With BookBub celebrating its tenth birthday in January 2022, Simon Whaley chats to three authors who use promotional email newsletter services to boost their writing business
Launched in January 2012, BookBub is the premier promotional email newsletter service offering bargain books to their millions of subscribers. For many self-published authors, getting a BookBub promotion, or deal as it is sometimes known, can send their book to the top of the charts, boosting sales by thousands, if not tens of thousands, of copies.
Unsurprisingly, services like BookBub are now attracting the traditional publishers, but where one leads, others follow, and there are now several similar services authors can use to boost their writing business, many with more affordable costs. But when should we use these services to get the maximum benefit, and what’s the best way to use them?
Emily Organ (https://emilyorgan.com) is the author of the Penny Green Victorian Mystery series, and the second book in her Augusta Peel 1920s mysteries comes out this March. She uses BookBub mainly to promote her backlist.
“I usually use newsletter services like BookBub when I want to run a promotion on one of my backlist titles,” she explains. “I find it’s a really good way to keep readers interested in a series. It’s no secret that older titles can lose their visibility on retailers such as Amazon, so regular price promotions can raise the profile of those books and help them find new readers. They’re particularly useful for the first book in the series as that can result in more buy-through for the rest of the series. Box-set promotions work really well too as readers can get very excited about getting a few books for the price of one! And if they enjoy the boxset, hopefully they’ll be tempted to buy the next one. I like to time the promotion of backlist titles with a new release.”
Promotional slots in these email services get booked up quickly, so Emily suggests planning well in advance.
“At the beginning of each year, I draw up a plan for my new releases and the books I would like to promote. The plan often changes a bit, but I usually try to schedule backlist promotions with new releases. For example, I’ll promote the first book in the series just before the newest one is released. I usually book my promotions a month or two in advance.”
But these services don’t just offer a sales boost. There are other benefits to be had, too.
“While an uplift in sales can be a benefit,” says Emily, “the ‘sales spike’ is often brief. My main goal is to find new readers and hope that they’ll buy my other books if they enjoy the one they bought in the promotion. I think regular promotions are important as they put your books in front of readers’ eyes – even if they don’t buy the promoted book there and then. Once a reader has seen a few promotions in my series, they might be tempted to give it a try when the next promotion comes along. I usually see an uptick in newsletter sign-ups too, which is certainly a benefit as my mailing list is very important to me.”
“BookBub featured deals are the gold standard,” she explains, “but it’s hard to get a slot in their schedule. The average success rate is one featured deal secured per five applications. Even if you only bag an international (non-US) deal, the results outweigh those from any other promoter by several times. For my alternative history thriller series, I use special Science Fiction and Fantasy services like BookBarbarian, which has the benefit of a niche subscriber audience.”
Timing is important, as Alison understands, which is why she uses these services as part of her wider marketing strategy.
“When launching a book, I use blog tours, organised and self-organised from my own launch list, as well as sending out to my own newsletter subscribers. This is the period when the ebook is at its full price, typically £3.99.”
“I use Bargain Booksy as a secondary boost,” she continues, “the first usually about six months after initial launch. Their subscribers are, as you might guess from the name, looking for a great deal, so I will offer my book at 99 pence/99 cents.”
Again, it’s important to plan, and Alison usually books her slot with Bargain Booksy about four to six weeks in advance. Like Emily, she finds these services offer more than an increase in book sales.
“The benefits are an uplift in sales, which is always gratifying; reaching different readers, and; highlighting other books in my series. Newsletter sign-ups are a bonus!”
Author MJ Porter (www.mjporterauthor.com) writes historical novels set in seventh, ninth and tenth century England, and has recently published The Automobile Assassination, the second in a new 1940s Erdington Mysteries series. Previously, MJ has used BookBub but was keen to use other newsletters to target different readerships in specific countries.
“I chose the Fussy Librarian for my latest promotion because I wanted to try out some of the alternatives to BookBub,” says MJ, “and I had recently attended a conference where the Fussy Librarian had been mentioned by a fellow author. The Fussy Librarian was also a way of connecting with a US audience, as to date, my BookBub deals have all been international ones.”
Like Emily and Alison, MJ opted to promote an existing book, rather than a latest release.
“I decided to run a free promotion for a book that has been out for some time, to give it a boost, because my more recent titles have been quite different in tone, if not in setting, and I wanted to highlight that not all of my books were filled with gory battle scenes set in the Saxon period. I haven’t yet used it for a new release but I will do so in the future.”
And so far, MJ is pleased with the results, particularly the sales.
“The Fussy Librarian certainly ensures your book is seen by many people. I was really impressed by the number of downloads, and the ability to connect with an audience in the US. Almost all of my downloads were from the US while the book was offered as a free deal via Amazon. I currently only use Amazon to sell my books. The Fussy Librarian service can be used with all ebook platforms. As the promotion was only done quite recently, I can’t yet say what the long-term benefit will be, but I hope to gather more reviews on Amazon US and hopefully, readers who enjoyed the book will decide to read the two other books in the trilogy.”
Having so many promotional newsletter services means we can take a mix-and-match approach to our marketing plan.
Emily finds this helps her to extend the sales boost in her books, which can influence the retailer’s algorithms. “I like to use a variety of newsletter sites so that I can ‘stack’ the promotion. This means promoting on different sites on successive days to prolong the promotion. Visibility on retailers such as Amazon isn’t really improved by a brief sales spike but if you can prolong the spike by using different sites, and maybe support the promotion with some advertising too, then a retailer will take a bit more notice and hopefully start putting your title in ‘also boughts’ and giving it more prominence in search results.”
MJ finds this mixed approach allows for more specific targeting of readers in different markets.
“I have tried BookBub and Freebooksy. I very much enjoy BookBub and it’s a huge boost to sales when you’re lucky enough to be selected for a promotion. To date, I have only secured International deals (the UK, Australia, Canada and India) and so using these smaller sites, mostly based in the US, is a great way of tapping into the market while I continue to try and get a US deal, although they are much more expensive than an International deal. Freebooksy was also worthwhile using. It seems to work in a very similar way to The Fussy Librarian.”
We’re all encouraged to build our own mailing lists, and using these email promotional newsletter services can be a fantastic way of attracting new readers to buy our books and, hopefully, join our author mailing lists too.
Although BookBub may be the biggest kid on the block, there are many more affordable services that are perfect for authors wishing to use these services. And who knows? Used well, they could boost your writing business to a position where you can afford a BookBub promotion in the future.
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Alison Morton says: “Regard it as a marketing exercise rather than a purely sales one. If you write a series, promote the first in series at a bargain price and even if you don’t cover the cost with sales of that book, you will attract a proportion of readers who will go on to buy your other books at full price.”
MJ Porter says: “Give it a go and make your own decision as to whether you like it or not. The Fussy Librarian is certainly a reasonable cost, and much easier to access than BookBub, as you get to choose the date of your promotion. If you have more than one book in a series, make the book free as opposed to 99p/99c. I certainly think the service is worthwhile, especially when you have more than one book in a series to promote.”
Emily Organ says: “Subscribe to a service like BookBub to begin with so that you receive the daily emails and can see the books they’re choosing to promote – especially the titles in your genre. Some promotion sites accept most books which are submitted to them, whereas BookBub is known for being more choosy. There’s a lot of competition for BookBub promotion slots and it’s important to not get disheartened or even offended if your book’s not selected. You can resubmit to BookBub each month so keep trying and, in the meantime, use the other promotion sites too.”
Business Directory – Email Newsletter Services