SFFMP 133: Serials, Reader Magnets, and When to Jump to Full Time

We switched things up this week and had a guest come on and interview us. Lindsay, Jeff, and Jo did their best to answer questions on marketing and publishing from science fiction author (and contest winner) Lon Varnadore.

Here are some of the questions he asked us:

  • Is permafree still viable? What about the 99-cent model?
  • Are there any sub-genres where indies aren’t well-represented?
  • Are authors still publishing serials and how well are they working now?
  • When does it make sense to make the jump to being a full-time author?
  • Are you guys using “reader magnets” to get people onto your lists, and how effective is this?
  • Kindle Unlimited or wide?
  • Has your marketing advice changed from when you started this podcast in September 2014 to now?
  • And the most important: if you could switch place with one of your characters, which would it be?

You can visit Lon on his website and also grab his first novel, Mostly Human, for free on Amazon and in other spots.


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  • On the topic of reader magnets. . .

    It took me two weeks to write a short story prequel, get it professionally edited, format it, and slap a nice cover on it (cost me $50 total because my editor is a saint). Using that prequel as a free giveaway in exchange for email signups, I’ve grown my email list by 1,300 subscribers in the past 6 months (1,600 total). It was absolutely the best marketing investment I’ve made.

    I used a combination of FB lead gen ads, leveraging traffic from events/promotion/etc. to push people to a landing page for signups, and a sponsored YouTube video. Sponsoring the YouTube video has been the most successful paid promotion so far. In the first 24 hours, the video received roughly 50,000 views, and I received over 200 subscribers (the vast majority being in the US). It gets consistent traffic, and every day I get an average of between 2-3 subscribers from it. I expect that to continue for at least the next year or so. It’s netted me close to 600 subscribers. It cost $1,000, but in a year, it should have netted an additional 600 or more subscribers, putting the cost at below 1 dollar per subscriber.

    And if the video would have gone viral. . . huge upward potential. Every 250 views, I get a subscriber. So, if you sponsor a video that’s reliably going to get 1million targeted views. . . yeah. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

    • Interesting with the sponsored Youtube video. Would you please share the link? I would be curious to see what you did. A book trailer of the prequel maybe?

      • Here you go (link below)! Yesterday I got 9 subscribers from the video, and a couple purchases of both the physical and e-book version of my debut. And it’s been 2 and a half months since the video was released.


        I write religious fantasy (specifically fantasy based on biblical text), and the video is poking fun at Christian subculture–the viewers are primarily Christian, or grew up in an evangelical household. That’s an important point, because the targeting determines the effectiveness. If it were a sports video, even if it got double the views, likely the impact would be less.

    • SFFpodcast

      That’s awesome, Brennan. Thanks for sharing your experiences!

  • Another important part. . . it’s much easier to get big-name authors to write endorsements for a 27 page prequel than a 300 page novel. I got a New York Times bestseller to write an endorsement for my prequel, Adam, and it dramatically increased the profitability of using it as a giveaway in conjunction with paid advertising to grow the list. Just something to think about!