In my last post, I discussed some proven email list-building techniques. I will conclude this 3-part feature on email-based book marketing with some great tips by Mary Fernandez on creating the perfect email opt-in form, found on Persuasion Nation.

Lead the way

An email opt-in is the web form that you’ll use to capture the email addresses of prospective readers, and get their permission to send them offers.

In marketing speak, email subscribers are referred to as “leads”. That’s because each email subscriber is potentially only an email (or a few emails) away from becoming a paying customer.

If you want your email opt-in forms to be persuasive, you first need to understand what makes people “tick”. How do you get people to actually want to give you their email address?

Well, here are some best practices to keep in mind when creating your email opt-in forms…

1. Do NOT ask people to “subscribe to your newsletter”

Frankly, this is the lazy way to create an email opt-in form. And it simply doesn’t convert.

You need to remember that email is the most intimate form of online communication. In order to persuade people to give you their email address, you’ll need to give them a good incentive.

2. Instead, create a valuable resource and give it away for FREE in exchange for their email address

You may have heard the terms “freebie”, “lead magnet” or “opt-in bribe” tossed around. Well, that’s what we are talking about here: this is the persuasive way to create an email opt-in form.

Why? Well, it leverages a psychological phenomenon known as the Principle of Reciprocity. The reciprocity principle states that people are more likely to do something for you if you do something for them. In other words, people will feel indebted to you when you offer them something for free… and will be far more likely to give you their email address.

3. Your lead magnet needs to be highly relevant to your ideal customers

Many people make the mistake of thinking that the more email subscribers they have, the better. But that’s only partially true.

Yes, more email subscribers is better, but only if they are your ideal customers. Otherwise, you’ve got an email list full of people who will likely never buy from you, and who will be annoyed that you are sending them offers that they don’t want or need. That’s not only bad for your reputation as an author, but it’s also bad for email deliverability (because you’ll likely get a high percentage of unsubscribes, and possibly even get flagged as a spammer).

So attracting the right kind of email subscribers for your particular business is crucial. How do you do that? With a highly relevant lead magnet.

For example, what would happen if I were to offer free iPads to everyone who opted in to my email list? Well, even if I could afford to do so, that would be a terrible idea, because I would simply be attracting everyone. I mean really, who doesn’t want an iPad?

Instead, you want to offer something that only your ideal customer would want. The more specific your lead magnet is about who it is for, the better.

Here’s the lead I use on, which is a website dedicated solely to readers:

Free books - Subscribe | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

As you can see, the entire banner is an email opt-in.

4. Make it simple to subscribe

Don’t ask for their address, dog’s name, mother’s maiden name, blood type, and zodiac sign. All you need is an email. Even their actual name is optional. The fewer fields you have, the more likely people will subscribe. On, here’s what people see when they click “Subscribe”:

How to Create a Persuasive Email Opt-in Form | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

5. Your lead magnet needs to be easily consumed

People have very short attention spans, and they are hesitant to download something if they think that it is going to take a long time to consume. So you’ll want to avoid creating something like a long book series because it will just be too overwhelming for someone to easily consume. Stick to shorter works, short stories, or images.

Here are some email opt-in incentive ideas:

Cheat Sheet
Swipe File or Inspiration File
Web App
Resource List
Calendar or Planner
Journal Prompts
Online Calculator
Guide or Report
Event Tickets
Email Course
Sample Chapter from Book
Free Coaching Call
PDF Version of a Blog Post
Audio Book
Mind Map
Recording or Replay of a Live Event
Slide Presentation
Vault or Library of Digital Resources
Quiz Results
Inspirational Quotes
Desktop Wallpaper
Membership Site
Facebook Group
Slack Group
Free Trial
Coupon Code or Early Bird Discount
Case Studies
Waiting List
Free Shipping
Free Quote or Consultation

…the possibilities are endless!

6. Your lead magnet should create a noticeable improvement

The purpose of your lead magnet is not only to get someone to opt-in to your email list: it actually goes even deeper than that…

You want to actually create a noticeable improvement in someone’s life.

That is what will build trust, nurture your relationship, and ultimately help to convince someone to buy your products or services– which is what you want, right?

7. Your lead magnet should be instant

People love instant gratification, so to be persuasive, your lead magnet needs to be something that can be delivered to them instantly.

For example, a PDF, a video, an audio MP3, or anything digital that can be delivered via email.

Image: Persuasion Nation

Wording for Your Email Opt-in

Alright, so you’ve created your email opt-in incentive. Next, you need to write the copy for your email opt-in form.

The first part of your email opt-in verbiage is the title of your lead magnet itself. This is important: you need to think of your incentive title as a headline. You don’t want to come up with some “cutesy” name that makes no sense to anyone except you… you want to be very straightforward about what they are going to get, and what your lead magnet is going to help them to do.

Here are some great examples of lead magnet titles:

  • 52 Headline Hacks: A Cheat Sheet for Writing Blog Posts that Go Viral
  • The Ultimate Facebook Ad Template Library
  • Life is Messy Planners: Make Room for Genius Work
  • Logo Inspiration eBook
  • 60 Writing Prompts

The second part of your email opt-in copy is the description: you’ll need to briefly describe what’s so special about your incentive so it will be irresistible for someone to opt-in.

To do that, I’ve come up with a simple, 3-sentence formula:

“Want to [desired outcome]? Then you’ll need to [action they need to take]. In this FREE [PDF/video/MP3/etc.], you’ll get [repeat or paraphrase the title of your lead magnet].”

Here’s an example of the 3-step formula in action for Mary’s 6 Jedi Mind Tricks lead magnet:

“Want to stay at home and pay the bills? Then build a profitable website, you must! In this FREE, 8-page PDF, you’ll get the exact persuasion tricks I use to help entrepreneurs build 7-figure websites.”

The final part of your email opt-in language is the call to action copy, or the verbiage that goes inside your subscribe button. What you do NOT want to do is say something generic and boring like, “Subscribe” or “Submit”. That’s not very compelling.

Instead, you’ll want to use language that is specific to your particular lead magnet. So for example, “Download the Checklist” or “Grab the Printable PDF”. This call to action copy is much more persuasive because it reminds someone of exactly WHY they should click on the button.

How to Create Juicy Email Opt-in Images

Alrighty, we are moving right along! You’ve created your lead magnet and you’ve written your title, description, and call to action copy. Now it’s time for the final component: your email opt-in image.

Having an enticing image to go along with your email opt-in form really helps to increase your conversions, so make sure to put some effort into yours!

There are many different types of images you could use, but your opt-in form will convert better when the image is relevant to your lead magnet. So for example, if your lead magnet is a list of recipes, you wouldn’t want to show an image of a Lamborghini. Make sense?

A great way that I have found to create email opt-in images is by using a mockup template to create a realistic-looking photo. This makes your lead magnet look more tangible and helps to increase its perceived value.

Read more tips, including a detailed how-to on creating images and setting up an email opt-in WordPress plugin, on Persuasion Nation!