Reader Magnet Prep Work

A reader magnet is also known as a cookie to bribe, I mean, encourage readers to sign up for your newsletter.

During the past couple of days I’ve been plotting the novel that is going to be my reader magnet for my newsletter. A reader magnet, or a “cookie” as some refer to it like Tammi Labrecque and David Gaughran, (though I think David borrowed it from her as they’re friends) is something free to entice readers to sign up for your newsletter. Authors give away a whole gamut of things from little short stories to full-length novels. Something Zoe York said in an interview on a podcast I listened to a long time ago (I forgot which one, I’m sorry) said that as an author who writes novels, giving away a story that is less than novel-length doesn’t make sense, and I took that advice to heart. It would be more time/cost effective to write a novella, since I could probably write 20k in just a few days, but I don’t write novellas, nor do I sell them, so skimping on my reader magnet doesn’t make much sense.

But, as I write my novel, I’m going to have a hard time parting with it. As an author, I give away books all the time. I do a Freebooksy now and then, and if someone approaches me and says they can’t afford to buy a book, I’ll send the PDF at no charge. That doesn’t happen very often, and I only had one taker when I offered up Wherever He Goes in an exchange for a possible review. Writing a reader magnet for the sole purpose of attaching it to a newsletter sign up will be a different mindset altogether, though I know it needs to be done. Giving a book away in a newsletter is almost the standard these days, and you’re missing out on a newsletter-building opportunity if that’s something you’re not doing.

It’s frustrating, in a way, that indie authors have trained readers to give away their email addresses for a free book, and you sometimes will get only freebie-seekers when you do that. Curating a list of readers who are interested in your work and sign up to stay on top of what you’re doing can be time-consuming and one of the (many) reasons I haven’t bothered with a newsletter yet.

That’s why I decided to write a full-length novel and write it to be the best book it can be. I want readers to have a taste of what they’ll get when they read my future work.

The plotting is almost done, though I am missing a couple of the big things I need to make the book move. I always have something huge in the middle of the book to prevent saggy middle, and always the BIG BAD that breaks them up (momentarily) toward the end. I have their backstories ironed out for the most part and I had to do a lot of name research to name the male MC because I have a habit of reusing names.

I also had to figure out where the novel was going to take place–all my books, even the ones I wrote in 3rd person past, are set in Minnesota, usually a fake city so I don’t have to worry about details. I make the city how I want it, and no one can complain. A good setting can actually become a protagonist/antagonist in its own right. A long series that comes to mind is Susan Mallery’s Fool’s Gold, a fictional town in California with a mayor who appears to be able to do a little magic through some not-quite-believable coincidences. I chose a fictitious resort on a lake in Minnesota, and I’m using the Arrowwood Resort Hotel and Conference Center as my muse. It’s not that far from me, in true, physical distance, but I’ve never been there. Here’s a picture from http://www.planetware.com from the Arrowwood website:

This resort will have everything the characters need to occupy themselves, and hopefully get into a little trouble, too. With a spa, pool, waterpark, marina, and much more, there’s no lack of things my characters can do. Because we’re talking about a billionaire family, they’ll own the resort, naturally.

I’ve been doing the preliminary work for this book–but doing so taking some advice from Suzy K. Quinn and Elana Johnson. I’ve worked out the potential cover, the tropes, the tagline, and the subgenre. Keeping in line with the “Package is the Promise” idea, this is the working cover for I suppose what will appear on Bookfunnel (though I haven’t gotten that far in the research stages yet).

The plot is about what you would expect–he’s best friends with her brother and when she was in her teens, he made fun of her for her looks. She never forgot it, and now when they meet up ten years later, he’s a bit surprised at just how far she’s come. This is a fine line to walk because he has to love her for who she is or he’ll get skewered in the reviews for being shallow. That means I have to make sure they spend a lot of time together so he can get to know the type of person she is. They don’t work together. I had to think of away he wouldn’t know she changed. So she doesn’t work for the family company–she set out on her own to make a reputation for herself on her own merits. He’ll come to eventually respect her for that, but at the beginning of the book he hates she’s not working for the family. There are a lot of layers and I’m really excited to start writing this book.

Still not 100% sure if I’ll use my initials for my pen name. I’ve been told to use my real name and brand the books differently from my 3rd person stuff, and I’ve been told to find something romantic that is in line with the authors who write billionaire romance. Chances are pretty good that the readers who like my billionaire stuff won’t move over to my 3rd person books, and that’s okay–that the whole point of the pivot. I don’t want to distance myself too far from the real me, otherwise I’ll have a difficult time being authentic in my newsletter and other social media platforms. I don’t want to hide behind a pen name, but I want to make it clear these books are different. We’ll see what happens.

Writing a cookie and starting up a newsletter is an exciting (and long-coming) thing for me. I’m excited to see where it takes me.

Thanks for reading!


When Writing to Market Doesn’t Go as Planned

Anyone who has followed the blog knows I’m switching gears and moving from 3rd person past contemporary romance to 1st person present billionaire romance in an attempt to write more toward what’s selling right now. The change was easier than I thought it would be–this coming from a self-declared hater of 1st person present novels.

I made the change thinking readers would be easier to find. I wouldn’t say that switching to billionaire romance was trying to catch a trend because billionaire romance has been around since 2011 when EL James made Christian Grey a household name. Billionaire romance has been in the spotlight for over a decade, and only now according to Alex Newton of K-lytics, is reader demand for the subgenre tapering off. (It seems due to COVID every romance writer has decided to move to billionaire romance–I can’t blame them for doing what I did–and the market is, unfortunately, saturated.)

Lately I’ve been putting my KU subscription to good use and reading some of the top billionaire romances on Kindle. With a sinking heart I’ve come to the sad realization that my books don’t sound like them. For one, my characters are at least a decade older. My Stella and Zane series I have on the back burner are more with what’s selling now–he’s 31 through most of the series and she’s 27–which is still about five years older than the average for the female MC. In this new series I’m working on, the characters in the first book are a lot older than the average I’ve come across: Colt is 37 and Elayna is 35. Not only are they older, they act like it.

If you’re reading billionaire romance, it stands to reason there’s going to be a billionaire in there somewhere, probably the male MC, and you’d hope he’s smarter than the average toaster. The heroine will be unlike any woman’s he’s ever met before. He’s captivated by her vulnerability and her fresh outlook of the world. At least, that’s what you would think picking up a book like that. In the books I’m reading now–we barely read the hero’s POV, it’s mostly the heroine, and she’s immature, makes terrible choices, and overall is unlikeable.

I read these female characters and wonder why a man with his resources and good looks would choose a woman who throws temper tantrums and is irrational to the point where you wish her parents would have spanked her as a child for being so insolent. Of course, that turns into the hero’s job–making her grow the fuck up.

Maybe it’s my age, maybe I just don’t have the patience for characters that aren’t likable, maybe I’ve already raised my children and don’t care for characters half my age, but it makes me worried because my characters do not fit in. And I wonder what I’m going to do with that.

Did these authors do market research? Are they writing heroines they know readers adore? I look at a book’s profile on Goodreads and it has over a thousand reviews and most of them are positive. What is carrying this book? The sex scenes? The sexy billionaire? The cover? Are the readers that much younger than me they identify with the heroine and her constantly snarky attitude? There’s so much eye-rolling going on that my own eyes get sore just reading it.

The problem is, even if I had read these books before I started writing, I’m not sure I’m capable of writing such immature characters. My characters act grown up because I want them to be. Because I am. They’re professionals. They’re tackling life’s problems while also navigating falling in love. Yeah, some of their problems are more over the top than mine will ever be (corporate espionage! murder! kidnapping!) but if I wanted to write quiet stories I would have stuck to my small town romances.

I keep going back to Ana and Christian. Yes, she was young when they met–just graduated from college, and the scene where she gets drunk and throws up all over Christian’s shoes is on par with the books I’m reading now. But she grew up and it didn’t take her that long, either. She found a job in her field. When Christian took her into “his world” she didn’t embarrass him. Of course, I didn’t read the books–my take is from the movies, and that could make the world of difference, too. I read the Crossfire Series by Sylvia Day, and while Eva made some mistakes, her mother, married to a multi-millioniare herself, was there to guide her into Gideon’s world. Eva didn’t want to embarrass Gideon, she wanted to be an asset. The women I’ve been reading are so against wanting their men for their money (a popular trope in billionaire romance–the heroine isn’t impressed by the money) that they forget he’s more than his bank account. He has a reputation to uphold. He’s human–with feelings.

Trying to write to market, I completely missed the mark. A lot of authors are against writing to market, and you might be saying, so what if I did miss what I was aiming for? You can only truly say that if you honestly don’t care if people read your books. I’ve published for four years and fought tooth and nail for every reader. I’ll always fight to find new readers, but being able to get picked up by the Amazon wave and riding it for a while would be nice, too.

So what am I going to do with a book or series that isn’t quite right? Publish it anyway. Write my reader magnet with the same sophisticated characters that I’ll always write in the voice and style I’ve honed for the past four years and hope the readers who sign up for my newsletter to grab that freebie like my style and stick around to purchase books going forward.

It’s all any author can do–hope that readers like their style enough to stick around.


It’s tough to pick apart another author’s work–and it’s why I don’t leave book reviews, negative or otherwise. I could list every stupid thing I hate about the book I’m reading now, but what would that get me? Besides, I’m obviously an outlier, and all that tells me, and all that should tell you, is that when you’re reading an author you don’t like, you aren’t their target audience. The authors on the top 50 of billionaire romance–they don’t care I don’t like their books. They’re doing just fine without me.

I’m glad I’m doing market research–it will help me when I’m ready to publish and I can create a list of adjectives that will describe my books. Mature. Elegant. Professional. Down to earth. Intelligent. I don’t know about you, but I find intelligence extremely sexy.

I just need to find readers who think that, too.


If you want to know more about selling books not written to market, Lindsay, Jo, and Andrea recently recorded two podcast episodes about that very thing, and you can listen to them here.

Thanks for reading!