We Got Rejected By BookBub And Still Gave Away 7300+ Copies of CHIMERA in 5 Days
(From time to time, we’ll post articles written for other indie authors rather than our readers. This is one of those posts. Feel free to skip this one if you don’t want to read about how we got rejected by BookBub)
BookBub is unquestionably the biggest and best book marketing list out there. They command a huge number readers, and drive book sales like no other e-mail marketing list. Every author (not just indie authors) wants to get a Bookbub promotional spot. Including us!
We submitted CHIMERA, the first book in the Universe Eventual series, for consideration back in July 2016.
And BookBub turned us down.
Despite 200+ reviews, 72% of them 5-stars, BookBub still said no
Which they do. A lot in fact. They turn down 90% of the books submitted to them. They’re choosy, and they can afford to be.
While getting rejected by BookBub hurt, we decided to look at alternative marketing lists. In the past we used Book Barbarian, as well as The Fussy Librarian, and a few other smaller lists. Of all the smaller lists, Book Barbarian performed the best for us. During our last $0.99 sale on Chimera, we sold 74 books through Book Barbarian, which was great at the time.
After signing up for another promotion with Book Barbarian, they recommended another list, one I’d never heard of: Books Butterfly. We didn’t know at the time that Butterfly has a bit of a spotty reputation in the Indie marketplace (more on that to come). We just liked and trusted Book Barbarian and took their endorsement of Butterfly as “good enough” to get us to pull the trigger.
Title: CHIMERA, Universe Eventual Book I
Normal price: $3.99
Promotional Price: FREE!
Dates: August 21-25, 2016
- Book Barbarian (30,000 SF Subscribers) for $54.00
- The Fussy Librarian (103,000 SF Subscribers) for $17.00
- Books Butterfly (“Top 100 Push” with 3,000 guaranteed downloads) for $240
Total budget: $311.00
BookBub Charges $300 to market to their Science Fiction List
We also did some “grass roots” marketing by asking FB friends to post the link, getting a few others to tweet about it, including one of our writing heroes, Susan Kaye Quinn.
Would getting rejected by Bookbub ruin our chances of having an epic free promotion?
We got a STELLAR result from our three lists that looked like this:
In the first two days of the free promotion, we gave away over 5,600 books!
We gave away a total of 7,300 over the full 5 promotional days. CHIMERA hit the #1 spot in all three of its categories (YA Dystopian, Dystopian, and Space Opera). All of those are hard-contested categories, with Space Opera being the toughest of all.
For comparison, a writer friend of mine landed roughly 14,000 downloads of one of her novels using BookBub. She also writes YA, though hers are listed in the Cyberpunk and Dsystopian genres, while Chimera is Space Opera and Dystopian.
7,300 downloads is roughly half as many downloads as 14,000 (Yay, math!). Which means that at the same price point, we got 50% of what we might expect from BookBub. Would we rather have landed a BookBub deal? Of course. But we didn’t let them saying no prevent us from pursuing other lists.
Despite getting rejected by Bookbub, we launched a successful promotion
We didn’t run ANY free promotions until this year, some 18 months after the release of Book I in our series (heeding Susan K Quinn’s advice in her book, FOR LOVE OR MONEY). We waited because we wanted maximum recapture on sales in the rest of the series, and felt that getting at least 2 books out after the first book would be ideal. We released Book III, CERES, in July 2016, and planned this promo for August 2016 for that reason.
After our free promotion, our KU (Kindle Unlimited) pages read went way up:
After posting these results to several author FB groups we belong to, we heard a lot of negative things about Books Butterfly
I (Nathan) had several exchanges with other writers on Facebook and Kboards. Books Butterfly has a spotty reputation with indie authors. Many writers reported bad experiences with them.
The main complaints were that Books Butterfly doesn’t make good on their guarantee to pay authors back if certain download thresholds aren’t hit, that Books Butterfly has scammy business practices (such as pestering authors on Facebook), and even that Books Butterfly may use bots (bots!) to generate their downloads/ KU Pages read.
In fairness to Books Butterfly, we had a GREAT experience with them. Good communication, and an excellent result on the promotion. Books Butterfly has an entire page titled “trust” where they list all the reasons they’re a legitimate company. Books Butterfly also has a LONG list of testimonials, though none of the names are full names, and they don’t have contact information to double-check them.
On Kboards, some authors had great experiences with BooksButterfly just like we did, while others say they’d never use them again (or wouldn’t use them in the first place).
So what’s the deal with Books Butterfly? Stay tuned for a follow up blog post where I’ll let you know everything I learn in the coming weeks. I’ve also reached out to my contact at Books Butterfly, as I’d love to get their perspective on their reputation with the indie community. I feel they have a great service, but probably could do a better job of promoting their brand.
Getting rejected by BookBub doesn’t have to cripple your promotional efforts
Here’s everything we’ve learned from running our free promotion:
- Smaller lists don’t have the same power as BookBub, but can be used together to get good results
- Because we used three different lists / grassroots marketing, we don’t know exactly what list generated what result. It would be great to be able to parse which downloads came from Books Butterfly, Book Barbarian, The Fussy Librarian, and from other sources, but that’s not an option because Books Butterfly doesn’t track click-throughs or conversions.
- We recaptured a lot of business on our second and third books, which made it worthwhile. If you only have 1 or even 2 books out, a free promotion is a lot less attractive.
- We gained a lot of e-mail list signups by having an invite in our back matter. This is a MUST, not just for promotions, but in general.
- Books Butterfly has a less-than-stellar reputation among other indie authors, but we had no problems with them and ran an excellent promotion.
- Getting rejected by BookBub isn’t the end of the world!
We’ll try again with BookBub in the future
We would still LOVE to land a BookBub promotion, and perhaps with persistence, we will.
Amazon only lets you run a promotion on a book twice a year, so we’ll target BookBub again in the spring of 2107. Hopefully next time we won’t get rejected by Bookbub!
What’s your experience been running Amazon promotions? How about using BooksButterfly? Let us know in the comments.