A Great Big List of Sign-Up Incentive Ideas for Fiction and Nonfiction Authors

By Sue Campbell

If you’re anything like me, when it comes to your email inbox, it’s organized chaos. I have something like 52,000 unread emails as of eight thirty this morning. Most of what’s unread are social media notifications I couldn’t care less about. Some are from companies I’ve bought things from and just keep on ignoring until I finally unsubscribe. And some are from newsletters I’ve signed up for.

With that much digital noise, I don’t sign-up for just any old newsletter these days. I’m extremely selective. I want to know that I’m signing up for something I really value and will benefit me, either by educating me, or by entertaining me.

When I think which the newsletters I consistently open and enjoy, here’s what they have in common:

  • They are a perfect match for my interests — for me that’s stuff about writing and marketing, the stand-outs for me here are: Story Grid, Seth Godin, Steven Pressfield and Chuck Wendig.

  • They are funny or otherwise thought provoking — Chuck Wendig is hits here again too, for humor. Brian Pickings is not to be missed for thought provoking insights from all of the humanities. And I usually find lots of interesting things in Five Bullet Friday newsletter from Tim Ferriss.

  • They gave me something valuable right off the bat and have consistently kept at it. Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson fall into this category. Story Grid is here, too.

Taking a close look at what you value in a newsletter is one of the best ways to help you figure out what kind of sign-up you should offer to your subscribers and what your ongoing newsletter content should be. Offering a great piece of content right out the gate will immediately endear you to your audience and motivate them to keep on opening your emails.

Three fundamentals for choosing a sign-up incentive

  1. Be generous. Don’t just offer the first two chapters of your new book. That’s obviously about your own self interest and not your reader. Give them something complete and useful in and of itself and they’ll respect and thank you for it.

  2. Be empathetic. Really make this about the readers. Who are they? What do they need? What problem can you help them solve (even if the problem is only what to read on the train into work)?

  3. Be flexible. If your first sign-up incentive idea underwhelms, try, try again. Mix it up by choosing something completely different — if you’re first offering was a digital book, try a video course instead, for example.

Ideas for nonfiction writers

Really, if you’re writing on the same themes or topics again and again in nonfiction, it should be super easy for you to figure out a sign-up incentive that will have people clicking the “subscribe” button without giving it a second thought. You should have loads of knowledge and research material that you can repackage and share with your audience.

Here’s a big list to spark inspiration:

  • Free consultation

  • Cheat sheet

  • Template

  • Toolkit

  • Blueprint

  • Case study

  • Video course

  • Manifesto

  • Infographic

  • Service

  • Interviews

  • Webinar

  • Free book

  • Access to a monthly Q&A

  • Recorded speeches

  • Contest/giveaway

  • Group giveaway - bundle with other authors

  • Skype call with book group

  • Resource library access

  • Contest/giveaway

  • Group giveaway - bundle with other authors


Ideas for fiction writers

If your building an email list as a fiction writer, the best thing you can do is offer some free fiction so readers can get a taste of whether or not you’re their cup of tea. But there are lots of other options as well.

  • Free book/short story/novella

  • Deleted scenes

  • Manifesto

  • Access to a monthly Q&A

  • Infographic

  • Wall paper design based on your fiction

  • Recommended reading

  • Recipe book

  • Spotify playlist

  • Access to private Facebook group

  • Exclusive artwork

  • Exclusive interview

  • Discount on book bought through your website

  • Audio version of your book, short story or novella

  • Bundled book offers

  • Behind the scenes looks at character, writing process, etc.

  • Recorded speeches

  • Contest/giveaway

  • Group giveaway - bundle with other authors

  • Skype call with book group

If you still don’t have a sign-up bonus, or your old one has gone stale, choose something from this list and get to work. Pouring your heart into something wonderful to give your readers will go a long way to building long term relationships — and that’s what good marketing is all about.

If you’d like a handly printable PDF version of the big list for both fiction and nonfiction writers, just sign up for our mailing list! (You knew THAT was coming.) You’ll also get a free 45-minute consultation for either book marketing or developmental editing. Or both. We’ll totally let you do both.


Sue Campbell