Despite what you may have heard, Books Butterfly is NOT a scam.
In my last post, we wrote about how we got rejected by BookBub and still managed to give away 7,600+ copies of Chimera. We owe a big part of our success to Books Butterfly who helped introduce the first book in the Universe Eventual series to thousands of new fans.
However, as I (Nathan) mentioned in the same post, when I shared our positive results on a few indie publishing Facebook groups I belong to, a good number of other authors expressed reservations about Books Butterfly. Some even said they thought Books Butterfly is a scam!
You can find similar comments on Kboards:
Needless to say, all the negativity surprised me. We had a GREAT promotion with Books Butterfly. We gave away a lot of books, and our sales skyrocketed afterwards. So why did so many authors seem to have negative opinions of them?
I did a bunch of Googling, talked to a lot of other authors, read up on Kboards, and reached out to my contact at Books Butterfly. I sent him some questions which summarized the main complaints / concerns authors seemed to have with Books Butterfly, and he got back to me with answers.
And I’m going to share all of that with you.
If you’re looking for the TL;DR version, here it is: Books Butterfly is NOT a scam.
They’re an excellent mailing list that connects readers to books. I’d say that next to BookBub, they’re the best out there. They’ve also managed to tork-off a good number of indie authors.
So what’s the deal with Books Butterfly?
I sent Books Butterfly a bunch of questions that best summarize the author complaints / concerns I found on Facebook, Kboards, and other places indie authors hang out:
- Does Books Butterfly use bots to generate downloads?
- Does Books Butterfly make good on its guaranteed refunds when necessary?
- Why doesn’t Butterfly offer a place for readers to sign up on the webpage like Book Barbarian or BookBub for example?
- Books Butterfly has a lengthy list of testimonials, but they all have shortened names. Why don’t they list author’s full names and contact information?
I should mention that I have no relationship with Books Butterfly outside the promo I ran with them in July 2016.
My sole motivation in making this post is to give authors information so they can make good decisions about how to spend their marketing budget.
Here’s my take on Books Butterfly.
First, they have a webpage that turns some people off.
It’s not a beautiful site. Totally functional, but a bit ugly, depending on your aesthetic sensibilities:
Second, the Books Butterfly representative on Kboards doesn’t hold back when talking to authors.
Some might read their responses as rude. I read them as “no nonsense telling it like it is” from a guy sick of having his business damaged by libelous claims.
Third, the guarantee they offer confuses some authors.
It should not be compared to the “guaranteed pages read” places that Amazon nuked months back. Books Butterfly offers a pro-rated refund if your book doesn’t hit the estimated sales / download numbers for a particular tier.
In our case, I selected a higher, more expensive tier, and Books Butterfly recommended that I purchase a less expensive slot because they estimated I’d get fewer downloads than the higher-priced tier. As it turns out, I gave away FAR more copies than the tier I paid for. As in 2.5x times as many!
TO BE EXPLICITLY CLEAR: In hours and hours of digging on Google, I could find NO evidence of any kind that Books Butterfly is anything other than a legitimate mailing list that delivers solid results for most authors (including us).
I found allegations from unhappy customers, and snide comments from those suggesting good results with Books Butterfly were the result of a bot farm, but I couldn’t find a SHRED of actual evidence against them.
Which is why I titled this blog post, “Books Butterfly is NOT a scam.”
I wanted people to (hopefully) find the post so it can offset some of the groundless claims made against Books Butterfly.
That said, the way Books Butterfly communicates on Kboards can be very rough around the edges. They can be abrupt, sometimes rude, but I get why they would get angry when repeatedly being accused of being dishonest.
Books Butterfly’s answers to my questions:
Does book butterfly use bots to generate downloads?
No. We do not. We never have. We never will.
The people who claim that we are using bots are the same ones who claim we don’t get good results. How can both things exist at the same time?
It’s the exact same people (a small group of haters) – one day they say ‘I got terrible results’ and the next day they say ‘they’re using bots.’
How can both be true? Are these imaginary bots taking vacation days and sick leave?
Does book butterfly make good on its guarantee / refund (when necessary)?
Yes, Always. Terms of service apply.
Only issue is when authors don’t read terms of service and don’t send us screenshots and make crazy claims.
There is also a tendency for some authors to think they have to exaggerate. Instead of a simple “I got 70 sales instead of 100, please give prorated store credit for missing 30 sales,” which we ALWAYS honor, they do something like this:
First email saying “I got hardly any sales.” Basically, they’re fishing to see if they can get credit for 50 sales instead of 30 sales credit. It’s not intentionally dishonest, it’s a bit of wishful thinking.
Second email with screenshots saying – “I got 70 sales but I think 20 came from friends and family.” So once they get wedded to this notion that perhaps I can get credit for 50 sales instead of 30, they double down on it.
Third they start a PayPal dispute.
Fourth on PayPal they ask for 100% of the money back. This is only a small percentage (of authors who use Books Butterfly). However, generally authors who don’t send screenshots are also the ones who keep escalating and feel it’s justified to go from ’30 sales missing’ to ’50 sales missing’ to ‘no sales at all.’
I truly think it’s a case of wishful thinking. They feel they have the opportunity to say/claim anything so why not ask for 50 missing sales instead of 30. They don’t even think it’s wrong. But they do get upset when we stick to terms of service they had agreed to.
Anyways, (when) all (is) said and done:
Refunds are just 4% on free book slots
Refunds are just 8% on paid book slots
PayPal disputes are 1%.
“So only 1% of authors who have ever done a slot with us have had to do PayPal dispute. 99% get results or get prorated refund in store credit to their liking.”
This 1% want to have their cake and eat it too
So they want to believe something like “I’m the good honest person, and the site is a scam.”
And also at the same time, they want to get back more store credit than is due to them
Instead of doing the honest thing of sending screenshots and following terms of service, they want to accuse us and get back initially a bit more, then a bit more, then all of the money they spent
Why doesn’t butterfly offer a place for readers to sign up on the webpage (Like Book Barbarian or Book Bub for example)?
This is an exceedingly strange question.
The site is an order site for authors. It’s not meant for readers. There’s a How it Works page that lists many of our blogs and sites and twitter accounts. All those pages have sign up links etc. for readers
BooksButterfly.com is FOR AUTHORS so it does not market to readers.
We have 200+ sites and blogs FOR READERS which target readers.
A website should do what it is supposed to do. And stay pure to that.
Sites that focus on readers/users target readers/users:
Sites that focus on businesses target businesses:
Sites that focus on small businesses or individual creators targets small businesses:
We have 200+ sites and blogs (www.freebookdeals.com – there are dropdowns at the top showing links to sites and email lists). We are adding a lot of readers.
It makes zero sense to take our book slot ordering site and on that site focus on adding readers.
There are no readers visiting it. There is no list of free books or book deals on that site. It’s only for authors to buy slots.
The www.booksbutterfly.com site is only to sell slots to authors. Books Butterfly is not a scam.
“Some authors seem incapable of understanding that there can be a site meant specifically for authors to buy slots. We already have 200+ sites for readers to find books.”
It’s bad design to mix authors and readers on the same site. Just because some site in the past does it, doesn’t mean anything. You should read Jakob Nielsen if you want to see what real design experts suggest.
You have a lengthy list of testimonials, but they all have shortened names. Why don’t you list author’s full names / contact information?
Nope. Privacy. We don’t collect any private information. We don’t share any private information.
Emails are needed to add to email lists, otherwise we wouldn’t use those either
We don’t violate people’s privacy like most Internet companies do
A follow up Q: I wouldn’t mind you using my name. What if an author gives you specific permission?
It’s not a good idea. We avoid as much as possible. I’ll say this to every author – the less you talk about how well you are doing the better. The less you mention which channels work for you, the better. The people who control books are always watching. Always manipulating. So if you find a great channel, then keep it to yourself or at most share with a very small number of people.
Can you explain how exactly your refund process works?
For refunds, the process is simple:
Read Terms of Service email.
Send email stating TOTAL results. Actual total results, not what you would like to think. Total is attributable to us.
Don’t be an idiot and claim ZERO sales if your dashboard is showing 70 sales.
Refrain from threatening us or claiming we are a scam.
“If your book under-performed it’s on your book.”
We do prorated refund because we charge only for results. However, let’s not be in doubt – if your book was one of the 4% of free books or one of the 8% of paid books that did not perform – that’s on you. You have to improve your book. We’re not magicians. We can only put the book in front of readers. Don’t be a carpenter blaming your tools. Take your store credit and move on. Your book is not going to sell more by blaming us for your book being a low seller. 92% of paid books don’t require refund. If your book requires refund, then you need to improve your book and your cover and get better reviews and find the right genres that work for it. We are not magicians.
As you can see, the folks at Books Butterfly don’t mince words.
Maybe I have thicker skin than some authors, but nothing Books Butterfly had to say bothered me. And at this point, I’m 100% convinced that Books Butterfly is not a scam. Not even close. They’re a solid marketing tool that any author should consider. They work better for some than others, but that can be said of virtually any marketing avenue.
So don’t let the naysayers convince you otherwise. Books Butterfly is not a scam.
(Thanks to Books Butterfly for taking the time to answer my questions with the understanding that I would post them to this blog).
Tell us about your experience with Books Butterfly in the comments.