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We recently aired an episode called How to Grow Your Email List Using Delicious Reader Magnets. Reader magnets are an immediate reward that motivates readers to join your mailing list. For novelists, a reader magnet is often a short story or prequel.
When readers want to read your short story on their Kindle or in the Kindle App on their phones, they do not want it in a PDF file. They hate to pinch and zoom to read your story.
So how can you make it easy for readers to load your story onto their e-readers?
How do you get your reader magnet into the hands of your readers?
Damon J. Courtney knows how. He’s an epicfantasy author and the creator of BookFunnel.
What is BookFunnel?
Thomas Umstattd, Jr.: What is BookFunnel?
Damon J. Courtney: When we started BookFunnel seven years ago, we only delivered ebooks to readers’ devices. We’ve expanded a lot since then.
Today, BookFunnel delivers ebooks and audiobooks directly to a reader’s device and handles the tech support readers need when trying to get an ebook on their devices.
BookFunnel can deliver advanced reader copies (ARCs), a digital thank-you gift for readers, or a copy of an ebook. A couple of years ago, we launched the delivery of audiobooks as well. Everything BookFunnel can do with ebooks, it can also do with audiobooks.
Authors don’t realize that it’s difficult to get a book onto an e-reading device.
BookFunnel is platform agnostic. It doesn’t matter to us what device a reader uses. We can help with their Kindle, Kobo, iPhone, or iPad. Believe it or not, we still occasionally have readers on Blackberries and Windows phones. Some people read on Chromebooks and PCs. And every year, we have a handful of readers who want the PDF so they can print it and read it on paper, which is absolutely insane to me.
Thomas: If I have a non-tech-savvy reader who wants to load my ebook onto their Kindle and they have questions, they can contact you to get that question answered. You walk them through it.
That’s far better than me walking them through it. The typical author knows very little about all the various devices. I might have a Kindle but not a Kindle Fire. BookFunnel relieves the author of that tech support burden.
Damon: That is exactly why I built it.
I published my own fantasy trilogy, and I had written a reader magnet which turned out to be a 25,000-word novella that I wanted to give to readers on my list.
I wondered how to do that, so I joined the email lists of Joanna Penn, Mark Dawson, Hugh Howie, Nick Stevenson, and Joe Conrad. They were all doing the exact same thing. When you joined their lists, they’d send an email with an attached epub, Mobi, or maybe a PDF. With the file came instructions like, “Plug it into iTunes with a cable, and maybe you can get it to work.”
I thought, “That’s insane. My mother would never figure that out.” I’m a techy guy, and I didn’t have a problem with it, but I thought about the readers out there who would probably not be able to figure it out.
BookFunnel came into existence to help people get books on their devices. Today, our support team is available 365 days a year. When someone gets a Kindle for Christmas or free books from authors, we’re available to help them.
We’ve honed our process so that it’s pretty smooth for people to get a book from authors who use BookFunnel. Most people can get books from us on their devices with no problem. But no matter what we do, we’ll always have older readers or readers who are self-professed technophobes who immediately contact our support.
We own every Kindle in existence. We’ve bought them all. We even have one that was released only in Japan for manga readers. When a new Kindle comes out, we buy it.
We test our process and make sure it works. If it doesn’t work, we change our process for those devices and all the other products we’ve built.
Of all the tools we’ve built, the core feature of BookFunnel is making sure readers get books. Whether you’re delivering free reader magnets or selling books directly from your website, BookFunnel can handle the delivery.
If a reader can’t get your book onto their device, they probably won’t buy more of your books. That’s why we start by helping readers get the book on their devices. If they can’t read it, they can’t go any further.
Thomas: Epub files (the current file format for ebooks) are surprisingly tricky to work with, and that’s why authors should use a service like BookFunnel.
Damon: Chances are good that if delivering an ebook requires a level of sophistication from you, it is probably going to be too technically sophisticated for your average reader to receive.
Thomas: You don’t merely want people to sign up to get the reader magnet so that they’re added to your email list. You want them to be able to read your reader magnet because it introduces them to your writing, characters, and story world.
Reading your book should cause them to fall in love with you and your writing so that they’ll buy your next book. If they love your books, they’ll be happy to get your emails.
How does BookFunnel help with ebook sales?
Thomas: Authors are beginning to explore selling books directly to readers. In addition to selling ebooks on Amazon, authors want to be able to sell ebooks directly to readers. How would BookFunnel help with that?
Damon: BookFunnel has had this functionality since 2017, but it’s really become popular in the past year. Many authors are setting up their own stores on their websites.
BookFunnel is not the seller. We’re a really small company, so we didn’t want to take that on. Plus, authors want to sell from their websites. They want to keep all the profits. They simply wanted BookFunnel to step in and handle that last mile and deliver the files.
So that’s exactly what we built. We built a system that allows you to use the most popular sales platforms. We integrate with PayPal, Pay Hip, Shopify, WooCommerce, ThriveCart, and Gumroad.
You set up your store and sell your ebooks and audiobooks. When a reader buys your book from your website, BookFunnel will send them an email saying, “Thanks for your purchase. Here are your books.”
Then your customer goes through the process of getting the books on their device with our help.
We deliver three to four million books every month. We have tons of readers who are so familiar with our process that they don’t need help anymore.
Usually, after the reader has gone through the process once, they can figure it out, and it’s no big deal.
Because we have so many users, you get a network effect from all the authors who use BookFunnel. When a reader goes to buy from your store, and they see that “Delivered by BookFunnel” logo, they’ll know they’ll be able to get your book because they’ve used BookFunnel before.
Some readers will always want to buy from Amazon or their preferred platform. But your superfans will feel very comfortable buying directly from you on your website.
Thomas: I’m glad you integrate with Gumroad. I recommend Gumroad to authors because it’s the only service that remits sales taxes for you.
If you’re using Gumroad with BookFunnel, the whole process is automated.
Your customer purchases on Gumroad. Gumroad handles the credit card and taxes, and then it kicks the data to BookFunnel. BookFunnel then delivers the file and handles the tech support.
From the author’s perspective, it’s almost as easy as having your book on Amazon, except that you get the benefits of selling directly. You get the customer’s email address, higher commission, control over the pricing, and the ability to offer deals without worrying about Amazon’s terms.
Plus, you’re more cancel-resistant. You’re not cancel proof, but you’re cancel-resistant.
Thomas: It works for audiobooks as well.
An author who runs a Kickstarter campaign will often present the audiobook as a stretch goal. When it’s time to deliver the audiobook to Kickstarted backers, they typically email everyone a link to the MP3 of their ten-hour audiobook.
I back a lot of campaigns, and I’m tech-savvy enough to know how to convert that MP3 into an MP4 and cross load it into my iPhone. But I also know it’s a 30-minute project. It’s easier for me to buy the audiobook again and listen to it on Audible than it is to go through that 30-minute project.
Can authors use BookFunnel for audiobooks?
Damon: Absolutely everything BookFunnel does for ebooks can also be done with audiobooks.
If you’re making direct sales to readers, most of your readers will already have the BookFunnel app installed. Readers can listen to your audiobooks through our app. The more tech-savvy reader can listen via MP3 if the author has offered it that way.
How you offer your audiobook will depend on your audience. Many LitRPG authors sell directly to readers who want the MP3 even if they’re going to listen to the book in the BookFunnel app.
Romance readers won’t typically download MP3s. They don’t care about having a backup copy. They just want an easy listening experience.
We built our audio app to work pretty much as seamlessly as Audible does.
Audible is the market leader, and most people are familiar with them. If you can do it in Audible, you can probably do it in our BookFunnel app.
Readers who have used BookFunnel for ebooks probably already have the app installed. As soon as they hit “Purchase,” Gumroad sends a ping that says, “Here’s the book.”
When the reader opens their BookFunnel app, the book is already there. It works the same way it does when readers purchase on Amazon, Kobo, or Barnes and Noble.
The difference is that they’re buying directly from your store. They’re not buying from a BookFunnel store. You just get that effect. When readers are already logged into their libraries, they get that sort of Amazon magic where the book is in the app right after you purchase. Tap the book to start listening.
Amazon uses the Kindle app for ebooks and the Audible app for audiobooks. But since we were building everything from the ground up, we decided to make ebooks and audiobooks available in one app, which allows you to build bundles.
In your store, you might sell a five-book boxed set. You don’t have to mash those five files together to deliver them. You simply tell the BookFunnel app to deliver books one through five to a particular reader’s BookFunnel library.
We’ll also send them an email to deliver those five books.
You can do the same thing with audiobooks. You don’t want to deliver a ten-book series in one big audio file. BookFunnel allows you to deliver those ten audiobook files to your reader via email. It also places those ten audiobooks in your reader’s BookFunnel library.
You can also mix and match ebooks, audiobooks, and even PDFs. If you have workbook pages or coloring pages, you can deliver those in the email as well.
Can BookFunnel deliver a map of my story world?
Damon: Fantasy readers are big on the maps. You can deliver maps and chronologies, and lists of characters to your readers.
Thomas: Time out. If I’m selling an audiobook of my epic fantasy, could I bundle in a PDF so that everybody who buys the audiobook from me also gets the PDF map of my story world included?
And are you saying that while I’m listening in the BookFunnel app, I can also pinch and zoom on the map in the app?
Damon: Absolutely. Readers receive both at the same time. When they load their library, the PDF map and the audiobook are both right there in their library.
Thomas: I have purchased over 1,000 audiobooks from Audible over the last ten years, and my biggest frustration when listening to an epic fantasy or LitRPG is finding a good map. If you get the ebook, the map is right there, but Audible has no way to deliver the map.
In this instance, BookFunnel is superior to Audible.
I’ll admit that the first time I bought an audiobook from an author who was using BookFunnel to deliver it, I didn’t want to download another app. But after I had the app, it was no trouble to get the next BookFunnel book.
The first-time readers use the BookFunnel app, there may be a bit of friction, but the advantage is that BookFunnel has the biggest user base, and readers are more familiar with BookFunnel than any of the other delivery platforms.
Damon: We’ve built a tremendous reputation among authors and readers. We have readers who send our support team Christmas cards. We have readers who send us Starbucks gift cards.
How would BookFunnel help an author deliver different Kickstarter rewards to the various levels of backers?
Thomas: For example, some of my Kickstarter backers will get the audiobook because they backed at a certain level, but lower-level backers won’t receive it.
What would fulfilling Kickstarter digital rewards look like with BookFunnel?
Damon: We used to have authors export the list of email addresses from their backer kit on Kickstarter and then email everybody. But if readers hadn’t interacted with BookFunnel before, the email service providers would send us to junk.
The other problem was that sometimes people would have a typo in their email addresses, or they’d sign up with an email address they never check.
To solve these problems, we recently announced a new feature called Bulk Delivery.
How does BookFunnel’s Bulk Delivery feature work?
Bulk delivery allows you to send a book to lots of readers at once or send a lot of books to a few readers at once.
With bulk delivery, you select the books (any number of ebooks, audiobooks, or short audio) and paste the list of email addresses that should receive them.
BookFunnel adds all those books to each reader’s BookFunnel library, which readers can access by logging in to my.bookfunnel.com or the BookFunnel app.
We had an author who recently completed a Kickstarter and gave every backer an eight-book series. She had to deliver eight books to 3,000 backers. That’s a lot of emails and links.
Bulk Delivery allows you to select the products you want to deliver (ebooks, audiobooks, PDFs, or any combination thereof) and paste all 3,000 email addresses and hit “go.”
Instantly your selected products are delivered to your readers’ libraries, where they can fetch them. If your readers have our app installed, they’ll have their eight-book series available the next time they open their app. All their Kickstarter bonuses are right there.
If they don’t have our app or don’t want to install it, they can access their cloud library and download books at my.BookFunnel.com.
Once the author has delivered all the Kickstarter rewards through Bulk Delivery, they can go to Kickstarter and post an update saying, “Everybody should have everything in your BookFunnel library. Click this link, and you can download everything.”
The author doesn’t have to send thousands of emails that may or may not be delivered.
If a backer doesn’t see their rewards, they can contact us. Most of the time, the problem is that the person typed their email address incorrectly. From the back end, we can see the typo, and we can move their books to their library.
What does BookFunnel’s Forward Email feature do?
Readers use different kinds of emails. They may have an old AOL email they use sometimes, but they often don’t remember which email address they used to sign up to receive their books or rewards.
After a big Kickstarter goes out, we’ll get a few emails from people saying, “I used my Yahoo address on Kickstarter because I didn’t know what it was going to be used for, but all my BookFunnel books are at my Gmail email address.”
BookFunnel can forward that Yahoo address to your Gmail and then set it to “forever forward” BookFunnel emails. If books are delivered to that Yahoo address, they will automatically be forwarded to your Gmail library. You always have one unified BookFunnel library, no matter what email address you use.
Thomas: I love this. Fulfilling the digital rewards of a Kickstarter campaign used to take at least a day and sometimes several days. Now, an author could get it done in a couple of hours.
BookFunnel simplifies the process.
How does BookFunnel help authors grow their email lists?
Thomas: How would BookFunnel help me get more email subscribers?
Damon: We were actually the first company to build a group promo page. A group promo allows authors to come together and introduce each other to new readers.
Regardless of what size of email list you have, you can join a group promo with other authors who write in your genre.
If you write fantasy and join a group promo of 12 fantasy authors, the readers on each author’s list are predisposed to like what you are writing. What’s more, they click links in emails.
When your promo is finished, you’ll have a reader who likes epic fantasy and clicks links in emails. That is exactly the kind of reader you want to get your book in front of.
Now your job is to present a reader magnet or your first-in-series to that audience of readers. Whatever you offer should have a good cover, blurb, and tagline. Make it enticing so they’ll claim a copy and read it.
BookFunnel’s group promos are massive. There are probably 1,000 promos recruiting authors right now.
Romance authors are the biggest group because there are so many romance readers. We probably have 500 romance promos actively looking for authors to join.
If you’re just getting started, try to find a promo that’s close to the niche you’re writing in. If you write romance, don’t join a massive mega romance promo.
When you’re first starting out writing small-town Christian romance, you’ll have more success joining a promo in that niche. If you join a promo with 20 other authors who are writing small-town Christian romances, their audiences are made up of the readers you want to reach.
Can an author create their own promo with authors they know from other circles?
Thomas: Let’s say I write small-town Christian romance, and I’m friends with several authors writing in the same niche. Could I host a promo and do the recruiting?
Or can I open it up to other BookFunnel authors to apply?
Damon: You can create a private promo. You will get a link that authors can use to sign up, but that link does not appear anywhere in our emails or on our promo board.
You would take that link to your small-town-Christian-romance Facebook group where all those writers congregate, and you’d announce your group promo. Authors could click to join your private promo. No authors inside of BookFunnel could see it unless you allowed them to.
You can start off with a private promo and make it public later if you want.
By default, you’ll probably make it public, which will allow it to show up on our promo board. When it does, all BookFunnel authors can browse it and decide if they want to join. Most of our authors have notification emails set up so that they’re notified whenever a promo in their genre is posted.
When you host a promo, you can cap the number of authors. If you cap it at 30 authors, BookFunnel will close the promo as soon as it’s full.
We also have other moderation features that allow you to individually approve the authors who join. You can make sure their books are good and fit within your genre.
Are group promos included in the cost of my BookFunnel subscription?
Thomas: If I want to enter my book into a promo, is there an additional cost?
Damon: No. It’s part of your BookFunnel account.
Thomas: So, if an author already has a BookFunnel account, they should be using this feature. If they’re not, they’re missing out on readily available email list growth opportunities.
They’d just need to keep an eye on the group promos and enter as appropriate. This can be a great way to add interested email subscribers to your list. I love this feature.
Damon: If you haven’t done it before, go into the group promos and tell BookFunnel which genres interest you. You’ll get an email when new promos in that genre become available.
What are BookFunnel’s printable codes?
Thomas: A few weeks ago, I talked about how it’s difficult to sell an ebook in person at a trade show. But as I was browsing your website and researching for this episode, I noticed you have a new feature called Printable Download Codes for easy ebook delivery.
Could I sell somebody a business card with a unique code on it that they use to read my ebook?
Printable codes allow you to generate individual unique download codes that you can use anywhere. You can put them on a bookmark, postcard, business card, or wherever you want.
Readers with a unique nine-digit code can go to a website we have called GetMyBook.com. On the website, readers can type in their code and get the book. Once they get their copy, that code is dead, and it can’t be used by anyone else.
Many authors sell ebooks in person by selling a postcard with a code for $4.99.
Thomas: What’s the best way to print my 500 unique codes? Do I print them like through Vista Print, or do you offer a service to print them?
Damon: MOO.com is the only printer we’ve found who will print unique codes on each piece, but they’ll only print 50 at a time.
The best and most cost-effective way to put the unique codes onto your printed piece is to print the codes on clear Avery labels, which you can buy on Amazon, Walmart, or any office supply store.
Avery has a great website where you upload the CSV file of all those codes and then print the label sheets.
You can print 1,000 postcards at VistaPrint (or your preferred printer) and then stick one of your unique code labels on each postcard. That is the cheapest option.
If you really want individual unique cards printed, there are services that will do it, but I did not find any that would do it for a price our authors were willing to pay.
Thomas: If you’re selling the book for full price, you’re willing to pay a bit more on a per-card basis for it to present well. For example, if you’re selling an ebook for $10.00 and you have to pay $0.50 to print the card, you’ll still get a good return. But if you’re using the cards for a free promotion, you don’t want to spend $0.50 cents per card.
I love the products and services you have created for authors.
BookFunnel is removing a major point of friction for readers and authors. Plus, you’re creating a great alternative to Amazon.
If an author has been kicked off Amazon or doesn’t like Amazon because of its politics, they can connect with their readers and customers through BookFunnel. You’re giving authors a choice, which I like.
Damon: When you build your own store on your website, you own every pixel of the page. Everything on that page is related to your books and products.
An Amazon page is great for converting people to buy other people’s stuff. It’s not so great at converting readers into buying the thing I paid the advertiser to show readers.
Amazon has become more like Google. You’ll see my book cover and blurb, but you’ll also see 50 other books by authors who’ve paid for ads to get their stuff onto my page.
If you drive traffic to your store on your website and readers buy from you, you’ll have that data. You’ll know who your readers are and what they’ve bought.
If you can see that a reader bought the first seven books in your series, you’ll definitely want to let them know when you release book eight.
BookFunnel Author Example
Author Katie Cross is currently releasing short audio. Short audio doesn’t really exist in the Audible world. People will not give a $14.95 credit for one hour of an audio novella. There’s no market for it.
But now our authors are actually going back and recording their short stories and novellas so that they can sell them directly to readers for $0.99-$2.99. Readers will pay that price for short audio.
We also have authors who offer audio reader magnets. When someone joins their list, they get an email saying, “Thanks for joining. Click here to download the ebook or click here to get the audio.”
The minute they click one or the other, you know exactly who you’re dealing with. You know who reads ebooks and who listens to audiobooks, and you’ll be able to market to those readers accordingly.
Some readers are “audiobook exclusive,” which means if you don’t offer audio, they’re not interested. Other readers are “audiobook first.” They prefer to buy your audiobook, but if you don’t have one, they’ll still read the ebook if they’re super interested. But they really want the audiobook, and audio sells for a lot more money.
Most of our authors are selling audiobooks directly. Audiobooks are typically priced from $9.99-$12.99, which is less than they’ll pay on Audible.
But if you sold an audiobook from your website and used BookFunnel to deliver it, we don’t take a cut of your sales. We’re not in that business.
If you sell a $10 audiobook, you profit $9.40. You only have to pay that little transaction fee to move money across the internet. But if you sold that book on Audible, you’d profit $3.00 because they take such a big cut.
Does BookFunnel integrate with Patreon?
Damon: Yes, we do.
Thomas: On Patreon, I could offer a monthly short story via audio, and I could deliver it all through BookFunnel. That would make it a totally different revenue model.
Instead of getting a lump sum when my new book comes out, I’d just keep telling the story to my monthly patrons. As I let the story trickle out through BookFunnel, my readers trickle in money through their Patreon subscriptions.
Suddenly, I’d have a steady revenue stream rather than spikes and dips.
Damon: Several of our authors release their books chapter by chapter on Patreon. They’ve created their own little Wattpad on Patreon.
BookFunnel’s integration sends patrons the link in your Patreon post. When they pop over to BookFunnel, we’ll verify that they follow you on Patreon and that they’re following you at the appropriate level.
For example, if your gold and silver patrons get a free story, we’ll verify their patronage level before we deliver. If a bronze patron clicks the link to get the free story, we’ll send a notification that says, “It looks like you’re following Thomas as a patron, but only silver and gold patrons get this story. Click here to upgrade your reward level and start reading this story today.”
Or if someone copied the link from your Patreon post and decided to give it to a buddy on Facebook, the Facebook buddy will get a notification saying, “It doesn’t look like you’re a patron of Thomas. Click here and start following him at the silver level to get this story and all the great stories he releases every month.”
It’s all built into the integration.
Thomas: BookFunnel is a flexible and robust service. If you haven’t explored BookFunnel, now is the time to check it out.
- How to Grow Your Email List Using Delicious Reader Magnets with Tammi Labrecque
- How to Create a Reader (Lead) Magnet
- How Dr. Saundra Dalton-Smith Grew Her Email List by 23k Using a Reader Quiz
- How to Pick the Right Email Marketing Service for You
- Email Marketing for Humans with Bryan Cohen
Do you want my help building your platform and connecting with readers? If so, check out Obscure No More. This course comes with live office hours calls and short, focused training videos that cover every aspect of building your platform. Learn more about Obscure No More at AuthorMedia.com.
New October Patrons:
- Glenda Mays Shaw
- L. E. Wright
- Irene Chambers
- Courtney Larsen
This was an incredible episode (they all are) as I listened twice and the third time took notes!
As for the printable codes, a few years back I was to work our writers guild table at the state fair–selling my books. It rained/flooded so we had to park off site and be bused in, carrying a backpack! No books.
I printed codes for a book on BookFunnel, stuck them on my bookmarks and sold them for $1 each. I had groups of people listen to my pitch and dig for $1. As soon as they left, another group behind them, who had heard my pitch, held out their dollars!! I sold 24 books that day!! I love BookFunnel and will use the ideas in your podcast! Thank you!!
This is a great episode. Thank you, Thomas! I have a question. How do you get a group like Story Origin or Bookfunnel to deliver your Gumroad purchases? Is that integrated? I appreciate your help. Thanks again!
Yes, see https://authors.bookfunnel.com/help/setup-gumroad/ for more on how the integration works.