The Do's and Don'ts of Lead Generation Books

There's a lot of buzz out there about "lead gen" books—aka, lead generation or marketing books—and what they can do for your business. In fact, many major coaches, business leaders, and other influencers are jumping on the lead gen book bandwagon. 

If you're an entrepreneur with an online presence, a lead gen book can absolutely be a strategic piece in your content marketing strategy. It can create buzz around your brand, highlight your signature services or programs, and share your knowledge in a way that creates leads and new clients. 

But there's a dark side to the lead gen book craze, too, and it's starting to show. This is the result of some fundamental misconceptions in the entrepreneurial community about what a lead gen book is, what it does, and (most importantly) what it offers readers. 

What is a Lead Generation Book? 

A lead generation book is a book whose sole purpose is to market the products, services, or philosophies of its author. 

As part of a larger content marketing strategy, it can be used as an opt-in gift on a web site, a free giveaway at events, or as a tripwire or low-price-point sale item. The book itself is structured with a strong call to action, and peppered with sales language to entice people to buy. 

The focus of a lead-gen book is on the "what" and the "why" of what is being discussed, instead of the "how." The content is geared toward creating a need for the featured product or service, exploring the "pain points" of the target readers, and talking up the potential of the featured product to resolve these pain points and create positive change. 

In other words, a lead gen book is basically a 50+ page sales letter.

When written well, a book like this can absolutely boost business and get people interested in what you're offering—which, of course, is why so many business owners want to write them. 


What makes lead gen books different from regular books? 



Are created to sell or highlight a product, service, or business.

Are part of a series of action steps or marketing triggers which culminate in the user purchasing a product.

Focus more on "what" and "why" than "how" and "when."

Focus on present and future reader action rather than immediate reader outcome.

Are created to teach, inspire, and create change for readers, and establish the author's brand and/or expert status.

Are stand-alone products which deliver a clear experience or set of results for readers.

Explain as much of the "what," "why," "how," and "when" as needed for the reader to take action on the information presented.

Focus on reader outcome rather than sales or additional reader action.

To help you understand the difference between lead gen books and regular books (and get the most out of the rest of this post), I've created the handy little comparison chart at right. 

What's going wrong with lead gen books?

Let me be clear: The structure and strategy of lead gen books isn't the problem at all. They are tools created for a specific function and put to a specific use, just like every other piece of a well-rounded marketing plan. 

No, the issue with lead gen books has arisen because they are being presented to readers as regular books. 

Many entrepreneurs simply don't know the difference between a lead gen book and a book that's intended for a wider audience and marketplace. They write lead gen books with good intentions and high hopes for their marketing and business growth. Then, they suddenly realize that a book can do much more for their business than just lead generation—and decide to see where their book can take them. They get excited, post their books for sale on Amazon or elsewhere, start throwing book release parties, and encourage people around the world to buy their books for $14.95, or $17.95, or $19.95. 

But, as I've seen over and over in the last year or so, promoting a lead gen book in the same way as a regular book is a surefire way to damage your credibility as both an author and a businessperson. 

Why? Because a lead gen book is a sales tool. It presents questions and information, but not solutions. It focuses on pain points, and on the "what" and "why," but gives very little information about how a reader should solve the problem you're discussing. 

When you think about it this way, I'm sure you'll agree: charging someone $14.95 to read your sales letter is NOT a great way to inspire trust and confidence in you or your product. In fact, it feels kind of icky. It's like giving someone a menu and charging them for a meal, but never delivering their food. 

A book—especially a non-fiction book geared toward educating, enlightening, or transforming readers—makes a promise to its readers. The title, back cover text, and introduction reinforce this promise. When you write a book that promises a solution, readers expect to find that solution within the pages of the book. If they waste precious hours reading your book, only to find out that they need to spend hundreds more dollars to get the very same information they thought they were getting when they purchased the book, they will be less likely, not more, to trust your brand and purchase from you in the future. 

How to solve the lead gen book dilemma

Now, I'm not telling you any of this to discourage you from writing a lead gen book. In fact, I help clients with their lead gen books all the time. They are tools for a specific job, and when done well, they can do amazing things for your business. 

However, if you do choose the lead gen book route, there are 3 things you will want to consider before you publish and share your book so you can engage your readers with clarity, intention, and integrity.

If you follow these simple guidelines, you can proceed with confidence, knowing that you are delivering on your promises to your clients and readers, and sharing your lead gen book in a totally integrous way. 

  1. If your book is a true lead gen book, don't price it like a regular book. If you want to put it on Amazon, B&N, or other sites, make it a free e-book resource—or, if you feel you must charge something, price your book at no more than $2.99. This lets readers know right away that this is a giveaway, or close to it. (Bonus: lowering the price may actually increase your visibility and downloads, too!)

  2. Treat your book as an opt-in gift or tripwire item on your web site, not a stand-alone product. This creates a TON of perceived value for your audience while keeping the line between marketing and solutions intact.

  3. Don't promise solutions if you're not providing them. It's easy to get caught up in the marketing language when you're crafting your title and back cover copy. It's also easy to get confused about what your book provides vs. what the program you're selling provides. Regardless, don't make promises that you don't intend to keep with your material.

    If your back cover reads, "I'll teach you how to increase your sales while cutting your work hours!" be sure that your book actually empowers readers to do that without any further help from you. If you don't intend to give away your strategies, you could instead write something like, "In this book, I'll tell you why increasing your sales and reducing your work hours is THE way to go if you want to scale your business." See the difference there? It's still compelling, but the only thing the second statement promises is the "why."


As you can probably tell, I'm passionate about this topic. This post may feel like a bit of tough love, but I never want to see an author's credibility or reputation compromised as a result of simple misunderstanding and misinformed marketing choices! You've worked hard on your book—whether it be a lead gen book or a regular one—and it deserves to be seen by readers in a way that illuminates its best self. 

Happy writing, Heartwriters! Go out there and rock it! 

PS: Have questions about the how and why of lead gen books? Post them in the comments! 


Bryna Haynes is a word alchemist, book strategist, and the founder and President of The Heart of Writing. She's also the chief editor for Inspired Living Publishing and the best-selling author of the multiple-award-winning book, The Art of Inspiration: An Editor's Guide to Writing Powerful, Effective Inspirational and Personal Development Books. In over a decade as a book coach, editor, ghostwriter, and publishing consultant, she has helped hundreds of authors find their authentic voices and create powerful, memorable, successful works. She lives outside of Providence, RI, with her husband, Matthew, their Moonbeam, Áine, and their Little Star, Aelyn. 

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