Here’s the story. Every day I go to my Amazon KDP admin interface where the book sales reports are generated and crank those numbers into a spreadsheet that I use to project the month’s estimated sales/royalties and track my income, expenses, taxes, blah-blah. When I got to the price-matched (free) downloads for SEASON OF THE HARVEST, I stopped. The download total for the month that I entered the day before was around 5,500 copies. The total roughly 24 hours later, as I was updating the stats, was over 14,000. Hmmm.
Quickly popping over to Amazon to look at SEASON’s Amazon page, I saw that it had climbed from wherever it had been in the rankings (I no longer even look at those, since I have no control over them) to #178. Okay, that’s cool as heck, but how did it get there? I checked Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today, which had promoted my books in the past, but only the older entries were listed.
In the meantime, SEASON kept climbing, until as of the morning that I write this — less than 24 hours later — it’s at #7 in the Kindle store and has had a total of nearly 20,000 downloads.
As I was chowing down on breakfast, wondering how the heck this happened (and giving thanks to God for it), I received an email from Stephanie Bucklin at Bookbub, explaining that they had a bit of extra space in their daily email, and chose to drop in a blurb for SEASON OF THE HARVEST in hopes of tempting me to consider purchasing listings with them in the future.
Well, Stephanie, your strategy worked! I definitely plan to purchase listings with Bookbub for my free books, and may also consider it for some of my paid ones. Now, keep in mind that the up-front cost isn’t necessarily cheap. The price to list a book depends on its list price vs. the category you want to advertise to, with rates for freebies ranging from $40 to $240, and prices for paid books from $200 to $1200 (check out their current price list here).
Before you jump out of your shorts looking at the $1200 figure, in particular, think for a minute. In that case, you’re paying to reach a targeted audience of over 460,000 readers of mysteries and thrillers, with an average download per ad of 1,750 copies (again, though, you could be higher or lower). If you’re charging $2.99, that works out to roughly $3,500 in royalties on those sales, for a net profit of roughly $2,400. It’s all about return on investment (ROI), my friend, and a 200% return ain’t bad.
Now, are you guaranteed that? Of course not. The low end of the sales figures provided in the chart is 200 copies, which means you’d lose about $750. But again, that’s for the biggest, most competitive category that I just wanted to use for illustration. Most of the other paid categories are more manageable, and the freebies are, based on the experience I’ve had in the last 24 hours, pretty much a no-brainer. Are you always going to shoot into the top 10 of the free listings in the Kindle store? Ummm, nope. Remember, even under the best of circumstances, you’re going to plateau a bit at some point after saturating a large portion of your potential audience (that’s why you need to keep writing new books!), and not every book goes into a promotion like this already having a 4.3 star rating and almost 350 reviews, which is going to really lower a reader’s resistance to clicking the download button. But chances are you’ll get a boost that’ll be worth sacrificing about fifteen cups of Starbucks coffee. I love their Java Chip Frappuccino, but I’m willing to sacrifice the calories (for now!) to sell more books.
The bit about saturating your audience brings up another point. Bookbub ran SEASON OF THE HARVEST against their Action and Adventure readers, whereas I would have tossed it at science fiction or even horror readers (as at one point, when I had it in the horror category on Amazon, it got as high as #2 in the paid listings). In doing so, I suspect that Bookbub exposed SEASON to a lot of people who hadn’t seen it before. I think that may have had a lot to do with it shooting toward the top like it did; previous listings in Pixel of Ink and Ereader News Today had a great impact, but I don’t think ever took it that high. Of course, I now have to hope that those Action and Adventure readers who downloaded the book actually enjoy it!
Anyway, the bottom line is that I really do think Bookbub listings are worth a try, especially if you’re promoting free loss leader books. That’s a level of investment nearly anyone should be able to swing. The paid book listings are tougher to wangle, but if you have a good experience with a free listing or just want to go for it, the potential ROI looks pretty darn good.
Have you used Bookbub? Leave a comment and tell me what you thought…