Curious about book funnels? Here’s (almost) everything you need to know

Wondering about book funnels and whether you need one? This primer explains their purpose, advantages, and elements.

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission (at no extra charge to you).

It makes me crazy when people selling products and services to authors use marketing buzzwords and phrases without defining them. The phrase du jour is “book funnels.”

And I’ll be honest: When I first learned about marketing “funnels” years ago, it took me a while to truly understand the concept because marketing funnels don’t work like my kitchen funnel. (I’ll explain that later.)

So, what is a book funnel and how can it help you sell more books? I’ve got the answers for you. In this article, I explain:

  • What are book funnels
  • Why you need one
  • Book funnel process flow
  • Book funnel elements
  • How you’ll use your book funnel

Note: This article is not about the paid resource called BookFunnel, a brand name for a service that allows you to outsource the book funnel process to a specialist.

What the heck are book funnels?

A book funnel is a marketing strategy used to increase book sales. It consists of a series of steps that guide potential readers from discovering your book to purchasing it.

I created this graphic to help visualize it.

book funnel illustration

How book funnels differ from my kitchen funnel

Now let me explain why this concept wasn’t obvious to me at first.

When you pour a liquid into the wide mouth of a kitchen funnel, all of that water comes out the narrow bottom. All of it.

With marketing funnels, lots goes into the top, and little comes out the bottom. The difference between “lots” and “little” remains trapped in the middle. The marketing happens in that middle.

Getting stuck in the middle is a good thing

People enter the top of the funnel, and either take the action you’re requesting in the middle, or they don’t take it. If they don’t take action, they remain in the middle.

If they do take action, they move farther into the funnel.

And if they take the final desired action – purchasing a product, registering for an event, etc. – they come out of the funnel at the end. Sort of.

So, lots of people enter the top, but not everybody takes all of the steps that lead them out at the end. Unlike the liquid flowing through my kitchen funnel.

not a book funnel
My kitchen funnel.

Why you need a book funnel

Now that you know what a book funnel is and isn’t, the big question is: Why do you need one?

Book funnels are a great way to gain visibility and generate more sales for your books. Here’s why.

Increased visibility: A book funnel and the marketing activities that drive readers into it increase your book’s visibility and boost your author brand. It will also help generate more traffic to your website.

More sales: Targeting potential readers who are interested in your book and guiding them towards making a purchase helps you sell more books.

Increased engagement: A book funnel can help increase reader engagement on social media but also through email, which I find both helpful and rewarding. You’ll be able to use your email list to launch promotions, send notifications about new releases, and create conversations around your book and other topics.

Saves time: It automates the marketing process and reduces the time you spend manually promoting your book. This gives you more time to do what you’d rather be doing – writing another book.

Affordable: It’s a cost-effective way to market your book.

Once it’s set up, it keeps working for you all day and all night. What’s not to like about that?

[novashare_tweet tweet=”Book funnels are a great way to gain visibility and generate more sales for your books.” hide_hashtags=”true”]

Book funnel process flow

If you’re new to the funnel concept, it helps to break down how readers flow from top to bottom. Here’s how it works.

Step 1: At the top of your book funnel

Book funnels typically begin when you or your publisher create awareness of your book. This might involve social media campaigns, advertising, blog posts, and email marketing.

You’re attracting readers to the top of your funnel.

Step 2: Drawing the right readers into your funnel

Picture those readers hovering at the top of the book funnel. You want to draw them in by helping them learn more about your book. Reviews, interviews, videos, and other content can give readers a better understanding of the book’s themes and characters or what they’ll learn from it.

That information will help them decide if they want to move further into your funnel to continue learning more.

Step 3: Pulling readers further into your funnel

To pull those at the top even further into your funnel, you offer them a free digital gift that’s related to the book. Some call this a “freebie” or “reader magnet.” The marketing term is “lead magnet.”

They must provide their email address to receive this gift.

Step 4: Convert readers in your book funnels from “interested” to “buyers”

The process you use to capture their email takes them to a “thank you” page on your site. In addition to information on how they download your lead magnet, this page provides more information about the book, including purchase links.

Your process will also automatically send an email containing the link they use to download your lead magnet. You use this to encourage a purchase, too.

Step 5: Continue to encourage purchase by staying in touch

You have the email address of everybody in the middle of your funnel who added themselves to your email list – they “opted in.” This is whether they bought the book and came out the end or not.

Send them regular emails with helpful and interesting information so they don’t forget about you and your book.

These aren’t “buy my book” emails. They’re “staying in touch” emails that include book and other news as well as a purchase link.

These are the people who are most likely to purchase from you eventually. It might not be this book, but it could be the next one.

Visualize these five steps as you look at the book funnel diagram again.

book funnel illustration

Book funnel elements

Book funnels require technology. If you’re not a do-it-yourselfer, you can pay someone to set this up for you.

These are the elements you need.

Email service provider

I hope you’re already collecting email addresses that you use to stay in touch with readers. If you aren’t, this is a great way to start.

Your email service provider will:

  • Give you the power to add a form to your landing page that collects email addresses
  • Automatically collect and store those email addresses for you
  • Automatically send email messages to people as soon as they provide their address (this is called an “email sequence”)
  • Allow you to create and distribute to your list an email newsletter or any other messages you want to send them

There are many email service providers to chose from. I used several before discovering my absolute favorite, ConvertKit. It’s designed for creators like us, and the customer support is exceptional.

Landing page

A landing page is a single web page designed to encourage a single, specific action. It has no toolbars. There are no links to other pages on your site. I design mine with Thrive Architect, which works with WordPress.

The goal of your book funnel landing page is to get people to join your email list. This is where you offer that free digital download, your lead magnet.

This means there should be a clear call-to-action that encourages readers to do that. Include these elements:

  • Text that describes your lead magnet
  • An image of the lead magnet or something that represents it
  • A call to action
  • An email signup form, either on the landing page or on a form or page that pops up when people click on the call-to-action button

Here’s an example of the landing page for my newest lead magnet, a cheat sheet that lists the “8 Services That Help Journalists Find Authors and Other Sources.

Lead magnet

A lead magnet is a digital, downloadable incentive you offer your target readers in exchange for providing their address so they add themselves to your email list. It must be relevant to your book.

Get nonfiction lead magnet ideas and resources for creating one in “5 nonfiction lead magnet ideas.”

A sample chapter works well as a fiction lead magnet, but I’ve got other ideas plus tools you can use to design yours in “3 fiction lead magnet ideas.”

Thank-you page

As soon as readers submit their email address, technology will take them to a thank-you page. That page can either provide the download link for your lead magnet, thank them for requesting your “gift” and instruct them to check their email for a message with the download link, or both.

Use this page to sell your book.

In addition to text that thanks people and instructs on the next steps involved for downloading the lead magnet, include:

  • Your book cover
  • Book description
  • Your best influencer blurbs/testimonials
  • A few reader reviews if you have them
  • Purchase links to online retailers selling your book

Email sequence

An email sequence is an automated series of messages.

In this case, the first message thanks readers for requesting your gift and provides instructions on how and where to download it.

Follow that with an email with more information about your book and purchase links.

Continue to nurture these interested readers by sending regular emails with updates about your book, additional content related to it, helpful or interesting information, and so on.

View your landing page as an alternative home page

The idea behind a book funnel is to create a series of steps that use information to turn readers from browsers to buyers. This is why I want you to use your landing page as an alternative home page for much of your book marketing.

Send people to your landing page instead of your website’s home page. Get ideas for how to do that in Carolyn Choate’s free lead magnet, “20 Ways to Bring People to Your Funnel.” (Carolyn sets up funnels for authors and others. This is part of her funnel, so even if you aren’t interested in her free download, check out her landing page for inspiration.)

Add the URL to your social media profiles. Share it on social media regularly. Include it in your speaker bio if you speak at conferences and online summits.

Repetition can lead to purchasing

Here’s why: People aren’t going to buy your book the first time they hear about it on social media, in a guest post, or in a YouTube video. When you send them to your Amazon sales page early in this relationship, they aren’t likely to buy the book quite yet.

[novashare_tweet tweet=”People aren’t going to buy your book the first time they hear about it on social media, in a guest post, or in a YouTube video.” hide_hashtags=”true”]

They need more information and they need it more than once. A lot more.

You can do all of this with email marketing. And that’s why you want to capture their email addresses.

Email marketing allows you to connect with the right readers in a way that helps keep your book top of mind now and later.

There are definitely situations where you’ll send people to your book’s sales page on Amazon or elsewhere. But when you’re marketing to readers who don’t know you and your work yet, a book funnel built around email marketing is one of the best ways for them to get to see the value you offer.

Start building your book funnel

Don’t wait to get started building your book funnel. And don’t let the technology frighten you off. If you don’t want to do it yourself, pay someone to do it for you. Help is out there.

But do it.

Let a book funnel help you connect in a more meaningful way with the people you wrote the book for while you sell more books.

What company do you use for your email service provider? Please tell us in a comment. 

Subscribe to the free Build Book Buzz newsletter and get the free special report, “Top 5 Free Book Promotion Resources,” immediately!

Similar Posts


  1. Thanks for clarifying bookfunneling, Sandra. I am still working on my book funnel, but I am determined to improve on my processes this year.

    Since I find Social Media time-consuming and exhausting, I have decided to concentrate more on bringing people to my website through more, and more regular, blogging (SEO ist my best friend!) and then sprinkling the links with short posts and matching images on my Social-Media platforms.

    I have a landing page and Freebie for newsletter signups – which I also advertise at the end of all my books – and write a long newsletter every month for my medieval and my author subscribers, respectively, so I thought I might as well use some of the stuff for my blog and then link to it in the newsletter.

    However, I still wonder if things work the same way in Germany as they do in the English-speaking markets. A friend of mine said that she found people to be a lot more willing to sign up for her newsletter and the freebie on her English website than on her German website.

    Incidentally, one of my newsletter subscribers showed up at my stand on a bookfair and bought one of my books, so I am glad to see that I must be doing something right with my current, albeit small, book funnel.

    1. It sounds like you’re in good shape, Birgit! Do you have a newsletter sign up form on your blog posts, too? I wish I had an answer for you regarding Germany, but I don’t. Great news on the book sale to a subscriber! Congratulations!


  2. Now you made me think! I do have a newsletter signup form in the footer on all my pages, including on blog post pages, but it is very easy to overlook down there, as readers have to scroll through my author box and any comments first to get to the form. Maybe I should think about sneaking it in a little further up. Thanks for the hint!


    1. Yes! I recommend moving it up. Random additional comment…pop up subscriber forms are recommended and you see them everywhere, but as a user, I REALLY dislike them. That’s why you won’t see them here. I’m not going to use a tactic that I don’t like, even if it’s more effective.


  3. I was using the Mad Mimi email service until I switched from WordPress, which was having technical problems, to Wix. Mad Mimi was the cheapest I could find, and devoid of the bells and whistles that I dislike. But with Wix, you don’t need an email service; the blog posts automatically go to your email list, omitting that monthly fee. Sometimes they’re sent also to my Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, but sometimes I have to manually add them. This is not an endorsement of Wix, however; problems with it, too, including lines cut off, and less flexibility in adding photos.

    1. I can appreciate your interest in simplicity, Bob, but the bells and whistles give your email marketing more power. I am not a sophisticated email marketer so I don’t use the full power of my service, but what I do use is really helpful. Can you send non-blog messages to your blog subscribers?


  4. I was using MailChimp until GDPR requirements made using it slightly awkward in Germany. Since then, I have been using MailerLite, which is fully GDPR compliant, easy to use and free until you reach 1000 subscribers. It integrates fine with WordPress and Thrive Themes, so I am very happy with this current setup. It might be worth investigating other newsletter providers once you have a lot of subscribers, so that it is possible to segment subscribers into groups and only send them stuff they might be interested in. This should help streamline and optimize one’s bookfunnel to work even more effiently, I hope.

  5. Thanks Sandy, I am learning so much from you! A couple of questions:
    Is it OK to offer a choice of magnets for example, a chapter in a book or a short ebook (really an essay). The essay is a bit esoteric but perfect for my sub niche but maybe the chapter is better. I have written a coffee table art book that is also 40K memoir so cross genre. Hard to market! I may need a coaching session with you soon!
    Also…how about a magnet that requires their physical address as well as their email? I have hundreds of posters of my art that I’d like to give away but would need the person’s residence.
    Thanks again and I’ll understand if these questions are too specific. There is not a lot about marketing coffee table books or memoirs. It’s non-fiction but not the usual self-help or how to.
    Thanks again,

    1. Lorna, you can absolutely offer more than one lead magnet. I have several, in fact. The thing is, you need a different landing page for each. You don’t want to offer two on one page and ask people to make a choice. As soon as you force them to make a choice, most will leave. Make the opt-in process as clean and simple as possible.

      You can also offer posters that you mail. People LOVE that sort of thing. You’ll have to pay the postage, but as long as you’re prepared to do that, go for it! Just create a new and separate offer page for that.


  6. Thanks so much Sandy for your response. That is very encouraging. So are you saying I should try one magnet for a while and then change or have, for example a different landing page for instagram and a different landing page with a different magnet on my website? I’m still a little confused but getting more clear!

    1. I’m saying you can have more than one landing page, each one with a different lead magnet. But since you’re new to this, I’d recommend starting with just one. Select the one that you think your audience will like the most.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *