Cutting Through the Noise

breaking into Bookbub

In 2015, the Huffingpost proclaimed "It Isn't Amazon Publishers Should Fear. It's Bookbub." And while other social media-based recommendation services, such as Amazon's Goodreads, are also making a huge impact in the publishing industry, Bookbub's influence on the marketplace remains undeniable.

The advertising service curates a recommended reading list of discounted/free titles for its members based on an ever-changing collection of books that have passed its restrictive intake process.  And that selectivity is the key to maintaining the trust of Bookbub's membership. The question is, how can an author break through the noise to get onto this promotion platform? And is doing so actually worth the price of admission?

Bookbub has taken authors rejected by publishers and turned them into bestsellers

Bookbub provides authors with fairly good insight into their selection process, with two pages being particularly useful: Bookbub Promotion Requirements and How to Optimize Your Submission. The common theme between the two pages is that you need to be offering their membership a great deal, on a high-quality book (no errors, solid cover, good number of reviews), offered across an array of distribution platforms.

Some authors never break into the coveted Bookbub roster of offerings, and some that do don't see that opportunity translate into meaningful long-term results.

Eric Thomson recently had the first book of each of his sci-fi series accepted by Bookbub so I asked him a few questions about this experience.

ALR: You've submitted to Bookbub (BB) in the past, without success.  What do you think contributed to your titles being accepted as featured deals this time around?

Being out of Kindle Unlimited and selling through iTunes, Barnes & Noble and Kobo probably played a big role.  I submitted to BB before, without success, and now I that I'm out of KU, I get two in a row, although the second one is international only, no US.  I suspect BB prefers books that are sold wide over those exclusive to Amazon.  The nicer covers likely helped a lot as well.  (Thanks!)

[Glad to hear it!!  See this earlier post to see the before and after of Eric's book covers.]

ALR: Did you have any specific hopes or expectations for your Bookbub promotion before it began? Did it meet your expectations and/or earn out its return on investment (ROI)? 

I didn't know what to expect. Frankly, I didn't expect to earn back the steep up front fee, not on a $0.99 sale (where my net was only $0.35 from Amazon and $0.59 from the others).  On the day it ran, I sold 2,631 units on Amazon and 663 via the other retailers, allowing me to recoup my investment and obtain 100% ROI in a single day on that book alone, never mind that a percentage would go on to buy the rest of the series and even take a look at my other one.

The book stayed at $0.99 for another 26 days after the BB promotion ran.  My total ROI for that period, if I include the sell-through of other two books in the series, was over 1,500%. It drove the book to #40 in the entire US Kindle Store and pushed me into the top 50 bestselling Sci-Fi authors on  The book earned the coveted orange bestseller tag on all English speaking Amazon sites (US, UK, CA, AU) for at least one sub-category for almost a week, mostly driven by that one day spike. 

bookbub drove me to #40 in the US Kindle Store

The next day, I sold 597 of the advertised book, the day after that, 235, then it dropped to between 50 and a hundred for the following two weeks and under fifty for the last two weeks of February.  Sell-through of the subsequent books in the series is still occurring and sits at 23% follow-through from Book 1 to Book 2 and 70% from Book 2 to Book 3.  The 'tail' petered out a week or so ago, putting my daily sales back at the pre-BB levels, so I got 6 weeks of increased sales from it.  

The BB promotion for Decker's War #1 is running today [as written on 21 Mar 2017].  It's international only (UK, CA, AU, IN), but I stacked a Bargain Booksy on it for today and an Ereader News Today this Thursday to boost sales in the US.  As I write this, I'm seeing a good spike and less than six hours since it went live, I've recouped 35% of my investment, so I think this one will turn out positive as well, if not as spectacular.

ALR: You have two (soon to be three) series on the go, can I assume that the best value would be to put only the first book in each series in for Bookbub promotions, and then hope that any readers you snagged through those offerings would follow-on to purchase the rest of the series from their sales platform of choice? Or would you see a scenario where it would make sense to include later books from those series in their own BB promotion?

Definitely, the BB promotion should focus on the first in a given series.  If they like it enough to buy the subsequent ones at full price, they'll buy.  If they like your writing style enough, they'll look at your other series.  I don't see myself putting in that kind of money on a later book because readers, especially in sci-fi, are accustomed to series with defined arcs and will naturally gravitate to the first one if they're new to the books.  My series are episodic rather than successive, but I still wouldn't bother with a BB on later books in a related set of titles.

Now, less expensive ads for freshly published books later in a series is something I'd consider, to remind fans that a new book's coming out.

ALR: Any final words in terms of the knock-on impacts from after your BB promotion ended?

As mentioned above, I'm still seeing sell-through of Books 2 and 3 of the Dunmoore series almost a month after the promo ended—and clearly related to said promo (i.e. I'm selling more copies of 2 and 3 than 1 since the beginning of March). I've also accumulated more ratings on Goodreads, a few more reviews on Amazon, iTunes, Kobo, and Barnes & Noble. And it's given me more followers on BB itself, Goodreads, my blog and via the various retailers, meaning each new book I publish will quickly reach a broader audience.

More importantly, it raised my visibility on iTunes, Kobo and Barnes & Noble to the extent that so far in March, 55% of my sales come from those three combined versus 45% from Amazon stores.  In terms of establishing myself 'wide', that's priceless. And, it brought me to the attention of Tantor Media, who subsequently offered me a contract for the production of the Siobhan Dunmoore books in audio. So I guess you could say that BB pushed my career up another level.  

So this was a clear case where the end results were more than worth the expense of the promotion itself.  And that initial expense is not insignificant when dealing with this company.  

Based on the details of their pricing page, to get your promotion into the inbox of the 2,040,000+ Bookbub subscribers that have specifically requested sci-fi recommendations, offering a free book would cost an author $305 USD, whereas a $.99 offering would set you back $610 USD (with higher amounts for correspondingly higher priced books). Bookbub claims that a free book promotion in their sci-fi category results in an average of 33,900 downloads whereas costed/discounted sci-fi titles see an average of 2,410 downloads.  In either case, those are respectable numbers that can drive you up in the sales lists and increase your exposure.

As an author, you'll have to do the math to see if a Bookbub promotion is worth your investmentand if so, you'll still have to hope that they'll even invite you to pay to play in their sandbox. #fingerscrossed :)  

the power of the flashsale & the rise of Bookbub



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