Sunday, March 30, 2014

BookBub - An ebook Promotion Site.

A few weeks back, I did a post on the price of the top 100 ebooks. In a comment on that post, author Anthea Lawson said one of the reasons for the big increase in cheap ebooks in the top 100 could be sites like BookBub. I had never heard of BookBub, so I went and had a look at their site.  

What is Bookbub?

BookBub is a service that promotes limited-time discounts on ebooks. The discounted ebooks are generally $2.99 or less. BookBub claims to have over two million subscribers who receive daily emails with details of a cheap ebooks. I signed up to receive promos for science fiction and bestselling ebooks.

The BookBub website also lists available ebooks. There were 26 science fiction, 65 fantasy, 9 horror, 29 mystery, and 13 action/adventure ebooks, along with ebooks in other genres listed on the website. Twenty-two of the 26 science fiction ebooks were free, down from prices ranging from 99c to $4.99. Of the four that were not free, two were $2.99, down from $9.99, and two were $1.99, down from $4.99 and $7.99.

What’s in it for the Writer?


BookBub is another way of promoting a writer’s work. It costs money. To promote a free science fiction ebook costs $100. A science fiction ebook discounted to under $1 costs $200; from $1 - $2 costs $300, and $500 for an ebook over $2. Mystery authors pay the most: $300 for a free ebook; $600 for an ebook that is less than $1; $900 for a $1 - $2 ebook and $1500 for an ebook over $2. Prices vary for other genres.

BookBub only promotes about 30% of ebooks submitted to it. The ebooks have to be error free. They rarely promote new releases as books that have been around for a while have had more chance to build up a platform. Many of the blurbs that accompanied the ebook promos sent to me mentioned the high number of reviews the ebook had received on Amazon.  

Does Bookbub Increase Sales?

BookBub claims that the average downloads of a free science fiction ebook being promoted are a nice round 8000, but only 630 for a discounted ebook. For a mystery, 19,700 for free ebooks and 1,890 for discounted ebooks. It is not clear whether these download figures are just for the promotional period.

So a self-publishing science fiction author who discounts his ebook to $2.99 and gets an average increase in downloads stands to make (630 x $2.99) – $500 = $1383. If the discount is to 99c it is (630 x .99) - $200 = $423. For a mystery it is (1890 x $2.99) - $1500 = $4151.

I checked to see whether any of the ebooks I had received BookBub promos for in the past week were in the top 100 science fiction Kindle list. Two were, one was number 22, the other 77. But how much did the BookBub promotion have to do with those sales as most authors would have promoted the discount in a variety of other ways. And how were the sales going before the promotion?  

Anthea Lawson said in her comment on my blog that BookBub works. When she ran a promotion discounting her ebook for one week in September last year, her historical romance made it to number 28 in the Kindle store overall.

But there is debate on blogs, such as The Digital Reader, about BookBub losing its effectiveness as a sales tool. Some authors say promotions by sites such as BookBub don’t seem to be as effective at raising an ebook’s ranking anymore, but this may be due to Amazon changing its bestselling lists algorithms.     

I have not been tempted, so far, to buy, or download for free, any of the ebooks that BookBub has promoted to me over the past three weeks. As for whether discount sites like BookBub invalidate any conclusions I come to about the price of ebooks in the top 100 Kindle best seller lists, who knows.


Patty said...

The fact is also that Bookbub estimates are fairly conservative. In January I ran a free Fantasy book and had 35,000 downloads. I'll do a Science Fiction book next month. Both these books are free.

Where does it work?

1. Series: if you give away thousands of free copies of book 1, people will buy the subsequent volumes of the series. I got more than full-price 800 sales.

2. Places that are not Amazon: the promotion lifted my sales at all platforms, but in particular B&N, Apple and the Smashwords site. My sales on Kobo are already good.

On the Kindleboards all this is constantly being discussed.

Graham Clements said...

Hi Patty,

Perhaps my bias against series caused me not to mention that many writers do attempt to pull readers into a series with a free or cheap first volume. I prefer stand alone novels, but that doesn't mean the writer can't write a sequel or a prequel for that matter.

Was your fantasy promoted on Bookbub?

If so, how many of those free downloads would you say were because of BookBub?

Was the book that sold 800 copies the sequel to the book that you gave away 35,000 copies of?

Graham Clements said...

I had a look on the Kindleboards forum, and from what I read, people have had very mixed experiences with bookbub. Some had high (perhaps unrealistic) expectations that just being on bookbub would automatically give them so many sales. But others were saying it was not worth the price anymore. And some said it did not have the effect on the rankings they had hoped for.

Graeme Hague said...

I'm thinking of Bookbub, but I'm not established enough to expect they'll accept any of my submissions anyway. I'm working on that and reserving a decision until I'm "qualified". In the meantime I can't help balking at the idea of giving away tens of thousands of copies for free to achieve sub-1000 sales. However, Bookbub does seem to work to a certain extent even if you come out in the red, whereas alternatives can utterly fail and probably never, genuinely offer a result in the first place. It's a tough one and I'll be looking more closely at the maths.
You hate series? Don't get me started!

Graham Clements said...

Hi Graeme,

The problem with thousands of free or heavily discounted books to get 100 of sales is that there are only so many free ebooks people can read. I think that business model will not survive long.

The last series I was reading from an author I used to think was the best thing since the printing press was invented, was 700 pages long and the book ended in exactly the same situation it began in. 700 pages of filler.

I don't mind a standalone novel that then has a sequel, for example Hugh Howey's Dust series. But I don't think he wrote the first book thinking it would be a series.

Unfortunately, my recent research has shown that series are very popular with readers and publishers.

Anthony J. Langford said...

Very good research as always.

Congratulations Patty - that's some awesome sales!

I'd be interested to know how many of those Bookbub books are self-published and if it had any impact on sales or not?

Graham Clements said...

Hi Anthony,

I was looking at the self-published (indie published) thing, but many of the ebooks had Amazon as the publisher. I was not sure whether they were published by Amazon or self-published on Amazon, but assuming the latter, I would say the majority were self-published. But you need to keep in mind authors who keep the ebook rights and have a traditional publisher for the print versions, like Hugh Howey.

David said...

Thanks for this article!
A great site to download free ebooks: