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The Book Funnel: How to Go From Zero Audience to 6-Figure Business in One Book

As someone who identifies more as a “writer” than an “entrepreneur” or “marketer,” the term “funnel” has always made me feel icky.

I don’t want to funnel people into giving me money.

I want to guide them into a situation where they’ll happily pay me for fair value — if it’s right for them. No pressure, just some urgency to help them level up sooner.

While there’s certainly a place for things like paid advertising and webinars, as a writer-turned-entrepreneur, the type of “funnel” I feel most comfortable with starts with a book.

Over the past few years, I’ve learned it can actually be the most lucrative. Russell Brunson claims to generate $238 in income every time he gives away a free book.

But there are two problems:

  • Most authors think books are the pinnacle of creation, so they treat them as the end of the funnel instead of one step on the value ladder.
  • Most entrepreneurs/marketers see books as just a sales tool, instead of a trust builder that should be able to stand on its own.

The book should stand on its own as a valuable asset — but only be the end of the funnel for those who would never pay for higher-ticket items.

For others, it’s a trust-builder and the beginning of the funnel.

When you combine both the author and entrepreneur mindsets, everything changes.

What is a Book Funnel?

My two favorite Book Funnels come from Craig Ballantyne of The Perfect Day Formula and Ramit Sethi of I Will Teach You to Be Rich.

They use slightly different strategies, but both get exceptional results.

Here’s a simple summary (I highly recommend you read both books if you want to study the book funnel deeper and actually be guided along).

  1. You see the book.
  2. Buy the book.
  3. Read the book.
  4. You’re presented with a few small open loops while reading.
  5. Presented with one big open loop when finished.
  6. Offered a natural, generous gift in exchange for your email address.
  7. You’re presented with a higher-value offer (generally through an email autoresponder).
  8. If you keep showing interest, you’re continually offered more value (at higher prices, over time).

As simple as that sounds, almost no one does a book funnel effectively.

Most writer-types don’t try hard enough to convert readers into subscribers, and most entrepreneur-types don’t provide enough value to make their calls-to-action effective.

And almost no one does a book funnel naturally, without ruining your reading flow.

Your Minimum Viable Book Funnel

If you look at the full book funnel for both Craig and Ramit’s books, you’ll be overwhelmed. They’ve been tweaked over the course of many years.

Ramit is on the second version of his book — his first was a New York Times bestseller.


The Fizzle Team had Ramit on the podcast to celebrate his 2nd edition of “I Will Teach You to Be Rich” which coincided with the 10 year anniversary of the 1st edition. Check it out!

Listen to the episode:

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But don’t worry — you don’t need to be as thorough as them. I’ve gotten results with books that have only sold a few thousand copies (like getting 81 reviews on my first book, Smart Sports Betting), and by even attempting this process, you’ll be ahead of 90% of authors.

Here are the essentials, so you can build your minimum viable funnel and add to it and improve over time.

Step 1: Write a Book That’s Discoverable

The mechanics of writing a discoverable book are beyond the scope of this post (you can learn in your free copy of my book, You Are an Author) … but here’s the gist.

  1. If you already have an audience, write the book your audience wants. If you don’t know what they want, ask them —and test your own ideas while gauging the emotional intensity of the response.
  2. No audience? Find places they hang out — then eavesdrop and guess what they want. Then do the same as above.
  3. Make sure you’re writing for a particular customer avatar. I generally tell people to solve a problem or write a helpful script for their past self, current self or future self.
  4. Consider optimizing for Amazon SEO by using a tool like Publisher Rocket.

Many authors frown upon Strategy #4, but that’s only because most SEO-type books suck. You know the average “how to make money online” books, and things of that ilk.

Look at their reviews, and you’ll see that 90% complain about the “glorified sales pitch” that can’t stand on its own.

There’s nothing wrong with creating a book that answers a specific question — if you make it the best answer to that question (just like quality SEO).

And there’s nothing wrong with that answer being short, sweet and simple — like most books from SJ Scott, who makes books like How to Stop Procrastinating.

The book is only 158 (sparse) pages, but it delivers on its promise. It’s no accident he makes over $40,000 per month.

Book Funnel - How to Stop Procrastinating

By using Amazon SEO, you can drive traffic to your book for free. If you’ve done things right and written a good book, you’ll make sales effortlessly — like Scott.

Another strategy is to make your book permafree, like Nick Loper of Side Hustle Nation.

Perma-free Book Funnel - The Side Hustle

Step 2: Plant Your Bait to Convert Readers into Subscribers

For in-book bait to be effective, it must cause readers to:

  • Click (with an attractive CTA)
  • Convert (with an attractive bonus on the site itself)

Ramit Sethi uses four incredibly effective strategies:

1. Linking naturally to his website — which has been optimized as a squeeze page. He mainly does this at the beginning of the book (to explain his work) and at the end (to remind you with a soft CTA) — and a couple of little nudges within the book, as to not ruin your reading experience.

Ex. Near the end of “The Annual Financial Checklist,” Ramit talks about strategies on earning more money.

Book Funnel - Earn More Money

When you visit his site, you’re immediately presented with an attractive offer:

Book Funnel - CTA Offer

2. Linking naturally to a whole-book bonus offer for resources that didn’t fit in the book, but help you implement its concepts.

Ramit Sethi Bonus Offer 1

Again, click and you’re presented with an attractive, natural offer:

Ramit Sethi Bonus Offer 1
Ramit Sethi Bonus Offer 3

3. Linking naturally to specific bonuses.

Ramit Sethi Bonus Offer 4

Yet again, the offer is extremely natural and effective.

Ramit Sethi Bonus Offer 5
Ramit Sethi Bonus Offer 6

4. Including his email address and a prompt to reach out (giving readers a chance to talk about themselves and share their problems).

Book Funnel - Ramit Sethi Email CTA

Step 3: Turn Subscribers into Friends

If you go through Ramit’s earning potential quiz, he asks personal questions that give him precise data on exactly what you need. Are you an entrepreneur or intrapreneur? In debt and struggling? Successful but stuck?

By prompting people to email him, he gets similar data.

No matter how you get on his list, Ramit is always looking to get you to open up.

When you have hundreds of thousands of subscribers like Ramit, this is difficult. When you’re much smaller, like me and 99% of people reading — this is much easier.

Use your obscurity to your advantage. Treat your subscribers like friends. Think about it: It’s tough to convince strangers to buy something, but it’s easy to convince friends that something is perfect for them. Because you actually know what they want and need.

6-figure online biz guru Primoz Bozic does two things for new subscribers.

1. He starts “Casual Conversations.”

“It doesn’t have to be complicated. It could be as simple as saying:

‘Hey, I know you said you wanted to speak at TEDx, can you tell me more about why you want to do that?

And then naturally evolving the conversation from there.

Talk to them as if you met them in person (or as if you were talking to a friend). Ask them what they do for a living. 

What do they want? Ask them about their struggles.

You’ll soon start seeing hints of Problems Worth Solving.”

2. If they start opening up, Primoz invites them on a Welcome Call

“Hey, I’d love to talk to you more about this subject – would you be open to talking on Skype with me for 30 minutes some time this week so we can officially “meet” each other face to face?”

He asks them deeper questions about their life, business, dreams and struggles — in a casual way.

This:

  • Tells you what products they need
  • Builds a relationship with a fan who will promote you
  • Feels really good

Look for patterns, and start building your first product.

Step 4: Turn Friends into Buyers (By Creating Your “Ethical Upsell”)

Just as the word “funnel” always bothered me, I’ve never liked “upsells.” But that’s exactly what you need to do … ethically.

Your “ethical upsell” could literally be anything that gets your readers the result they desire (and that “result” could even be something as simple as “entertainment”).

But in general, most entrepreneurs will use these Ethical Upsells:

  • Actionable e-books/workbooks
  • Self-guided online courses
  • Live online courses/workshops
  • 1-on-1 or group coaching
  • Live events
  • Speaking gigs
  • Consulting gigs
  • Done-for-you services
  • SaaS products

Craig Ballantyne does a terrific job of this with The Perfect Day Formula.

Whenever Craig is on a podcast (lead generation), he offers his book for free.

But when you go to place an order, you’re offered the “ethical upsell” of his “Perfect Day Formula Kit” — a set of worksheets, videos and guides to help implement the strategies in his book.

At the end of the book funnel he offers his upsells. He does this only once you’re convinced his “Perfect Day Formula” could change your life, but it still feels a little overwhelming.

Craig Ballantyne Offer 1

His big moneymaker is the “coaching,” which costs $7,000. It starts with a live, in-person workshop, arms you with a personalized 90-day plan to implement what you’ve learned, and then you get 12 months of email coaching and accountability to stay on track.

Here’s how Craig explains his upsell on the sales page:

“HOW IS THIS DIFFERENT FROM THE PERFECT DAY FORMULA BOOK?

Great question. The PDF book is a mere starter guide for high-performers. My research and experience has shown that thought leaders like you expect extraordinary results in all areas of life, but are being held back by both external and internal factors.

That’s why you need to get coached through the 11 success tools at the workshop so that you can grow your business faster and make more time for what matters in life. We’ll crush the obstacles in your way with techniques that are too advanced for the general population, and that can only be fully utilized in a private, in-person setting like the Perfect Life Workshop.”

I couldn’t imagine a more “natural” extension of the book.

Again, it’s something only a fraction of readers will want and be able to afford — but at a $7,000 price point, he doesn’t need thousands of takers for it to be lucrative.

Step 5: Satisfy Your Customers (And Give Them More)

Most entrepreneurs obsess over getting more and more leads. They do this instead of making their current customers happier.

The best, most ethical upsell is one to an already-happy customer who wants more.

Not only are happy customers easier to market to than new leads — they’ll do your marketing for you. They’ll buy more expensive products, because they already trust you (if you’ve delivered on your promise).

The hardest thing to do is to build trust with a stranger.

Once someone has read your book, bought a product from you and changed their life as a result (and watched you deliver on your promise), you’ve done the hardest part.

Find their next rung on the value ladder and give it to them.

Step 6: Book Funnel to Six Figures

Notice I haven’t talked about myself much here — because I’m no big-shot like Ramit or Craig.

And yet, my book has attributed to six figures in revenue, despite me not always taking my own advice, and putting most of my efforts into client work.

Despite doing virtually no marketing of my book (it wasn’t a priority for me), I’ve had a few dozen prospects email me after reading or seeing my book — two of which led to a $45,000 ghostwriting contract, $20,000 publishing contract, and $5,000 (+35% equity) for building one of these book funnels.

Add about a thousand bucks from direct book sales, and a couple more emails that led to a short-term consulting gig and some coaching … and I’ve hit six figures with just four people reaching out.

Imagine if it had been my primary focus? (It will be in the near future.)

Don’t you think you could write a book that prompts four high-value people to reach out?

What Are You Waiting For?

The magic of a book funnel as a lead generation tool (when compared to blog/guest posts or advertising) is:

  • People have paid for it
  • People value it
  • It gives you credibility
  • People absorb your material, distraction free

Books are perhaps the last beacon of advertising-free material.

Books are magic. They are cheap but not seen as cheap. Authors are high-status yet accessible. Consultants are high-status yet inaccessible.

You can be both.

Smart people read books. Smart people are skeptical. But they’re the best customers once you’ve earned trust. Books are the best and cheapest way to get their sustained, long-term attention.

Hell, even just pointing to your book gives you loads of credibility. I don’t think anyone who has hired me had read my whole book. They were just impressed that it exists (and has good reviews, etc.).

If you have an online business or are starting one, writing a book (and building a Book Funnel) is a no-brainer.

Naturally, if you want to create your own, you should start by grabbing your free copy of my book, You Are an Author: So Write Your F*cking Book), where I spill all of my secrets.

Or if you want this all done-for-you, check out my publishing company, Platypus Publishing.

And if you have any questions or hate mail, you can always email me at rud@plat.pub.


Photo by Jaredd Craig on Unsplash




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