or years, I helped people sell all sorts of things using the funnel. Lawn mower salesmen. Lawyers. The local Lions Club. It’s a strategy that not only works for your initial campaign but makes future marketing even easier. And it can work for book sales!
Picture the funnel as an upside-down triangle that we pour potential readers into hoping that some will eventually come out the bottom as actual readers! A simple idea, but who do you pour into your funnel, and how do you successfully move them through the funnel, transforming them into buyers?
Who Is Your Audience?
Everyone! Or at the least, everyone who likes to read. We want to believe that, but...really? For twenty years, I bought my uncle books—history or biographies. I could have given him a dozen novels, Westerns or true crime books, and he wouldn’t have read them. In the same way, you can market your book to a person a dozen times, but if it isn’t their type of book, you will rarely convert them to a reader. So use your time (and money) wisely. Don’t lose sight of your ultimate objective. It is not to tell the most people about your book. It is to sell your book to the most people. Let’s take a moment to pinpoint your book’s audience.
Pretend your book is a novel called Grandma Plant about a sixty-plus-year-old woman who takes over a dwindling plant nursery and finds friendship, love, and adventure. (I just made that up, so if you are actually writing this novel, I promise I’m not writing it, too!)
The broadest audience is readers. But let’s think more about Grandma Plant. I think the audience would be primarily women. Yes, some men would read it or buy it for a loved one; but for marketing purposes, you’re targeting those most likely to read it. So, women.
All women? Are twenty-somethings going to identify with your main character and want to read Grandma Plant? Maybe a few outliers, but for marketing purposes—no. Let’s say your audience age group is 35 to 80.
So, your more defined audience is female readers ages 35 to 80.
That’s your primary audience, but you can get more specific with secondary audiences. Gardeners? Retirees? Grandparents? People who live in the area that is the setting for your book? They could all be viable targets to pour into your funnel. Honestly assess who are the primary and secondary audiences for your book.
Fill the Funnel
You pour people from your audience into your funnel by simply making them aware of your product—in this case, your book. You’re shouting, “Hey, here’s my book!”
If you have a massive marketing budget, you can do things like targeted Facebook ads and emails. Chances are “massive marketing budget” made you burst into laughter. Reality? Write posts for your blog (and guest posts) that include some SEO keywords that will appeal to your target audience. Contact blogs, publications, and even brick and mortar spots that appeal to your target audience. Book blogs that appeal mostly to women may be willing to feature a guest post, review, or just a spotlight. A grandparenting magazine may be interested in featuring your book or an article about a grandparenting subject with a generous mention of Grandma Plant in your author’s bio. Studying your target audience may help you pinpoint other personal appearance possibilities besides the predictable bookstores and libraries: senior classes, plant nurseries, gardening clubs, or public gardens.
You’re telling everyone about your book. What’s next?
To move all these potential readers down the funnel transforming them into readers, you have to establish a relationship. What the most important thing about relationships? Communication. As you’re telling everyone about your book, create a way to get in touch with them. People rarely make purchasing decisions on first contact. To keep your book on their radar, you need a reliable way to contact them.
Yes, you have followers and could reach out through social media, which is great. But consider that the ever-shifting world of social media, Facebook/Meta, or any other social media outlet used to spread the word could disappear, change the rules, or lose favor at any time. The way you contact all your potential readers could disappear overnight. Scary? Not if you don’t rely strictly on social media to contact potential readers.
Engage in social media, but also begin building a list of email addresses. It will help with this book as well as future marketing efforts for following books. Make the opportunities for potential readers to give you their email address plentiful and easy.
- Start a newsletter. Have an easy-to-find sign-up on your website and mention it at every appearance. This doesn’t have to be a frequent or a hard-sell newsletter. Keep it chatty and informative while giving the potential reader the feeling of being part of your community.
- Hold a contest. Give away a book or the right to name a character in your next book. Or a Monstera plant. Have fun with your contest, and don’t forget to offer extra entries for following you on social media.<.li>
- Offer a freebie. What extra can you send to everyone who supplies an email? A list of book club discussion questions. An “interview” with your main character. A fun quiz or ballot. Your Aunt Mary’s Famous Apple Pie Recipe. An e-book related to your book (prequel, short story, how-to, recipe collection - whatever works with your title).
- Bring your sign-up sheet. Bring a sign-up sheet (paper or digital) to every personal appearance. Too many people will promise to sign up for your newsletter, contest, or freebie later. Don’t rely on later! What are the chances they actually remember your name and sign up? Instead, get their info immediately.
How do you transform someone from a person who has heard about and is interested in your book to a person who buys it? It’s time to put that email list to work (while continuing to add to it every chance you get).
Send emails with several ways to click through to a purchase page. Keeping in mind that most people will be reading on their phones, select easy-to-read fonts, images, and layout.
Remember that people have to open your email to buy! And remember that good subject lines can make all the difference, so craft effective calls to action. Using a subject line tester like SendCheckIt can help you pinpoint weak subject lines. You get points for each subject line you test.
For a sad 68 points: Buy Jodi Webb's latest novel
A few simple tweaks send you to 93 points: ?read Jodi Webb's latest novel
Rocket in to triple digits with 104 points for: ?best Mother's Day gift for your fav reader?
Don’t send the same, “Here’s a link to buy my book,” email every time. Instead tailor your emails. If you’ve collected additional information about the people on your email list, you can target a specific group. Your general email to a large group would be a basic book cover, one-sentence summary or review, link to buy, and headline: “Grandma Plant is juggling a new business, new friends, and new adventures.”
You can get more specific with targeted groups. An email to people in the area where the book is set could have a headline mentioning something only residents would know: “The Springfield Spring Festival is right around the corner, and Grandma Plant is juggling a new business, new friends, and new adventures.”
An email targeting grandparents could have a headline: “Grandma Plant wanted to be surrounded by her grandchildren - instead she’s surrounded by 500 cacti looking for a home.”
You can also use emails to announce upcoming appearances (with a link to purchase). Readers may not come to the event, but it’s a low-pressure way to keep them actively thinking about your book.
You can also use an email that has an aspect that encourages a potential reader to buy now: limited time discounts or appeal to a specific time. What would encourage someone to change from a maybe to a yes?
Buy Grandma Plant today, and receive my backlist e-book for $1.99.
Don’t forget the perfect beach read for your next vacation.
Celebrate World Book Day by diving into the adventures of Grandma Plant!
Continue collecting information as you send emails. Does a certain email get a higher click through rate? Sending at a certain time? A certain type of subject line? Use all this to make changes to future emails, so they are more effective.
Initial contact, collect contact information, and then follow-up contact seem straight forward, but it’s hard to predict how long it will take to move potential readers through the funnel. Keep a record of what does and doesn’t work on each step of the journey. And remember that with each book, it will get a little bit easier. Welcome to the funnel!
Jodi M. Webb writes from her home in the Pennsylvania mountains. After a decade hiatus from writing, she is back with bylines in Tea Journey, Mental Floss and a WIP about her plant obsession. She's also a blog tour manager for WOW-Women on Writing. Stay tuned for what comes next!