Two Complete Content Marketing Examples for Fiction and Nonfiction Authors

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Last week, we took the plunge into a comprehensive content-marketing strategy for authors.

If you’re new to the world of content marketing … “plunge” is definitely the right word: five steps, over forty-two-hundred words, twenty-three separate visuals, and no less than thirty-seven links for further reading.

Insightful? Yes.

Helpful? I sure hope so.

Overwhelming? Probably.

But don’t despair. Today’s post is all about putting that plan into action.


By walking through two complete content marketing examples for authors … one from a fiction writer — Lisa Unger — and the other from a nonfiction writer — Jacob McMillen.

Having a content marketing plan is great. But nothing is more practical than seeing that plan come to life. By way of review, here are five steps we covered last time:

  1. Your Content Marketing Goal
  2. Your Content Marketing Audience
  3. Your Content Marketing Bribe
  4. Your Content Marketing Content
  5. Your Content Marketing Calendar

Now, with those steps fresh in your mind … let’s dig in.

Content Marketing Examples for Fiction Authors

Lisa Unger is “the New York Times and internationally bestselling, award-winning author of fourteen novels.” Her books have been translated into twenty-six languages worldwide, sold millions of copies, and have been named “Best of the Year” or top picks by “the Today show, Good Morning America, Entertainment Weekly,, Independent Booksellers, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel and the Sun Sentinel to name a few.”

1. The Goal

As a fiction author, the goal of Lisa Unger’s content strategy is obvious: to sell books.

However, do not be misled. While selling books may be the ultimate goal, this doesn’t mean Lisa’s content is one heavy-handed sales pitch after another. Instead, this primary goal is supported by a host of content that firmly revolves around not Lisa herself … but her audience.

As Lisa told me:

Social media, blogs and newsletters are valuable tools for getting in touch and staying in touch with your readers, giving back in some sense by staying connected.

But for fiction, it’s all about the work … the writing. Your readers come to you and stay with you because of the stories you write.

If the other content is also interesting, funny, and valuable, then they are getting something additional. And maybe some of that content invites readers into your fictional world.

But the main thrust of my efforts is, and always has been, that each book is better than what came before. Because that’s the most important thing.

2. The Audience

To achieve her primary goal, Lisa essentially has two audiences: current readers and new readers. For both, her strategy focuses on creating a genuine community through three online outlets: her website, her social-media pages, and her email list.

In her own words, “My readers are everything to me.”

I’ve mentioned before that connecting with any audience means answering two theological questions:

  1. What hell does your audience want to be saved from?
  2. What heaven do they want to be delivered unto?

In Lisa’s case, the hell she offers salvation from is boring, run-of-the-mill thrillers in a male-dominated industry.

Not surprisingly, her heaven is entertainment. But again: do not be misled. Lisa isn’t offering bland “you’ll-enjoy-reading-this” entertainment; instead, she presents female-driven, life-overlapping, and psychologically compelling entertainment.

As evidence, consider two recent Facebook posts that emphasized those elements respectively: first, female-driven and second, life-overlapping and psychologically compelling:

3. The Bribe

To build her audience and accomplish her goal, Lisa’s website offers one bribe presented in two ways. First, in her header she includes a “Hello Bar” — a simple form composed on just one field — and, second, she utilizes an exit pop-up for new visitors:

The language in both bribes entices her visitors to submit their email address by offering an “Insider’s Guide” to her books as well as the “chance to win books every month, automatically.”

Using a pop-up like Lisa might make you feel uncomfortable. But rest assured, she felt the same way:

I have to admit I was kind of strong-armed into the pop-up window. My compromise was for it to pop up when folks leave, rather than when they arrive. Like: “You took the time to visit me. Don’t leave without a present!”

My thinking is, “Why would anyone sign up unless I am offering something they want or need: more info about the books, monthly giveaways, access to writing tips, book recommendations, etc?”

People are slammed with info they don’t want; I want them to feel differently about my newsletter. Even in a bare bones issue with just a little bit of news, some pictures, I want readers at least to get something.

4. The Content

This is where things really get good.

Opposed to traditional author sites that often appear to be little more than extended sales pitches sprinkled here and there with self-serving reviews, Lisa’s content is a healthy mix social proof — like the testimonial in her header from Harlan Coben: “Psychological suspense of the first order. If you haven’t read Lisa Unger, what are you waiting for?” — and original articles featuring everything from reviews and contests, to celebrations and announcements, to interviews with fellow authors her audience also loves.

For example, the most popular post on Lisa’s blog — which despite being published on May 6th of this year has already been shared over a thousand times on Facebook — is this piece on Tess Gerritsen:

The interview is full of insights directly from Tess on both life and writing. In and of itself, that’s a phenomenal approach to creating content, one that Lisa utilizes numerous times with other authors like Stephen King and John Grisham. However, it’s in the footer where her strategy shines:

Not only does Lisa share the spotlight with her guest, she includes a direct link to her own most recent book.

Even better, Lisa’s blog also includes an entire category focused on one of her core audiences: “Confessions of a Mommy Writer.” There you’ll find a collection of heart-felt posts:

And — once again — at the end Lisa includes an unobtrusive call-to-action to connect deeper with her:

For more inspiration on what type of content to include in your own website, check out Mary’s epic article Creating Author Websites: The Definitive Guide. On top of interviews and book recommendations, Mary suggests posting “deleted scenes and alternate endings,” “short stories,” updates on the “status of your upcoming book,” and — my personal favorite — behind-the-scenes “research” that make readers feel like they’re a “part of your creative project.”

5. The Calendar

While creating a content-marketing calendar isn’t the sexiest part of developing an effective strategy, it’s the only way to be consistent. And consistency is the only way to feed, nurture, and grow the kind of audience that actually fuels a full-time writing career.

The good news is developing content-marketing consistency doesn’t need to be a full-time job itself.

Working through Lisa’s blog, what you’ll find are two new posts every month … that’s it. For each, Lisa follows a simple promotional process: (1) she posts on social media immediately prior to publishing a new article, (2) she publishes the article, and (3) she emails her existing list.

Moreover, Lisa’s online publishing calendar is anything but forced:

Honestly, my process is pretty organic.

I write what I feel, when it moves me, and I post.

I don’t have any special scheduling apps — though I have been encouraged by so-called “experts” to get on a predictable schedule. I’m considering it, but I kind of can’t imagine doing it. I try to follow a high energy vibration, which means if I’m excited, interested, wanting to share something, I’m guessing anyone reading my blog will enjoy.

Content Marketing Examples for Nonfiction Authors

Now let’s turn our attention to the other side of the author coin: nonfiction.

Jacob McMillen is a freelance copywriter and content creator. He is primarily a service provider, helping businesses with their digital marketing efforts, but he also uses his blog — Digital Careerist — to help teach fellow freelancers how to increase their income and advance their careers. His site’s content marketing funnel is a great example of how solopreneurs can incorporate these principles without the tools or expenditures of a large agency.

1. The Goal

The goal of content marketing is ultimately to convert visitors into paying customers. Unfortunately, many writers don’t have a product to sell.

Guess what? Jacob doesn’t either.

Not yet, anyway … but that’s not stopping him, because you don’t need a finished product in order to sell a finished product. This is the beauty of pre-orders, and it’s the primary reason Kickstarter is worth over $500 million: people are willing to pre-buy something valuable.

In addition to enlisting new clients, Jacob’s goal is to pre-sell his upcoming freelance career guide, which is listed on Gumroad to avoid any overhead fees.

2. The Audience

Jacob’s target audience is very specific: new or mid-level freelance writers who are looking for higher-paying online gigs.

So, where does one go to find freelance writers?

36.85% of Jacob’s incoming traffic is “Direct,” which is typically the result of email marketing. This means that he is actively building an email list of people who enjoy his content and fit within his target audience.

Next to email, nearly 30% come from social media and 25% from referral via guest blogs. A mere 9% of his audience arrives from organic search traffic.

In other words, there is no single source that provides a never-ending stream of freelance writers. He is actively marketing in a variety of places, finding people via search, social media, and existing writing communities.

The point, however, is that despite this variety of sources … everything Jacob writes revolves around a core audience. This gives unity to his entire content marketing strategy.

3. The Bribe

The way Jacob connects his audience to his goal is through a bribe. Two to be exact:

Bribe #1: The Overpaid Writer’s 3-Year Career Blueprint

Bribe #2: 20 Field-Tested Techniques For Tripling Your Email List In Under A Year

These are ideal lead magnets because they meet pressing needs in the freelancing space: first, the hell of lacking a profitable career direction and, second, the hell of not being able to build a sizable email list. Like Jacob’s other content — as you’ll see in the next step — both pull from his actual experience.

4. The Content

Instead of rehashing the standard “here’re the best practices to get more clients as a freelancer” most writing coaches offer, Jacob’s content offers value only he can provide: personal experience.

Since he has something other freelance writers want — a successful, lucrative writing career – his posts revolves around exactly what he’s doing, how he was able to do it, and how other freelancers can do it as well.

For example, one of his more popular on-site posts is How I Earned $4,000 Last Week Just Sitting Here Writing.

In it, Jacob breaks down where that $4,000 came. Anyone interested in replicating his income (i.e., his target audience) will naturally want to learn more.

For off-site guest posts, he identifies topics that will be intriguing to both the guest-site’s audience as well as his own target audience. In this post for Mirasee, titled the Step-by-Step Guide For Launching A Solo Career In Under A Year, Jacob outlines a plan for would-be solopreneurs (Mirasee’s core audience) to quit their jobs and be successful on their own.

And here’s the truly insightful content marketing hack you should not ignore.

Each of those articles ends with an integrated call-to-action to one of his two bribes.

At the close of his on-site article is an opt-in box:

And, at the close of his off-site guest posts, his author bio contains a direct link to the second bribe:

As if that weren’t strategic enough … Jacob uses SmartBribe to immediately offer anybody who signs up for his bribe two content upgrades. Bear in mind, these upgrades are genuinely additional pieces of content. The user does not have to complete any of the following steps to access what they were originally promised. The “Over-Paid Writer’s Blueprint,” for instance, is already waiting for them in their inbox once they submit their email address.

In step one of the upgrade, he invites them to the share the resource via Twitter to get – surprise, surprise – access to his other bribe, the 20 Field-Tested Techniques For Tripling Your Email List In Under A Year:

In step two, he invites them to share it via email:

Once those two steps are completed, the lead has immediate access to both upgrades:

At this point, you’re probably saying to yourself, “All that’s well and good. But assuming that someone Tweets, emails a friend, and confirms their email address, doesn’t that still leave Jacob in no-man’s land when it comes to accomplishing his paid goal way back from step one to pre-order his ebook or schedule a consultation?”


Because on the last page of the Blueprint, comes this final CTA:

And with that, we’re right back to the very paid goal that started it all:

5. The Calendar

Jacob opts to keep things relatively simple with his content calendar, using a Google Spreadsheet to plan out and track his content flow.

He tracks by post location and targeted keywords and uses additional pages in his calendar to compile topic ideas and potential guest posts and client targets.

If you don’t have time to write 10 blog posts per month, that’s okay. You can still benefit from consistently posting even just twice per month, and then — when you have time — you can scale up from there.

Since Jacob is a freelance writer, instead of just publishing a ton of posts for his own blog, he kills multiple birds with one stone by getting hired to write for blogs in or around his target niche.

For example, instead of writing this post on freelancing for his own site or submitting it as an unpaid guest blog, he got himself hired to write it by By (again) concluding that post with a CTA to one of his content upgrades, he was able to get all the benefits of a guest post while also getting paid.

Using this method, Jacob has been methodically building his email list while only posting around once per month to his own blog (he shared the numbers with me below). The key is that he utilizes his calendar to keep a steady stream of content going out across the web.

Get Strategic about Your Content Strategy

Whether your dreams revolve around becoming a celebrated fiction author or a well-paid nonfiction copywriter … whether it’s about the artist drive to tell your own story or a burning passion to build a business telling other people’s … whether you’re just starting out or already have publishers, fans, and clients waiting in the wings …

Content marketing for authors is a proven technique to showcase your personality, bond with your audience, and increase your profits even if you’re not a marketer.

But to be successful, you have to get strategic.

And getting strategic means two things: (1) taking hold of a comprehensive content-marketing strategy you can actually use and (2) finding inspiration and practical wisdom from authors who are already living the dream.

Hopefully, these last two posts have done exactly that.

First, the plan is before you

  1. Your Goal
  2. Your Audience
  3. Your Bribe
  4. Your Content
  5. Your Calendar

Second, two complete content marketing examples have been outlined: step-by-step and visual-by-visual.

So what’s left?

You know the answer to that … it’s time to get started.


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About The Author

Aaron Orendorff

By day, Aaron is the Head of Marketing at Recart — an SMS platform for ecommerce businesses. By night, he’s the founder of iconiContent — providing fractional strategy on everything from copywriting to landing pages to podcasts. Previously the Editor in Chief of Shopify Plus, Aaron’s work has appeared on Forbes, Mashable, Entrepreneur, Business Insider, The New York Times, and more.

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