I’m not a fan of sample chapters or cliffhangers. Make sure your story is as error-free as you can make it. Put your best foot forward, because you do not get a second chance to make a first impression.
Thomas: That’s right. Although, I would recommend that you get a developmental edit if you are currently unpublished. If this is your first writing, this is a great opportunity to get some solid feedback. It’s a lot cheaper to get developmental edits on a 5,000 or 10,000 word short story than on your 100 thousand word epic novel.
Most first-time authors make the same mistakes over and over again. Why pay an editor to find those mistakes over a hundred thousand words, when they could just do it with 5,000 words? Not only will you become a better author, but you now have a better reader magnet that you can give to your readers.
Okay. So now we have this amazing reader magnet. We’ve got the shiny cover. We’ve got a sparkling title that makes people curious. It’s well-edited. It’s got a good pitch or a good blurb. But now what do we do with it? You’ve got your PDF or EPUB file living on your computer, but it’s not doing you any good.
How Do I Get Readers to Sign Up for My Reader Magnet?
Thomas: Readers need a way to sign up for your reader magnet. Let’s talk about things you can do with your reader magnet. First, your website. Tammy, explain to our listeners how to put a reader magnet on your website.
Tammi: When somebody comes to your website, they should see an invitation to get your reader magnet. A call to action. Somewhere on the top portion of your home page that visitors will see right away. “Sign up here and get a free story set in my epic world of fantasy.”
Then, visitors enter their email addresses into a sign-up form. This form needs to be connected to a third-party service that will deliver your reader magnet to them and collect their email address. More on that in a minute.
Another way visitors might find your reader magnet is by clicking through to your website from the back of one of your ebooks. Or possibly from another site where you’re doing some sort of cross-promotion.
If someone finds your reader magnet from the back of your book or from another site, you’re not going to direct them to the front page of your website. In that case, you’re going to send them to a landing page that doesn’t have any other options except for them to sign up for your short story.
Regardless of where they sign up, the next step is to instruct them to check their email. What will they get in their email? I’ll tell you what they are NOT going to get: an email with a PDF attached. Don’t do that. Do not send them your book through email.
Back in the early days, circa 2011, we would make a book file available for people to download from our website. And then a frighteningly large percentage of those people would email us, wondering how to get the book onto their Kindle. And then we would waste a lot of time doing customer service and trying to help people load their book onto a device.
We now have better options. The first program that was able to deliver reader magnets to readers was Book Funnel. We now also have Story Origin and Prolific Works to help you deliver reader magnets. It’s important to have a third party deliver your reader magnet. When people get the email from you that says “Thanks for signing up. Here’s your cookie,” it will give them a link to a third-party website where they will download your story.
Personally, I use Book Funnel. It’s easy to use. Readers click on the link and it takes them to Book Funnel where they can see the book cover and a short blurb about the book. They can then choose which format they would like to download the book.
In a perfect world it automatically appears on their Kindle or Nook or whatever they’re using. However, when it doesn’t work, readers can click the “help” button on Book Funnel and get everything sorted out. No need for you to be the troubleshooter.
Thomas: That’s really key for fiction. No one wants to read a PDF of your short story on their laptop. It’s not a good experience. They’ll have a much better experience on the couch with their Kindle. Now for nonfiction, if it’s a printable checklist, then a word document or PDF is great.
I’ll often use Word to create worksheets that go along with a podcast episode. Even if somebody doesn’t have Microsoft Word, all the other word processors can open a Word document. The Convert Kit file delivery system works well in this case, but not if you need to deliver a .mobi file. Not everyone can open a .mobi file. Services like Book Funnel and Story Origin solve that problem.
A lot of rabid readers have already used Book Funnel or Story Origin. They know how to go through those steps to download a book. But if you just give them a .mobi file, they would struggle to load that onto their Kindle.
What is a Landing Page and What Should it Include?
Thomas: Let’s talk briefly about landing pages. A landing page is a page on your website (or created through your mail service) that has a single purpose. There is only one action you want people to take when they come to your landing page, and that is to sign up for a copy of your reader magnet.
The landing page doesn’t have to be complicated. Here’s what needs to be included:
- A large image of the book cover that has been professionally designed.
- A blurb or pitch, explaining what your story is about and why someone would want to read it.
- A signup form, where visitors enter their email address. This form can be linked to your mail service (like Mailerlite or Convert Kit). Your mail service will then send them a link to Book Funnel or Story Origin where they can download the book.
- You could also include some trust badges that help give you credibility as a writer.
How Do You Get People to Your Landing Page?
Thomas: Once you have your landing page set up, you need to go out into the world and direct people to your landing page.
One easy way to do this is in the back matter of your book. If you’ve done a great job with your book, readers will love an additional story with the same characters that maybe takes place after your original story ends. You’ll send them to “YourWebsite.com/MyStory,” which will then redirect them to the landing page.
Besides the back of the book, what are some other ways to get people to that landing page?
Tammi: Let me just stop and emphasize what you’ve said about how the back of your book will say “YourWebsite.com/MyStory.” I often see authors make the mistake of sending readers to a link that is NOT your website. Never, ever include a link in the back of your book to somewhere that is not your own website.
The danger in this is that when someone downloads your book onto their Kindle, even if they borrow it and return it in Kindle Unlimited, Amazon will “freeze” the version of the book that they read. If they download the book again, they will always get the same static copy.
At some point, if you decide to switch from Book Funnel to Story Origin, now all the books that had a link to Book Funnel will have a dead link. So, it’s important to always send readers directly to your website.
Even if you don’t want to build landing pages on your site itself, you can create a redirect from your web address to the third-party site. If the day comes that you’re no longer using that third party, you can at least change where the redirect points.
Thomas: Exactly. And not only that, but if you’re using the free Redirection Plugin, it will track how many people use that redirect link.
If you decide to switch from Book Funnel to Story Origin, you can just point the redirect to Story Origin and your readers won’t know the difference.
I also recommend this for social networks. Never send readers to Facebook.com/YourName. It’s better to create a redirect from your website. Send people to YourWebsite.com/facebook, which then redirects to your Facebook page. That if way Facebook ever cancels you, you can have that redirect go to a blog post that tells your side of the story.
Tammi: There are a few different ways to send people to your landing page.
The back of the book is always a huge preference because that means somebody finished your book and wants to read more from you. We love this kind of reader.
But you can also do a variety of types of networking with other authors that will get people to come to that landing page.
One idea is to do a newsletter swap with another author you know, or that you have networked with in some way.
What’s a Newsletter Swap?
Thomas: Let’s pause and explain what a newsletter swap is. It’s not giving a list of your email subscribers to another author. That is bad practice and it’s also illegal. So, Tammi, explain to our listeners what you mean by a newsletter swap.
Tammi: A newsletter swap is like having a guest on your podcast. For example, a newsletter swap is when somebody with their own newsletter list takes your reader magnet and offers it to their own list. They introduce you and your story to their audience. And then you do the same for them.
Thomas: Let’s say we do an exchange. For example, if you and I wanted to do a swap, you could send an email to your list and say, “Hey friends, this guy Thomas has a guide on how to sound good on podcasts. If anybody’s interested in getting booked on a podcast, you can click here to get the free guide.” And then the people who click the link will sign up and get added to my mailing list.
They are choosing on their own to sign up for my newsletter. Everybody likes to get free things. It’s a great idea to occasionally working with another author in this way, especially if they’re in a similar genre. But don’t overdo it. Don’t spam your readers with free stuff every week.
When you introduce your readers to another author in your same genre, you are solving their problem of what to read next. You can’t write enough books for your most voracious readers. Why not be the source they come to when they’re looking for their next read?
Tammi: And if you approach other authors who write to a similar audience as you, now you are sharing readers. Then, stores like Amazon that are driven by algorithms will see that a lot of people who bought books from “Author A,” also bought books from “Author B.” Your books might start showing up on the other author’s Amazon page as recommendations for their readers. And vice versa.
Thomas: I will warn you though… don’t team up with anyone that you don’t want on your book pages as “also boughts.”
Tammi: Good point. Make sure that you’re promoting with people that you want to share a readership with.
How to Promote Your Reader Magnet on a Podcast Interview
Thomas: Another great place to use that reader magnet is in your podcast interviews. Yes, you’re promoting your paid book, but at the end you can send readers to your landing page where they can download a free gift. This strategy works best for non-fiction, but it can work for fiction as well.
We actually have an example of that in today’s episode. Tammi, you have a reader magnet for this very podcast episode. Tell us about your free gift for the people listening.
Tammi: My free gift for our listeners (and readers) is cheat sheet called “Ten Tips for Writing Emails That People Want to Read.” When you go to this site, you have the option of signing up for my newsletter.
I am actually trying out something new where the signup for my newsletter is totally optional. I’ve been surprised by the large conversion numbers. People do want to sign up. This strategy works great for nonfiction. I suspect it would not work as well for fiction. This is a great way to increase the quality of subscribers on your mailing list.
Using Third-Party Book Promotion Sites to Get More Email Subscribers
For these promotions, a lot of the authors will include reader magnets from their websites as the book they are promoting. For an unpublished author, this is one of the fastest ways to go from zero subscribers to 500 subscribers in a short period of time.
Maybe you don’t have a book written yet, but you do have a short story to give away. And then when you do have a book with those same characters coming out a year from now, you’re not launching to a list of zero people. You’re launching to a list of super fans.
The kind of people who are on Book Sweeps, downloading all of the books in your genre, are looking for the next new thing. They’re the kind of people who are going to take a risk on a new author.
Tammi: Let me tell you a specific story. I have a client who came to me, who was starting a whole new pen name. She wanted to build an email list before her book came out. She decided to write a story about one of the characters in her book when the character was back in high school. Kind of like an origin story.
So, she wrote her story and submitted it as part of two different promotions on Book Funnel. The way these promotions work is that a group of authors each contribute a book, and all the book links are placed on one landing page. Each author then sends out the link to his or her own followers. The readers look at the covers and blurbs and decide which books they would like to read.
This is where having a professional book cover and blurb can make a big difference. When someone is deciding which of these ten or twenty books they want to read, they download the ones they like and end up on your mailing list.
My client ended up launching her first book with about 600 people on her list. That’s way better than crickets, right?
The more subscribers you can add to your mailing list before you release your first book, the better. When you start a new series, just bake your “cookie” into the process of writing that next series. You can have your lead magnet ready before the books are even published. It helps to get your readers excited about your next book series.
Thomas: I found that each one of these promotion websites that we’ve mentioned has its own community of readers. The more promotions you do on Book Funnel, the less return you will see on your investment. This is because a lot of the Book Funnel people who would be interested in your book have already joined your list.
And you will need to invest little bit of money to join Book Funnel or do a Book Sweeps promotion. But it’s totally worth it. It’s the cheapest way to add more email subscribers to your list.
Sites that do this include:
Again, each one of these organizations has its own community. Some are stronger in certain genres than others. But we’re talking like $50-$100 for a promo.
Tammi: I occasionally teach a course on advanced automation. One of the things we do in that course is to analyze how much money you have spent per list subscriber.
Let’s say you paid $100 for your Book Funnel subscription for the year. How many people did you add to your list last year? How many people did you retain past the six-month mark? I’m not only able to analyze my own data, but also the data of my clients. There’s really not a cheaper way to gain subscribers than using platforms like Story Origin, Books Sweeps, and Book Funnel. They’re cheaper than a BookBub promotion.
There seems to be a prejudice in the community against non-organic subscribers. But I have found that if you have onboarded people properly, the “non-organic” subscribers who are still around after six months do not behave any differently than subscribers who clicked a link in the back of one of your books.
The open rates are not demonstrably different. The click-through rates are similar. The people make it through the onboarding sequence and then are happy to stick around behave the same way as the gold-standard organic people. So, don’t be afraid to use these promotion sites to grow your mailing list. They are cheap, they are super effective and they work.
Books and Courses to Help Grow Your Email List
Thomas: If you are wanting to know what an organic subscriber or an onboarding sequence is, we are not going to tell you! Instead, I encourage you to go and buy Tammi’s book, Newsletter Ninja (Affiliate Link). Tammy has two excellent books, Newsletter Ninja, and Newsletter Ninja 2 (Affiliate Link).
I highly recommend Tammy’s book Newsletter Ninja. It’s really practical. I agree with 95% of the content, which is really high for a book on marketing. This book has the “Thomas Umstattd Stamp of Approval.” Reading books on marketing has a great return on investment.
If you’re wanting even more help beyond what the book has to offer, Tammi offers several courses. Tell us about your courses.
Tammi: I run my courses pretty infrequently, but I do maintain a waitlist. If you sign up for notifications, I can let you know when a course is available. I offer a very basic course that goes over a lot of the same material that’s already in Newsletter Ninja. Some people want and need more guided direction after reading the book. They want to know how to implement the material into their own personal brand.
I also have a course on Advanced Automations, which I also run infrequently, but that one’s super fun. I have a proprietary onboarding design that provides people with great results. This course is more for clients with big lists or big catalogs.
And then I just recently started a course called the “Cookie Challenge.” It’s still in the beginning stages. But basically, I took a cohort of people through a six-week program to write their reader magnets. So, they started with nothing and then finished with an edited, covered reader magnet.
Throughout the course, my clients discovered that the craft of short stories is a lot different than the craft of writing a novel. If you take one thing away from this episode, it’s this: If you want to use a short story for your reader magnet, you need to study the craft of short story writing.
You can find Tammi’s 10 Tps to Make Sure Your Emails Keep Subscribers Opening and Clicking Here.
How to Write a Short Story
Thomas: We have several episodes on short story writing.
Here are a few:
And if you want to find out more about Tammy’s courses and books, or to join those wait-lists, just go to www.NewsletterNinja.net.
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