This post is a follow-up to Holy Crapoly: You’re Going to Want to Hear This!
Recently two Amazon bestselling authors set out to promote their second novels. A lot had changed in the world of ebook promotion since each of their debuts, however. When Rodney Walther first released Broken Laces, he had great success with Amazon “tags.” When Pamela Fagan Hutchins released Saving Grace, she found free days with KDP Select on Amazon to be a boon to paid rankings (https://skipjackpublishing.com/10-tips-to-take-your-book-to-1-in-a-free-kdp-select-promo-beyond/)and thus to overall book sales. However, Amazon did away with tags a year ago and it has decreased the impact of free ebooks on paid book rankings (https://skipjackpublishing.com/holy-crapoly-youre-going-to-want-to-hear-about-this/). They needed to come up with something new.
In the last few months, BookBub (http://BookBub.com) has emerged as the “it” method for ebook promotion. BookBub has been known to generate very large sales for some authors, for free or sale-priced ebooks. The benefits of BookBub are their exceptionally large and loyal subscription to their book recommendation emails, by genre, and that they have large numbers of readers favoring Kindle, Nook, and Apple, with readers loyal to other web sales channels as well, like Kobo and Smashwords. Rodney was able to promote to a women’s fiction list over 390,000 subscribers strong and Pamela to a mystery list of over 740,000 (plus the added reach of social media and favorable web page placement), with their BookBub days.
The downsides of BookBub are that it is a little pricey, very selective, and will only feature an author every 30 days. For a complete pricing breakdown, visit their pricing page (http://www.BookBub.com/advertise/pricing). Rodney paid $320.00 to promote his women’s fiction book and Pamela paid $500 to promote her mystery. Both of them were selected, but it was clear that the selection had to do with past strong sales of the books, awards they had won, and a large number of favorable reviews (Rodney had 78 5-star reviews on Amazon, and Pamela had 86 5-star reviews). BookBub is looking for books their readers will enjoy, and books that will succeed with the promotion. They actively promote the bestseller rankings, awards, and reviews in the email blast to their subscribership. BookBub will reject books it doesn’t feel are right for a particular list, or for their readership in general. They know their readers well. And they reject 75-90% of the submissions they receive. (No, that was not a typo.)
So, how did Rodney and Pamela do? Well, first it’s important to know that Rodney decided to remain in KDP Select with Amazon for his promotion, meaning his ebook was exclusive to Amazon. He benefited from a nifty new Amazon feature for KDP Select called Kindle Countdown. It allows the author to retain his 70% royalty on a 99 cent promotion, for up to one week, only after the book has been in KDP Select for 30+ days at a price higher than the promotion. Otherwise, 99 cent sales net only a 35% royalty on Amazon.
Pamela elected to go as broad as possible for sales channels for her books. That meant she was not in KDP Select and offered her ebooks on Barnes and Noble’s Nook, Apple’s iBooks (and iTunes), Smashwords, Sony, and many other locations. Thus, her 99 cent promotion netted only a 35% royalty on Amazon, but she was able to recoup 40% for sales on Nook and 60% for sales on iBooks.
First, here’s what Pamela had to say:
“If at first you don’t succeed with BookBub, try-try again. I’d don tons of research on BookBub when writing USA Best Book Award Winner What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too? (http://www.amazon.com/What-Loser-Indie-Publishes-ebook/dp/B00EGF69PA/). I knew I wanted to try BookBub when the time was right.
When BookBub didn’t selectSaving Grace (Book 1 in the Katie & Annalise romantic mystery series) (http://www.amazon.com/Saving-Grace-Annalise-Series-ebook/dp/B009FZPMFO/) on my first submission (https://skipjackpublishing.com/holy-crapoly-youre-going-to-want-to-hear-about-this/), we emailed them and reiterated my three literary awards and 85 5-star and 31 4-star ratings on Amazon, with bestseller status in women sleuth mysteries and women’s fiction in 2012. They immediately slotted me for one week later, which was fantastic! I wanted to promote Saving Grace at 99 cents not only for its sales and paid rankings but to help launch Leaving Annalise, Book 2 in the Katie & Annalise series (http://www.amazon.com/Leaving-Annalise-Katie-Pamela-Hutchins-ebook/dp/B00DPBNP2Q/).
I was SO NERVOUS for my BookBub day. Unfortunately, I did not have adequate advance notice to book additional promotion to help sustain or increase any bump I got from my BookBub day for the next four days of my five-day promo. If I had, I would have used eReader News Today (http://ereadernewstoday.com/), Pixel of Ink (http://pixelofink.com/), Kindle Nation Daily (http://kindlenationdaily.com/), and World Literary Cafe (http://worldliterarycafe.com), at a minimum.
Here are my first 24-hours:
Note that my numbers only include the 1st 12 hours for Apple, and do not include sites to which I am aggregated by Smashwords. They also do not include sales of audiobooks generated by BookBub, which I learned occurred, after the fact. Saving Grace has a $1.99 audiobook add-on with Audible through ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange, http://acx.com), and sales of the audiobook shot up during BookBub.
Also note I break out sales of Saving Grace (SG) at $0.99 and its follow-up Leaving Annalise (LA) at $3.99. Watch how the BookBub promo impacts LA sales over the promotion period.
So, day one: over 3000 SG ebooks sold. 28 LA sold. The big surprise, besides how many I sold? Nook! 1034 on Nook versus 1750 on Kindle. I expected Nook to be only half that number. I grossed $1245.69, and, after payment of my BookBub fee, I profited $745.70 on day one. SG peaked at #34 on Kindle and my author rank went up to #127. Even more surprising? SG peaked at #7 overall on Nook! Of course, that means it did great in its categories on both sites: 1st or 2nd in mystery and romance on both sites and on iBooks, where SG peaked at #49.
The average number of mystery books sold over a BookBub promotion is 1,510 with a range of 200 to 4,240 (http://www.BookBub.com/advertise/pricing). SG did over 3000 in one day. I was so excited!
Let’s look at additional days (where no promotion was done except for a small not-very-effective ad on day three) and the final totals:
Number of books sold, with ACX added in (other = Smashword aggregates like Sony; I won’t know their sales totals for months):
4,312 SG sold, y’all! By my calculations, that means I beat the range 😉
And, 157 LA in five days!!
Total $ profit on the five-day promo: $1562.99!
I never dreamed I would make $1569.99 in five days with a BookBub promo. Never. I worried whether I would cover my $500 BookBub fee!!
Sales and rankings, by the way, remain up for SG and LA 10 days post-promotion, and I have three new 5-star reviews and one 4-star review on SG on Amazon, with three new 5-star reviews on LA. How cool is that?? And I finally, FINALLY have traction on Nook, something I never had before. BookBub made no Smashwords impact for me, that I can tell, but I am very pleased with Kindle and Nook.
Here are numbers for the seven days after the five-day BookBub promo:
Just as a point of comparison, here are my numbers for the 7 days prior to BookBub, when I was in a sales slump partly of my own making through some strategic errors (https://skipjackpublishing.com/interesting-and-not-in-a-good-way/ and https://skipjackpublishing.com/holy-crapoly-youre-going-to-want-to-hear-about-this/):
Takeaway: I made nearly four times as much money in my week post BookBub promo as in the week prior. That’s pretty telling.
My BookBub verdict: A huge success overall and shockingly good on Nook. I will be running LA on BookBub in February 2014 to promote the release of the third book in the series, and I can’t wait.
Interesting and important side note:While the monetary impact of the 99 cent BookBub promotion of SG was not quite as spectacular for Kindle as its KDP Select free days were in the 4th quarter 2012, I believe that I lost some potential Kindle readers of SG for my BookBub promo because of the 33,000+ downloads of SG during its 2012 KDP Select free days period, and the associated sales and KOLL lends generated in its wake. And, KDP Select free days do not have the same paid ranking and post-promo sales/lends impacts that they did then, either. So I don’t believe I could replicate the run SG had in 2012 with KDP Select, were I releasing the book now and following all the same steps I did then. For a comparison of “then” versus “now,” read https://skipjackpublishing.com/10-tips-to-take-your-book-to-1-in-a-free-kdp-select-promo-beyond/.”
Next, here’s what Rodney had to say:
“With the November launch of my second novel (the emotional family drama Space in the Heart (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00G1JLNDC)), I decided to use my first novel as a way to reach more readers. Broken Laces (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004DNWIEG) has certainly had good “legs” since its debut three years ago, but now that I’ve included preview chapters of Space in the Heart in its Kindle version, I wanted to give it a bump before Christmas season.
First thing I did is contact BookBub and lay out the reasons why they should feature Broken Laces: 140+ 4-star and 5-star reviews, past bestseller rankings (Amazon Top-150), and my six literary awards. They only accept 10-25% of submissions, so I was thrilled to get the nod.
Since my books are in the KDP Select program, I took advantage of a new Amazon program feature called “Kindle Countdown Deals”. It allowed me to temporarily lower the price from $3.99 to $0.99 — and I was still able to earn a 70% royalty! I also scrambled to adjust my categories, knowing that if BookBub worked like I hoped, I’d get a chance to hit the Top-100 list in some big categories.
On November 11th, BookBub blasted my promotion to 390,000 folks who had previously signed up to be notified of bargains in Women’s Fiction. It was a nerve-wracking day, as I tracked the Kindle sales (refresh.. refresh). Twelve hours later, I had great news: Broken Laces was now in the Amazon Kindle Top-100 (that’s all Kindle e-books, not just a specific category). I topped out at #83 on the Amazon Kindle store! Of course, I took screenshots of my book being in the Top-50 of *all* Literature & Fiction and being ranked higher than Fifty Shades of Grey #3, Dan Brown’s Inferno, etc.
What did I learn? Promoting your book needs to be intentional, with a specific audience that is open to your message. In my case, the $320 cost paid off, as I not only earned back my advertising fee but also earned Top-100 status on Amazon and sold a heckuva lot of books. Now I’m hopeful to see how many of those readers will translate into new buyers of Space in the Heart. And yes, I
So, is 99 cents on BookBub the new “free?” Pamela and Rodney would say yes. Again and again. Their advice? Write your best book, enter contests, and work hard to get great reviews. These things (and a great cover and editor) will help you sell books and position your book for BookBub selection and success, success which can be game-changing for your book.
And now we ask you: Have you done BookBub? How were your sales? What else has worked for you in ebook promotion?
Note: both Rodney and Pamela still believe KDP Select free days are great for generating reviews and readership (just not paid book sales rankings), and thus are quite effective for debut authors.
Pamela Fagan Hutchins is an employment attorney and workplace investigator by day who writes award-winning and bestselling romantic mysteries (Saving Grace) and humorous nonfiction (What Kind of Loser Indie Publishes, and How Can I Be One, Too?) by night. She is passionate about great writing and smart author-preneurship. She also leaps medium-tall buildings in a single bound, if she gets a good running start.
Great post, Pamela! And congrats to you and Rodney on these BookBub successes. It looks like the promotions definitely paid off.
I ran a BookBub promo last June on my book THE PURSUIT OF LIES, which is #4 in the Paradise Valley Mystery series. I did a Free promo, but the subsequent sales, as well as the sales of books 1, 2, and 3 in the series netted me $2600 for the week, less the $230 I paid for the ad. In July, I ran Book 2 but did not have nearly the effectiveness I had running Book 4. Sales for the week, including the other books in the series were about $1500 less $240 for the ad. Still, not a bad week.
That’s fantastic! Congratulations!
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How the heck does an indie Author get that kind of money together though. I mean Damn. That’s why i did freebooksy rather than Book because i don’t have freaking $850 for an ad on book bub. Too bad they don’t have angel investors or something like that for this!!!!!
You can cut your price in half by running Bookbub for a free book (not $850 for a free; you mention freebooksy, so I needed to point that out). You can run a crowdfunding campaign (a la angel investors). You can ask for it as a birthday or whatever gift (or all gifts in a year) from whoever has you on their giving list. You can save up a few of those FreeBooksys for one Bookbub (we love Freebooksy but would trade several of them in a heartbeat for one Bookbub). Borrow from a friend or family member (one of our authors borrowed the money for one then tripled what she spent). The average author makes over 2x as much from the Bookbub as they spend on one. In our camp, we plan our entire marketing campaigns around Bookbub. It’s that important to our success. As Pamela Fagan Hutchins puts it in her workshops: Stop eating out, give up Starbuck’s, barter instead of buy, shop second hand, do whatever you have to do, but get that Bookbub. 😉