Webinars & Summits: An Author’s Guide to Selling Books through Online Events

Secret ingredients to sell books: win someone’s email address, demonstrate your authority and teach valuable content, strategically get in front of a captive audience.

A killer way to do these three things online… for free… all in one fell swoop? Online events.

And by that, I mean webinars and online summits.

These types of online events hold immense power to sell books if done right.

First, let’s talk webinars.

What’s a webinar? A webinar is usually a live, one-time, online teaching event. It’s generally 60-90 minutes long, during which an author teaches viewers valuable content. There’s often a pivot to a sell at the end, as well as Q&A.

The first key is to promote your webinar far and wide. You want as many viewers as possible, so I always suggest you use a strategic email campaign, influencer outreach, and Facebook ads to bring in viewers. People can sign up by going to an opt-in page where they input their name and email address. That way, you can deliver them the links they need to watch the webinar, but you’ll also then have a way to email them about your book and other purchase opportunities later. Remember, email marketing works!

Secondly, ensure that the webinar is truly solid teaching–content that’s highly relevant and valuable to your audience. Create a strong keynote to accompany the teaching, and even a workbook to keep viewers engaged offline. If your webinar hits on a felt need the viewers feel, they’re much more likely to stick around for the pitch for the book at the end. Plus, you’re then set up as an expert on your topic.

Finally, a webinar lets you teach and share your message from the comfort of your own home. Think about how much you travel to speak in front of 50-200 people. That takes money and time away from family and friends. Why not do it online? You can start small and even get in front of a crowd of just 50-100 people relatively easily, even without ad money. Your investment is immensely less than what you’d spend for an “in-person” event, but the return is potentially the same.

Here are some key webinar tools you can consider:

GoToMeeting – This is a great tool if you want to do impromptu webinars without getting someone’s email address. I wouldn’t recommend this option, but it’s fairly cheap.

GoToWebinar – This is GoToMeeting on steroids. It provides you a lot more tools/benefits, with the biggest being that you can get people to opt-in, so you know who they are and you can communicate with them based on whether they showed up or not. The price depends on the number of people that will attend live. It can get pricey, but it’s one of the most stable platforms out there.

WebinarJam – This is a tool that allows you to leverage the Google Hangouts platform, but has all the great tools of a webinar platform (email sign-up, screen share, offer promotion, etc.). This one isn’t always available to purchase, as they typically launch the product only a couple times each year.

Zoom – This is a new platform that has made a big splash lately. We use it for all of our internal team communication. I know a lot of big brands that have moved away from GoToWebinar to Zoom because its top tier packages are a bit cheaper and allow more people to tune in live. For example, Zoom generally offers you space for 3,000, at the same price that GoToWebinar would offer you space for 1,000.

A Summit is another great option for online events.

What a summit? It’s an online event that brings like-minded people together around a specific topic. Rather than having one main speaker, like a webinar, a summit is a gathering of many. Typically, you see anywhere from 5-30 panelists as part of a summit, depending on the scope and the goal of the event.

To do a summit, gather experts in your field together and ask each to speak on a certain aspect of the topic at hand. Each expert’s portion can be interview-style or presentation-style, live or on recorded video. Viewers should opt in for a summit just as they do for a webinar. Promote far and wide, and then have people exchange their name and email address for access.

First, a summit is awesome because it has the capability to really create a splash around the topic of your book. As an example, Logan Wolfram just did one (The Curious Living Summit) around her book Curious Faith. She did a terrific job of assembling some great speakers on the topic and then interviewed them for 20-30 minutes about curious living. She ultimately brought each one back to the book. I don’t know the exact results, but I’m guessing it created a ton of exposure for her book.

Secondly, a huge benefit is that all of the presenters help promote the summit. Rather than you being the sole marketer, you have a natural team of promoters. Each presenter has motivation to use his/her channels, networks, and email lists to share the opportunity and request sign-ups.

Generally, it’s easiest to tape the interviews/presentations in advance, so the work can be batched. Some people do it live, but feel no pressure to do so; the technology doesn’t have to be scary. I do recommend that you record in HD. There are tools out there like Skype and Zoom that allow you to do this for free.

A challenge with a summit can be to demonstrate your own authority on the topic at hand, rather than just the authority of your presenters. Additionally, it can be a little tougher than a webinar to make your book the focus. Be sure to use those new email sign-ups after the summit to talk up your book and offer special purchase deals.

Think about it…

The marketing language of the book world used to revolve around book signings, speaking events, and city-to-city tours. While those still sometimes have a purpose, they’re marketing tactics that offer increasingly diminishing returns.

Rather than paying for flights and dealing with the mess of travel logistics, just sit on your couch. Grab your computer. Go online. It’s where your people are anyway. Way less investment, way more return.

Why travel for speaking events? Do it online. It's free. It's quick. It's where your people are anyway. Click To Tweet

While the logistics of the above can be complex, the point is simple: get email addresses, teach valuable content, leverage the captive audience. Give it a go! Start small, and grow as you gain experience and confidence.


  • Thanks for the shout out Chad! You’re right. Logan’s summit brought in a number of new book sales, but even better than that, grew her email list and introduced her to new audiences through the guest interviews. We highly recommend summits!