Why You Might Want to Publish Your Reader Magnet

I’ve spoken already about why you might want to give your work away here: https://cathleentownsend.com/2018/11/13/free-books-why-you-might-want-to-give-your-work-away/, but there’s another time that even writers who’d prefer to only sell their work end up offering it for free. Reader magnets.


These go by a variety of names, so I’ll give a definition: A reader magnet is the freebie you offer to entice readers into joining your email list. Most people are on board with this concept because it’s seen as a win-win: the reader gets a free book, and the writer has permission to send them emails.

Quite often it’s considered a plus if the book is only available to your email list. This is supposed to make feel readers feel like they’re getting something special in exchange for giving up their email address.

However, I’ve noticed something in the past year–random reader complaints about reader magnets. Comments to the effect of, “I never bother opening the freebie because it’s always something they just threw together.”

And it’s easy to see how that could happen. This is a book you’re not going to make any money from, so you whip up a quick cover on Photoshop or Canva. You toss in a few short stories you’ve got hanging around and call it good. It can be improved upon later, but at least for now, you’ve got something in place.

Only later never comes. Good intentions are so easily buried beneath trying to keep up with all the moving parts that make up self-publishing.

So, I’m trying something completely different.

Stolen-Legacy-low res coverI already wrote my reader magnet, Stolen Legacy, up to publishing standards when I started handing it out to my email list a year ago. But then I realized that I don’t get to say that to any doubting Thomases ahead of time. So, I decided to publish Stolen Legacy through all the major channels, although not for free, since that would eliminate its usefulness in gathering email subscribers. This way it can also gather reviews, and there’ll be something for people to check. And when I get a respectable number of them, I can mention that on my book page as well. I’ve noticed some BookBub ads do this.

And as an aside, while we’re speaking of reviews, if anyone out there has read Stolen Legacy and liked it, please consider adding your thoughts. Right now I’ve got a grand total of two reviews, and they could really use some friends. πŸ™‚

(Review links can be found here: https://cathleentownsend.com/2017/10/09/stolen-legacy/.)

For all the other writers out there, what do you do? Is your reader magnet published, or did you go the “exclusive to email list only” route?

Avid writer and reader of Faerie tales and noblebright fantasy.

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10 comments on “Why You Might Want to Publish Your Reader Magnet
  1. I think it was wise to publish it, Cathleen. I just made myself a note to review after the grandson goes home! πŸ™‚

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks so much, Diana. All reviews are precious, and it’s really nice to get the confirmation on the pubbing decision. Reading those comments was like a light bulb moment–we can take advice from others who’ve done this before, but everyone’s success in SPing is somewhat a snapshot in time. Just this past year, Facebook went through a major upheaval, Twitter started cracking down on its TOS, GDPR affected blogs and newsletters, and it seems like Amazon is always changing things.

      We always have to be ready to adapt. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  2. As you know, I loved this story. Good memories!

    BTW, somehow I fell off your blog list so I’ve re-added myself. I can’t believe how many posts I missed!

    Liked by 2 people

  3. “Reader magnets” — these are the kinds of terms about which I depend on my fellow author-bloggers to educate me! Thanks, Cathleen! (I appreciated your use of the phrase “doubting Thomas,” too! My wife uses it all the time at work only to be met with perplexed grimaces in response. Like Indiana Jones explaining the Ark of the Covenant to those stupid military guys, she’s often forced to say, “Didn’t any of you ever go to Sunday school…?”)


    • The publishing world is so complex, and so much in motion, that we’ve got to stick together to keep each other on top of things.

      And my husband’s name is Tom, so doubting Thomas is a phrase that comes up from time to time around our house. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this post, Cathleen!
    I know it’s been a long while since we’ve interacted. For that, I apologize.
    Although I don’t actively try to grow a mailing list, I do have at least a couple of people who have opted in to get updates when I sporadically add a new post on my site. I’ve not had enough of my works published to be able to offer much, so will have to put this info into the “for future use” category.
    I have, however, just had my very first novel published! (YAY!)
    In a release party thrown on FaceBook, I had to come up with prizes to give out using contests. I decided to make an “unavailable elsewhere” book and put all the short stories I’ve had published in anthologies together and add a few “bonus” pieces of stories that haven’t been published… yet. I titled it “Collected Bits” and actually made my own cover for it. Unfortunately, I haven’t heard back from those who claimed it.
    Also, I understand your statement about the lack of reviews. My book, Hell’s Beginning, also has but 2- a four star and a five star. I’m hoping for more eventually…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Sorry, John–I just saw your comment! Congrats on your publication!

    Your collection, Collected Bits, would be a great choice for a reader magnet. You could put an offer on your site, with a link to your email provider (MailChimp and Mailerlite are both free until you hit four digits worth of subscribers), and let it start to collect names. It won’t do it very fast, but with each release you’ll get more.

    The best way I’ve found to get reviews are goodreads Reading Rounds. They’re totally free, and I’ve got a post on them here: https://cathleentownsend.com/2017/11/22/goodreads-reading-rounds/.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. John says:

    I’m currently preparing to self-publish my first book. I don’t want to offer it totally free to everyone (I want some sales)!
    I feel like the idea of publishing the book and also offering a free copy to those who sign up on an e-mail list could be a great compromise. Thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

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