“I’ve landed a BookBub” is one of the most joyful exclamations you will hear in any given author group. If you’ve heard of BookBub before but haven’t quite dared or managed to venture into the world of book promotion, read on for some tips on how to navigate it. If you’re a newly published author and haven’t heard of BookBub before, then you’ll definitely want to keep reading, or at least bookmark this page for future reference.
How does BookBub work?
The way BookBub – and a host of other book promoters, who I will list in a follow-on blog post – works: You, the author, pay them a fixed price, depending on the genre you’d like to be listed in, and in return BookBub features your (temporarily discounted or free) book in their daily email newsletter to their subscribers. By way of this increased visibility of your book, you will see an increase in downloads or sales that hopefully more than pays for the investment.
I’ll get into a cost-benefit analysis in just a minute, but first, let’s go ahead and get you signed up, just so you see how easy it is to take the first baby steps into the – potentially lucrative – world of book promotion.
First go to the BookBub website and sign up for their newsletter. You can always cancel it later, but you’ll want to see what their email newsletter looks like. Why? Because this is the newsletter you hope your own book will be featured in. You’ll want to see what you listing might look like and glean ideas from others in your genre. You might want to give it a few days until you get a better feel for it, or you might go ahead and submit your book right away.
Scroll all the way to the bottom and you will see the author area:
This is where you can click “Submit New Deal.” You’ll be prompted to find your book and then claim it, then enter your promo details: Category, region, original price, deal price, which retailer your book is available through, the desired date – flexible or not – and your comments (where you might want to state how many 5-star reviews has, which awards it might have received, etc.)
I can’t remember exactly what came next, whether you are invited to claim your author profile right then – if so, do it, it gives you an additional listing outside of Amazon – or if you can only set it up one your first deal has been approved. Other than that, you now wait (it can take 7 days for BookBub to get back to you).
This is where you’re likely to be disappointed. According to this very informational article in the Huffington Post, BookBub rejects 80-90% of submissions, which makes them not much better than an actual publisher. Why even bother, you might ask?
I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t be discouraged. It’s worth pursuing a BookBub deal. And if not BookBub, than perhaps another – smaller – one to get your feet wet. Any book promotion helps sell your book, and many – if you stick with the reputable ones – pay for themselves.
How to make money with a BookBub promo
If you DO get accepted for a BookBub promo, there are two ways you can make your money back (and hopefully much more):
- You discount your book and sell a ton of books at the promo price (typically 99 cents). The nice feature of KDP Select is that if you discount your book through it (versus just lowering the price to 99 cents, which of course you are free to do at any time), you still earn the 70% royalty rate Amazon pays for any Kindle book between $2.99 and $9.99. By comparison, the regular royalty rate for 99 cent books is only 35%. Given high enough sales, this can make a big difference. (You might want to study the Amazon royalty chart yourself for added insight when first publishing your book and setting the price.)
- You promote your book for free and get a ton of downloads of your free book. Making money with this option is trickier, but still possible. There are two avenues:
- Typically, you will see a pretty big spike in sales the day immediately following your promo. Because, let’s face it – the reason people aren’t buying your book isn’t really that they don’t want to fork over the $4.99 or however much you’re selling it for. The main reason people aren’t buying your book is that they don’t know about it. And with the help of BookBub’s (and other promo sites’) clout, readers are now finding your book, and if they like it, they won’t mind paying regular price to get it.
- A better way to make money of a free BookBub is to have several books on offer, preferably a series. Let’s say you just published Book 3 of “Sixty Shades of Forest Green: a Saga of the Much-Maligned Broccoli”, then you could set it off to a great start by offering Book 1 of the series free on BookBub. All the people who downloaded and liked Book 1 then would have a pretty good reason to buy Book 3 (and also Book 2), earning you multiples of your investment in crossover sales.
New reviews are a bonus
Also, don’t underestimate the power of additional reviews. In the early days of your book, each additional Amazon review is huge. Ironically, it’s much harder to get them when you only have a few. It’s just like with money. The more you have – and invest wisely – the more it multiplies. Having many reviews not only lends your book credibility in the eyes of buyers, it increases your chances of landing future book promo deals, thereby coming full-circle.
There is a slight risk that running promos and increasing your number of reviews might downgrade your star rating ever so slightly. Why? Because you’re venturing out into the wider world of readership by running a promo. Including those people who actually don’t give a rat’s ass about your book. They saw “free” and jumped, but sadly that doesn’t mean they’re grateful. Occasionally, someone will realize that this is not at all the book they intended to read, and will go through the trouble of slamming it on Amazon with a 1-star review. (Don’t despair, getting your first 1-star review is NOT the end of the world.)
Yet another bonus of a BookBub promo: a high-profile review! BookBub reviews your book before listing it in order to attach their own blurb to the listing. Chances are, you can use part of that blurb or marketing purposes, i.e. in your Amazon Author Central and even on your website. If you check the above listing for my book, you’ll see the words “An inspiring, hilarious memoir!” Trust me, I’ve been happily attaching that tagline to all my marketing materials.
If at first you don’t succeed: A case study
Let’s look at what happened to my book, the travel memoir Kilimanjaro Diaries. When you submit your book to BookBub, you’ll have to make decisions as to which market you’re going to offer it to, and in which genre. If you’ve already browsed the BookBub price list, you might have blanched. In the United States, promoting my book in the “biographies and memoirs” genre would currently cost me $300 for a free promo, and $600 for a 99c one (I wouldn’t even bother to go any higher, but naturally, the higher you want to set the price, the more expensive the promo will be). Other genres are even more expensive, by virtue of having larger subscriber lists, with crime fiction at the very top.
If you don’t want to spend that kind of money on your first foray, you could test your book in the international (and smaller) market for a much lower cost. Or you could experiment in a different category. BookBub constantly introduces new ones and offers good rates (as well as a much higher chance of acceptance) in order to grow them. Most of us might not have a time travel romance book, but if you do, go for it while the price is still only $40.
When my first submission of Kilimanjaro Diaries as biography/memoir was rejected, I tried again in humor and was elated when they accepted it, and at a much better deal to boot. To have my book listed free in humor for US, UK, IN and CA for one day was US$40. The result were the following:
- Free downloads: 7,173
- Paid downloads in the 2 days after: 31
- KENP (Kindle pages via Kindle Unlimited and borrows) read in the 2 days after: 1,921 and 2,522 respectively (the average for the month leading up to it was around 700 per day, so definitely an uptick.
The $40 was more than made up in my royalties for the 31 copies sold the day after. None of those were returned, if that’s what you might be thinking. I also feel like I saw an uptick in reviews the following weeks, though those of course are hard to pinpoint. At least one reviewer mentioned a free promo.
How much money should I be spending on a BookBub promo?
The thing is, if you can come up with the cash, a higher priced BookBub is worth it, as it almost always not only pays for itself but gives you a handy profit. Big-time authors and publishers know this and use BookBub as an excellent return on investment.
But of course it’s scary to hand over $300 or more all at once, with the HOPE of selling more books. So if you’d rather start small, or with a cheaper book promoter, I’d recommend doing that.
Another reason to start small is this: It’s easy to mess up (as some of us can attest from experience)! The KDP program is a great tool in combination with a book promotion, but there are also many rules that are easy to get caught up in. For instance, you are not allowed to run a Kindle Countdown (discounted price) for 30 days after changing your list price in any way. This is a safeguard to keep you from telling the world you are offering a great discount, when in fact you might have just artificially increased your price to make the promo price look more attractive. Conversely, you have to wait 14 days AFTER running a Countdown deal before you can change the price. You also can’t change your price anytime you have a Countdown running, even if it’s in a different country (as I painfully found out one time).
I hope I’ve given you some good tips for running your first BookBub promo. As I’ve said, there are other (if less prestigious) book promoters worth looking into, and I will talk about those in a follow-on blog post.