In January, 2017, I gave away 60,301 books on Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble and Kobo combined. And that’s just for one title.
I nearly died of excitement. Not only did it mean 60,000 people were willing to take a chance on my book, but it meant exposure, sales and several other big wins for a tiny little author like me.
How’d I do it? It took blood, sweat, tears and a little luck.
A look into my book marketing strategy
To understand my marketing strategy, we have to rewind about a year.
Around March 2016, I decided to make the first book in my series, Fire in Frost, permafree.
Permafree is a term that simply means the book is always free or “permanently free.”
Though I don’t make any money on downloads of this book, the idea is to capture readers’ attention so they’ll hopefully buy the next books in my series. When I made this decision, I had already self-published the first and second books, and the third was almost ready.
Fast-forward to December 2016. I submitted my free book to BookBub for consideration — for the tenth time. You can only apply once per month, and I was determined to keep trying.
I couldn’t believe it when I got the email saying they’d accepted my book for a feature and were planning to run my ad on January 4, 2017.
What is BookBub? And how does BookBub work?
If you’re not familiar with BookBub, it’s the holy grail of book marketing for fiction authors.
BookBub is what made all the difference in this promotion. If you hang out with other writers long enough, you’ll discover that BookBub is THE place to advertise your books if you can.
But you can read tons of BookBub reviews on the web, and I’d rather go a step further and help you use the tool.
So here’s how BookBub works. The company sends out newsletters to thousands of readers each day. You pay to get your book featured in their newsletters. The price varies depending on the price point of your book and which newsletter you want to be featured in.
They’re willing to consider permanently free books, but in general, they’re looking for book deals that are deeply discounted.
BookBub for authors: How to get a BookBub feature
While BookBub is incredibly effective for authors, it is extremely hard to get your book accepted.
I tried 10 times with my free book before finally getting accepted. I recently had another author friend say she tried 18 times before getting accepted.
With that in mind, there are a couple of things you can do to increase your odds that BookBub will feature your book.
Here are my suggestions for getting your book featured in BookBub:
1. Make it the best deal you can.
BookBub wants to give their readers the best deals, so try to offer your book free (if it’s the first in the series) or for $0.99. They usually won’t feature anything above $2.99, and they’re unlikely to feature your book at that price point if it’s always priced there.
2. Try with the first book in a series.
BookBub seems to like first in the series because (as I understand it) they will make money off affiliate sales of your other books if their readers buy the rest of the series.
3. Make your book available on all platforms and in all territories.
BookBub wants deals that appeal to all their readers. Although they sometimes feature books that are exclusive to Amazon, you typically have a better chance if your book is available on all platforms (Amazon, Apple, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Google Play) and if the deal is available in all territories (US, UK, Australia, India, and Canada).
4. Have an amazing cover.
Believe it or not, readers really do judge books by their covers, and so do the people over at BookBub. If you have a cover that’s not eye-catching, it’s worth considering a redesign, not just for BookBub but because it will help in all your book promotions.
5. Finish your series.
BookBub finally accepted my deal once the entire series was available for sale on all platforms. This isn’t a guarantee that they’ll accept your book, but it helps because readers don’t want to wait around for the next one. Offering a complete series makes your deal more appealing.
6. Gather reviews.
BookBub doesn’t require a minimum amount of reviews, but more reviews give the impression that your book is more popular. It also gives BookBub’s editors an idea of how readers will respond to your book. You can gather reviews by including a call to action at the end of your book, giving away free copies, or encouraging reviews from people who’ve already read the book.
7. Talk up your book.
BookBub features a comment section when you submit your deal. Use it to talk up your book. Mention if it’s won any awards or what editorial reviewers or big-name authors have said about it. I mentioned that my series had over 200 5-star reviews on Goodreads (at the time), and I think that helped me land a feature on BookBub.
8. Be flexible.
BookBub is in such high demand that if you need a certain date, it might already be full.
Instead, consider planning your promotion around them. They’ll ask you if your date is flexible or not. Be open to anything, and it will increase your chances of getting a feature.
9. Keep submitting.
Submit as often as you can (once a month), and don’t give up!
How to leverage a BookBub ad
After paying for the ad (see cost details below), I knew I needed to devise a game plan.
I wanted to make the most out of this feature. I applied to multiple other ad sites and newsletter services and got accepted to most of them. I planned to run ads that whole week to boost my Amazon rankings.
Most of the ads ended up running on Monday or Tuesday, and the BookBub feature ran on Wednesday. Here’s how my investment broke down:
- BookBub: $115*
- EBook Soda: $15
- Book Goodies: $17.50
- The Fussy Librarian: $5
- Reading Deals: Free
- ReadFree.ly: Free
- EReader News Today: $35
- Many Books: $25
*BookBub ad prices vary depending on your category and price point. I ran my ad for a free book in the Teen & Young Adult category.
I also increased my Amazon ad spending to $10 per day and ended up spending $39.68 during the week of the promo. Plus, I ran Facebook ads for $10 per day and spent $43.69 during the week of the promo. For other free promos, some friends agreed to share the book in their newsletters, and I also shared the freebie with mine.
My goal was to reach as many people as possible with my book promotion. When all was said and done, I spent $295.87 to promote my freebie.
The result? These promos catapulted my free book from around #2,000 in the free Amazon Kindle store to #7 in the entire store. I hit #1 of all free teen books on Kindle.
Here’s what that looked like (see #7):
That high Amazon ranking further increased my exposure and kept the series selling well the entire month, and for months afterward.
Overall in January, I had 33,485 downloads on the Amazon U.S. site, 8,491 downloads on Amazon’s international sites, and 18,325 downloads between Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo.
What did I get out of my BookBub promotion?
Here’s how I benefited from this book promotion:
I made a profit off my books
You might be wondering why I would do all this just for a free book. After all, I’m not making any money off it, right?
Well, that’d be the case if I only had the one book. By reaching readers with the first book, sales of the second, third, and fourth books also spiked.
By the end of the promo week, I’d already made my money back and more from sales of my other books.
I got lots of positive reviews
After running the promo, my reviews spiked. I’ve received well over 50 more reviews on book one on Amazon, and I’ve now exceeded over 1,000 reviews of the series on Goodreads. All this translates into even more exposure.
I achieved bestseller status on Amazon
Toward the end of the month, I decided to run a quick $0.99 sale on books two, three, and four.
Since the sales boost from this promo had already increased my ranking, this extra sale helped push my books to #1 in their Amazon categories. I also made the top 100 author list for teens.
Granted, it’s no New York Times bestseller, and I won’t be bragging about being an Amazon bestseller on my book covers or anything, but it was a personal goal of mine that I was happy to hit.