Is Promoting Your Book on Bookbub Worth It?

I recommend Bookbub.com for book promotions

I hereby recommend Bookbub.com!

Let’s face it: the hardest part about being an author isn’t writing the books, it’s promoting them, getting them out there where potentially interested readers will see them and, if they like what they see, buy them (or download them, in the case of freebies). There are tons of ways to do that, some of which work better than others, and most of which yield different degrees of success for a given author. One type of promotion, of course, is paid advertising, which encompasses a lot of territory. I’ve been very blatant in my stance that paid advertising, regardless of venue, is largely a waste of money. However, I’m hereby going to make an exception to that sweeping generalization: Bookbub.

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.

SEASON OF THE HARVEST at number 7 in the Amazon Kindle store

It’s sort of hard to argue with results like this (#7)…

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…

17 thoughts on “Is Promoting Your Book on Bookbub Worth It?

  1. M. E. Patterson

    Yeah, funny you just posted this. I ran a Bookbub promo over the weekend while Devil’s Hand is on-sale for 0.99, mostly just to see if that could rustle up some new readers for the book. Just sent out to their Horror audience, I saw a huge spike in sales right after their email went out. So I have to agree with you, right now their ads are working pretty darn well and, I presume, introducing a lot of new readers to some great indie reads.

    Reply
  2. Jodi

    Bookbub is my favorite of the ebook emails. I signed up for several, but it’s the only one that I consistently check every day. It’s selective, uncluttered, and I trust it. Good move, Michael!

    Reply
  3. robert

    I’ve used Bookbub three times already. The last time was for a mystery/thriller listing. $460 is a lot, sure, but the promo helped me sell over 5,000 copies at 99 cents and got me in the Kindle and Nook top 100 for several days, so … yeah, I’m quite happy with them. :-)

    Reply
  4. Ryan Schneider

    I’ve just signed up for my first Bookbub campaign, to kick off in early May. I chose the $120 listing fee to list my new SciFi novel Eye Candy on sale at $0.99 (regularly $3.99).

    The $120 seemed a bit pricey, particularly for unproven results.

    BUT…

    I did a Google search and found a handful of writers who had used Bookbub, even to promote some rather niche books, which are tougher to sell.

    Every single author I read about said that they had made some money (not always a lot, but they WERE in the black), and, more importantly, they had sold A LOT of books. That is a good thing.

    So I’m also looking forward to seeing what happens.

    Thanks, Mike, for sharing this. That’s really wonderful that Bookbub picked you up like that. #7 in Kindle Free ain’t too shabby!

    Reply
    • Ryan Schneider

      UPDATE:

      Yeah, um. So, BookBub rejected me. They didn’t want to list my book because they surmised that it’s in Kindle KDP Select and has been discounted to free in the past and could be again in the future. They don’t want to anger their customers by promoting a book for $0.99 when it has been free and likely will be again.

      So, for you writers, keep that in mind.

      I’m going to try again with another of my books, which is perma-free across all the major retailers, not just Amazon. They accept those on case-by-case basis. We shall see.

      Reply
      • Michael Hicks Post author

        I know quite a few authors have been turned down by Bookbub for a variety of reasons. On the one hand, I know that’s a pain, because you want to get your books out there for people to see.

        On the other hand, in the long run it’s a good thing, because when you DO finally make it into one of their listings, it’s going to have real impact. Why? Because as Jodi noted earlier in this thread, Bookbub is keeping things selective and uncluttered for their subscribers. Based on my own experience, they obviously take some time to research each listing before accepting it, and don’t cram a bunch of them in together. I submitted one for early/mid-May, but it won’t actually run until the end of the month. Again, that tells me that they’re focusing on quality over quantity…for the readers.

        My recommendation is just to keep writing and periodically resubmit, or even submit another of your books for the heck of it!

        Reply
  5. Michael Hicks Post author

    Well, it certainly seems like it’s a good deal, even at cost.

    I also found Jodi’s feedback very interesting from the reader’s perspective: I’m not signed up for any of the “deal” newsletters from Bookbub, Pixel of Ink, or Ereader News Today, so I don’t really have any way to compare what the consumer actually gets. But “selective, uncluttered, and trusted” sounds pretty darn good to me!

    Reply
  6. Joe Hart

    Hey Michael, yes, worked with bookbub once before and did very well (24,000 downloads of my supernatural thriller in 5 days and some nice sales numbers afterwards, along with over 70 reviews.) Definitely worth it. I’m doing another promo with them beginning Friday for my police procedural/horror novel, so we’ll see how it goes.

    Reply
  7. Theresa Snyder

    Thank you, Mike for the article. We newbies need as much guidance as we can glean from you seasoned folks. Your articles are always so informative. I have not done a promotion yet. I want to get three up of a series before I do (which will be soon). Hope to give the first away to wet reader’s appetites. I think that is the strategy I am seeing with you veterans.

    Reply
  8. wayne

    a friend turned me on to book bub as a reader. when you’re figuring out your roi don’t forget sales generated from the initial offering. I like your stories and based on one free book thru book bub I’ve bought 4 books and looking forward to more, especially the last (?) harvest book.

    Reply
  9. Barbara Phinney

    I would love to get onto Bookbub, but it’s very hard to do so. I’ve been rejected several times, and know many authors who have been. I suspect that you, Michael, got lucky when they successfully lured you to advertise with them. Nowadays, I think they are beating back authors who want to be on it.

    Reply
    • Michael Hicks Post author

      Yes, it’s true that they only seem to accept a fraction of the folks who submit their books, and they seem to be very discriminating about what they select for a promotion run. I’ve heard – and I do NOT know if this is true – that their staff actually reads all the books they decide to promote. So I think the keys to this are to first make sure your book is truly professional quality (which you want it to be, anyway), and second, encourage your readers to leave reviews to help get a good number of four and five star ratings under your book’s belt, as it were. I don’t know if there’s a magic number for that, but it’s a case of the more the merrier…

      Reply
  10. Tracey Best

    Michael,
    Thanks for a great article and suggestion. There is so much to learn. It seems each day I run into something new. I will definitely check this out. Am planning on tweeting the article too so others can see it.

    Take care,
    Tracey Best

    Reply
  11. Joey B

    We tried to get onto Bookbub & lucked out & out very first submission was selected. Unfortunately, we’ve submitted 4-5 since & they’ve all been rejected – they’re very selective. Anyway, our book that was selected actually went out in the BookBub email today & so far we’ve sold over 600 copies (at $1.99 ea.) just 3.5 hours after the email went out. We probably won’t make a lot of money off of this because it is rather expensive, but the book that was promoted was part of a series so we’re hopeful that some of these new customers will come back & purchase the rest.

    Reply
  12. Alison

    I was also not accepted by BookBub. Yet this turned out to my advantage since I tried KindleBookPromotions. My stats were not very different from the ones they publish – see http://www.kindlebookpromotions.com/getstarted.html
    The one thing I think that separates these guys from the rest is their long-term effect on your book. Not only do they provide the sales results they predict for you but I ended up with a good number of reviews that will stay on Amazon for months if not years. I believe having a decent volume of reviews is what BookBub looks for so I will be submitting my book again in the near future.
    I hope you find this suggestion useful.

    Reply

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