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How to Use Your Book's Bonus Content to Grow Your Community

FEATURED IMAGE New York Book Editors 02 14 22 How to Use Your Books Bonus Content to Grow Your Community

These days, readers want more. More content. More connection. More behind-the-scenes information. More value.

Bonus content is one way to deliver on the above!

Simply put, it’s a great strategy. Writing a book is a great start but to develop a loyal reader base, you need to provide something extra.

If you’re catering to a non-fiction reader base, your bonus can help them gain a better understanding of the subject or put the principles from your book into action.

If you’re producing bonus content for a fiction reader base, your bonus can help them dive deeper into your world and may even hold them over until your next title releases.

Plus, bonus content allows you to build up your email list to stay in touch with readers.

Let’s discuss what bonus content is and how to use it effectively to grow your reader community.

What is Bonus Content?

Bonus content is any additional information that may be relevant for your reader. It’s usually packaged as a digital freebie and accessed through downloading a printable, watching a video, or listening to an audio file.

We usually see bonus content in connection with non-fiction titles.

Non-fiction books often include bonus content as a way of engaging the reader even further. For example, a self-help book may offer homework or interviews as bonus content. The author may reference these free resources within the book and encourage the reader to seek them out.

But bonus content can be used for works of fiction, too. Swap out homework for short stories, and you have an idea of the type of bonus content you can create for fiction.

Fiction writers are just beginning to take advantage of the list-building power of bonus content. And by list-building, I’m referring specifically to growing one’s email list. An email list is a powerful marketing tool because it allows you to stay connected with your readers so that you can notify them when your next book is on the way.

Every book author can take advantage of the list-building power of bonus content. Here’s what we mean:

What is the Benefit of Using Bonus Content?

We’ve already teased a few of the benefits above, but let’s discuss in detail why you should take time out of your busy schedule to create additional content for your readers.

Grow Your Email List

Have you ever heard the phrase, “The money's in the list”?

In short, this means that your ability to make money comes from your ability to create an email list of engaged fans. When people sign up for your email list, they're also agreeing to receive marketing emails from you.

That's not to say that you should flood their inbox with non-stop sales pitches for your books. But it does mean that you have their permission to promote your upcoming book with them so that you can get more sales and higher visibility for your book when it's released. (If you can get a lot of reviews immediately after launch, your book will get more views and have the possibility of making more sales.)

Having an email list also means that you can stay at the top of your reader's minds in between book releases. This way, you will build a community of fans who truly care about you.

Increase the Value of Your Book

Even a one-page list of questions to accompany your book can provide a huge amount of value for your readers. This gives them an additional way to engage with your content, making it that much more valuable for your readers.

Give Back to Your Investors

Some self-published authors rely on crowdfunding as a way to financially support themselves while writing. Crowdfunding your book can be a great idea, but it's not one-sided. In addition to creating your work of art, you're also expected to give something extra special to your supporters. This extra special gift can be bonus content that you've created exclusively for your supporters.

Learn more about how to crowdfund your novel here.

Drive Traffic to Your Website

Your bonus content will most likely be hosted on your website. In your book, you can create a link back to your website. On that link, share a list of resources that your readers may love. This can include bonus content from multiple books in your library, not just one. This introduces new readers to the rest of your catalog.

Gain Exposure for Your Book

Use bonus content to market your book. While you could limit bonus content to a private website link, you can also make it public. This way, people may stumble upon your bonus content and learn more about your book. An example of this is to create a video, such as an interview, and share it publicly on YouTube. Prospective readers may come across your video and then decide to read your book.

What Type of Bonus Content Should You Create?

Create Bonus Content for Your Book

We’ve discussed the benefits of bonus content. Now let’s get into the fun stuff. What type of content can you create for your readers? The ideas are endless, but we’re highlighting the most popular bonus content ideas below to get your gears turning.

Bonus Chapters

In the course of writing a book, you’ll no doubt have to scrap beloved characters or even entire chapters from your novel. But don’t deprive the world of your brilliance. Turn it into bonus content. As long as the chapter still fits into the flow of your novel (i.e. it doesn’t kill off a character that remains alive in the book), you can give it away as a bonus.

Additionally, you can use a bonus chapter, particularly your first one to three chapters, as free giveaways for those who sign up for your email list.

Character Background

Do you know a ton about your characters but don’t want to weigh down your narrative? Turn it into bonus content! Use this information to feature additional background information on your main characters. It may not be necessary, but a psychological profile of your protagonist or antagonist can show your readers that you’ve done the work to flesh out your characters. And it can give them insight into why the character acts the way they do.

Discussion Questions

Help a book club out by providing a specific list of questions as part of your bonus content. This can prompt discussion and encourage readers to dive more deeply into your book. As the author, you have a unique and informed perspective of the characters in your novel. You can pose questions that the book club leader may not have thought to ask otherwise. This is a great way to make readers look more closely at your story and its characters.

Illustrated Map

If you’ve built an entire world for your story, why not create a map? You may already have a map of your story, just to keep things organized in your head. By sharing this map as a bonus, readers have a clearer understanding of how the areas in your book are related to each other.

Lesson Plan

If your book can be used for educational purposes, you can create a downloadable PDF lesson plan. Teachers use lesson plans to help their students understand a book. By creating your lesson plan as bonus content, you’ll help teachers turn your book into an actionable, educational resource.

In addition to a lesson plan, you can create a worksheet or even an entire workbook with questions that will help your target audience dissect and analyze your work.

Create Bonus Content for Your Book

Prologues

Some authors are tempted to add prologues or background information at the start of their novels. However, such front matter can slow readers down from getting into the meat and potatoes of your book. It’s generally recommended to skip prologues (because readers tend to skip them anyway). That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t write a prologue. You can write a prologue, just add it to your bonus content. This way, readers who are interested in knowing the background can reference it later.

Videos About Your Process

Take readers behind the scenes and discuss the how, what, and why of creating your book. Videos are a different means of engaging your target audience. Not only can you use videos to provide insight into your writing process, but being on video will also forge a human connection with your readers. They’ll be able to see and hear you, instead of just reading your words, which is why video is a powerful connector.

In addition to discussing your writing process, you can also do a virtual book reading through video. Read a selection of your book on YouTube so that you attract people who’ve never heard of you or your book before. Be sure to add relevant keywords, such as your genre.

Final Thoughts

Bonus content is a great way to show readers that you're invested in their experience. Readers will engage more, whether you're providing actionable material or content that's purely for entertainment purposes.

Before you go, check out this step-by-step guide to making an author website for under $100.

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