Sh!t I Learned Today: How to Get and Plan for a Bookbub Ad
How to get a Bookbub Featured ad (based on my experience), how to effectively use your ad, and mistakes I made that you can avoid!
If you’re new to my blog, my “Sh!t I Learned Today” blog series is a place where I report from the trenches of self-publishing in the hopes that other indie authors can avoid the mistakes I make. But, THANK THE INDIE GODS, this post is not about another screw-up. My Featured Bookbub ad was not a mistake! It was amazing. I’ve had three Bookbub ads this year and I’ve made the most money I’ve ever made writing books, I’ll be paying off my business credit card, and my business will be operating on a purely cash flow basis next year (you know, hopefully). All thanks to Bookbub.
So keep reading if you want to see how I got my featured deals, how I utilized them to marginal success, and the mistakes I made during each of those ads (so you can avoid those). Also, leave questions in the comments! I’ll make sure to answer every one.
Let’s start with the biggest issue with Bookbub: Getting a Featured Deal
This is the hardest part. I tried for a couple years with The Hunted One. It had a good amount of reviews and was available at all online retailers, but I never had any success with it.
I did have success with Fakers. I was re-releasing the book with a new cover along with a free promotion. The book was in KDP Select, but I uploaded it to all other major secondary retailers to help my chances of getting a Bookbub.
When I applied, I picked a less competitive category. Contemporary Romance is tougher to get because there are so many people applying. So I chose Women’s Fiction. Also, my new cover is pretty standard for the genre. See?
One issue I did have with going in women’s fiction is some readers complained about the sex scenes. Which is totally fine. The more explicit sex scenes aren’t common in standard women’s fiction. So I added a warning to the blurb and sent out mental apologies to everyone offended. Sorry, Mom.
But the biggest thing I think helped me get this ad is that I allowed Bookbub to pick the date. I DID NOT choose one from their calendar option. When it asks if your date is flexible, PICK YES. Then if you have a date you would prefer, put that in the comment box. I think this step is very important in addition to picking a less competitive category.
If you’re trying to schedule a big promotion, let Bookbub set the date and then schedule around that ad if you get it. But basically, for getting this first ad, let Bookbub pick.
The most important tip I can give you for getting more ads after your first one (I’ve gotten two more) is to show Bookbub your ad was a success. ALWAYS, ALWAYS fill out the survey they send at the end of your promotion date. Do the detailed option where you put in exact sales numbers. Be as accurate as possible. I really believe this is a huge factor in what has allowed me to get more ads.
The next step: Planning for your upcoming ad
So here’s the thing. The best results from a Bookbub will come from doing a promotion on the first book in a series. I would even say the best results would come from doing a free promotion on the first book. On my third Bookbub ad, I ran a free promotion on the first book in my Fear University series, set the second book to $1.99, and timed the release of the third book (priced at $2.99) for the day the Bookbub ran.
(All of these books are available outside of Amazon and I let Bookbub pick the date for the free promotion BUT I asked for July 25th in comments and they gave it to me. I asked for the 25th because I knew this would be the the third book’s release date)
This ad BLEW UP MY SALES.
Here’s how I planned for this ad:
- I made certain the first thing readers came to at the back of the each book (especially the first one that was free) is a link to the second book. I also included a three chapter preview of the second book in the first book along with another buy link at the end of the preview. In the second book, I did the same exact thing: a buy link right at the end of the book, a preview of the third book, and another buy link.
- I started the price matching process an entire week early. Trust me when I say that this is not an easy process to price match Amazon to free. It won’t happen quickly, especially for retailers outside the US. Give yourself plenty of time. (EDIT: Here is a link to a recent price matching post I did)
- This link from Bookbub is very helpful in finding international links to help you price match and report to Amazon.
- Update your website as much as you can. This is important. Your Bookbub ad is going to drive traffic EVERYWHERE. So be ready. Make sure your books page is up-to-date with all your new books. Make sure your newsletter sign-up is EVERYWHERE. Think ahead. What will your new readers be looking for when they come to your page? Help them find it as quickly as possible.
- Hopefully this goes without saying, but have a newsletter. Make sure the link is in the back of your book too. Actually, make sure that sign-up link is in as many places as you can squeeze it. No joke. This is your lifeline. Show it some love.
If you use Smashwords: Set your book to free. Then wait until Barnes and Noble has price matched. In my experience, B&N takes the longest time to match (also iBooks). Only once B&N has updated should you start trying to price match on Amazon using the “report lower price” on your book’s detail page. I even did this for the sale on the second book. Amazon will lag on price matching if Barnes and Noble is not updated. Email the support center to price match outside the US. They’re really helpful.
The first link readers see in the back of your book is the one they are most likely to click on. This link or the page it is on (like an Author’s Note page or an About the Author page) is called a Call To Action. Your first CTA will always be the most effective. If you’re doing a Bookbub ad on the first book in a series, this first CTA should always be a link to the second book. Having links in Smashwords files is harder (think: you can’t have a Barnes and Noble link in a Kobo downloaded book). I get around this by having a hidden landing page on my website. I link to it in the back of my Smashwords books.
If you are not running an ad on a first in a series book, link to your newsletter. Say “If you want to know when the next book in this series is releasing, sign up for my newsletter!” Or something like that. It works. Trust me. My Fakers ad did not have a second book in the series. But I got a ton of newsletter sign-ups because I knew readers would want somewhere to go at the end of the book. Be prepared.
For my most recent ad for Fear University, I was not prepared on the Smashwords front. Like I’ve said earlier, Barnes and Noble AND iBooks take a while to update. And not just prices, but also in adding a new book to their premium catalogue and sending it out to retailers. I should have had a pre-order ready weeks before my third book released. The entire week of my Bookbub ad, I had people asking for links to secondary retailers because I had totally screwed this up. Pre-orders can be scary, I know. But Smashwords deals with them a lot better than Amazon, and it would have been worth the effort to have the third book upload on time. I think it’s great to use a Bookbub ad on an earlier book in the series to promote a later, new release in the same series. But be prepared on all fronts. And I think pre-orders are the best way to do that.
Post Bookbub Ad:
I watched my sales closely. Mainly, because it was exciting, but also because I wanted to watch when my ad peaked. Once I started seeing a drop-off/leveling off, which fell around the one week mark, I started reversing my price adjustments.
Note: I told Bookbub that my ad would last from July 35th to August 1st. Obviously you have to keep to that standard, but you could always let your ad run longer if your book hasn’t started tapering off yet.
So one week later, my books are back at regular price (or will be whenever Amazon decides to price match). Remember, reversing the price match can be just as tricky as doing it in the first place. I just email customer service through KDP (there’s a new price matching option that auto-fills out your customer service email to them. Very helpful) to reverse the free price. That’s pretty easy. But for the second book’s $1.99 price, I had to wait on B&N and iBooks to update again. Then Amazon lagged. I had to send another customer service email.
Moral of the story: Don’t be afraid to send customer service emails. A lot of people complain about Amazon’s customer service for authors, but I think they’re awesome. Be kind. Be respectful. And you’re set.
- Pick a less competitive category.
- Let Bookbub pick your ad’s date.
- ALWAYS fill out the exit survey at the end of your promotion’s date. Be as accurate as possible.
- Update your book’s back matter with links to the next book in the series/OR if you ad isn’t for a book in a series, link to your newsletter in the back matter.
- Start price matching EARLY. Give yourself at least a week. Here is the link to a recent post I did on price matching.
- Wait until Barnes and Noble updates the price and then start price matching on Amazon.
- Update your website.
- Get your newsletter sign-up link in the back of your book. I suggest somewhere on your About the Author page.
- Utilize pre-orders! They will save you a lot of heartache.
- Watch for your ad to peak. Start price reversing when the book sales start to taper off.
- Don’t be afraid to email Amazon customer service. They are your friend.
Feel free to ask questions in the comments! I know there was a lot of information in this, and I probably didn’t organize it the best way. Go figure. So ask away! I’ll answer as quickly as I can. Make sure to subscribe to the comment section so you can see answers and all that. Thanks!!
Featured Image courtesy of Unsplash.com. Artist: Will van Wingerden