Dear BookBub, I’m breaking up with you

When I first started writing fiction, I needed someone to believe in me. I was ecstatic to get my first BookBub deal – a deal that helped me get 20,000 downloads for book one in my series and earn $8,297 in the same month.

I thought I’d made it. Together, we were unbeatable.

But now you’re always busy with other people. I can’t figure out what you see in them.

My books have great covers, hundreds of reviews, they’re long and satisfying, and yet they still don’t meet your approval. I’ve tried dressing them up to your whims. I’ve tried flattery, pleading, facts and data, reviews from USA today bestselling authors; I even took two of my books wide, with new covers, to try and get your attention.

But you keep rejecting me. Twice a month, for each book, for a year and a half.

You even let me down on my birthday.

I need to admit this is not a healthy relationship.

I got into self-publishing so I could have more control.

I’m not asking for favors or handouts, but I’m tired of counting on you as a partner in this one-sided relationship. So I’ve decided to stop trying to win your approval. I doubt you’ll notice my absence. You’re still charming, and powerful, and successful.

I just don’t think you really care. Not about me, not about the tens of thousands of authors you ignore. Sure, you put out great blog content, some of which is high quality publishing advice, some is just thinly-veiled self promotional tools.

And, once I have completed series and can afford to spend outlandish amounts on competitive keyword bids, I may sneak around and see what you’re up to – to see if I can regain a little bit of that first true love we shared, when you introduced my book to thousands of happy readers.

I understand you have other priorities, and you can’t risk your readers’ trust by recommending unsatisfying books… but I have a 4.7 average and some truly remarkable, heart-warming reviews. At this point, I don’t know what else I can say to make you love me, so for my own peace of mind, I’ve decided to stop submitting my books to you – so I can stop waiting anxiously for that consistent form rejection email, and stop feeling the disappointment and insecurity that comes with each new failure.

It’s not you, it’s me.

How to get a BookBub Deal

I wrote this silly post in frustration but since people are still finding it, here’s an update: I’ve had about 3 more BookBub deals since then. It’s easier to get long box sets included, probably because they like bigger discounts, so a $9.99 book set to 99cents or free works; though I’ve also had some single book 1’s in my main series. I still haven’t tried pitching the other books in a series because that seems weird.

I usually do things quickly and sometimes check “all platforms” even though I’m actually in KU – when this happens, they just send an email the day of saying they couldn’t find it on all the other platforms, but the Amazon US promo still works as long as I’ve set my price discount. However… the results of BookBub deals have gone down drastically.

The last free book promotion deal I did got 5,923 downloads (compare to 20K+ a few years ago).

The 99cent promo I’m running now has about 500 sales so far, pushing it to #1 in my categories for a day at least. Ideally… the reason to do “email book blasts” like this is to reach a higher rank in the free or paid categories, hit the top 100 at least so you show up in organic searches, and importantly – train Amazon by getting more readers to download your book, and hopefully bump your also-boughts, which only works if you’re targeting the right genre and those readers are buying other books in that genre.

And hey, 500 sales aint bad and took almost no effort or work; money-wise, I break even so why not. A smarter strategy would have been to also take out ads on all the book promo sites: Fussy Librarian, BargainBooksy, ENT, etc… sites where you can pay $100 or so and send a notice out to their relevant genre appropriate list – basically the same as BookBub, but BB is the biggest and best.

Is BookBub worth it?

This will depend on your genre and marketing strategy, in my experience, usually yes. Here’s a simple visual – the giant spikes are from BookBub promos. The first one was free book1 with the other 3 books on kindle countdown deal. The second is from the boxset of a different series.

bookbub promotion worth it

But if I go back far enough, here’s what my lifetime earnings look like – that first giant spike was mostly BookBub I think, with only a free book one and book2 on preorder, though also I was new and fresh and eager, so I did a lot of marketing and promotion for my books. That other tall green candle was also probably a bookbub deal, and you can see those last two little bumps towards the end – which paints a picture of diminishing returns, maybe because readers have become tired of this kind of book promotion and are trending towards quality markers like higher prices instead of discounts.

bookbub promotion ads


Other Book Marketing Strategies

This form of promotion works, but it is limited, and most people will see a boost and a crash. To get your book “sticky” so it shows up all the time, you need to prove to Amazon people like to buy your book, so when they show it to the right readers it gets a sale. Conversion is a whole thing, the main game, which is why all my book marketing advice and guides focuses on the *product* (blurb, covers, reviews).

The best way to really win, is to get ads working for you, on AMS or Facebook, which is tricky and usually only works in a low-competition market or with a higher-priced product or a full length series. Which is why I haven’t *really* been marketing my books, even though I’ve spent a ton of money on publishing, because when I have more content (finished series) marketing will get easier… but I’ve been saying that for 5 years and I’m ready to step it up again… so I’ll be focusing more on Facebook ads soon.

Right now I’m basically still breaking even with amazon and facebook ads, and it can seem dumb to just churn money, BUT breaking even is pretty hard, and if I’m spending $1K a month on ads and making $1100, theoretically that 10% profit is all I really need, if I could scale it up (spend 100K on ads, make $10K/month profit). To do that, you need a lot of rigorous ad testing and I’m lazy and I’d rather be writing.

But that’s kind of the answer to everything…

Most authors won’t do the work because it’s a pain in the ass, and they’re ready to pay money for anybody to take it off their plate, even though no marketer can help sell a product nobody wants. There is no magic bullet that will work *despite* your publishing mistakes or mishaps, so first you need to fix your shit.

After that, consistent, steady ads that target the right reads towards a product they want to buy, with incremental improvements until you’re slightly in the profit, seems to be the thing to do. Occasional BookBub ads are worth it, so you might as well keep applying, but you can get just about the same results if you ad-stack all the different free or 99 cent book promotions sites instead.

Why free or 99cent book promos?

Because, your book is not news and there is no reason to share or talk about your book. However a “deal” has urgency and gives readers a reason to buy right now, because it’s free/cheap/on sale – this is the reason email list marketing sites exist and work; readers sign up for the discounts. 

They may not be the ideal readers, they may not convert to buying fans. When you’re fully established with high-priced books and have ads dialed in, you may not ever need to do free or 99cent book promos. But when you’re starting out with no traffic and can’t get ads to work (firstly, you should hire me to give you feedback on why your book isn’t selling, and you shouldn’t really do a promotion until you have enough reviews and have fixed red flags that will dissuade readers)… but after that, book promos and ad-stacking are a relatively low-stress way to reach more readers. Make sure you have a super strong optin offer in the front and back of your book; if I weren’t so lazy I’d even put a special giveaway there with a big prize so there’s a legit reason to go sign up, but that would entail switching out the ebook file before and after the promotion.

PS. I’ve made over six-figures publishing my books, but I spent almost all of it so it doesn’t really count.

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