Book 2, No Job for a Woman, came out less than two months ago, and I already launched another book. Hearts by the Sea is a prequel. It tells the story of Jamie, a twelve-year-old boy, who meets thirteen-year-old Ella on a seaside holiday. Before Ella loses her mother and runs away from home, she is a lonely child. She is also daring and wayward, looking for adventure and fun. For a moment, Jamie Flowers’ home seems like a perfect refuge from her troubles and a place to be carefree with his cheerful sisters and loving parents. But only for a moment.
Why did I write a novella (22k words) and give it out for free? I wanted to practice writing in Jamie’s voice in preparation for Book 3, Imprisoned. But mostly… it’s an investment.
I came up with the idea for this book in November, during Vegas 20 Book to 50K conference. Several presenters there spoke about creating a reader magnet (also called a lead magnet)—a free book that entices readers to subscribe to the author newsletter. That newsletter is the author’s most important marketing tool because it’s the tool we own. Readers follow me on Facebook and Instagram. Some get notifications from Amazon or BookBub about new releases. But I don’t own those platforms. The list of newsletter subscribers, however, is the list of my readers that I own and protect. And I want to treat these subscribers well.
Everyone loves free books. People who enjoyed A Girl with a Knife or No Job for a Woman are likely to download a free prequel. New readers who are not familiar with my books may want to check out a free novella before spending money on my series. Some authors give out the first chapters or deleted scenes. I don’t know if I’d read those. But I’d read a free novel or novella.
Thanks to technology, I built a welcome sequence. A reader types in their email address on my landing page, receive a confirmation email, and gets the Hearts by the Sea e-book. A couple of minutes later they get a “Welcome Aboard” email where I introduce myself. Two days later, in a second email, I ask if they downloaded the free book and tell them a bit about it. Five days later, in a third email, I tell them how I started writing. From this point, they get a monthly newsletter, where I share news, personal stories, and pictures. They can unsubscribe at any point. They can get my free book and unsubscribe immediately. That’s completely fine. I’m building my loyal crew. Only My People need to stay on my ship.
Three days after releasing my reader magnet, I gained twenty subscribers. Great result! But I will keep going. With my free book, I’m eligible to enter promotions to expose the book to new subscribers. I can also do author swaps—have another author provide a link to my book while providing a link to their free book. I met authors who grew their lists into thousands of subscribers, all thanks to their free books. It’s an investment that has great potential to pay off.
Marketing fiction books is not easy. It’s our job on top of writing, which is a job on top of a regular day job. You are shouting down the well—a well of other books. Building a list of fans who are excited about my next book is an investment in the success of my series. Enjoy Hearts by the Sea and welcome aboard!