Chapter Upgrades: Can You Get Half Your Readers To Join Your Newsletter?

How would you like to dramatically increase the size of your reader email list? Imagine if you could get almost 50% of your Kindle readers to sign-up for your email list.

Here is the single best technique I know of for growing your opt-in list:

At the end of each chapter,
offer your reader a downloadable bonus–a “Chapter Upgrade”–that
will help them to apply the content in that specific chapter.

Let me explain further. First, a short jaunt through Internet Marketing history…


The old, average way to get people to cough up their email is to ask them for it in exchange for a generic item like our newsletter. It’s not uncommon to hear that this type of offer will convert at around 1% (meaning for every 100 people who visit that page or read that blog post, 1 of them will sign up for the newsletter). For example, this I found at the bottom of Austin Kleon’s blog posts:

upgrade 1 kleon


Similarly, you often see someone offering a “special report” or an eBook, which is considered of higher value than yet-another-thing-in-my-inbox-every-week. These might convert around 2% (your results will vary; I’m just making that up from my own experience and bar stories). For example, here is an eBook offer from someone named Benjamin Hardy I found on Medium.

upgrade 2


Eventually someone figured out that people are lazy and don’t really want to take the time to read an “eBook” or a white paper or even your newsletter. Instead, they want to be instantly skinny and rich and handsome from your “checklist” or “resource guide”. These items will generally convert two or three times as well as well as first generation bait. The image below is from Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income website.

upgrade 3


You know, all those “what breed of dog are you” quizzes on Facebook? Like moths to a flame…Quizzes are so powerful that I start to build my reader list while I’m writing my book. When I started writing my book on time management, I blogged along the way and always ended with this call to action (converts around 4-6%).

upgrade 4

And by the way, pop-ups are annoying but effective. Whatever your lead magnet conversion rate is, add a pop-up and your conversion rate will at least double.


OK, now it’s getting good. This is important.

A “content upgrade” is a fancy way of saying a bonus piece of content that your readers can download in exchange for their email address, but it is specifically tied to the content in the article or blog post that was just read. It’s extremely specific and typically something that will help you to apply the information you just read. For example:

  • you read about the health benefits of eating vegan; click here to download 5 easy vegan recipes that taste great
  • you just read about how to hire a great copyeditor; click here to get my personal list of 5 copyeditors that I use on each and every book

The opt-in rates for content upgrades can be very high. Typical conversion rates seem to be around 20%. Here is an example from Digital Marketer at the end of an article titled “Facebook Flex Targeting”:

upgrade 5


Not really sure who gets credit for doing it first (Nick Stephenson certainly popularized the idea among fiction authors, Steve Scott was the one who I stole the idea was inspired by), but the main idea is to take the whole lead-magnet idea and put inside the front of our books. That way, readers and also lookie-lous who are using the Look Inside feature will see some bait and swallow it up in exchange for an email address. So this is one offer, on one page just inside the front matter.

This is a reader magnet inside 10-Minute Declutter by S.J. Scott and Barrie Davenport:

upgrade 11 scott declutter a

And that link takes you to this landing page:

upgrade 11 - Scott declutter b

And this is my look-inside-reader-magnet for 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management (ahem, that’s not an underline, that’s a link on my title. Did I mention it has over 100 positive reviews?):

temp upgrade 12


But then I decided to boldly go where no man has gone before! (Too dramatic? Fine, but you’re so going to regret that I’m not gonna make a tribble reference later in this post.)

For my productivity book, I decided to take the “content upgrade” idea and apply it to almost every single chapter. For example, my chapter called “The Power of Proper Priorities” has this offer at the end of the chapter:

upgrade 8

For my chapter, “The Procrastination Cure” this offer appears on the last page of the chapter:

upgrade 9

IMPORTANT: Notice that it’s the same web address for each chapter bonus. To make the execution of this easier, I just combined each chapter-bonus into one PDF, so by downloading any one bonus they get them all. Saves me from having to create separate landing pages, separate opt-in lists, etc. And, saves the reader from having to go through it over and over again. The landing page offer (after some tweaking) looks like:

upgrade 13


(First, let me give a big thank you to Steve “S.J.” Scott. I reached out to him as I was working on this blog and he was totally transparent and helpful with his numbers. Two of our books are direct competitors. His To Do List Makeover is currently kicking my butt in the “Time Management in Business” category as we speak. LOVE it that he’s so open and always willing to give the rest of us a hand up.)

OK, this isn’t really isn’t apples to apples, but any data is better than no data.

So it turns out that my book that uses Chapter Upgrades had almost double the conversion rate of Steve’s book that just used the one free gift.

  • 10-Minute Declutter with single reader magnet = overall conversion rate of 14% (percent of book buyers who ultimately give email address for the free gift)
  • 15 Secrets… with chapter upgrades = overall conversion rate of 33% (percent of book buyers who ultimately give email address for the free gift)

Now here is the interesting thing for true internet marketing geeks. Steve’s landing page is outperforming my page by a lot. We compared them:

  • Steve’s page conversion rate is 63% (percent of people who, once they land on the offer page, continue to click the button and give the email address)
  • My page conversion rate is 41%

Which means, if I could just get my landing page conversion rate to match Steve’s, my overall conversion rate of the Chapter Upgrade approach would be even higher. A lot higher. Like 48%. Crazy, huh?

Can you imagine getting almost half of your Kindle readers signing up for your newsletter? Holy smokes. I’ll report back on my final results when I create those new landing pages.

(Hmm, so why isn’t my landing page performing well? Don’t know but I have a hunch. Because I’m sending everyone to the same page regardless of which chapter upgrade they wanted, I end up writing all that blah blah blah explaining what they’re going to get. It’s a continuity problem. “What, wait? I just wanted the procrastination sheet, what’s all this over stuff? I’m outta here…” I think I need to take the time to create a single landing page for each chapter in the book, even if I still end up delivering one big PDF with all the bonuses.)

Pretty cool stuff, huh? Hey, if you liked this post I hope you’ll share it with others in your various writing tribes.