Taking my first crack at a large-scale (Bookbub) promotion

Posted on Posted in Blog, Promotions, Writing

Dear fellow authors,

There have been so many blog posts, forum posts, podcasts, etc. that have discussed what authors did to to market their books using large-scale promotional companies like Bookbub. As an aspiring writer, I’ve found many of them to be very helpful. Now, I feel that it’s my turn to pay it forward in hopes that there are some aspiring writers who are at that same point in their careers, but don’t know how to go about marketing their work.

I’m going to get right to it.

To put things bluntly, my goal for this promotion was to make the NYT or USA Today list. I thought perhaps utilizing Bookbub might help me get there, since I’ve heard so many success stories.

I’m a member of many online writing communities, and many authors share their results of large-scale promotions. These days, Bookbub is the holy grail of marketing companies for authors. Bookbub was my #1 goal, and I wanted to do everything under the sun to get featured. Being a new author, it can be difficult getting accepted at places like Bookbub. But on 6/15/2015, I was floored to receive an email from Bookbub, saying that my book, Scarred was accepted.

So what did I do to get on Bookbub?

1. Applied/re-applied aggressively
Bookbub has tons of categories to apply for. Each category varies in pricing, which is dependent on the # of subscribers in that particular category. For Scarred, I applied for these categories:

  • New Adult and College Romance (850k+ subscribers, 1k+ average downloads)
  • African American Interest (267k+ subscribers, approx. 390 average downloads)

I had thought about applying for the Contemporary Romance category (1.7 million+ subscribers, 3.8k+ average downloads), but not only did the price deter me, I knew that this category was probably the most competitive to get into.

Every time I received a rejection, I immediately applied again, this time changing the category. I applied 5 times, each time switching between categories.

Bookbub Campaign Screen - Scarred
This is what my Bookbub campaign screen looked like after submitting my application 5 times. (click to view larger)

Some things I kept consistent with my applications:

  • Deal Price – One of Bookbub’s requirements is that the book must be discounted 50% or more. Bookbub mentions in their submission tips, that the deeper the discount, the higher the chances of getting chosen. The original price of Scarred was $4.99. The first time I applied, I set the discount price to $1.99. After the first rejection, I kept the discount price to $0.99.
  • Flexible Dates – I think the less restrictions for your book, the higher the chance of being accepted. Bookbub also mentions this in their submission tips.
  • Availability in all Regions – I feel like Bookbub might give you bonus points for seeing that your book is widely available in the regions that they offer on their application page.
  • Fill in all the blanks! Leave no section unfilled. Even put something (meaningful) in the comments section. Maybe explain about your deal, marketing plan, or something similar.
  • Wide Retailer Availability – Scarred is currently available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks. An article about Bookbub’s curation process talks about this.

2. Had over a 4-star rating on Amazon – At the time I got accepted by Bookbub, I had about a 4.6 rating on Amazon. I quickly paid my invoice to secure that spot, on the off-chance I receive a one-star review that would possibly bring the rating down below 4 stars and they revoke my application or something (I never heard of Bookbub doing this, but I didn’t want to take any chances). And interestingly enough, I did receive a one-star that brought the rating down to 4.0. I knew one more 1 or 2-star rating would bump it down below 4-stars and I would lose my chances of ever getting the opportunity to take advantage of the big, successful promo sites like Bookbub and others. I had been biting my nails before the promo period even started, hoping that wouldn’t happen.

3. Had 20 reviews on Amazon
It could just be me, but I think this was the biggest reason for me getting accepted more than anything. When I applied 4 (unsuccessful) times, I only had about 15 reviews. Then, within 3-4 days, I received 5 more reviews that brought my review count to 20, so I applied again and got accepted. I remembered someone mentioning this in a writing community I’m a member of, and based on my recent experience, this seems to be true.

 

Once I had a date secured at Bookbub, I researched a ton of other promo sites and scheduled dates around the Bookbub date. When it was all said and done, I ended up with a promo period that lasted from 7/12/2015 – 7/25/2015. Then I created a chart with the promo website name and prices. I needed to keep track of how much I was spending on advertising in order to calculate how many books I would need to sell to break even.

Website Name Price Notes
Read Cheaply FREE
Booksends $100  Ordered extras: EreaderIQ
Bookbub $125 African American Interest category
Robin Reads $10
ebooksoda $10
Book Basset $21.99
bknights $21 Ordered extras: Facebook, website, newsletter
People Reads $19.99
Fussy Librarian $18
Genre Pulse $40
Ereader News Today $50
SBB Promotions $50 2-day Book Blitz
Bargain Booksy $100 Ordered extras: Book of the day

I chose these sites for promo based on price, subscriber base, popularity, and other authors’ experiences and suggestions. Of course, there are tons more others out there that are just as good, but I didn’t use. I will try to use different sites if and when I ever run another large-scale promo.

I spent a total of $565.98 on advertising. With Scarred priced at $0.99, it was too early to tell how many units I would need to sell to break even, since each of the retailers yield different revenue percentages (see below for details)

I created a Google Spreadsheet to keep track of my sales. This is what the final spreadsheet looked like after promo period was over:

Bookbub Promo Google Spreadsheet
Google spreadsheet to track the Bookbub promo

The non-greyed-out areas denoted the week I was concentrating on heavy promo in order to count for the bestseller lists.

 

Promo Results:

The result of this promo was NOT a financial success. Here is a detailed breakdown:

Vendor Name % of each sale (Vendor % as of 7/2015) Orig. Price of book Total price earned per book with percentages calculated
Amazon 35% 0.99 (.99 * .35) = 0.35 (Amazon royalty, rounding up)
B&N, D2D 40%, 15% 0.99 (.40 * .99) = ~0.40 (B&N royalty, rounding up)(.40 * .15) = .06 (D2D cut).40 – .06 = 0.34 (total B&N royalty with D2D cut calculated, rounding up)
iBooks 70% 0.99 (.99 * .70) = 0.70 (iBooks royalty, rounding up)

Final results with these changes made:

Vendor Name Total Sold Price per book (incl. percentages) Total revenue
Amazon 720 0.35 $249.48 How that revenue number was reached:(720 * .99) = 712.80(712.80 * .35) = $249.48 (Amazon revenue)
B&N, D2D 93 0.34 $31.62 How that revenue number was reached:(.99 * .40) = .396 (B&N revenue)(.396 *.15) = .0594 (D2D cut)

(.396 – .0594) = .34 (per unit)

.34 * 93 = $31.62 (B&N revenue)

 

iBooks 77 0.70 $53.36  How that revenue number was reached:(77 * .99) = 76.23(76.23 * .70) = $53.36 (iBooks revenue)
$334.46 Grand Total
$565.98 Total Spent on Ads
-$231.52 Total Losses

I was $231.52 away from breaking even, so this promo was not a financial success.

Pros: 

Scarred sold 890 books (the most books I’ve ever sold in such a short time)

Scarred received 2 new Amazon reviews (both positive!)

Scratched (book 2) received 11 pre-orders during the promo period

Scarred made the top 100 in three Amazon categories:

– I got the opportunity of a lifetime to be featured on the the holy grail of sites, Bookbub. That alone, meant so much to me.

 

Cons:

– Did not break even.

– Unfortunately, even with the Bookbub ad, Scarred did not make any bestseller lists. The book would have had to sell between 8,000 – 10,000 copies just to come close. I would guess that a lot of it has to do with the category that I was selected for. Bookbub’s  subscriber base for the African-American Interest category makes up less than 1%.

– I received only 3 new sign-ups to my mailing list. (This is both a pro and con. I was certainly happy with those three sign-ups, but having sold so many books, I was hoping for more.)

– Massive sales (>=100 in a day) after the Bookbub ad did not sustain the day after. As many people had mentioned in forums and on writing loops, I noticed sales the day after Bookbub experienced a sharp drop, rather than a gradual downward slope like it reportedly used to do years ago. So, even though Scarred achieved a high ranking, it wasn’t enough to sustain its position for long.

 

The promo combinations that were the most effective for me (ie; yielded >=50 total sales, listed in order from highest to lowest):

1. Bookbub/People Reads = 372 sales (this promo occurred on a Friday)

2. Read Cheaply/People Reads/Bargain Booksy = 99 sales (this promo occurred on a Tuesday)

3. Robin Reads/People Reads = 88 Sales (this promo occurred on a Saturday. This promo also happened the day after the Bookbub ad, so I’m thinking many of those sales might have been remnants of that.)

4. Booksends/People Reads = 66 sales (this promo occurred on a Wednesday)

**Note, these sales numbers are an accumulation of Amazon, B&N, and iBooks sales.**

 

Marketing sites that I will most likely try to use again:

– Bookbub

– Read Cheaply

– Bargain Booksy

– Booksends

– Fussy Librarian

– Book Basset

 

Amazon, iBooks, & B&N results:

Amazon, by far, out-performed the other vendors, as I had expected (720 total sales). What surprised me, however, was that Barnes and Noble (93 total sales) out-performed iBooks (77 total sales). I had not been making a conscious effort to put a lot of work in promoting for B&N since all the problems the company has been facing and many people are skeptical of it still sticking around in the next five years. Moreover, it’s been mentioned many times that iBooks would be the next contender for Amazon, as they are reportedly the #2 ebook vendor right now. But based on this promo, that didn’t seem like the case.

Two days after the Bookbub promotion (7/18 – 7/19), I received the most B&N sales. During the Bookbub promotion (7/17), I had more iBooks sales (40 total sales) vs. the 33 B&N sales that day.

Even though I had less Apple sales, I earned a lot more since their percentages are significantly lower than B&N (and I wasn’t using an aggregator like D2D).

More about B&N

Before the Bookbub promotion, I was making 0-1 sales a day on B&N. On the day of the Bookbub promotion, my ranking on B&N soared significantly higher (almost in the top 100 range). After the Bookbub promotion, I experienced a gradual downward slump in rankings, but I’d maintained 4-5 sales a day. This was definitely a pleasant surprise, especially for a vendor like B&N.

More about iBooks

Before the Bookbub promotion, I was making 0-1 sales a day on iBooks. On the day of the Bookbub promotion, sales spiked to 40 sales, the most I’ve ever sold on iBooks. I’m not sure if the book ever reached a high-visibility ranking or what. After the Bookbub promotion, sales dipped considerably, and continued the downward trend, returning to 0-1 sales a day in just a few days.

Overall assessment

My overall assessment based on this is that it’s much harder to sustain a high ranking/visible position on iBooks than B&N. Rankings will fall much quicker on iBooks than B&N. I’m not sure why that is the case.

Below are the charts of each of the vendors that illustrate the individual results of the promo period (7/12/2015 – 7/25/2015):

Amazon:

Amazon KDP sales results screen
Sales results of the Bookbub promo period for Amazon

 

B&N (Used Draft 2 Digital to distribute):

D2D/B&N sales results screen
Sales results of the Bookbub promo period for Barnes & Noble

 

iBooks:

iBooks sales results screen
Sales results of the Bookbub promo period for iBooks

 

 

How do I know how much I need to sell to break even?

First, I needed to wait until the end of the promo and add up the total number of units sold from each vendor. I sold an overall total of 890 units across all vendors.

720 of the 890 units came from Amazon. Therefore, Amazon made up approx. 81% of my total units sold.

– 93 of the 890 units came from B&N. Therefore, B&N made up approx. 10% of my total units sold.

77 of the 890 units came from iBooks. Therefore, iBooks made up approx. 9% of my total units sold.

Since I was at a deficit (-$231.52), in order to figure out how many more units I needed to sell in order to break even, I performed these steps:

Total net loss: -$231.52

 

Amazon: (81% of total units sold)

-231.52 * .81 = 181.53

181.53 / .35 (Amazon royalty rate)

= 536 more units need to be sold on Amazon

 

B&N (10% of total units sold)

-231.52 *.10 = 23.152

23.152 / .34 (B&N royalty rate, incl. D2D cut)

69 more units need to be sold on B&N

 

iBooks (9% of total units sold)

-231.52 * .09 = 20.8368

20.8368 / .70 (iBooks royalty rate)

= 30 more units need to be sold on iBooks

 

Thoughts on Promo Vendors:

Ereader News Today (ENT) – ENT is a legendary promo site that many considered to be the Bookbub before Bookbub. ENT has been around for many years–long before Bookbub was around–and many authors had amazing results with them. When I received a response that my ebook was chosen to be featured, I was absolutely stoked about this. Scarred was even listed in their Contemporary Romance category, too, which is pretty popular. I went in expecting to easily yield a hundred sales at least. My final results were underwhelming. The book yielded 42 sales overall, and I didn’t even break even for the $50.00 ENT ad I paid for (I was $8.80 in the hole). Now, I’m certainly not complaining about the 42 sales,  however, I had gone into this promo with certain expectations based on the majority of other authors’ positive experiences. Perhaps ENT has lost its steam compared to years ago. Or perhaps I was just unlucky. I may try ENT again at a later date, but for now, I’m going to take some time to assess them a bit more.

Book Basset – This was my first time using them, and I really loved their service! They not only featured Scarred on their blog (along with a wonderful, small positive review), but they also featured it on a Facebook post. They have a lot of (legit) subscribers on their Facebook page who are super-engaged in their posts. Some subscribers even comment on the posts and on the BookBasset blog! I feel like Scarred received a lot of exposure with this particular promo service, and I would definitely try using them again in the future.

 

My main takeaway from this promo:

1. **Reviews are everything!** This includes the number of reviews and the actual rating. Most sites these days look solely at your stats on Amazon. As soon as I received 20 Amazon reviews, that opened up the door for so many opportunities for me to take advantage of the big advertising sites. Moreover, the fact that Scarred had over a 4-star rating made my chances even higher. If you have at least 20 reviews and a rating of 4-stars and above, I encourage you to take advantage of the opportunity while you can.

What if you are a new author with no reviews? I was once in this situation. Here is what I did:

  • Goodreads Groups – I am a part of a New Adult book club that has a special forum called ‘Read to Review’. Basically, you offer your book to readers who are obliged (as per the rules of that particular forum) to review the book if they choose to read it. There are tons of groups like this on Goodreads, so find the genre that best suits your book, join the group, and give it a try! This is a totally free way to get reviews (as well as network with readers).
  • Review Tour – I used Xpresso Book Tours and Njkinny’s Tours and Promotions for my review tour. These services cost a small fee. Note: This is NOT considered paying for reviews. I paid the tour host to do the legwork for me and find lots of interested reviewers who wanted to read and review my book and feature the review on their blog. I did not receive all 5-star ratings, but all of them were detailed and helpful.

2. Pricing low means you’re going to have to sell a lot of units to break even – After carefully recalculating some numbers, I realized I’d over-estimated what I was really earning because I was not taking into account the vendors’ percentage cuts. With Scarred being priced at 99 cents, I would have to sell well over a thousand units just to break even. If the book was priced at a higher price point, then I would not need to sell as much, however many of the big promo sites, like Bookbub will not promote books priced over $2.99. And your chances of getting featured with Bookbub are much higher when your ebook discounts are steeper (or even free).

Overall, even though I did not break even I’m satisfied with the results of my first-ever large-scale promotion. It’s often said that sometimes you have to spend money to make money. I would definitely do this again, if given the chance. Scarred got a lot of exposure, and potential new fans. I’m hoping my strategy will be useful for other writers, but please do not take this strategy as gospel. What worked for me might not necessarily work for you. But the best thing you can do is try.

YMMV. Good luck!

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

47 thoughts on “Taking my first crack at a large-scale (Bookbub) promotion

    1. Hi, Debby! Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you found the post helpful. I made a few amendments to the post, as someone was gracious enough to inform me that I had forgotten to factor in the percentage cuts from each of the retailers. I’ve added that info above. Unfortunately, I did not break even as a result of this, but it was still a great learning experience for me.

  1. Thanks so much for posting this. First, I had similar results from ENT and wouldn’t spend the money in the future. Second, there’s always a bit of discussion regarding multi-cultural romance, but wonder if AA interest readers are IR romance readers?

    1. Thanks for your comments, Sylvie!

      Yes, part of me feels like ENT has lost its steam ever since Bookbub came around. You don’t hear much about them or PoI (Pixel of Ink) like you used to pre-Bookbub. But PoI no longer accepts submissions, so part of me feels like they shot themselves in the foot with that one.

      As for multicultural romance, I have observed my readership and noticed many of them do read a lot of IR romance. The problem with SCARRED is that it’s not strictly an IR romance (even though there is a IR relationship involving one of the supporting characters). The majority of readers have mistook the book to be IR Romance (most likely due to the cover), and have been expecting such. I have noticed a lot of IR Romance books being placed in AA categories because of this possible trend in readership. I have been marketing SCARRED as a primarily New Adult Romance book with multicultural elements, but based on my readership, it has fallen into the category of IR Romance. I’m not entirely sure how to properly market this segment of the Romance genre, and perhaps that might also be part of the reason why I didn’t reach higher sales numbers from the Bookbub ad, but it’s something I am going to research a little more.

      1. Like you, I subscribe to BB and have never seen an IR or AA book with people of color on the cover in the contemporary romance section. They’re always on the AA Interest list. The ones that make it to the contemporary list that have POC characters don’t have the characters on the cover.

        Thanks so much for sharing this information. I have a box set releasing in November and this was very valuable in helping me determine where to advertise.

        1. Hi, Delaney! I’m glad this info was useful for you! On a blog a few years ago, bestselling author Farrah Rochon had made an observation about how she changed the covers of her books and did not feature any people on them at all. She ended up selling way more books as a result.

          Good luck with your boxed-set release! 🙂

          1. That interview with Farrah R. changed my entire thought process. I only glanced at the books and thought they were (from the cover/title only) NA IR/MC romance. I scan through BB and all the discount newsletters daily to see who/how people are marketing.

            I’m not sure if I’m signed up for AA interest and I signed up for BB years ago. I’ll have to check that. My initial impression of that category title would be Toni Morrison or something. Not that you’ve got oodles of time (or money) for experimentation, but I’d love to know how the same book with the same title/cover would have sold in other categories.

          2. Perhaps once I have a few more books out, I will consider changing the covers and experimenting.

  2. Very interesting, Marie, and quite a lot of work to pull together. Thanks for sharing.

    I’m not quite as organized as you, but had two BookBub ads run last week, with clustered promotions at other sites. One was my first attempt at advertising a free book, and surprised me by driving so many sales to the other titles in the series. (But still, it’s a fraction of the sales that happened in previous years.) That promotion performed very well. The other was a boxed set of three books discounted to 99 cents. It sold well itself and sales more than paid for the promotion, but didn’t create a discernible halo. That’s new. There’s also a marked difference in results between genres and sub-genres, probably a mirror of popularity in the market overall, and a difference in the halo’s performance at different portals. I find more stickiness with a discounted price at B&N, for example, and apparently a free book promotion sticks harder at iBooks. It would be interesting to see what kind of results you got for a contemporary romance with a BookBub promotion.

    Thanks again for sharing –
    best
    Deborah

    1. Thanks for your comments and insight on your recent BB promotions!

      Yes, free books tend to do well, as I’ve observed, however, since SCARRED is currently my only book (even though book 2 is currently available for preorder), I feel like it would prove a fruitless effort for me financially to make my only active book a loss leader at this time. I do intend to utilize some strategies for marketing free and permafree books at a later time, but for now, free is not a viable option for me.

      I have heard from a few notable authors that they feel like BB is not as effective for them as it used to be when it comes to certain price points. I think results are heavily based on genre, category, and promotion price. And it can also be that BB has begun to become a saturated market (especially for free books).

      Those are some interesting insights about the price stickiness at B&N and iBooks. I remember reading an article a while back (or perhaps it was a forum/blog post)saying that readers prefer to pay more for ebooks (like $2.99 and up) on iBooks than any other vendor. I’m still not sure about B&N. That vendor is still a mystery in itself, and I’m still surprised I sold as many units as I did. Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love B&N and wish they weren’t in the trouble that they’re currently in, but I am hesitant in putting a lot of time and effort in a seemingly unstable vendor that may not be around tomorrow.

      I would have been thrilled to be selected for the Contemporary Romance category, but that is one of the hardest categories to get into. My book cover is also a possible a problem for that category. I am a BB subscriber and so far have never seen any Romance books with AA, multicultural, or IR characters/couples on the covers be placed in the Contemporary Romance category. They are either placed in the AA-Interest category or, very rarely, Women’s Fiction and Chick Lit.

      At the time I first got accepted in the AA category, I was happy. Beggars can’t be choosers. But I think next time (if I ever get a next time with SCARRED), I will go out on a limb try for the Contemporary Romance category.

      1. There are so many variables, Marie. I wonder whether I might have more stickiness at B&N because of my history with traditional publishing – my print books always sold there, under either of my author names. Maybe their readers remember. (?) Every author certainly has a different audience “footprint” and I find it interesting to note the differences between my two author brands and their respective genres.

        I would have readily agreed with you about less-price-sensitivity at iBooks two years ago, but I’m not sure that’s the case anymore.

        As for your books in contemporary romance, it would be very interesting to see what kind of download rate and halo you got, maybe an experiment to try when you have three books out and can make Scarred free. Something to think about – a number of years ago, I attended a panel discussion at RWA National with buyers from the big bookstore chains. It probably was a PAN session and this predated the explosion of digital book sales. The conversation moved to romances with African American protagonists, and the book buyers debated the merit of shelving them in the Black Studies section vs. the Romance section. One book buyer said that her chain had moved some titles in their stores, just to experiment, and sales of those books had multiplied several times. (he other book buyer said they had been watching that experiment.) They agreed that the buyer going to the Black Studies section might not be looking for a romance. So, you might want to suggest to BookBub in the comments if/when you apply for a contemporary romance ad that your book could be a similar experiment for them. The worst they can do is say ‘no’, and you’ve survived that before. 🙂

        best
        Deb

        1. Yes, I think being traditionally published (or having some history in trad. publishing) can be a helpful addition to your credentials when trying to apply for places like Bookbub. For one, you already have your dedicated readerbase from your trad pub years. And places like BB have been featuring more and more trad authors as of late. More bonus points are awarded to trad authors who are also NYT/USA bestsellers. It gets a lot easier to get accepted the more credentials you have. BB even broke this down in one of their blog articles about their curation process.

          My main argument these days with iBooks is why so many authors are saying that it’s the #2 ebook vendor right now. I’m just not seeing it with the numbers, or perhaps there’s a different way you have to market books on iBooks. I would have thought Kobo would be the #2 vendor right now, especially with its wide, international attention. Kobo is currently the next vendor I am studying carefully.

          That sounds like an interesting study about book placement, and I believe I’ve heard something about this a while back. Placement of titles is everything, and it’s been an ongoing discussion about AA/diverse books and how they are shelved in bookstores. Here’s one such post on the H&H blog about the issue: http://www.heroesandheartbreakers.com/blogs/2012/02/where-to-shelve-african-american-authors

          I will definitely consider that option to mention something in the comments about that, and see if BB would be on board to trying out such an experiment. Thanks for the suggestion! 🙂

          1. At all portals, Marie, merchandizing is becoming more of a factor. By that I mean the portal highlighting, suggesting or spotlighting your book to readers. It’s tough to get and you don’t always know if you do get it (or why) but it makes an enormous difference to visibility and sales. I suspect that many people who see iBooks as #2 (or even #1) are getting merchandizing for their books there, which gives them more sales. I find that contemporary romance moves better there, although some say mystery does and others that erotic romance does. It seems reasonable that multi-cultural romance would get good traction there, and maybe you’ll get some traction. Again, there are divisions – I have a friend who writes inter-racial erotic romance which sells for her at Amazon UK, iBooks and Kobo. Different audience footprints for different authors. Yours will become clear, the more books you have available!

            I suspect actually that you might not have gotten a BB ad sooner because you had only one book available. One of the things they always talk about in their presentations is the number of titles available for the halo effect – more is better. You might be seeing more traditionally published authors promoted there lately because so many of us have huge backlists that can see the halo effect. Also, I believe traditional publishers are now using BB ads more often than was once the case.

            best
            Deb

          2. You are totally right, Deborah. A lot of reports I’ve seen from authors about their positive experiences at Apple was from Apple doing some heavy promo with them. Some say they just asked Apple nicely, others say they were randomly selected. I don’t know how the process goes, but it is worth looking into.

            That’s an interesting observation about certain categories on iBooks getting more traction. SCARRED is currently listed under the New Adult, Contemporary Romance, and African-American categories. The majority of the titles currently listed in my Also Bought section are books in the African-American category, so it kind of gives me an idea of my readerships’ preferences on iBooks for now, at least.

            I probably should have waited until I had more books, but one of the reasons I did this was to hopefully drive sales for book 2’s pre-orders. I wanted to experiment and see how effective it might be.

            I was also concerned that by the time I had more books out, that book 1 would not qualify for Bookbub, primarily because of my Amazon ratings. I’ve never had such a high rating for a book for this long and wanted to take advantage of the opportunity before it possibly dipped down below 4 stars. It seems like once a book goes below 4 stars, it’s very hard to bring that rating back up…

            More and more publishers are taking advantage of the benefits of using Bookbub, so it is getting more competitive.

    1. Hi, Ruth! Thanks for stopping by! Yes, many sites out there specialize in certain types of genres/sub-genres, so it’s best to do your research before attempting to submit.

  3. Thanks for this detailed information. I’m bookmarking it for when I take the plunge and try a promo blitz. A couple of questions. When you list B&N, do you mean Nook Press or the B&N online store? Or both? Also, you used D2D to distribute but I don’t see any reports on sales at smaller venues. Negligible? None?

    1. Hi, Irene! Thanks so much for stopping by and your comments/questions!

      Yes, when I mention B&N, I am referring to Nook Press. I do have the paperback version available on B&N, but I was not tracking paperback sales with this promo. I was using D2D to distribute to B&N only. I would have gone direct, however, I wanted to take advantage of the pre-order feature, and you can only do that on B&N through an aggregator like D2D and Smashwords. My total sales numbers on B&N was 93. You can see the chart breakdown in the post above with the other charts (the chart was captured from my D2D dashboard).

  4. Thanks for posting, Marie. This is very similar to my experience without Bookbub. Still, some day, I hope to advertise there.
    You gave us lots of great information that we can us to build our own promotional base.

  5. Interesting data, Marie. I’ve considered Bookbub but never tried to be accepted. Even though you didn’t recoup you expenses, I bet you gained some new readers who will buy other books.

    1. Thanks for your comments, Linda! Yes, I do hope those 890 buyers will translate into future fans of my work. I noticed quite a few readers added my book to their TBR pile on Goodreads during this time. Though I’ve spent quite a bit on this promo, gaining fans is priceless.

  6. How wonderfully generous of you to share your experience with such detail and care with your fellow authors!
    My impression is that if you want to make ROI on these daily deal promo sites, you have to promote the first book in a series of at least three books. You offer the first one free, but the others can be full price, so you can make a return.
    What you did probably still has value for building your author brand. Trying out marketing channels is always a good idea.
    I also only have one book out and another on the way, and it is so tempting to just test the waters with my first book – I certainly poured enough of myself into it!
    But your post was a reminder to wait and just focus on writing, writing, writing!
    Thank you!

    1. Hi, Myra! Thank you for stopping by! Yes, it’s true, you need at least 3 books out to start making traction. I’d gotten some pre-orders for my second book, which is great, but it certainly wasn’t enough of them to make a ROI, even if I did calculate them in this experiment.

      For the next promo experiment I do, I will be using different marketing channels. It will be interesting to see those results.
      I agree that promoting just one book is a good way to build your author brand. I’ve gained so many new readers (and a few reviews) from this.

  7. Hi Marie! I’d just like to echo the thanks of the other commenters. This was certainly a wonderfully organized and well-thought out post. I’m sorry you didn’t break even on your promotion, but you certainly had all your ducks in a row. I also appreciated you sharing how you got reviews. I’ve wondered what the “magic number” is for Bookbub, but they seem to hold their cards close to the vest. Thanks so much for sharing, and I wish you much luck on your future promo endeavors! 🙂

  8. Thanks for the detailed info! You’re a data beast! I’ve been tempted to try for a Bookbub while it still has high effectiveness, but I probably won’t until I have at least one or two more in my series done. It’s great to have this info though.

    The shelving and covers issue for books with POC characters is a huge can of worms. I love your covers because it’s wonderful to see people who look like me on covers, but there’s always that tension between that and what will sell to “mainstream” audiences…

    1. Hi, Leslye! Thanks for stopping by and leaving your comments! I would definitely advise taking advantage of Bookbub while it’s still hot, but you’re smart in waiting until you have more books out. In my case, I’m not sure having more books out would have made much difference in having a sell-through rate, since I had so few pre-orders for book 2 compared to the # of sales for book 1.
      I would love to tackle a long blog post about diverse books and their place on the shelves. I agree, it’s a huge can of worms, and so many other authors have expressed their concerns. There have been tons of talks at conferences about this issue, but little is being done (or it’s being done at a very slow process) by the big places in charge of marketing these types of books more. I’m so glad that movements like We Need Diverse Books/Romance now exist!

      Thanks for your compliments on my book covers! I’m very glad you like them. I am hoping that my covers will attract a wide, diverse audience (including ‘mainstream’).

  9. As an emerging author I find this type of detailed information invaluable. Thank you for presenting this to us and helping me understand the marketplace a little better. Success to you!

  10. Hi Marie,

    Thanks for compiling all this data. Very interesting to see how others campaign promos and what their results are. I’ve got a Bookbub advert later this month and this is the first time that I’m doing it alongside a bunch of others in an attempt to avoid the post-spike slump (ha ha!). Generally, in the past I’ve learnt to work off a monthly figure rather than the days on which the promo ran and some people take a while to open their book emails.
    Another thing I found interesting was your Bookbub submission picture, where it appears you submitted Scarred a few times in quite a short space of time. I was under the impression you had to wait 4 weeks before resubmitting?

    1. Hi, Hannah! Thanks for your comments! Good luck with your BB promo! That’s a good idea to track a monthly figure rather than days, but for the purposes of this experiment, I wanted to see the more immediate effects of the promotions. I’m pretty sure some of the sales I’m seeing now are remnants of BB and other promos, but it’s harder to tell where the sales are coming from. What I didn’t realize is that even after my book’s promo date passed, it was still on the BB website. You had to scroll several pages to find it, but it was there. I think there’s over 50 pages to flip through. But still, millions of people use BB, and I’m sure some of them browse the website, not just get the books that are in the newsletters. Not sure if my book is still up there now, but it was nice to still see it up there after the fact. I think it was worth the $125 to have that extra promo time like that.

      As for the submission process, as far as I know, you can resubmit once if you’ve been rejected. Everyone I know who has had a BB ad has been doing this. However, to my understanding, you need to wait six months before resubmitting to BB if you’ve been featured by them.

      1. Hi,

        Thanks for the well wishes, think I’m going to need them! After your reply I had to go hunt down where I’d heard the four week rule on resubmitting (it’s not unknown for me to just make things up while genuinely believing they are fact). Nevertheless on this occasion I wasn’t making things up. There is a 4 week wait to resubmit. I generally stick to as many of BB’s rules as possible in the hope I’ll get accepted but if you and your colleagues are resubmitting immediately and still getting picked… well, carry on, I guess.
        Here’s where it says it on the BB website.
        http://support.bookbub.com/customer/portal/articles/2027394-what-are-bookbub-s-minimum-requirements-to-submit-

        1. Thanks for bringing that to my attention. I’ve obviously overlooked this area, but I will be mindful of this next time. I will need to wait six months to try and resubmit, anyway. Since researching other people’s experiences and their massive successes with BB, they have been featured on there multiple times without doing the 4-week rule, and I was simply “doing what the Romans do.” I’m not sure if the BB team is screening books that get submitted less than 4 weeks, since I’m sure that they get hundreds of different books each day, but I will keep this in mind next time.

  11. Thank you for sharing your advices.
    There`s a service for ebook promotion.
    Books Butterfly does $0.99 book and free book promotions to email lists of 125,000+ email subscribers. We have 128,888+ daily active readers. We offer a prorated refund in case a promotion does not hit the specified targets. We’d really appreciate it if you’d add our site to your lists of useful resources.

    Our Page for Paid Book Promotions http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order/paidbookslots/?tag=op250_blogs_2_marielongauthor
    Our Page for Free Book Promotions http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order/?tag=op250_free_blogs_2_marielongauthor
    Where we promote: http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order/wherepromote/?tag=op250_marielongauthor

    1. Hi and thanks. I appreciate your taking a chance on my promotion, since it was something totally new. I was quite pleased with the results of the promo I did with you back in September, and will certainly use your service again.

    2. I tried using Booksbutterfly, and several authors are reporting that their ads did not run, and that we cannot get in contact with Booksbutterfly through the form or email address listed. If you use this service make sure your ad runs, and be prepared to learn about Paypal disputes and claims should you need to get in touch with the service.

      This is what I sent the email address provided: I have the payment receipt for my Booksbutterfly advertisement, however, I do not have confirmation that the advertisement was posted. I also sent this email as a reply to my payment and filed out the form on your website in order to reach you. I am following up to see if my ad ran two days ago, as the requested day was on December 4th. Please send further instructions if there is a step that I did not complete on my end. I heard about Booksbutterfly from other authors and am excited to use the service. Thank you!

      I also contacted through the form and on facebook. Good luck, everyone.

      1. Hi, Romarin. I’m sorry you’ve had a poor experience with Books Butterfly. I’ve seen someone from that company (the owner?) posting on the Writer’s Cafe at KBoards.com a while back, so maybe you can try reaching out to them on there?

  12. Thanks for sharing, Marie. Really appreciate it. Your stats and record keeping are amazing. 🙂 Good luck with your book sales. 🙂

  13. Hi Marie! I’m getting ready to publish the first 3 books in my series (first time indie author) and was both excited and overwhelmed with your wonderful breakdown of everything. In my own research, having 3-5 books out is the only way to make this type of investment worthwhile, so that’s why I’m releasing books 1-3 within a week of each other. I’m still muddling through all your information, though, and am wondering about the sales of the subsequent books with Book 1 priced FREE and the others at 2.99. Thank you for sharing your experience (and for confusing me more!)–it’s nice to see real numbers to work with.

    1. Hi, Kat! Thank you for checking out the post! I’m glad that this information was helpful for you. Yes, I’ve learned that it does pay to have more books out before promoting, however, I wanted to try getting a Bookbub ad as soon as I could before my book ratings possibly went down and I would never get accepted (as the case has now happened). Hopefully if the ratings of the first book go over 4 stars again, I will try for another BB ad, especially now that the entire trilogy is available.

      I am currently working on a prequel book to this series that I plan to make free. I will also write up a monster blog post of my results once that happens.

      I know, it’s so many numbers, and I had to get my math-a-holic friend to help me verify everything was correct. 🙂

  14. Hi Marie, thank you for this great, helpful post. I found your information by googling. I am wondering how could you know exactly which promotion channel brought you how many sales? I really would like to know that and to hear from you. Thank you very much. Heidi

    1. Hi, Heidi! Thanks for checking out my post. I’m glad it was helpful for you. There really is no concrete way of knowing which promos brought how many sales. I was simply speculating the success of the promos on how much of a spike in sales I saw for that day. I don’t normally see so many sales in a single day, so I assumed a promo (or multiple promos) was responsible. A lot of the sales could be ones that trickled in from a prior promo.

  15. Very impressive post, with tons of useful information. I’m publishing the second book in a trilogy In the fall, and considering a promo for Book I sometime in the next month or two. Your hard work will provide some excellent guidance. Thank you and best of luck!

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