How Authors Can Increase Book Sales with Content Upgrades

The worst thing in the world as a book author is to spend months (or years!) writing a book and getting it out there, only to be met with the sounds of crickets.

A handful of sales. A few dollars.

In this post I’m going to show you how to use content upgrades to grow your email audience, who will be your biggest fans, your first customers, and the people who share your work the most.

You’ll also get access to free webinar training that you can take right now.

The Self-publishing Slog

Tell me if this sounds familiar… you’re churning out content on your blog week after week, but you’re only adding a few new subscribers here and there. You’ve got great content, maybe you’ve even published your first book, but it’s just not enough to drive sales.

This is a problem just about every self-made entrepreneur faces when they’re just getting started, and self-published authors are no exception.

The truth is that generating content is only half of the equation. The other half is getting people to pay you for it. Lead magnets, or content upgrades, are an amazingly powerful tool.

Sumo.com said they were able to increase their opt-in rate 665% vs. a traditional email signup (source).

Neil Patel talks about how he helps people triple their opt-in rate using lead magnets (source).

Devesh Khanal of CrazyEgg talks about how they used content upgrades to increase their conversions 492% using content upgrades (source).

On my own blog I’ve been able to increase my opt-in rate from 4 to 41 subscribers on one of my blog posts, which is a good rate for me. That’s an increase of 1000%.

Common Mistakes

Not asking for email addresses.

Maybe you’ve got the best SEO money can buy, you’ve got traffic coming in from organic search results, maybe you’re generating new content on a regular basis. Those are all good things, but if you’re not turning those readers into subscribers, it’s a huge missed opportunity.

Hiding Your Signup Form

Asking for an email is better than not asking for one, but if readers can’t find the signup form, it might as well not be there. You may think it’s obvious, but is it really? I’m always amazed at how much is on the screen that I just don’t notice.

The best way to find out is to watch someone use your website. Have someone pull up your website while you watch and ask them to subscribe to your email newsletter.

Resist the temptation to give them hints! If they find your subscribe form right away then you’re in good shape. If they struggle to find it, you might be losing subscribers.

“Subscribe Now” Forms – not providing clear value

Again, asking at all is better than not asking. But what exactly are you asking for?

Nothing against “Subscribe Now” forms, per se. If you have a newsletter that you publish on a regular basis then absolutely, have a “Subscribe to my Newsletter” form.

The one downside to this is that the value proposition can be pretty limited. Many people are so overwhelmed with email that the thought of subscribing to YET ANOTHER email newsletter is just not going to happen.

I’m not saying that you shouldn’t use a “Subscribe to my newsletter” form – you absolutely should – just don’t let it be your only value offer.

Not Following Up

Once your email list reaches a certain size, it’s pretty tough to reach out to each new subscriber personally. But while your list is small and growing, you can take advantage of the smallness and use it to build a sense of intimacy and camaraderie with your subscribers. So we tell people – do email them individually if you can!

Break out of your MailChimp or Drip or Aweber or whatever tool you use and send them an email through gmail! The personal contact will go a long way to build loyalty and a sense of belonging to your group.

And once your list becomes too big to message each person individually, you can still send an automated follow-up. Our favorite follow ups are messages that are up-front about being automated, but promise a personal response if someone emails. And if someone does email, be sure to write them back!

Not Sending enough Emails

It’s tempting to want to avoid bothering people. I personally feel the urge to censor myself every time I go to send an email. Don’t give in to that urge.

The truth is that if someone isn’t unsubscribing from your email list every now and then, you’re probably not sending enough emails.

Remember, people gave you their email address because they want to hear from you. Don’t abuse the privilege, but also don’t be afraid to provide a constant stream of value.

Annoying Your Readers

I’m probably going to get a lot of flack for this, but I dislike pop up forms, “welcome mat” forms that take over your whole screen, and exit pop ups. They do have their place but I think they’ve become overused, and many Internet visitors are so used to seeing them that they just click past them without even reading or filing out the form.

Having said that, I can’t argue with the math – they are still some of the highest-converting opt-in forms that you can use. But in my opinion that high opt-in rate comes at some expense in terms of annoyance of your reader and possibly even your own hard-won credibility. Why take that chance? Instead we advocate inline lead magnet forms that add value to your content rather than taking the reader’s attention away from your content.

Best Practices

Repackage your Content

You’re an author – content is what you do! You may already have a huge amount of content, or you may just be getting started.

Share sample chapters, even publishing your book chapter-by-chapter on your blog each week. Doing this paradoxically doesn’t reduce sales but grows an audience who wants to read all that you write!

Link to your own content

This is so easy, but it’s also the most overlooked. Much of your content probably naturally relates to itself. If you’ve got blog post A that talks about something in blog post B, you can put a link in A that links to B.

Doing this not only can increase the number of pages that a visitor views and their time on your site, it also gives Google clues about what you think is important on your site. This may help your SEO because now Google has some additional context that you’ve provided. And, if all the posts on your site have content upgrades, you’re more likely to capture visitors’ email addresses.

How to Use Lead Magnets

  • Create a PDF with information collected from several different parts of your blog, which would otherwise be hard for the reader to find. Embed this lead magnet in all your posts about that topic.
  • Create an info graphic that illustrates a particular concept that you talk about.
  • Give away a sample chapter of your book. Be sure to include the table of contents, testimonials page, back cover, and a link to buy the full version of your book.
  • Offer a fillable worksheet that goes along with one of your blog posts.

Elements of a Successful Content Upgrade

  • Interesting and Valuable
  • Branded With your logo or name
  • Includes a link back to your website.
  • Includes a call to action.

Turn Lead Magnets into Sales

This is one of the most easily overlooked elements of creating a successful lead magnet:

Every lead magnet that you create should have a CTA (call to action). Your sample chapter lead magnet should have a link to buy your entire book, perhaps with a coupon or discount code.

Segment Your List

Using your email software, you can segment your mailing list based on who has downloaded which lead magnets. This can show you some really interesting information, such as:

  • Who was interested in this particular lead magnet?
  • Who has downloaded multiple lead magnets?

Why did we make ContentUpgrade.me?

Wanted to be able to embed on Medium.

Not satisfied with plain old subscribe now forms.

Wanted a portable, universal lead magnet that I could use wherever my content is posted. With CU.me my lead magnets can go with my content.

What makes a great lead magnet?

Accompanies evergreen content

Adds value to the content

Covers only one subject

Why are embedded forms so powerful?

They don’t annoy your readers. People are tired of advertisements popping up and trying to get their attention away from the article. You spent all this Google juice trying to get people to your article. Are you sure no you want them to change their focus to something else?

They don’t block your content. Blocking your content with the pop over or a welcome mat is a really bad idea when you’ve spent so much energy trying to get people to review article.

They provide value directly in line with your article with your content. You can tailor your offer to fit with the content for example if you have an article that explains it step-by-step procedure you could include a checklist as a content upgrade. Internet readers are increasingly savvy.

They don’t need your pop-out or welcome to take over the screen in order for them to subscribe to your mailing list or do you have some interaction with you. In fact most people are probably so used to these tactics that they either ignore them or reflexively dismiss the messages that are popping up on their screen.

Book authors: start now to grow your audience! Don’t be afraid. Start using contentupgrade.me today.