Bookbub – a great thing for readers!

01Mar13

I meant to post this two weeks ago, but life is too damn hectic.

A few weeks back, I did a three-day promotion in connection with Bookbub.com. For the benefit of the book marketing wonks out there, here is my report.

Diary of a Small Fish had received a lot of very good reviews in its time, but for some time, my book marketing mojo ain’t been workin’. Consequently, its sales ranking on Amazon languished in the low 400k area, save for the occasional ebook purchase that drives it down to the 200k’s for a day or so. Sales through Smashwords have been almost non-existent for months, save for the occasional onesie from Barnes & Noble.

When my agent submitted Law & Disorder to the acquisition people at Thomas & Mercer, she urged me to shake off the cobwebs and boost Small Fish, because the editors at Amazon (unlike a lot of TP types) pay attention to stuff like that.

My experience to date with paid book promotion had been pretty dreadful. Ereader Daily News,  Facebook, Ads on the Cheap – none of them achieved squat. I was beginning to wonder if any paid promotion worked.

Bookbub’s attraction is that they have developed a huge number of actual BOOK BUYING readers who have signed up for email alerts of daily book deals. Imagine that – readers who are ASKING for email spam! All you do is sign up, give your email address, your preferred genre(s) and your chosen format (i.e., sales venue). When I signed up (to see the product as it is delivered), I soon received a nice, clean, clear and simple email with three book deals – one free, one 99 cent and one a higher price (usually, the email includes one traditionally published bestseller). I clicked on the 99 center, and it brought be right to the Amazon buy page. So far so good!

Bookbub also seems to recognize that the value in their mailing list is preserved by insuring that the products they’re selling are of good quality – so before they take your money, they check out your book. You have to have a certain number of favorable reviews to be approved. I do not know if they utilize any additional vetting criteria beyond that. Perhaps the bar is fairly low, but I know of at least one superb novel that was turned down. However, several of the free books I’ve downloaded I quit on after only a few pages. Not poor formatting or typos, just not grabbing me.

So, Bookbub accepted Small Fish, took my money, and scheduled my promotion for the date I chose. Their fee is based on two factors – your genre (which dictates the number of readers) and your price promotion: the lower your price, the lower the fee. Free book promotion is $220 for the mystery/thriller genre. At 99 cents, the fee was $440. For the traditionally published bestsellers that are lowering their $9.99 price to $5.99, the cost is over a grand.

I chose to run the email on a Wednesday, for a promotion that ran through Friday. My limited experience is that ecommerce drops off heavily on weekend days, so I scheduled the promotion to lead into the weekend.

The Bookbub email went out in tranches, the first of which appeared to land at 2:00 pm on Wednesday. I tracked the sales hourly for the first day. Here’s what they looked like (totals are cumulative):

B&N      Amazon

3:00 PM

100

27

4:00 PM

143

50

5:00 PM

171

85

6:00 PM

207

135

7:00 PM

231

223

8:00 PM

257

316

9:00 PM

280

391

10:00 PM

305

456

11:00 PM

317

503

12:00 AM

325

540

Notice that Smashwords is not listed. Why? Because not one single unit was purchased through it during the entire three days. Not one.

So, sales chugged along at between 60 to 120 sales per hour throughout the entire day, totaling 865 for the day (Wednesday).

Sales on Thursday dropped off significantly to 153 (B&N) and 203 (Amazon), and even more so on Friday, 59 (B&N) and 41 (Amazon). Totals for the three days were 537 units at B&N and 799 units at Amazon.

Financially, things worked out fine. Obviously, when you shell out $440 for this type of thing, you’re most concerned about breaking even, which I did comfortably. The key is what happens after the promotion and you’ve brought your book back up to $3.99 (or whatever). It’s a little soon to tell, although I have sold several units through B&N today.

As far as Amazon ranking, the promotion drove Small Fish from the low 400k’s to a best of #134 overall, #38 in the mystery/thriller category, and #14 in “contemporary fiction.” Those ratings, unfortunately, did not last a long time, and I am left with the nagging reminder that online book sales require – REQUIRE – persistent promotion of one sort or another.

I’ve got this cool sandwich board I’m going to try out.

A final word about Smashwords. Does anybody, anywhere, sell any books through them? Is it really possible that a promotion of this type could sell 1300+ books without a single one of them through Smashwords?

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6 Responses to “Bookbub – a great thing for readers!”

  1. Now there needs to be something as good as bookbub, through which you can rotate your book since you can only be on bookbub every so often.

  2. 2 Pete

    There is another one – name I’m blanking on – but it emails 12-15 choices, and the people who
    ve used it didn’t do so hot.

  3. I had this exact experience- only not as many sales. I think I had around 700ish for a YA one. That was last month, this month so far, I’ve sold 6 books at BN and 15 at Amazon. LOL. If you figure out the magic to it all… let me know. 🙂

    • 4 Pete

      Thanks for stopping by, Jessie – I don’t know if it’s magic or dumb luck. Maybe a combo.

  4. Or maybe you just have a great book and that’s the real key, isn’t it? No matter what you do to promote, if the book ain’t great, it ain’t gonna’ sell Congrats on your success. Something definitely to keep in mind when my day comes.


  1. 1 Results — My “Better Than Free” Experiment « Marion's blog

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