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What is a book funnel?
A book funnel is a strategy that publishers use to manage, promote, and sell their books. It’s a series of steps that guide readers from the point of book discovery toward making a purchase.
The goal of a book funnel is to attract potential readers and guide them through a series of steps or ‘funnel’ to ultimately lead to a sale or ‘action.’
It is like a roadmap that helps readers go from being ‘interested’ to actually buying the book.
Before we dive deep, as many have asked, is a book funnel a funny name for a website? No, a funnel is not a website. In book marketing, a book sales funnel is a metaphorical representation of the customer’s journey from initial awareness to making a purchase. A funnel is like a roadmap that helps guide people from hearing about the book to reading and then purchasing it, and a website is part of that journey.
Why is it called a funnel?
Because it sure looks like a kitchen funnel! The idea of a funnel is used metaphorically to describe the process of leading a customer through various stages of engagement, from awareness to consideration and ultimately to purchase.
The term “funnel” is used because the process resembles a funnel shape, which is wide at the top and gradually narrows down towards the bottom. In a book sales funnel, the top represents the initial stage, where a lot of potential readers are introduced to the book, while the bottom represents the final stage, where they decide to purchase your book, join an event, or become a reader or a loyal fan.
At each stage of the funnel, the number of potential readers is gradually reduced as they drop out or ‘disqualified’ ( not your book’s ideal reader ). With a marketing funnel, a lot enters the top, but few come out at the bottom, and most are trapped in the middle. What do you do then?—marketing happens in the middle!
A book funnel typically includes multiple stages, often referred to as the top, middle, and bottom. Specific steps or stages may differ depending on the book or the author’s goal.
The Top Stage. ( or the Awareness Stage )
The funnel begins with the ‘top stage’—this is the point of readers’ discovery. This is where readers first hear about your book through various marketing channels such as social media, paid advertising, blog posts, or word-of-mouth.
When running a branding or marketing campaign, basically, you’re driving your ‘ideal’ readers to the top of the funnel. A lot of these readers will remain at the top, and only a few will take action (e.g., buy the book or sign up for your newsletter.)
The Middle Stage. ( or the ‘Interest, Consideration & Intent Stages )
So, what do you do next? By narrowing it down through each step of the funnel, publishers can reach a more defined targeted group of readers who are more likely to be interested in a particular book.
Draw your ideal readers into the funnel. Think of your ‘ideal readers’ as being at the top of a funnel when they first hear about your book. To entice them to read or purchase the book, you need to provide more information about its themes and characters or what they’ll gain from reading it. You need to remind them why they should read your book.
Once people become aware of your book, some ( not all! ) will move down the funnel to the middle stage. Here, they begin to explore more about your book. They might read reviews, check out the book’s website, read sample chapters, or watch book trailers to learn more. Are you now getting the importance of a mailing list?
The middle of the funnel is where you engage with the reader and provide them with value in the form of free content, such as a sample chapter, a free guide, or a mini-course related to your book. This is also where you start to build a relationship with your potential readers by getting them interested in your book and offering them helpful information.
The Bottom Stage.
The final stage of the funnel is the bottom, where the reader is ready to make a purchase. This could involve offering a discount or a special offer to incentivize the reader to buy your book or simply presenting your message in a compelling way that encourages them to support you or love your book.
The above is a simplified explanation of a book sales funnel, but let’s go deeper to understand the process involved and help you plan your marketing. Ready?
- Awareness ( Top Stage ): This is the top of the funnel. At this stage, people become aware of your book’s existence through various marketing channels such as social media, advertising, word of mouth, or online searches. They may come across your book cover, a blurb, or a brief description that piques their interest.
- Interest ( Middle Stage ): Once people know your book, some will move down the funnel to the middle stage. Here, they begin to explore more about your book. They might read reviews, check out the book’s website, read sample chapters, or watch book trailers to learn more.
- Consideration ( Middle Stage ): In the consideration stage, potential readers are actively evaluating whether your book is right for them. They may compare it with other similar books, look for endorsements from trusted sources, and assess the value they’ll get from reading it.
- Intent ( Middle Stage ): At this stage, readers have decided to read your book. They’ve formed an intention to make a purchase. They might add it to their online shopping cart or wish list.
- Purchase ( Bottom Stage ): This is the moment of conversion. Readers take the final step and make the purchase.
- Post-Purchase Engagement: The funnel doesn’t end at the purchase stage. Authors and publishers should engage with readers after the sale to maintain and enhance the relationship. This might involve sending thank-you emails, providing bonus content, or asking for reviews and feedback.
- Advocacy: Loyal readers who have enjoyed your book and feel a connection to your work can become advocates. They may recommend your book to others, leave positive reviews, or follow you on social media to stay updated on future releases.
Side Note: Most marketing only covers #1—that’s why an unmanaged book marketing campaign will never work.
Now that you know what a book funnel is, do you really need one?
Marketing is a personal decision that depends on the author’s goal. The question that must be answered is, ‘How are you measuring success for your book?’
If success means having a visually appealing book—I can look at it, and it’s pretty,’ or ‘I just want to have my ideas in book form,’ or if success means having 1-3 readers buy the book—then investing in marketing may not be necessary.
However, if success for your book means perpetual sales, a publishing contract, and creating a lasting legacy, then it’s time to build your book funnel and manage your marketing.
Statistically, readers don’t buy books upon seeing your adverts. It’s unlikely that people will purchase your book the first time they come across it on social media, a blog post, Facebook Ads, or YouTube Ads. They must be reminded (re-targeted) at least 15-20 times why they have to read your book. Re-targeting your readers can only be effectively achieved through a book sales funnel—the extensiveness of your book funnel depends on your goals and budget.
Is a book funnel important? The importance of book funnels lies in their ability to enhance book visibility, increase sales, and have insight into the audience’s behavior and reception of the book. Here’s why.
- Increase book sales: A book funnel is designed to guide potential readers from discovering your book to purchasing it. By providing valuable content, building trust, and showcasing your book in a compelling way, you can increase the likelihood of someone buying your book.
- Targeted audience: With a book funnel, you can target (and re-target) specific audiences who are most likely interested in your book. This helps you focus your marketing efforts on the people who are likely to convert into paying customers.
- Build relationships with readers: By offering valuable resources and communicating with readers through targeted emails, authors can build relationships with their readers and turn casual ‘browsers’ into loyal fans. This can help create a loyal fan base that is more likely to purchase future books or products.
- Data collection: By using a book funnel, you can collect valuable data about your readers, such as their email addresses, name, location, and preferences. This data can be used to customize your marketing efforts further and build a loyal audience.
- Automation: Once your book funnel is set up, it can run on autopilot, freeing up your time and energy to focus on writing and other aspects of your author’s business. A book funnel can automate the marketing process, which can save authors time and money.
Building a book funnel is an effective marketing strategy for authors to increase book sales and grow their audience. If you’re the DIY Type (Do-it-Yourself ), here are some steps to get started:
- Define Your Audience: The first step in building an effective book funnel is to define your target audience. It’s important to understand who your ideal readers are. This will help you understand their interests, preferences, and needs, which can be used to create a more effective funnel.
- Create a Landing Page: A landing page is a dedicated page on your website where visitors can learn more about your book and take action. Keep your landing page focused and straightforward with a clear call-to-action (CTA) that prompts readers to sign up for your email list.
- Build an email sequence: Once readers have signed up for your email list, nurturing those relationships is important by sending them valuable and engaging content. Consider creating an email sequence that provides additional value, such as exclusive content or behind-the-scenes insights into your writing process.
- Set Up an Email Autoresponder: An email autoresponder is a tool that sends pre-written emails to your subscribers at predetermined intervals. This will help you build and maintain a relationship with your subscribers.
- Drive Traffic: Once your landing page is up and running, you must drive traffic to it. This can be done through various channels, including social media, paid advertising, and content marketing.
- Measure, Analyze, and Optimize: Finally, it’s essential to measure the performance of your book funnel (and how your marketing is driving traffic to it!) and optimize it accordingly. This will help you identify areas for improvement and make changes to increase the effectiveness of your funnel or how you drive traffic.
Summary: Pros and cons of using a book sales funnel:
- Increased Sales & Readers Engagement: A sales funnel can help convert ‘casual browsers’ to loyal readers and increase book sales.
- Better Targeting: A sales funnel allows you to target specific audiences with tailored messaging, increasing the chances of conversion.
- More Data: A book funnel can provide valuable data on your audience and their behavior, allowing you to optimize your marketing efforts over time.
- Better ROI: By focusing your marketing efforts on a book sales funnel, you can potentially improve your return on investment (ROI) compared to more scattered or unfocused marketing tactics.
- Time-Intensive: Creating an effective book sales funnel can be time-consuming and requires careful planning, design, and implementation.
- Technical Knowledge: Setting up a book funnel often requires technical and specialized knowledge or experience with software and automation tools.
- Cost: A book funnel can require upfront costs or ongoing fees, depending on the tools and services used.
- Complexity: A book sales funnel can be a complex system with many moving parts, and managing it effectively requires ongoing attention and optimization.
- Reach: A book funnel is only effective if you have a steady stream of leads to feed into it. If your marketing efforts are not reaching a large enough audience, a sales funnel may not be as effective as other marketing strategies.
A book funnel can be beneficial if you have the time, resources, and technical knowledge to implement and manage it effectively. However, it’s important to carefully evaluate the potential benefits and drawbacks before deciding if a sales funnel is the right strategy for your business. The decision to use a book funnel will depend on your unique situation, goals, and marketing needs.
Building an effective book funnel requires a website or landing page, an email marketing platform, and lead magnet content. You may also need to invest in paid advertising, content creation, or other marketing efforts to drive traffic to your funnel. Following these steps, you can create a book funnel that attracts and engages your target audience and drives more book sales.
Don’t hesitate to begin building your book funnel. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, consider hiring someone to assist you.
There are resources available to help you get started.
A book funnel can help you establish a deeper connection with your readers and boost your book sales. So take advantage of this powerful marketing strategy and start building your book funnel today!
If you need help in building your book funnel, let us know.
Please let us what know you think about this article.
Editor’s note: This article was first published in February 2021. It has been updated and expanded.
Our Staff Section
Lex Tallis is a bestselling ghostwriter turned acquisition editor and author mentor. He is a publicist at The BookWalker.
The BookWalker, a book aggregator and marketing agency, has been helping emerging authors to New York Times bestsellers secure media coverage with top media outlets since 2010.
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