Attaining Success as an Indie Author with BookBub

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Frances Caballo
I vividly remember the day I first read the name BookBub: I was in a hotel in Stuttgart, Germany. As I sat in the lobby, waiting for my room, I scrolled through my mail and found a newsletter from a writer I admired, who was chronicling her journey in self-publishing.

It was an author, Paulette Alden, who had won numerous awards for her short stories, who was a Stanford University Stegner Fellow, who taught in prestigious MFA programs across the country, and who had not been able to find a publisher for her latest novel.

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Having self-published her novel a few months before, Paulette was now excited to report that a promotional company named BookBub had agreed to promote her book, which she was giving away for free to gain readership. The result: In one day, her novel was downloaded by over 35,000 different readers.

That’s right. Thirty-five thousand. I could not believe my eyes.

I did a quick calculation: even if only ten percent of these downloads were read, that was still over 3,500 reads, which was more than my first novel, published by St. Martin’s Minotaur and nominated for an Edgar Award, sold in its lifetime.

I too had a novel that I was considering publishing myself. But here I will admit to something right off the bat: I was not interested in giving away my novel, even for the huge readership Paulette gained. However, as I did more research on BookBub, I discovered that they would not only promote free books, but books for .99, 1.99, and, on occasion, 2.99.

From the authors who blogged about their results, their Ssales skyrocketed during and after a BookBub promotion. And in addition to increased sales, I received an extra, wonderful bonus that I didn’t expect …

But before I go into that, let me first explain what BookBub is and what it does.

Introduction to BookBub

Follow Martha on BookBubFrom their website: “BookBub is a free service that helps millions of readers discover great deals on acclaimed e-books.” They do this by sending out a daily email with two or three discounted books that have been heavily vetted by them.

[clickToTweet tweet=”BookBub vets all books that it promotes via @CaballoFrances” quote=”BookBub vets all books that it promotes via @CaballoFrances”]

Since their mailing list runs into the millions depending on the genre (there are over 3 million subscribers for mysteries and nearly two million subscribers for historical fiction), news about your book reaches a LOT of readers.

To be a featured deal, your book must be a full-length book, discounted by at least 50% for a limited time, and have the best price within 90 days. It also must be selected by the review team, who check for errors, look for distinguishing assets (lots of positive Goodreads and/or Amazon reviews; awards won; and independent newspaper and journal reviews), and determine in some mysterious way whether or not their subscribers would be drawn to your book.

It is not easy to be selected by BookBub. I had tried three times before they accepted my book, Thieving Forest, for a promotion. Apparently only about 15% of those who apply are accepted. And it’s expensive: Depending on the genre and the sales price, it can cost $600.00 or more.

[clickToTweet tweet=”About 15% of authors who apply are accepted into BookBub @CaballoFrances” quote=”About 15% of authors who apply are accepted into BookBub @CaballoFrances”]

BookBub Leads to Success for This Indie Author

12-14-15 TF BookBub blurb

Is it worth it? Absolutely. In the six days of my promotion, regardless of the fact that my e-book was priced at .99 instead of $4.99, I earned more net income than I had in the first six months of publication.

Now for the bonus. One of the fun things about a BookBub promotion is watching your sales rank on Amazon climb higher and higher. On the day of the promotion, Thieving Forest climbed to an overall sales rank of #9 in the Kindle store.

Professionals in the field consider a sales rank of #50,000 or below to be a success for fiction. In some sub-genres (Literary Fiction/ Action Adventure, and Teen/Young Adult), Thieving Forest reached a Kindle store sales rank of #1.

12-14-15 TF Amazon Rank No 1 (1)

Not only that, the sales rank and the e-book sales stayed high for a full month beyond the promotion.

12-14-15 TF amazon bestseller with doerr book

Audiobook Deal

The bonus? An audiobook company, seeing Thieving Forest’s high sales rank, contacted me about buying the audio rights to it. I sold the rights, conferred with Audible producers and voice actress, and last month Audible released the audiobook of Thieving Forest.

[clickToTweet tweet=”BookBub is the proverbial goose with the golden eggs — e-book sales @CaballoFrances” quote=”BookBub is the proverbial goose with the golden eggs — e-book sales @CaballoFrances”]

Unfortunately, you can only be eligible to apply for a BookBub promotion once every six months, and since I’ve subscribed to their service, I’ve never seen a book repeated. A promotion with them may be a once-only deal. But that’s okay. There are other, similar promotional outfits that send out emails to a subscriber-based list, and many of them are quite good. However, BookBub remains the proverbial goose with the golden eggs — e-book sales, and lots of them.

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H70dgm8T_400x400About the author of this post: Martha Conway is a writer, reader, and radio listener. She was an Edgar Award nominee for her latest novel and won an IPPY and a North American Book Award. This month she is hosting a raffle and will give away five free copies of the Thieving Forest audiobook. (It’s also available on Audible for one credit). You can sign up here.


Sell More Books with These Tips by Frances CaballoAbout the Author: I’m Frances Caballo, an author, podcaster and social media strategist and manager for writers. I’m a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and have written four books including, Twitter Just for Writers, which is available for free here on my website. My focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. My clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences. You’ll find me every day on Twitter.

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  1. How do I enroll my e-books with BookBub?

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