Tag: are bookbub promos worth the money

Advertising 101 for Authors

Whether they’re traditionally published, self published, or somewhere in between, authors these days are almost always responsible for marketing their own books. My Clean Reads for You compatriot, Starla Huchton, just published this fantastic, data-filled guide to which book marketing services are worth your time, and more importantly, your money. I can personally verify a lot of what she’s said. BookBub is, without question, the Holy Grail of digital marketing platforms. The promo I ran back in August paid for itself at least four times over. My book hit the No. 1 spot in the Cozy Mystery category on Amazon, No. 10 in Mysteries, and rose to No. 70 overall in the paid store. As in, there were only 69 books in all of the USA that sold better than mine that week.

Screenshot 2014-08-09 09.27.42
Look! There’s my book next to Janet Evanovich’s on the Amazon bestsellers chart!

I’ve also had smashing success with EReader News Today. I recently did a free book promo with them and garnered over 5,000 free downloads. That translated into about 50 full-price Kindle sales, and 6-7 new Amazon reviews in the weeks since it ran. In fact, in some ways ERNT is a better value for money because the ads are so much cheaper than BookBub. Lastly, I’ve had small, but measurable success with The Fussy Librarian. The promos look very elegant and are only $6. I sold 28 books at $0.99 on the day of my promo, so I turned a profit of about $10. Although I can’t prove it, I’m fairly sure it also lead to some full-price sales of my other book in the days that followed. Obviously nothing like a BookBub or ERNT result, but still respectable. Tangentially related to this post, I need a few more Amazon reviews before A Death in Duck is eligible to get a coveted BookBub slot. I’ve heard off the record that a minimum 25 reviews is usually required and I’m stuck just below that. Your help would be much appreciated, especially if you bought the book via Amazon, thereby making yours a “verified” review. Please post your reviews here using the “Create your own review” button.

BookBub is my new husband.

Screenshot 2014-08-09 09.27.42Who, you ask, is that fancy person sitting on Amazon’s bestseller charts at Number 12 alongside Janet Evanovich and J.K. Rowling (writing as Robert Galbraith)? Why it’s lil’ old me, with my BESTSELLING novel A Murder in Mount MoriahAnd how did a lowly self-published author reach these heady heights? Just ask my new husband, BookBub

With apologies to my actual husband, BookBub pleases me in ways that my actual husband never could, namely by selling a bub-load of my books. My husband has a lot of excellent qualities, but he has never sold 1,300 copies of my book in a single day the way that BookBub did.

For the uninitiated, BookBub is a company that sends daily email alerts about bargain books to their enormous subscriber list. In their own words:

BookBub features ebooks ranging from top-tier publishers to critically acclaimed independent authors. Our team of experts makes sure that we’re only featuring great deals on quality books that you’ll love. 

Note the section I’ve marked in bold. BookBub differs from other marketing avenues in that they feature indy/self-published books alongside traditionally published books. Although it is a paid service (and a very expensive one at that), there are no guarantees that they’ll allow you the privilege of forking over your cold, hard cash to them. I’ve heard of several instances where they reject books that aren’t well reviewed or that they don’t think will please their readership. They curate their offerings so that readers can be fairly certain of getting a book that is interesting, well-written and well-edited.

I realize that I’m gushing, and I don’t want to come across as a BookBub schill. But there is simply no other single marketing service that can deliver the kind of sales boost that I and some of my indy publishing friends experienced after our books were featured.

Here are my tips for deploying the B-Bomb:

  1. Make sure your book is in good shape before submitting it. It should have a fair number of positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. If you’re having trouble getting anyone to post reviews, try sending out free copies to people on Goodreads or Library Thing who read a lot of books in your genre (i.e. private message them to see if they’re interested in reading/reviewing). Or you can do what I did and run a free giveaway through Kindle Select. My book was downloaded about 10,000 times and I netted about 10 reviews that way. The rest just trickled in over time.
  2. Have more than one book. I always planned to try BookBub at some point, but I wanted to wait until my second novel, A Death in Duck was released. I figured that if people read and liked A Murder in Mount Moriah, they might go on to buy the next book. I’d get double bang for my (many) bucks. So far, my hunch has proven to be true. In the weeks before the BB promo, I’d sold about 40 copies of A Death in Duck–I suspect mainly to my friends and relatives. Since the promotion, I’ve seen a steady uptick in sales. I’ve sold between 3-10 copies per day of that title.
  3. Enjoy the surge, but gird your writerly loins for the inevitable slide. On the day of the promotion, I sold 1,300 copies of my book. The next day, around 250. It’s been downhill from there. Now, one month post-promo, I’m selling about 6-12 books per day. Part of the reason is undoubtedly because my 99 cent sale ended. People like cheap e-books. But another part of it is that once you leave the Amazon bestseller lists, your book becomes unfindable once again. No one sees it unless they seek it out. So, all in all, I’m heartened that 6-12 people are seeking out my titles each day. I think it can only be word-of-mouth at this point, because I’m not in the charts or doing any active marketing at present.
  4. Accept that BookBub will not make you a zillionaire. I paid $650 for my slot on BookBub (mystery is the most expensive category, because it has the widest subscriber base). I reckon that $1,200 in sales over the past month are attributable directly to the promotion (i.e. that’s how many more books I sold compared to previous months). So, my profit was about $550. I’ve heard of cases where authors didn’t break even after paying for their promotions, but I’ve heard of cases where people make even more money than I did. It’s fun to sit alongside J.K. Rowling in the charts, but a one-day (or one-week) sales spike does not a literary zillionaire make. Yet.

A writer and his money are soon parted.

I recently got a message via Goodreads from a “fan” of my work, offering me a discount code for an advertising service for authors. Although I was flattered, I immediately caught a whiff of something seafood-y. A quick Google search showed me that this kind of scam had been perpetrated on a number of indie authors via blogs and websites. I reported the “fan”, who was subsequently given the boot from Goodreads. This reminded me of some advice that David Gaughran gives in his marketing guide for indie authors, Let’s Get Visible. He points out that there are a TON of services that claim to provide exposure/publicity/instant fame and fortune to writers, but only a handful have any kind of track record for delivering results. (I’ll save you a bit of time and just tell you that Bookbub, ereadernewstoday, and Pixel of Ink are the top ones). Having never paid for publicity myself, I can’t personally vouch for any particular service, but other writers can. Watch out, though. Bookbub, in particular, is hella expensive, and we all know that just because something is outrageously expensive, doesn’t mean it can deliver (my cable internet is a perfect example of this).

All I can tell you is that I’ve been approached by people offering to Tweet about my book, to blog about my book, to create an interpretive dance about my book, or whatever. Some people, like the awesome 52booksorbust, do it out of the kindness of their hearts or to generate traffic for their own sites or because I dated them in high school. But whenever one of these services want money, I know that something’s up. The better sites and services don’t need to try to find authors–the authors find them, in droves. I know it’s frustrating to try to gain exposure for your book. Actually, frustrating isn’t the word. It sucks like a medieval leech doctor. But unfortunately, that’s the lot of the indie author. If you want to be a trailblazer, you’ve gotta be willing to wade through knee-deep muck with a machete in your hand. There are no shortcuts. If you want ideas for marketing, look to the Kindle Community. Whatever crazy marketing scheme you are considering, our fellow authors have probably been there, tried that.

scam alertOne more resource that I’ll mention is the blog Writer Beware. This mostly relates to scams involving vanity presses, shady agents, and ersatz publishing houses, but it’s definitely worth checking out for indie writers.

Remember that, as an indie author, your profit margins are slim. Since I started trying to monetize my writing in July of last year, I’ve made coffee money, but not a great deal more. Unless a marketing opportunity has a good chance of netting you a big return, do not part with your hard-earned coffee money. You’ll need it to fuel your next literary endeavor.