My First Experience with a BookBub Feature Deal & The Last Victim (Nov 5)

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I wanted to share my latest foray into a major promotion run. I’d heard good things about BookBub, had researched it before, but never submitted a book until last week. This promo option isn’t cheap. It’s a real leap of faith that you’ll sell more than the feature costs. I made sure that I ticked off the boxes I knew about, to make my submission more appealing to the stringent requirements to qualify.

Founded in 2012, BookBub has been featured in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, showcasing their huge outreach to avid readers with their daily deal emails to millions of subscribers. This is a free service to readers, vetted by an expert editorial team with handpicked recommendations. It doesn’t sell books directly, but offers books from authors that are available through major ebook retailers and devices. It also focuses your feature to readers interested in YOUR genre.

If you’re a published author, you can claim your books and create a profile to grow your followers on a forum for readers that an author can cultivate directly. I had never “claimed” my author profile and didn’t realize I had followers. Plus not all of my most recent books were listed, so I had to update my profile after they authorize me as the author.

BookBub scrutinizes the books it selects, so I knew I had to adhere to recommendations other authors had shared online about their experiences. HERE is the list of requirements from BookBub, but there are other websites and blog posts with more help, too.

The book I submitted is The Last Victim (published 2015) and here are details on what I had to do.

BookBub Submission – TIPS

I had a professionally designed cover that I knew would be acceptable from my experience. BookBub scrutinizes submissions for a well-formatted book, free of typos and grammatical errors. They also want books that have accumulated enough good reviews without sharing how many that is. This can be intimidating. The Last Victim has 26 reviews for an average of 4.4 out of 5. I really didn’t know if they were looking for 50+ but I went for it. Don’t let one deficiency in a selection criteria force you to back down. If you don’t succeed, keep learning and try again.

I had great cover blurbs/praises to pitch on my book and across my branding platforms (website & social media) from well-known authors, magazines, and critical reviews from professional editorial sources. (Don’t let this tip scare you. I accumulated mine over time. You can too.)

The Last Victim is a full novel that has never been discounted. It normally sells for $3.99, but I submitted it to BookBub for a special, limited offer of $0.99 across all retailer platforms that I listed in my submission.

My novel is widely available on all the retailers BookBub features and then some: Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Google, and iBooks. Since it was published by my publishing arm, Cosas Finas Publishing, I had world rights, which I knew would appeal to BookBub.

My BookBub feature will be Nov 5 – 12. They prefer limited offers of free or discounted by at least 50%, rather than books that are perma-free.

HERE are BookBub’s tips.

I also submitted with a flexible promotion date, but when they came back with “Can you do by Nov 5th?” – I found out how much I didn’t have prepared for this type of exposure. This is why I wanted to post my article on the experience. It’s a good problem to have, but very nerve-wracking when I am in the middle of releasing two back-to-back novellas on Oct 31 & Nov 7th. Of course, I had to go for it, even if it only becomes a “what not to do” experience. Below are some of the things I have done to prepare and I’m sure there will be much more as the BookBub feature draws nearer.

MY STRATEGY SCRAMBLE

1.) Since The Last Victim was a 2015 release, I had to update the back material to include my updated Biblio, author bio, and add promo links for my new website mailing list and ads for my upcoming releases, as any traditional publisher would do. I went through my layout formatter to save me time. I use Wizards in Publishing.

2.) I created a spreadsheet of target promotion opportunities, both free and paid for, to expand my reach beyond my mailing list and track costs against estimated revenue. BookBub gives you its estimate for likely sales, but it is up to you to get the word out and set higher goals. I plan to set up my estimates, then compare them to what actually happened afterwards, to create a learning tool that I can refine. Bottom line – It takes a lot of eyeballs for sales to result. I used subscriber numbers, but estimated sales at a fraction of 1% to be conservative. It’s all “pie in the sky” stuff until the dust settles and sales are determined. At that time, I’ll need to do an autopsy to see what clearly worked.

3.) What are the best ways (& sites) to pay for promotion? Good question. Since I needed boosted sales across several retailers, I chose to look at ads at Kobo, Amazon, and the other retailers. These aren’t cheap so I had to make decisions. The bargain books websites that are popular and most effective aren’t cheap either, because they can add up. They also don’t take just any ad that you pay for. Some sites require you to submit your book for their consideration & it could take up to 7 days to hear back. (I won’t know about some until my feature is about to start or has started.) These promo sites’ loyalty is first to their subscribers, so that means you have to allow enough lead time or make due with what you can get.

4.) I submitted to EreaderNewsToday and needed approval. BargainBooksy, KindleNationDaily (& their multiple platforms), EBookLister, and AwesomeGang didn’t require approval and charged only a minimal amount. There are countless sites where they will list your book for free. Some allow you to post once and they will cross post, but since I don’t know how effective this would be for my limited time, I chose certain sites for maximum exposure.

5.) I created an Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) Ad Campaign (access I already had as a vendor through my publishing company) to run during the time of the feature and will up the cost per click but limit the dollar daily total to gain the likelihood the ad will be competitive for placement and exposure. Since this ad will run for a specific time (to parallel my BookBub Feature Deal), I could get aggressive on my budget.

6.) I haven’t considered a Facebook Ad because I don’t know how effective they are in relation to real sales. AMS give you direct access to analytics on clicks and traffic compared to actual sales. If I’m going to spend money, I prefer Amazon where the most of my sales would come from and can be traced and translated into sales.

7.) What could I do to promo without cost? I had access as a contributing author to several fan groups under various Amazon Kindle Worlds. To the credit of the authors who created these groups, they generously allow their authors to promo other books, and we try to give exclusive giveaways back to their readers in return. So the groups that I had cultivated by writing for these Kindle Worlds, I have access to for a post and the reader fans are so much fun and generous with their support. That has value.

8.) I have my mailing list and had just updated my website to WordPress format. This allows me to update quickly and post when I need to. Updating came at a very good time. Even though it was time consuming to transfer content, it was well-worth the effort.

As of this post, I’ll still be prepping for the feature and up to my eyeballs in two releases – Valentine: Steel Heart (Available Now) and Fiona’s Salvation (Nov 7). This BookBub feature for The Last Victim is from Nov 5-12, so the overlap is stressful, but it can help with exposure. At least, that’s what I’m telling myself.

Other Resources

I found these additional links that could be helpful. Here is a link to “Reasons Why Books are Rejected as BookBub Feature Deals.” I don’t normally like to focus on negatives, but there are good points made in this article that could help you succeed.

This link compares BookBub against two other promo sites: Book Gorilla & Fussy Librarian. The costs vary, but so does the exposure and the requirements may not fit your book or your goals.

For Discussion

1.) Has anyone had experience with BookBub? What worked and didn’t work for you? I’d love to hear your experiences.

2.) Besides BookBub, are there other ways to feature your discounted sales that you’ve found to be effective?

Valentine: Steel Heart (Novella 1 of 2)

Love made him vulnerable…once.

After a tragic killing on an Amtrak train, the Phoenix Agency use a mysterious covert operative, Braxton Valentine, as bait to lure a deadly cartel boss from hiding, but grief-stricken Valentine becomes their worst nightmare—a rogue operator with a death wish.

(Valentine: In the Cross Hairs – Book 2 of 2 coming Feb 2018)

8+

31 thoughts on “My First Experience with a BookBub Feature Deal & The Last Victim (Nov 5)

  1. Thank you for this post, Jordan. Promo has always given me a headache, and BookBub confounds me. (I just released a novel today and my publisher is trying to get me in, but I’ve been rejected twice before, so I’m not optimistic.) This information is timely, and I’m bookmarking it for study. (I’m sharing it on tomorrow’s Story Empire curated links post, too. Everyone should have access to this valuable information.)

    Best wishes with the promo and the releases. You’re going to be swamped for a while!

    • Thanks, Staci. You should keep trying & tweak your approach until you’re successful. In the mean time, try reading up on BookGorilla or gaining experience through the other promo sites while you wait. Your oublisher will appreciate your efforts. Good luck on your book launch. I need to check it out. See you on Twitter.

  2. Please do a follow-up column once you’ve been able to analyze results. I”d love to know cost vs. pay-off, what you did that worked and didn’t work, etc.

    • I hope to. At this point, I have no idea how readily available some of the data will be, by promo site. But my sales should be traceable. Thanks, Maggie.

  3. Great post, Jordan. Choosing where to market/promote our titles can be a nightmare. So many sites are a crap shoot, except BookBub. I’ve always had good luck with ENT. For $40 (thriller) it’s well worth the cost. IMO. BookBub also allows an international-only option, which can save us hundreds. Several authors from my publishing house have used this option to test the BookBub waters, and they’ve done well. It may be harder to get approved, though. Like you, I’d rather choose “ALL” and increase my chances. Thank you for sharing your experience!

    I have no doubt you’ll kill it. The Last Victim is a steal at 99c. Loved that book!

  4. My one accepted submission to BookBub definitely put me in the black. However, since they reject about 80-85% of all submissions, I don’t count on getting in (and look at rejection as how much money I’ve saved!). I wanted to promote a new “first in series free” book along with a new release of book 7 in that series. When BookBub said No, I went with Fussy Librarian, ENT, Robin Reads and Free Booksy at various dates in October. I did share my results on my blog: if anyone’s interested, this is the link to the 3rd post, which includes links to the 1st 2.
    https://terryodell.com/paying-to-advertise-a-free-book-part-3/

    • Thanks for the share, Terry. Always appreciated. Based on what I’ve read about BookBub, they don’t do perma-frees. They’re after something that will show savings from the norm. Their readers benefit by authors cultivating them with good prices for specials.

      Wow. 85% rejection.

      I’ll check out your blog posts. Thank you.

    • What will be different for me is the time frame of my BookBub Feature. I picked a 1 week period to make a bestseller list run. Wishful thinking, but I wanted to go for it. BookBub advised that the best traffic will be the first 4 days, so I needed to generate volatility (of books being sold) from Nov 5th, but also sustain what I could later in that week.

      My layered promotions on other sites – some were for Nov 5th only or Nov 7th. Others were for the full week and maybe a bit beyond. Since everything is so tightly scheduled, I won’t be sure which resource did best. They overlap.

      A free book will have different results than a highly discounted offering, but you have some interesting insights on your results. Thank you.

      I’m encouraged by the sites you picked, too. It reinforces what my game plan is, plus I can check out some of your suggested resources. I’m grateful.

      • I’ve done those venues for paid books, but this was my first venture into free, and I wasn’t sure there would be enough carryover sales to make back my investment, but things have been holding. At the time I submitted to BookBub, the book wasn’t free yet, but at 99 cents, I didn’t expect an acceptance because they’re looking for deep discounts. But – nothing ventured, nothing gained! Glad my recaps were helpful.

        But: this from the BookBub FAQs: Your book cannot have been discounted to your submitted deal price for more than a total of 14 days within the last 90 days (either consecutively or collectively). This rule does not apply to free deals, however, and we’re happy to feature permafree books!

  5. Jordan–great information. I am a long ways off from needing to consider promotions but as an avid reader and subscriber of BookBub, I can tell you that I regularly buy through them. It’s a great and inexpensive way to try new authors and get discounted books of favorite authors. Often, I will then go and purchase more books by the authors I like at full price. This works especially with authors publishing trilogies or series. I have come to trust BookBub’s selections. While I don’t have time or money to buy every day or all the books I might be interested in, this is one of my go-to places to help me make selections from among the thousands of books I could read. So many books so little time. So sad.

    I wish you the best and look forward to hearing about how it went for you. I expect to see your book on my list and will click through to buy it.

    • Hi Jagoda. So good to hear what an avid reader thinks of BookBub. The staff has been extremely helpful and responsive. I can imagine their cust service would be top notch too.

      Come find me on BookBub and follow. I follow back. Thanks for your encouragement.

  6. Have seen good results with BookBub, but as you all point out, the competition is stiff to get accepted and it’s expensive for mytery/thrillers. We have had our publisher do it and we have done it ourselves. ($$$). It works. So does Fussy Librarian. But it isn’t easy to get your foot in their doors. Your formatting, cover and presentation have to be first-rate and you have to have some reviews. Not easy…but worth it to keep trying in upping your game.

    All this said, I absolutely hate spending time on promotion. But I don’t like flossing my teeth either and I still do that as well. 🙂

    • Good tip on flossing, K. HA!! Some of the links in our discussion have been interesting. Alternatives to BookBub. Fussy Librarian is a good tip. Thank you.

  7. Somewhere in the back of my brain is the number 24 for reviews as a baseline, but I’ll be darned if I know where it came from. Another consideration is the depth of the discount–a drop from $7.99 to $1.99 is more attractive than $1.99 to free. I corresponded with the Bookbub folks when they were getting started but then they exploded, and I never participated. Derp.

    Thanks for this post, J. You really do your homework!

    • Yes, they exploded, indeed. They are considered the gold standard by many evaluations I’ve read. Check on the links in our discussion today. I found other sites to try, but I’m done with spending money. I have to hope I did the right combo of sites with dates to keep the momentum up.

      Now I’m thinking through how to show my results. The tricky thing is that my backlist should get a boost. Not sure how that will manifest. We’ll see. Thanks, my fine friend.

  8. Thank you so much for taking the time to put this post together and share your plan with us. Very generous and helps make the whole marketing thing a little less overwhelming.

    Best of luck with the experiment! Happy to tweet when Nov 5 rolls around.

    • Thanks so much, Sheri. Our TKZ community is always supportive, like you, and generous with tips. We all need help & things change fast. Thanks again.

  9. Here’s my experience with Bookbub.

    I have a trilogy of crime novels. They’ve sold quite well, considering they were my first novels. Total sales for the trilogy: about 8500, with book 1 selling over 5000. I have good covers, and book 1 has 76 reviews, mostly 4 and 5 star. Book 1 was the one I wanted to promote on Bookbub, to sell for 99¢, down from its usual price of $3.99. I had heard tales of Bookbub ads yielding thousands of sales for an entire series, and most importantly, giving the series “legs”. I was hot to give it a go.

    Well, it was rejected. And rejected again. And again. A total of 11 times, they said no. After about six or seven rejections, I asked them why and all they did was send me a boilerplate letter with a list of their requirements. As Jordan mentioned, one of them is that they “prefer” the book be for sale across all platforms. Mine were only on Amazon because I wanted those page reads, which added up to over 2 million for the series.

    I asked them to throw away the script and give me the real reason for these repeated rejections. I knew they didn’t adhere too closely to the “across all platforms” requirement, since I know several authors who are exclusively on Amazon and are routinely accepted for Bookbub ads, as they watch their sales soar into the stratosphere. Bookbub responded by telling me, essentially, they didn’t really know why I was rejected so many times. Then they included another link to their requirements.

    Bottom line: who knows? Certainly not I. And not anyone else I know, either. There are authors who are on Bookbub once a month, and there are even those who didn’t have to apply for an ad. Bookbub contacted them! And of course this translated into tens of thousands of sales monthly.

    Anyway, I’m done with Bookbub. That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

    • Your book sounds like a promising feature for them. I love that you kept trying. I’ve heard they only approve 10-15% of the 300 submissions they get per day. It could be the rejections have more to do with the other books they had to choose from.

      There are other services that are cheaper & I’m trying a few. We’ll see how things turn out.

      Thanks for sharing your experience and good luck with your promotions.

  10. I just received approval for my EReaderNewsToday ad. They can take a week or more. Lucked out.

    From tips in our discussion, I added Fussy Librarian & got approved for the ONLY DAY they had available for months. I had to switch to mystery & police procedural, but that fits this book.

    I also added BookSend & was approved. Thanks for the great discussion. Now it’s fingers crossed time.

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