Monday, February 7, 2022

What is a Lead Magnet, and How Does a Writer Start One?

by Kristen Hogrefe Parnell @KHogrefeParnell

One side of our refrigerator is covered with magnets, and most are still holding Christmas photo cards. The magnets reflect places we’ve visited and memories made, while the photos remind us to connect with and pray for our family and

In a sense, a lead magnet is similar. It’s a way for readers to connect with you. It’s something you offer for free on your website, and in exchange, readers agree to receive your newsletter. Of course, they can unsubscribe any time, but if you offer a valuable lead magnet and a consistently engaging newsletter, the odds are that they will stick around.

For nonfiction writers, their lead magnets offer value connected with their books or services. For example, nonfiction lead magnets might include “Top 50 Recipes to Ease Off Sugar” or “Proven Biblical Strategies to Combat Discouragement.” For fiction writers, their lead magnets usually include a free novella or story to give readers a sample of what their books are like. Either way, the lead magnet should be substantial and valuable enough to benefit readers. 

What if I’m not published yet? Do I need a lead magnet? 

My current lead magnet on my website is a free prequel to my young adult dystopian series. However, with my next release being a romantic suspense novel (coming December), I need to offer a new lead magnet that will better engage readers in that genre. 

Makes sense, right? But what if you’re still waiting to secure an agent or to receive a book contract? If so, you might be wondering where to start or if now is even the time for you to work on a lead magnet.

The answer is yes. Professional marketer Thomas Umstattd Jr. wrote that “The size of your email list is the biggest driver in hitting a bestseller list.” That’s why using a lead magnet to start reaching your target audience now—and growing your newsletter following—before your book publishes is essential. Remember that we want to build connections, not just bombard readers with a “buy my book” plea. 

How do I get started with a lead magnet? 

First things first. We need a strong concept. To brainstorm a lead magnet, consider these ideas: 
  • What genre is your current work-in-progress or the project you’re pitching? 
  • For fiction writers, you could offer a prequel to that story, a Christmas novella related to it, a story that follows a minor character, or an origin story. 
  • For nonfiction writers, what need are you trying to meet? Help solve a problem that your target audience has with information they will find valuable.
  • Run your ideas by your audience. You could create a poll on social media or get feedback from your writing critique group. 
In my case, I wrote my new “suspense short” last fall and am currently having my Word Weavers critique group review it. Over the next few months, I’ll share with you my process for designing a cover for my new lead magnet, formatting the story, and making it available. 

Do you have a lead magnet? If not, what benefit could you offer your readers through one? 


Kristen Hogrefe Parnell writes suspenseful fiction from a faith perspective for teens and adults. Her own suspense story involved waiting on God into her thirties to meet her husband, and she desires to keep embracing God’s plan for her life when it’s not what she expects. She also teaches English online and is an inspirational speaker for schools, churches, and podcasts. Her young adult dystopian novels, The Revisionary and The Reactionary, both won the Selah for speculative fiction, and her first romantic suspense novel with Mountain Brook Ink releases December 2022. Kristen and her husband live in Florida and enjoy sharing their lake home with family and friends. Connect with her at

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