How BookBub Made Me a Bestseller

Boy, I bet that headline got your attention now, didn’t it? I recently had a huge sale on my Donovan Circus boxed set (from $6.99 to $0.99) and bear with me on the lengthy post, but I wanted to share a little bit about how I ultimately surpassed my goals thanks to a layered marketing plan, and of course, a gigantic BookBub ad that was the motivating factor. Because you know what happened? I got that very special little orange flag on Amazon, along with #1 spots in several categories that snowballs into the algorithms of #61 spot in overall Kindle sales:

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So how did I do it? Let’s break it down by platform, price and overall results. And remember, because of the $0.99 price, I’m only making a 30% royalty. About 33 cents a book, give or take, so to make my money back, I HAD to sell hundreds and hundreds of copies. It was incredibly nerve-wracking the week leading up; trust me, I was up to my ears with anxiety, worried about everything: that it would fail, that I wouldn’t make money back, that it WOULD do well and then everyone would hate it, etc. (You can see where being an author is an exhausting process in more than simply writing the books.)

BOOKBUB – $574

This is obviously the biggest piece of the puzzle, and one that came at an unexpected time. I submit a suggested deal to them at least once a month, and I’ve only ever had one stick (Witch Hearts, 4 years ago when I put it up for free, and had over 20,000 downloads). So when I tossed out the Donovan Circus boxed set from $6.99 to $0.99, I was stunned when they accepted it. (After nearly falling off the couch, I literally ran to my computer to pay them before they could change their minds.) So, I had the BookBub deal going out on March 3. How would I capitalize off that to really build off this promotion? First off, I made absolutely sure the boxed set was $0.99 early – about a week and a half before the promotion. Because I don’t sell a lot of sets (most readers buy the individual books), it was no skin off my back to put the price down. In fact, by doing that, I sold several more copies ahead of time, thus helping my ranking.

The BookBub ad went out to emails on March 3. It resulted in 1,891 sets sold internationally. So it’s not just US readers, but the UK, Australia, Canada and more. (Totaling about $567 in Amazon sales in just that one day.) Here’s the screenshot from their website (also how great is their write up of the series?):

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Facebook – $120

I ran Facebook ads in the week leading up to the sale in hopes of building up my ranking to make it easier to climb once the sale officially hit. (Originally set it for $150, but cut it off a couple days before when costs were getting too high per click. You want to keep them low, below $0.50 if possible, so while it started out strong, $1.26 per click is too pricey for me.) This also includes a $20 boosted post on my FB page’s “day before” post, targeted towards my page fans and their friends. It gave me approximately 20 sales – doesn’t sound like much, but remember, it was all about getting the best ranking possible before the big day.

Fiverr – $10

EllaGibson, the user I’ve hired a few times for book blasting in promo groups, is a bargain and saves me tons of time. For $10, she posts your Kindle book deal in 77 FB Groups and Google communities of 1 million people. While this is a great way to hit promo groups with dedicated readers, honestly, it’s the time saver that I pay for here. I work full-time, so I can’t do all that during the work day. If she does, however, the word still gets out and quite frankly, it’s well worth the $10.

Bargain Booksy – $40

eBookHounds – $35

BookSends – $35

JustKindleBooks – $15

Kindle Book Review – $20

Hot Zippy – $0

Newsletter – $0

In addition to regular Facebook posts (both on my page and personal profile), I sent out a newsletter on March 1 to my 4,628 subscribers about the deal (again, did it early to build up momentum as well as offer a subscriber exclusive). I have 2 mailing lists, one is my regular author newsletter (extremely dedicated readers), and Instafreebie emails, who download a free book through random promotions I sign up for in order to build the newsletter (so, they are not dedicated to MY books specifically, but readers nonetheless who take chances on cheap reads – something to keep in mind when your clicks aren’t as high as you’d expect).

For the March 1 newsletter #1, 30% opened, with 208 clicks to the Amazon sales page, 17 to KOBO page, and 12 to iBooks page. On March 3, I resent to the unopens (2,166) which got me a 7% open rate, 14 clicks to Amazon, and 1 to B&N. On March 5, I sent a “Last Chance” email that got a 5% open rate, 20 clicks to Amazon, and 1 to Kobo. This tells me that, unsurprisingly, most of my readers are using Kindle and the first newsletter is always strongest.

Author Help – $0

I try not to ask for a lot of favors, and help out where I can for others when they have promo needs. This way, when I DO ask for a favor, my friends know it’s important. When I asked 18 author friends, all of them heavy hitters in their own genres with core reader groups, for help with the promo, 17 authors responded almost immediately to help. They used the HTML blog posts/social media posts/images I provided for them (I made it as easy as possible for them so they didn’t have to do a bunch of work, that’s key) and blasted it out to their folks.

Social Media Postings – $0

This one’s a no-brainer, but let’s not overlook it. All it took was time on my part to create a couple key images to use (and share with friends). In addition to Facebook and Instagram, I also sent out tweets throughout the days using key hashtags and accompanying links.

Uh, excuse me, I sold next to Harry Potter? Pardon me while I take a moment to rock in the corner in disbelief. I’ve often said I don’t write for the money, which is true, so when little moments like this one happen, that is such a huge win for me.

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Now, here’s the business you came here for:

Total Investment: $849
Total sales on Amazon from 3/2-3/6: 2,724 (roughly $1,001)
Total sales on D2D (combo of B&N, iBooks and Kobo) from 3/2-3/6: 845  (roughly $534)
Results as of 3/6 (last day of sale): 3,569 ebooks sold
Overall total sales for the month of March (as of 3/6): $1,535

Which equals to a rough estimate of: +$686 (i.e. made money=surpassed goal of breaking even)

And of course, this is only the first week of March. Technically, the sale is still on today, so I might have a few extras in there by midnight. Of course I expect sales to tailor off for the next few weeks, but knowing that I’ve made my money back is terrific, because it means everything else is a bonus. I can rest easy and refocus on other things (and in fact did, as over the weekend I even took a nap on Saturday afternoon!). It all funnels right back into my book business, and motivates me to get the 5th book done ASAP to hang onto those DC readers.

The BIG takeaway here, however, is the brand awareness and name recognition. Because when I woke up Saturday to 35 FB notifications and 5 text messages, THIS screenshot from my friend Kelly Martin was waiting for me:

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I mean, are you kidding me? For however brief a time, I was ranked right alongside NEIL EFFING GAIMAN!! Excuse me while I pinch myself a few times to make sure I’m awake. In addition to the sales, I’ve had a boost of website traffic (hi, new readers!), sales across the rest of my bookshelf, new followers on social media and now hopefully my name will be a little more recognizable in the book world. (Much of that last part is speculation, I know, but the optimistic side of me stands by it.)

So. It appears I owe a lot of people a lot of thank yous, because there’s no doubt that while the marketing helped, it was also all of the posts, shares and excitement from my author and reader friends. I can’t wait to see where the rest of the year takes me – and in the meantime, uh, hey Bookbub, y’all got any more of those ad spaces available? Cause I’d like to buy one every month, please.

Amazon KDP Select: How I Got Over 20K Downloads

Last month, I made GIFTED, A DONOVAN CIRCUS NOVEL, free for 3 days to celebrate my new release WITCH HEARTS. I spent weeks beforehand preparing a strategy, figuring out how to promote it, and goals that would hopefully be achieved during it. The hard work paid off, because I had over 20,000 downloads, stayed at #5 in the Top 100, and even got new reviews out of it. (Update: I have received 13 new reviews, which is definitely awesome!)

Put simply, KDP Select is a program authors can sign up with through Amazon for Kindle. You are enrolled for 90 days (and automatically re-enrolled once it’s over, so if you only plan on using it once, pay attention to your days) and your ebook can only be available on this platform. You get 5 promotion days to use throughout the 90 day program. You can use them as you see fit – 3 days and 2 later, 1 and 1, etc. Most authors recommend using at least 2 days in a row and I would have to agree – if you’re trying to get as much bang for your buck as possible, 1 day won’t cut it. (And while you could schedule all 5 at once if you wanted, you probably want to stash a day or two for later. Remember, you’re enrolled for 90 days, whether you use them or not. And no, KDP Days do not roll over to the new 90 day period.)

So I signed up for the KDP program and scheduled out my 3 free days for GIFTED. Many people differ on when to host your days, but from my research, you get better sales days (actual purchases) on the weekend, so perhaps in the middle of the week would work better. Because WITCH HEARTS released on a Tuesday, my free days for GIFTED ran on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Tuesday was my biggest download day as that’s when my scheduled promos through various sites posted them. I still had plenty of downloads Wednesday and Thursday, but there was a distinct plunge of downloads by the last half of Day 2.

Because I can’t get too technical with my numbers (Amazon doesn’t like you revealing exactly how many downloads you got), instead I wanted to offer up the links I used to research as well as submit my free days. You’ll have to be willing to put in the work, but I have yet to meet an indie author who isn’t already quite prepared for that 😉

The biggest thing I did, at least in my opinion, was submitting my book for a BookBub submission. Many authors worry about the cost, as it can get a bit pricey. However, I found their customer service to be excellent and the results from their marketing absolutely boosted my downloads and ranking (I hit #5 of Top 100 Free bestselling books and stayed #1 in SF/Fantasy and #1 in Fantasy Adventure for all 3 days). I originally submitted GIFTED as a Fantasy novel and was ready to pay the $90 fee. To my surprise, I heard back from a real person who looked over my listing and suggested a better placement in YA – a $40 fee. The fact she helped me to put my book in the correct spot even while knowing it would save me money was a HUGE bonus to using them. (It’s not often you find businesses willing to part with extra dollars!)

Anywho, the email that went out about GIFTED on the first free day compared the story to The Hunger Games trilogy, a comparison that both tickled and terrified me. Regardless, I will absolutely use BookBub’s resources for all future advertising, especially on free KDP days. It’s worth the price, assuming you’ve got a decent marketing budget.

The Author Marketing Club has a page here for authors looking to submit their free KDP days for promotion. If you scroll down and click on the list of logos, it brings up a window where you can enter your information – just make sure to do it ahead of time, say at least a week, so you’re guaranteed to have it listed (plus, it’s just polite AND keeps you from going crazy at the last minute).

I also used a bit of marketing help from thedesertgirl on Fiverr. For $25, she promoted my days to several sites I wouldn’t have known about otherwise. I was happy to pay the small fee for her to handle it, since the day my sales started all I had to go was log in to see she’d tagged and promoted me with several book listing sites. I will definitely use her again for future free book days.

I  took out a Facebook ad too, promoting a post about the free download days. I think I put in maybe $25 – I got a ton of new fans for my author page and feel confident it converted into at least a couple handfuls of the 20K+ downloads.

I would absolutely recommend checking out these links for other advice too. They not only list great links for where to submit your listing, but also offer tips on when to choose your days, how to promote through social media, and more.

Laura Howard – Finding Bliss – KDP Select Layering Strategy

Interviews with India Authors – My KDP Success Story

World Lit Cafe – Maximizing Free Days on Kindle Select

A Place for Aspiring Writers of Fiction – Benefits of KDP Select Days

Before your days, make sure to submit your listings to all of the sites you can find like these (Pixel of Ink, Free Booksy, etc.). I also have amazing friends (authors and readers alike) who shared out my posts on Facebook and Twitter, hosted me on their blog for the day, and/or promoted it however they could. Next time, I hope to better implement a hashtag on Twitter (#WitchHearts/#Gifted) that will catch on with any of my communities.

On the day of, make sure you’re posting on all your networks! Use your Facebook fan page to your advantage and talk it up. Same goes for Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, etc. Write up a blog post announcing it and make it live that morning so it reaches your fans and followers early. Ask your fellow writing groups and author contacts to share it out  (and make sure to offer to repay the favor for them). And for all that is holy, thank every. single. person. who shares, RTs, and helps to promote YOUR product. We wouldn’t get far without them.