Authors need to be business-minded these days. Even if you’re traditionally published, the onus is on you to market your book (the big marketing dollars mostly go to the authors who are already household names).
This is why BookBub is seen as the “holy grail” for book marketers (not sure if it merits that status, but a lot of happy authors continue to use it as part of their marketing plan). A featured deal on BookBub can potentially expose your book to millions of readers.
But if you’re chosen for a BookBub deal, it can cost you a pretty penny ($1,000+ in the more popular genres). So is it worth it for self-published authors?
I had the opportunity to see for myself when my book got selected for an international deal (more on this later).
What I Did Before Promoting on BookBub
The first time I put my book on sale, I used three promotion companies: Bargain Booksy, eBookHounds, and a niche company that focuses on books in my specific genre (LGBTQ romance).
My book was on sale for one week, and I used those three companies simultaneously that same week to cast my net wide, I guess.
Total for all three promo services: $135
At the end of my promo period, I had sold 59 ebook copies and 2,528 KENP read (Kindle Edition Normalized Pages).
All of that added up to $57.13 in sales.
So I spent $135 on promotion and earned less than half of that back.
How My Book Performed With BookBub
When I applied for a BookBub deal, I didn’t know much about it. I knew it was difficult to get a deal, but I tried it out anyway. There was nothing to lose in applying.
Before I applied, though, I looked at the books in my genre that were currently being promoted on BookBub.
To my surprise, there were quite a few self-published works. Some had excellent covers; others, not-so-excellent. Some were clearly written by talented folks; others, well…it gave me hope that maybe I could get a deal myself.
And a full week after applying, I received an email saying my book had been selected for a featured deal—internationally. This meant UK, Canada, Australia. No U.S., which is the more coveted market.
But I was elated. Even though the international market had fewer subscribers, my book was still going to get more eyeballs than I could accomplish on my own.
The international deal cost $55.
So going in, I knew that I wouldn’t be making USA Today Best Seller or anything like that. At most, I would probably sell a couple dozen more books. I wasn’t dreaming big.
Turns out, BookBub was more powerful than I thought.
On just the first day of my promotion, I sold 66 copies—a boost from the 59 copies I’d sold over the span of a week using three different promo companies!
At the end of my nine-day promo period with BookBub, I’d sold 127 copies (the sales did taper off towards the end).
My book reached top 3 ranking in Amazon for my category in the UK and Canada (for some reason, I didn’t get to see my Australian rankings because the data came in a bit late).
Sales for this promo period totaled $88.52. But what surprised me was how I continued to get Kindle page reads and a few sales even weeks after the BookBub promo ended. The boost in Amazon rankings really did help to put my book in front of more readers thanks to the algorithm working.
So with BookBub, I ended up earning more than the initial $88.52 during the promo period. The long-tail effects continued for a month or so, resulting in about $220 in total sales.
Still small potatoes, but BookBub actually had a better ROI compared to my other promotional efforts. And it cost much less!
I think I also gained about 30 more Amazon reviews, which helped me cross the 100+ review mark.
My goal as a self-published author is not to strike it big and become a bestseller (although that would be pretty sweet). I simply want my books to entertain people and reach as many readers as possible, whether through discounts or the occasional freebie.
Your own goals will direct your marketing strategy. If budget is a major concern, you may want to consider a less-costly approach to promote your book (reaching out to podcasts, guest posting on relevant blogs, making connections with book bloggers in your genre, etc.)
But if you have the budget, BookBub is an effective way to give your book a boost. Also, the long-tail effects are certainly worth it. After that, though, your book will inevitably fade to oblivion (like mine did) unless you continue to keep up with your marketing efforts (it really is never-ending).
I may write a separate post about how to improve your chances of getting selected for a BookBub deal. I wasn’t expecting to get any kind of deal at all since I’m self-published and don’t have a huge following, but I think if you write in a less competitive genre, your chances of getting picked are greater (you will still need to have professional-looking covers, formatting, writing, and blurb).
From my experience so far, I think I will continue to use BookBub over other promo sites. The ROI was better and I got a lot more reviews out of it. I recently applied for another BookBub deal and got selected, this time for the U.S. market—I will track how everything goes and provide an update. Stay tuned.