If you’ve done any research on author marketing, you’ve most likely come across the term sales funnel. All the experts will tell you this is a must when it comes to selling your books. But what exactly is it? How do you set one up? And how does a sales funnel for books result in future sales?
Unfortunately, most of the advice out there falls into one of two categories. Half of it is incredibly detailed and complex but geared for authors with a few published books under their belt (“deleted scenes and alternate endings make great reader magnets!”). The other half may speak to newer authors but can be incredibly vague.
This post will give you very simple, straightforward, actionable steps toward creating your very first sales funnel for books. Let’s start with a breakdown of what the sales funnel is meant to accomplish. Then, I want to share three concrete examples of funnels you can build.
If you still want to know more after that, stay tuned for the next blog, where I’ll show you how to build every book you write into a new sales funnel and keep your readers coming back for more. Make sure you check back!
What is a sales funnel for books?
First, let’s ensure we’re all talking about the same thing! A sales funnel is a system of linked points (think web pages, surveys, social posts). It seeks to nudge casual observers toward becoming a purchasing customer; in sales, they call this “conversion.”
Think about the characteristics of a physical funnel. It has a large, wide mouth to catch all the bits that would otherwise spill. The funnel spout below the mouth then directs those granules down towards a single exit. When you create a sales funnel, you want to start with clickable broad exposure with many links and points of entrance. Your goal in the end (the single exit) would be to convert viewers into buyers.
Just like with a physical funnel, a lot more enters at a time than comes out at the bottom. Don’t be discouraged at low percentages, especially in the beginning. However, pay attention to what points of the funnel see the most loss in click-throughs, as this may signal where your funnel needs improvement.
A short path with clear signs
No one will click through thousands of web pages to get to your book. Don’t overcomplicate, but keep in mind some “bonus goals.” Traffic to your author website, for instance, increases your rank on Google. Newsletter signups get you a line of direct communication with the customer.
On the way to buying your book, build these things in as stops along the road. Make sure each offers a new note of excitement or intrigue about the step ahead to keep the customer moving onward. Collecting contact information and building your website SEO in the meantime is just a nice way of making the mouth of your funnel wider.
Statistics show that it can take a potential customer eight times to see your book before they decide to purchase, so strategically place images of your cover(s) at every point in the journey!
Test your market
There are some great ways to test whether a sales funnel for books will work or is functioning properly once implemented. You can build a quick survey into the funnel to gather intel on what drew the customer to click, what they like in a good book, or even glean opinions on your title and book cover. Whatever seems useful to you!
Another simple method is to use A/B testing. If you’re trying to gain leads through a social media post or ad, release more than one version of it and see which gets the most clicks. Tweak future messages accordingly. You can also have more than one newsletter landing page and see which tends to get the most signups. Anything you’re not sure is quite working, make an alternate version for comparison.
Now let’s build the sales funnel for books!
At this point, we know what we’re trying to build. We understand the goal and the side benefits. Now, how do we actually set this thing up?
Start by building the endpoint: your newsletter signup page. After all, you don’t want customers to get halfway through a funnel only to lose them because the next step doesn’t exist yet.
If your book is ready for sale or preorder, make sure a link is available in an eye-catching banner at the top of the newsletter page. This is also a great page to link any reader magnets you might have—perhaps a free chapter via Reedsy, to assure readers they want to know when your next work comes out. Or, new subscribers will receive a teaser for the free PDF on your nonfiction topic in their email.
If you release something on Vella or have any published work online, you can include those links lower down the page… remember, if they subscribe, you can tell them about all that stuff and more in the newsletter. And don’t waste the subscription confirmation message, which can also include links to buy pages or surveys!
Version One: The Conversation
Start your funnel where you have the most reach. Are you active on Instagram? Facebook? Go where you’re comfortable. Ask a simple question, like:
- Well, you’ve been getting to know me, but I haven’t gotten to know you! Tell me a little about yourself!
- I need recommendations. What books have you been reading lately?
- I’m curious. Are any of you out there also writers?
Make it about them, not you. The post image can be a cover mockup or you posing with your book. It can be anything that feels personable, but try to include book-related imagery. You can even get your followers competitive—maybe those who submit your favorite answers can get featured on your page or in your newsletter.
Ten, Offer a link to a survey on Jotform and encourage followers to answer your questions there. You may even be able to embed the survey to a page on your website!
One of the questions in your quick survey should ask if they’ve joined your newsletter yet. Make sure they know they’ve been missing out and allow them to sign up on the spot. Also, include a link to the newsletter signup page on your website (“Not sure? See what the hype is all about at ___”).
Version Two: The Freebie
Again, start where you’re comfortable. Post something like:
- I’m so grateful for all of your support, and I wanted to offer you something special.
- I’m so excited about this, I just had to share it with you! Isn’t it cool?
And have them “click here” to get the freebie, but require the newsletter signup (if not via email, how will you get them the freebie?).
What kind of freebie can you offer? The free first chapter and PDF guides are still options here (and even fiction writers can put together a PDF on something awesome they researched while writing). You could also create downloadable bookmarks in Canva or Word. Or, instead of a traditional freebie, the cool thing you are so excited to share might be a sneak peek at cover art or a thrilling scene that you just wrote (just be careful of spoilers!) Some of you artsy types can use Shutterfly or Vistaprint to create branded swag.
The link from your original post will go to your website newsletter signup page. The confirmation message can link to a survey (“What are you excited about? What’s going on in the life that brought you here today? Have you read…?”)
The automated first newsletter should obviously include the freebie and tell the newbie where they can find your work (whether for free or purchase) across the web.
Version 3: The Contest
This one is exactly like the conversation, except competitive. Use a survey link to collect emails as your followers have the chance to influence your work—and gain a sense of ownership and personal excitement in the process. Who can come up with the best villain name? Which of these titles is your favorite? Should the MC end up with the best friend or the new hottie? Anything you need inspiration for, or are willing to have an outside influence on, can be a gem of mine.
Don’t be intimidated.
Start simple. Even a short, basic path can turn followers into buyers. You can always add nuanced messages later or forks in the road for different types of customers. But don’t overcomplicate! Remember, anytime you convince a person to jump off social media via your link is a big win, no matter where the link goes or how much further they click. Everyone starts somewhere. The more you get to know your audience, the more you’ll learn how to connect with them, and the more your funnels will improve.
Now excuse me, I’ve got to put some of my advice into practice.
About the Writer: Kathryn Tamburri (@KathrynTamburriAuthor) writes clean YA epic fantasy novels which seethe with slow-burn romance. You can find more of her writing tips on The Devo Blog at KathrynTamburri.com, and learn from her publishing journey by subscribing to her fun author newsletter!