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Unraveling the Mystery: Understanding the Difference between Lead Magnets and Reader Magnets

Updated: Feb 4, 2023


Hey there fellow sci-fi and fantasy authors,

Are you a book marketer or an author looking to promote your latest release? Then, it's crucial to understand the lingo that gets thrown around in the industry. Two terms that often get confused are "lead magnets" and "reader magnets." In this post, I'm breaking down the differences between these two terms and why it's vital to know the distinction.


There's a lot of confusion between lead magnets and reader magnets in the independent publishing industry. A lead magnet is a free story you give to people who don't know you and have never read your books before. Reader magnets are free stories you give to existing readers to keep them interested in your story world.

If you would prefer to watch Josh talk about this topic, rather than read about it, you can click here for the video version.


Bottom line up front... Lead magnets and reader magnets can often be confused with each other in the independent publishing industry, but it's important to understand the difference in order to effectively market one's books. Lead magnets are incentives offered to potential readers to capture their information, while reader magnets are specifically tailored to keep existing readers.

Two different groups of marketers

Okay, so let's get right into it.

When I first started this journey on how to create the best science fiction fantasy reader magnet for my audience, I went down a rabbit hole of information.

I learned about lead magnets, book funnels, click funnels, squeeze pages, hug pages, cookies, and many other terms. However, I didn't realize that much of the information was not geared toward independent book publishing.

The terminology means different things to different people. I want you to avoid the same confusion I had.

First, let's talk about these two main groups.

On one hand, you have traditional business and marketing.

This is where most of these terms originally came from, such as lead magnets, click funnels, book funnels, and reader magnets. In this post, we're lumping a lot of industries into the business and marketing group, (which means everyone who's not an independent publisher of commercial fiction). By and large, this group is selling products or services that are usually more expensive than a book.

For example, a cleaning service might sell their service for $50 a week, while an author might sell their book for $5.

On the other hand, independent book publishers (that's us) are a more niched-down industry of self-published authors.

This group uses similar terminology, such as lead magnets and reader magnets, and bookfunnel but uses them in a much more nuanced manner. For example, instead of an "upsell," a business-savvy author will have a backlist of several books, not just one book, since it's unlikely they'll make a lot of revenue with a single product. Generally speaking our main products (ebooks) are between $.099 and $5. Even our "premium products" (paperback, hardback, and audiobooks) only cost between $12 to $30, tops.

The point is, we (self-published authors) have a very specific way we can sell our products which is wildly different than that of other businesses.

If you are a commercial fiction writer, you should look for more posts like this, which talk about lead magnets, reader magnets, and bookfunnel, but are geared toward independent publishing. Avoid posts that are aimed at general business practices.

Cold Leads (AKA Nonreaders)

In the business world, a nonreader is called a cold lead.

The goal of a business is to turn a cold lead into a warm lead (aka a reader).

As an author, you are basically a sole proprietor of a business. It is your goal, to transform nonreaders into readers.


All of us have been the cold lead at some point in our lives, usually when we're kids and we're at the grocery store. You remember walking through the bakery and seeing the little sign above the cookie box that says "Take one."

Bakeries for years have been using this strategy of giving something for free so that their customer will buy more of their products. The key is, the freebie needs to be something that they want; something that will provide value to them (whether it's nutritional, educational, or entertaining).

Even though the kid who eats the cookie probably won't buy their products. Their parent (who you just helped) will likely buy more of your products.

The same strategy is used with reader magnets.

As an author, you're doing the same thing, but you're using books as the freebie.

Lead Magnet Vs Reader Magnet

Lead Magnet

A lead magnet is a free story you give to people who don't know you and have never read your books before. These are usually in the form of a prequel and generally range between 10,000 to 20,000 words.

Reader Magnet

Reader magnets are free stories you give to existing readers to keep them interested in your story world. Usually, these are short stories/chapters/deleted scenes that range between 1,000 to 5,000 words. However, they can be much longer depending on their purpose.

NOTE: Some stories can serve as both a lead magnet and a reader magnet.


Lead Magnet

The Hidden Power, the first book in my prequel series, serves as a lead magnet for all "cold leads."

Click on the image to see an example of my science fiction /fantasy lead magnet on Amazon

Reader Magnet

Those that read through the first book can sign up for the second book in my prequel series, The Secret Power, which acts as a reader magnet for those "warm leads."

Click on the image to see an example of my science fiction /fantasy reader magnet on Bookfunnel

Follow-on Actions

While this post is mainly to cover the differences between a lead magnet and a reader magnet, the next question is, what do you do next? If you're debating whether or not your should write your lead/reader magnet first, or finish your main story, check out my post on that here. If you've already written your lead/reader magnet and want to know how to put it on bookfunnel so you can start building your newsletter, check out that post here.

If you've already accomplished all of those things, I've written a few more general actions to take after that (below). We'll go into more detail in later posts.

Collect Leads

Once you've written your lead/reader magnet, you'll want to share it, so you can get sign-ups. You can post the link to your story on various social media, such as your Instagram profile, Facebook groups (especially for free books), and your Linktree account. Additionally, you can post it on your website and share it with prospective readers. Heck, you can even print out QR codes that people can scan with their phones.

Example Facebook Post

Example of Linktree In IG Profile

Example of Linktree

Run Swaps and Promotions

You can also run book swaps or join book promotions.

Both involve you coordinating with other authors, ideally in your chosen genre/niche. A swap is between an individual author, where you and that person agree to promote each other’s book on your newsletter/social media. Promotions, on the other hand, are where you and other authors in your genre pull your books together on a landing page, then direct traffic to it. These are super simple and very helpful for beginning authors.

Example of a free book promo

Build Newsletter

As people sign up for your reader magnet, Bookfunnel will collect their email addresses. You then use a newsletter provider (such as Mailerlite) to email them an onboarding sequence. After that, you message the readers as frequently or infrequently as you desire. Once a month is probably the minimum recommendation. And twice a week is probably the maximum.

Advanced Strategies

Once you have published your main book, there are some advanced strategies you can implement to keep your readers engaged. One such strategy is to include a reader magnet at the end of your book or series. This can be a short story, cut scene, deleted scene, or any other type of material that will keep your readers interested and coming back for more. Additionally, this will help you track how fast readers are reading your books and how often you should be creating new materials.

Example of a short reader magnet


In this post, we discussed the confusion between lead magnets and reader magnets in the independent publishing industry. Lead magnets are free stories you give to people who don't know you and have never read your books before. Whereas reader magnets are free stories you give to existing readers to keep them interested in your story world. We also touched on some follow-up actions once you have a lead/reader magnet.

Overall, the goal is to build a fanbase and keep readers interested in your work.


In conclusion, it's vital for science fiction/fantasy authors to understand the differences between lead magnets and reader magnets, if they plan on building a newsletter for their self-publishing business. Make sure that you're only reading posts or watching videoes that pertain to the self-publishing industry and not general business marketing.

Action Items

To recap, here are some actionable steps for building your newsletter (in chronological order):

  1. Write your lead magnet/reader magnet.

  2. Use the short link provided by BookFunnel to share your landing page on social media and other platforms.

  3. Once your main book is published, include a reader magnet at the end of the book to keep readers engaged and track their reading progress.

  4. Continue to build and engage your mailing list through an onboarding sequence and newsletter.

  5. Experiment with different strategies and track the success rate of each one to find what works best for your audience.

Additional Materials

You can watch the video version of this here.

Download Josh’s list of reader magnet ideas here

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If so, this is the list for you! Inside you'll find over ten reader magnet ideas that any fiction can use to build your audience. These can be used by experienced authors or beginning writers, no matter the experience level. Each example has the best use cases, ideal word count, and recommended sequencing. Download your copy today and start building an authentic relationship with your readers.

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About the author

Josh is a military veteran, public speaker, and father of three. Josh has published multiple science fiction, fantasy, and nonfiction books. When not writing, Josh plays video games like Mass Effect, God of War, and Mortal Kombat. Growing up as a comic book geek in the 80s, Josh has an affinity for superhero stories. He's also a huge fan of classic Star Wars and owns multiple lightsabers. His other hobbies include powerlifting, roller skating, and beach bumming.

Feel free to follow Josh on social media, to get updates on all of his latest projects here:


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