What is Bookbub?
For anyone not familiar, Bookbub is the most well-regarded of the plethora of price promotion websites that are now available to authors to help promote price discounts. As a self-published author, one of the questions I get asked most is how do you go about marketing and promoting your books?
The answer is wide and varied.
I’ve tried just about everything I could think of from social media, to blogs, to festivals, to paid adverts, to traditional marketing, to standing on street corners waving my paperbacks frantically at passersby (ok, I’m still working up the courage for that one).
But the tactic that I’ve seen have the most immediate impact on sales is price promotions; by that I mean dropping the price of my ebooks for a set period of time to drum-up interest. And the best way I've found to advertise these discounts is using price promotion websites, of which Bookbub is the forerunner because of its extensive user base (something like 1.5m-2m).
With a user list that large, it sounds like a no-brainer, right? Well yes, but there are two major problems with Bookbub from my point of view (and it's not the cost). The first is that it’s audience is very US-centric (as is the case with the majority of other promotion websites too) - but although I see my main market as the UK, that didn’t really bother me too much. Before the price promotion my US sales were minimal, somewhere in the region on 2-5 downloads a WEEK which gave me a “best-seller” ranking on Amazon of around 100,000 at best, so any help there would be a big improvement!
The other big problem is that it's very difficult to get selected by Bookbub. When I was arranging a discount on my first book, Dance with the Enemy, to 99p/99c in spring this year, I made three requests to Bookbub to feature the deal and got rejected three times. They don’t tell you exactly why you aren’t selected either, which makes the process more frustrating. But I was determined to go ahead with the promotion anyway and lined up several other websites to feature the deal.
Each of the features comes at a cost to the author so there was a big question mark as to whether they would pay off. Well, I saw immediate results, evident in the huge jump in the Amazon ranking for Dance with the Enemy:
Some of the websites were outright successes (Fussy Librarian/ENT), others were probably not quite worth the individual cost (Kindle Nation Daily), but all of them had a tangible impact on my US sales where before I was getting next to none.
The most pleasing aspect however was that even some weeks after the promotion had ended, sales of Dance with the Enemy in the US, and indeed Rise of the Enemy which was released on 30th April, were still going strong at somewhere between 20-50 copies a day and the books were consistently in the top 100 for their categories (Espionage / International Mystery). Some increase on 2-5 sales a week!
But I was still wondering what could have been with Bookbub, the golden elixir according to many authors.
So I tried again.
Maybe it was the extra reviews I’d had for Dance with the Enemy in the intervening months (going from 40 something in the US to 63) that saw me pass their selection criteria but this time I got accepted! For a free promotion of Dance with the Enemy over one weekend in July. I figured I’d done the 99p/99c promotion so why not give a free promotion a go? Many authors don't like the idea of giving their work away for nothing but according to Bookbub’s website, you can see as many as 40,000-50,000 downloads for a free promotion. The way I see it that potentially leads to a lot of follow-on sales of my other books (provided people actually like Dance with the Enemy!).
As with the first promo I set up a number of other promo websites to coincide with Bookbub and here are the results:
That’s right, Dance with the Enemy was the number 1 ranked free kindle book in the US (and the UK too!) following the Bookbub promotion!
But more interesting was the significant and immediate impact that the promotion had on Rise of the Enemy, going from a rank of around 10,000 before the promotion started to under 1,000 for the first time (which placed it in the top 5 in its Amazon categories). And similar results were seen for Dance with the Enemy immediately after the free promotion ended.
So the Bookbub promotion, although expensive, more than paid for itself within just a few days and the high sales of both books has continued long after the free promotion ended. In fact, as I’m writing this blog, seven weeks following the start of the free promotion, US sales of both books are still going strong at around 100 copies a day (down from something like 200-300 a day immediately following the promotion).
I’ve also seen the number of reviews for Dance with the Enemy leapfrog from 63 to over 140 in just a few weeks. So all in all I’d say that spending money to give my book away for free (which sounds like the worst marketing strategy ever!) has actually been the single most successful marketing tool I’ve so far found!
Needless to say, following my experiences of both of these promotions I’m completely sold on the benefits of these websites and am now looking forward to giving Rise of the Enemy it’s first go at Bookbub (if they’ll accept me!) this autumn. Onwards and upwards...