My first-ever Large-scale Free Book Promotion (Part 2) – BookBub Free Promotion

Posted on Posted in Blog, Promotions, Writing

(note: all of the images in this post can be clicked on and enlarged)

Hello, again, fellow authors. Welcome to part 2 of my detailed free book promotion results. In this post, I will be talking about my recent Free promotion results with BookBub. The book that I put on promotion was Scarred, book 1 in the Anderson Brothers Series.

I did a week-long promotion with ad-stacking from 11/12/2016 – 11/20/2016.

The BookBub promotion occurred on 11/14/2016.

Recap/results from the previous (Booksends) promo

In my previous promotion, I was using Booksends, which was the largest ad company I was able to get when I did the ad stacking. Below are the results of the total sales I received before, during, and a little over two weeks after that promo.

  • As you can see, even several weeks after the promo period, I still did not see a financial success. I did make back just enough to cover the Booksends ad, but that’s about it. I was still hundreds of dollars in the hole.
  • I received two mailing list subscribers total.
  • I also received 5 new Amazon reviews, all 4 and 5 stars, so that was a big plus.

Amazon and Apple were by far my biggest selling channels, even after the promo.

Here is the result of the total number of free downloads I received:

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Over 12k downloads total across all three channels! (I definitely wish all those downloads were actually sales. lol). But that’s 12k more people with my book, and I hope that many of them will move on to read the rest of the series.

Here is the total sell-through rate for books 2 and 3 on each of the channels (amended 12/21/2016, thanks to PhoenixS from Kboards):

Book Amazon B&N iBooks
Book 2 (Scratched) 15  1  14
Book 3 (Scorned) 12  1  9
# of downloads 8058  354  4032
% Sell-thru (Scratched) .2% (15 / 8058 = .0018)  .3% (1 / 354 = .0028)  .34% (14 / 4032 = .0034)
% Sell-thru (Scorned) .14% (12 / 8058 = .0014)  .3% (1 / 354 = .0028)  .22% (9 / 4032 = .0022)
Total sell-thru rate 80% (12 / 15 = 0.8)  1% ( 1 / 1 = 1)  64% (9 / 14 = .642)

While there were more sales on Amazon, iBooks saw a higher conversion rate. The single B&N sell-through sort of skews this, so I’m not putting that much weight on it like the other two outlets.

…Okay, so that’s pretty much the recap, so let’s move on to the BookBub promotion results!

1. My goal for the BookBub promo

As before in my previous free promotion with Booksends, my goal for doing this promo was to increase awareness of my books, get some mailing list signups, and hopefully get some sales of books 2 and 3. I figured with a BookBub promotion, I expected to see a LOT of sales of books 2 and 3. I have read numerous articles, listened to podcasts, etc. from authors who have said that they saw sales of their other books go crazy once they had a free BookBub promotion, so needless to say, I was pretty excited.

2. Preparing my books

I didn’t change anything in the books since the Booksends promo. I still had the same updated blurbs in there, as well as the newsletter sign-up blurb in the front and backs of all three books. You can see the details of that in my previous post.

3. Promo places/services I used

Here are all the promo places and services I used, with the total price I spent:

Website Name Price Notes
HotZippy $69.00
Full Hearts Romance $7.00
Bookbub Ads $119.99
Facebook Ads $26.87
Romance Devoured $10.00
Genre Pulse (targeted individual category) $20.00  New Adult Category
Genre Pulse $19.00
Books Butterfly $50.00
BKnights $11.00
PeopleReads $14.99
BookBub $131.00  New Adult Category

I spent a total of 478.85 on advertising. With books 2 and 3 priced at $4.99 each, and after the 40%-70% revenue from Amazon, B&N (through Draft2Digital), and iTunes, I would need to sell about 136 books from Amazon or iTunes to break even, or 280 books from B&N to break even.

 

4. Results

I used a Google Spreadsheet in the same template that I have been using in my previous promotions to keep track of my sales. This was what the results looked like during and a few days after the promo (the green highlighted areas are the promo dates):

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I also kept track of how many free downloads I got during, and a few days after the promo period:

The green-shaded areas are the promotion dates. On the day of the Bookbub promotion, I received an overwhelming number of downloads, with Amazon being king (over 11k!). Definitely my largest number of downloads ever.

The 11/22 – 11/23 period was when I set the book back to $4.99. I think there were still some places where the book was free for a time, and that’s why the numbers were so low.

Just like in my previous promotions, iTunes was second in # of downloads, followed by B&N.

4a. Financial Results

This free promo was unfortunately NOT a financial success. Here is a detailed breakdown:

Vendor Name Total Sold Price per book (incl. percentages) Total revenue
Amazon 59 3.49  (70% of $4.99) $205.91 How that revenue number was reached:(3.49 * 59) = $205.91 (Amazon revenue)
B&N, D2D 13 1.70 (40% B&N, 10% D2D) $22.10 How that revenue number was reached:(1.70 * 13) = $22.10 (B&N/D2D revenue)
iBooks 17 3.49  (70% of $4.99) $59.33 How that revenue number was reached:(3.49 * 2) = $6.98 (iBooks revenue)
$287.34 Grand Total
$478.85 Total Spent on Ads
-$191.51 Total Losses

I was $191.51 away from breaking even, so this promo was not a financial success.

I was really hoping to get a higher sell through, especially with the # of downloads I received. Or at least, some sell-throughs from the Booksends promo I did several weeks ago. But unfortunately, I don’t believe that wasn’t the case. I did, however, managed to make back the cost of the BookBub ad (and a few other ads), at least.

Here is the sell-through rate (% of people who read book 1 went on to buy book 2 and/or 3) broken down (amended 12/21/2016, thanks to PhoenixS from Kboards):

Book Amazon B&N iBooks
Book 2 (Scratched) 34 5  14
Book 3 (Scorned) 22 4  4
# of downloads 18337  2174 5897
% Sell-thru (Scratched) .2% (34 / 18337 = .0018)  .2% (5 / 2174 = .0022)  .23% (14 / 5897 = .0023)
% Sell-thru (Scorned) .1% (34 / 18337 = .0011)  .2% (4 / 2174 = .0018)  .1% (4 / 5897 = .0006)
Total sell-thru rate 65% (22 / 34 = 0.647)  80% (4 / 5 = 0.8)  29% (4 / 14 = .285)

Unlike the previous Booksends promo I did, this time, B&N surprisingly had a higher sell-through rate. Both Amazon and iBooks were equal in this regard.

Because this was sort of a two-part free promo period, I added the Booksends carry-over profits/losses to the BookBub losses, and determined that in total, I had -645.45 in overall losses:

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4b. Mailing list results

I received 6 mailing list sign-ups. I’m not sure if Bookbub had anything to do with it or what, but it was nice to see this, regardless. I didn’t change anything with my books since the Booksends promo.

4c. Ratings/reviews results

During the promo period, Scarred received 12 new reviews–an exact equal amount of negative (1s and 2-stars) and positive (4s and 5-stars) across all platforms.

4d. Rankings results (Amazon)

I was mainly tracking my Amazon rankings here. Scarred achieved #11 in the overall Kindle Free store, and had steadily maintained #1 in Multicultural & Interracial, Sports Romance, and New Adult & College categories!

4e. Facebook ads results

This was my second time using Facebook ads for a large-scale book promo. But this time, I had the help of a marketing professional to show me the ropes about properly doing Facebook ads. Apparently, I was doing it all wrong last time, and totally sunk in so much money for nothing. I got some better results, and targeted only women age 35-54 who had interests in other authors and books like mine. I used something called a ‘lookalike audience’ which I remember hearing Mark Dawson talk about, but never fully understood what that meant. Now the more I play around with ads, the more I’m understanding what I need to do. This time around, I spent less than $50.00 in total for this campaign. MUCH less than what I paid for last time! And it had better results!

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Some things I’ve learned from using effective Facebook ads properly:

  • Use ad images that reflect the type of book you’re selling – so this might be obvious, but if you recall from the images I was using in my previous promo, none of the ads had any engagements (clicks). Basically, many people saw the ads, but no one was clicking on them. So, I used stock images that best reflected what my book is like.
  • Use Clickbait-y headlines – basically, things you might see on Buzzfeed. Something that will entice people to want to learn more. Again, it sounds like the obvious, but I never realized that’s why most ad sites do that.
  • Create a landing page for the ads – This is something I’m going to work on in the future, but for the duration of the ads, I had the links going to the book’s page, and from there, readers can choose which outlet they want to download the book.

Here were the top three best-performing ads looked like. All of them had the headline: “I’m just an engineering student at the University of Washington. You won’t believe what happened to me.” This headline was chosen after a lot of trial and error of creating tons of headlines and doing test ads to see which one(s) got the most reaction. The images are in order from popularity.

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4f. Bookbub ads results

I pretty much re-ran the same ads that I used in the Booksends promo. Here are the results:

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Just as before, Amazon was definitely #1 in clicks, (how many people clicked on the ad) but iBooks was #1 in impressions (how many people saw the ad).

It still appears, like before, that the majority of US-based BookBub subscribers are Kindle readers (or prefer the Kindle to read).

5. Overall

Pros: 

– This promo gave Scarred a lot of visibility. Scarred was downloaded 26,408 times. That’s a lot of new readers and potential fans!

– Received 6 new mailing list sign-ups

Scarred received 12 new reviews during and after the promo campaign (between 11/15 – 11/30) across all platforms. (6 positive, 6 negative)

– A total of 53 people went on to buy Scratched (book 2) and 30 people went on to buy Scorned (book 3) (across all platforms)

Scarred ranked #1 in three Amazon categories and #11 overall in the Free Kindle store!

Cons:

– Did not break even.

– The daily sales rate lost its ‘stickiness’ about 1-2 weeks after the free promo period, and I am back to where I started again.

6. Other observations

It was hard to determine what other ad sites were effective besides the BookBub one. I think a lot of the sales I received were due to BookBub. But that will not keep me from using those sites again. I think they were reasonable in terms of price, and I know people out there who have had good results.

I could not use some of the same sites I used in the Booksends promotion because it was too close since the last ad run, and most of those sites require you to wait 3-6 months before resubmitting again.

 

Here are some graphs that further illustrate the promo results (the highest download day is highlighted):

Amazon (free downloads):

Amazon (paid downloads):

B&N (Using Draft2Digital to distribute):

iBooks:

Just like the Booksends promo, iBooks remained the most ‘sticky’ long after the promo period was over. I had a more gradual decrease in downloads, compared to Amazon’s and B&N’s spike. However, I think Amazon and iBooks were pretty much equal in terms of per-day sales of the other books.

 

Conclusion: 

This Bookbub promo was not a financial success as I had really hoped it would be. I’m hoping that all of those 26k people who downloaded book 1 will eventually fall in love with the Anderson Brothers and read through the rest of the series in months or years from now.

This will probably be my last promo for a while. A lot of money has been spent, but I did learn a lot about book marketing in the process. But for now, I’m going to just concentrate more on putting out more books and see if that is the most organic way to get noticed.

It’s been a little over a month since I did this promo, and I am pretty much back to where I started with daily sales (about 0-1 per day). Now, it could very well be due to the holidays, so I will see how sales go after the new year. It is definitely very hard to stay ‘sticky’ in the stores these days, without constantly sinking tons of cash for ads. But I think the best free advertising you can possibly do is release another book. Regardless, this was all a great learning (and extremely costly) experience for me in terms of book marketing and marketing in general.

My next experiment is going to be just releasing new books without paying for ads and seeing what happens. Maybe the algorithms will pick me up without doing anything, just like they did when I made Scarred free for the Booksends promo.

I hope my detailed experience was helpful for some of you who may be thinking about doing a free book promo with BookBub. What worked for me may not work for you, and vice versa.

YMMV. Good luck!

Questions? Leave a note below! I’ll be more than happy to answer them. Comments are always welcome, too. 🙂

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