Marketing a book is a lot like marketing any other product. You need to reach your target audience and have a clear message that moves them toward the sale. But when it comes to books, there’s one key element that often gets overlooked: the back end.
Back-end marketing is an effective way to build a business around your book. However, since a book being sold at a bookstore or on Amazon doesn’t provide the same opportunities for this type of marketing as do information products you sell on your own site, how do authors leverage the power of back-end marketing? Keep reading to find out.
What Is Back-End Marketing?
You know how when you buy one thing, you get asked to buy another? For example:
- “Would you like fries with that?”
- “People who bought this also bought that.”
These kinds of product pitches go by many names: upsells, down sells, and cross-sells. But all are part of the larger strategy called back-end marketing — those sales made after the initial sale has been made.
For authors, back-end marketing is, in part, about building a relationship with your readers. It’s about creating a connection that goes beyond the initial sale of your book. In addition to engaging your readers with your brand and your business, back-end marketing can also help to increase sales of your books, as well as products and services, as well.
Back-end marketing is part of the sales process and builds up a marketing funnel around your book so that the author can increase the amount of a sale. It is designed to increase customers’ lifetime value. There are four general forms that authors can use:
- Cross-selling: Since you bought this, would you also like that?
For example: If you like “Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien, you might also like “The Sword of Shannara” by Terry Brooks.
Amazon and other online retailers do this to increase their sales.
- Down-selling: Was this offer at too high a price? How about this one-time offer at a lower price?
For example: Would you like a do-it-yourself course rather than full coaching?
This is widely used in online marketing by an array of product and service providers.
- Up-sells and Bumps: Would you like to add this other item that goes well with what you are buying right now?
For example: Would you like fries with that? or Would you like that supersized?
Of course, these examples come from the fast-food industry, but this technique is used by online marketers, as well, just not as often as the first two types.
- Tripwires: Thank you for joining my email list. Would you like this low-priced and related item available at a special discount just for signing up?
For example: Since you are interested in the downloadable templates that go with the book that you purchased, you might also be interested in my e-course based on the book. Normally, it costs $47, but if you buy today through this link, I’ll give it to you at 50% off as thanks for joining my list.
This is an excellent way to get your new subscribers used to buying from you, however, this tactic is not used as often as it could be.
Back-end marketing also includes all follow up you do with your prospects and customers, such as email marketing.
Much of this can be automated, which makes it even more attractive. Modern shopping carts, and even some email marketing programs such as Aweber, give you opportunities to program in cross-sells, up-sells, down-sells, bumps, and tripwires.
Why Should Authors Use Back-End Marketing?
Many authors overlook the importance of back-end marketing, but it can be essential for driving sales and growing your audience and business. Here are three reasons that authors can benefit from this marketing strategy:
- It can help authors sells more books by making it easy for their readers to find the author’s other titles, both currently available and those that will be written in the future.
- It can build reader loyalty, leading to increased sales and positive word-of-mouth reviews.
- It can help increase the author’s income by selling related products and services.
And selling a back-end product is often easier than the initial sale … for several reasons. One, the customer’s wallet is already out. This makes him or her more likely to spend some more. Also, if a customer has already purchased from you, there is a level of trust established, which also enhances the chances of a second sale.
How To Create a Back-End Marketing Plan for Your Book
The back-end marketing plan for your book is just as important as the front end. If you want repeat sales, you need to make sure that your back-end is just as strong as your front-end. Here is a high-level overview of how to create a plan for this area of your book marketing.
- Outline the customer journey that you facilitate.
You need to understand three basic things about your customer journey: Their “before” state, their “after” state, and the steps that will take them from before to after. Knowing this path will help you write the right books for your audience, as well as develop the right products and services that will help them make the transformation they are seeking.
- Identify where the result of reading your book lies on that path.
Your book will take your ideal readers one step along the journey. It can be at the beginning, or anywhere in the middle. But you need to identify where your book lies along the path so that you can make the right offer.
- Identify the next logical step or steps in the journey.
Identifying this step is critical to making the right back-end offer to your reader. You don’t want to off them something that they already know (is a previous step), and you don’t want to offer them something that is too far ahead in the journey either (skips steps in between).
- Create products and/or services that relate to that next step and lead them further along the path.
Ideally, you’ll create an ecosystem or suite of products and services that appeal to readers at different points on your identified customer journey. This way you have options for what to offer your readers at what time.
- Make them an offer they can’t refuse.
Select the right offer for where your readers are at the end of your book, or that can further help them achieve the result your book promises. It is important for the offer to match the topic and tone of your book, or the reader won’t be interested.
If you have already created your product suite or ecosystem, for step four you will need to understand how your current products interrelate with each other and your book. What products and services logically balance or go together? In addition, you need to fill in the gaps by understanding what products you don’t have that would be good to develop and harmonize with what you currently have.
Once you have your back-end marketing strategy laid out, start thinking of how they can fit together using the four types of back-end marketing discussed earlier in this post.
Can you create down-sell offers for your more expensive products?
Are there things you can remove from a product or service so you can offer it at a lower price point? (You’d be surprised how many more sales you can make when you offer a lower-priced option.)
Are there things you can add to a package to enhance its value to your customers? Keep in mind that at this point, your customer already has his or her wallet open and is more likely to increase their current purchase than at any other time.
How Can Authors Implement Back-End Marketing in Their Business?
There are a couple of ways to implement this strategy starting from a book sold in a bookstore or through an online retailer, such as Amazon.
- Start with a free offer to grow your list
- Start with a low-end offer
Keep in mind that the first time your reader is likely to see this offer is while reading a book that probably cost them no more than $25. Therefore, they are not likely to buy another product from you had a price point that is too much higher than that if this is the first time that they are experiencing you.
Start with a Free Offer
Use the front or back matter of your book to invite your reader to download a gift that is directly related to your book. Then, on the thank-you page that displays after they have subscribed, offer them a low-cost and highly related digital product. This tripwire should be no more than $30.
A percentage of those who subscribe will take you up on the offer. Tag them so that you know they are buyers and give them a different nurturing sequence than those that don’t buy. A decent email marketing software (I use Aweber) can make this easy and automatic. The difference between these two email sequences is that non-buyers will be pitched the same offer again, potentially at a different price point. Buyers will not.
Start with a Tripwire
This is potentially a less effective, however less complicated book funnel. In this scenario, you use the front or back matter of your book to offer readers a low-cost and highly related digital product. Publishers have been doing this for years by adding a list of – and sometimes even an order form for – other books they publish. You can offer:
- Your other book titles
- The audiobook version of the book
- A focused e-course
- A special discount on a low or mid-range priced product
This option will not grow your list, but it could result in more sales. Depending on what you offer and where they buy, this option is also harder to track.
What Can Authors Sell as Back-End Products and Services?
As an author, you have a lot of potential back-end products and services that you can sell to your readers. Here are just a few ideas:
- coaching services
- bundles of previous book titles
- Special edition of a related title with extra content or annotations
By providing valuable content that supplements their books, authors can create an ongoing relationship with their readers and provide additional value.
Using Affiliate Offers in Your Back-end Marketing
You don’t need to create all these back-end sales opportunities yourself. You can become an affiliate for a product or service that complements your product and offer that as a cross-sell. Basically, after you sell your product, you recommend a similar affiliate product.
Affiliate offers are agreements that authors make with other businesses, in which the author agrees to promote the business in exchange for a commission on sales. For example, an author might agree to promote a bookstore in their back-end marketing materials and receive a commission on any sales that result from that promotion.
An obvious affiliate program for authors is through Amazon. Then you can not only use their affiliate link for your books, but also recommend other books to read in your newsletter, welcome sequence, and on your blog.
There are many advantages to using affiliate offers in your back-end marketing. In addition to generating additional income, it’s a great way to build relationships with other businesses. And you can offer your audience products and services that they may need, but you don’t want to develop on your own.
Of course, it’s important to carefully select the affiliate offers you promote, making sure they are relevant to your audience and aligned with your brand. But if done well, incorporating affiliate offers into your back-end marketing can be a win-win for everyone involved.
2 Tips for Authors in Implementing Successful Back-End Marketing
First, don’t be afraid to experiment. There are a lot of different back-end marketing strategies out there, and what works for one author may not work for another. Try out a few different tactics and see what produces the best results.
Second, focus on building relationships. Back-end marketing is all about connecting with readers and giving them a reason to keep coming back for more. Make sure you’re staying in touch with your readers and giving them the information and resources they want.
Always Be Adding Value to Your Readers
As you can see, there are a lot of benefits to using back-end marketing. By offering back-end products and services, authors can:
- build a sustainable business model that allows them to continue creating the content their readers love
- create a system that provides value for their customers long after they finish reading your book
And remember affiliate offers can be an effective way to monetize your back-end marketing efforts. If you’re not currently using back-end marketing in your publishing or authoring business, now is the time to start and the information in this post should help you on your way.
Note: This post first appeared on CarmaSpence.com as two separate posts in July 2008 and May 2020. They have been merged and additional content has been added.