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Blog > Book Marketing – Posted on July 3, 2019

BookBub For Authors: The Ultimate Guide (+Free Submission Calendar)

Whether you’re working on your first book, or have published dozens of them already, my guess is: you’ve probably heard of Bookbub, if not used it yourself as a reader. But I also bet you’re not familiar with all the features and opportunities that the platform offers to authors.

In a publishing world increasingly dominated by Amazon, BookBub was able to emerge and establish itself as a company offering a solid marketing alternative to authors and publishers — and has allowed many of them to hit coveted bestseller lists through their Featured Deals.

In this post, we’ll run you through everything you need to know, as an author, about BookBub, and how best you can leverage their different tools and services to propel your books in the rankings. In particular, we’ll look at:

  • Featured Deals (and how to maximize your chances of landing one);
  • Self-serve CPM/CPC ads;
  • Bookbub’s “follow” features.

But first, for those of you who’re not yet 100% familiar with their service, let’s start with the obvious question.

What is BookBub?

BookBub is a free service focused on helping readers discover new books that they'll like. BookBub is mostly known for their daily newsletters promoting a handpicked selection of "deals", i.e. books deeply discounted — or free — for a limited time. As a reader, you can also follow your favorite authors on BookBub and receive notifications when they have a new deal or release.

BookBub has over 15 million readers signed up for their newsletters, across as many as 42 fiction and non-fiction genres. Their popularity offers a great opportunity for authors, as most of their “daily deals” newsletters generate hundreds or even thousands of sales for all the books featured in the newsletter — and tens of thousands of downloads in the case of free books.

BookBub are highly selective of the books they feature in their newsletters, and being accepted for a Featured Deal has become somewhat of a “Holy Grail” for independent authors in the past few years. So let’s take a look at how you can achieve just that!

For every one of their 42 genre categories, BookBub sends daily and weekly emails to readers (subscribed to that genre) featuring discounted and/or free books. Getting a spot among those discounted/free books is what a Featured Deal is all about. But before we go into what it takes to achieve that, let’s talk money a bit.

First, something quite important: it doesn’t cost you anything to submit your title for a Featured Deal. You only pay if your deal is accepted. Now, when that happens, on top of the cost of the bottle of champagne you’ll open to celebrate it 🍾, you’ll have to pay BookBub for the feature.

The cost of a Featured Deal depends on several factors:

  • The price at which your book will be discounted (the more you discount, the cheaper the Deal);
  • The BookBub genre category you submit your book in (and the expected performance of BookBub newsletters in this genre);
  • Whether you’re getting a US Featured Deal or an International only one (US ones are much more expensive).

You can view an updated list of all prices based on these factors here.

BookBub’s criteria for selecting books to feature

BookBub’s official criteria to accept Featured Deal submissions are pretty clear. From their own website, your title should be:

  • Free or discounted by at least 50%.
  • The best deal available. The book can’t have been offered at a lower price anywhere in the past 90 days.
  • Error free.
  • A limited-time offer (except for free promotions, where they do accept permafree books).
  • A full-length book, with a minimum number of pages:
    • Novels: 150+ pages;
    • Nonfiction: 100+ pages;
    • Cookbooks: 70+ pages
    • Middle Grade: 100+ pages
    • Children’s picture books: 20+ pages.
  • No novellas or short stories.
  • Widely available, i.e. at least one major retailer in either the US or the UK. And the more, the merrier.

Lastly, BookBub will not feature the same book from an indie author more than once every 6 months. Nor will they feature the same indie author more than once every 30 days. But more on that later…

Now, these are the minimum requirements for a deal to be submitted to BookBub. Meeting these requirements certainly doesn’t guarantee your deal will be accepted by their editorial team and featured in a newsletter — far from it. Which brings us to the following, million-dollar question…

In recent years, BookBub Featured Deals have become harder and harder to get for indie authors. Some say that their editorial team favors deals from traditional publishers — though that has been formally denied by the company.

One thing is sure: BookBub bases most of its decisions on data. After years of serving deals to millions of readers and watching how these readers react, they have a pretty good idea of what will work (or not) for their audience.

BookBub’s selection process for Featured Deals also relies heavily on human curation. They have an editorial team for every genre, that goes through the submissions and handpicks the Deals to feature every day.

With that in mind, let’s look at how you can boost your chances of getting that coveted Featured Deal. Here are our top nine tips:

Tip #1: Subscribe to BookBub’s newsletters in your genre

If you want to get a Deal in a genre, the first step is to understand what BookBub’s curators in that genre are looking for. And you can get a glimpse of that by simply signing up (as a reader) to their newsletters in that genre. Check out the books they feature and analyze what they have in common (what do the covers look like, what are the price points, how many reviews do the books have, etc.).

Tip #2: Make sure your book has an appropriate number of reviews

From BookBub’s blog:

“Reader reviews and ratings help our editors get a sense of how readers have responded to your book, and they are a crucial element of the selection process. […] We recommend browsing through the books we’re featuring in your category to get a sense of what a competitive number of positive reviews is for that genre.”

This goes back to our advice above: check out the kind of books they feature and see what their usual number of reviews is. There’s no sense in applying for a Featured Deal until you have a similar number of reviews.

Note: for this reason, it’s highly unrealistic (read: a waste of time) to apply for a BookBub Featured Deal for a new release, as you won’t have any reviews to show for it when submitting it. For new releases, BookBub actually has a separate product you could try: Featured New Releases.

Tip #3: Polish your product pages on all retailers

What do BookBub’s curators look at when evaluating a deal? The same thing that readers will: the book’s information on retailer pages. Their goal is the same as yours: selling as many books as possible. So they want to make sure that the books they feature are optimized to drive sales.

In particular, this means:

  • The title has a professional cover that matches genre expectations (more on this here);
  • The book’s blurb on retailer pages is optimized to hook and convert readers (more on this here)
  • Optional: The book features editorial reviews or accolades from well-known publications or influencers.

Tip #4: Be flexible with your promotion dates

When applying for a Featured Deal, you can indicate whether you’re flexible with your chosen discount dates or not. Obviously, indicating your flexibility will increase your chances of getting that deal.

Do note, however, that BookBub only schedules Featured Deals up to 30 days in advance. So if you apply for a flexible-dates Deal, make sure you’re ready to drop your price across all retailers if you’re accepted.

Tip #5: Keep submitting (download our free Bookbub submission calendar)

Even if you get all of the above right, and BookBub’s editors think your book would make for a great deal, they might end up declining it just because there are other, even more attractive deals that have been submitted at the same time.

In other words, your chances of getting that coveted Deal also depend on the competition. And the level of competition depends on timing.

What’s the solution? Keep submitting! BookBub allows you to re-submit a book every 30 days. So if you have a big list of books, and you really want to get a deal, you can maximize your chances of landing one by continuously submitting every book you have on a 30-day rolling basis.

Now, if a Deal is accepted, BookBub won't feature the same indie author for another 30 days, and the same book for another 6 months. So keeping track of when you can and cannot submit each book can quickly become a headache… Which is why we're providing you with a free BookBub submissions calendar — originally created by indie author Nick Thacker — to help you get all your ducks in a row.

🦆🦆🦆 Sign up here to download our BookBub submissions calendar for free. 🦆🦆🦆

Tip #6: Try different price points (including free)

One of the company's main tips for authors is to keep trying. But of course, receiving constant rejection notifications can become a bit frustrating. So the following three tips will explore what you can change in your re-submissions to augment your chances of getting accepted.

The first thing to try is changing the price point. Their’s goal is to offer the best deals possible to their audience. So the lower you can go in terms of price, the higher your chances of being accepted.

Furthermore, if you’ve been trying to get a $0.99 Deal for months, without success, try applying for a free one instead!

Tip #7: Go wide

If your book is in Kindle Unlimited, I have some bad news for you: it’ll be much, much harder to land a Featured Deal. Here’s why, in BookBub’s own terms:

“When members sign up for BookBub, they opt into the retailers they want to see deals for. So if a book is available on all the major retailers — Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple iBooks, Google Play, Kobo — more of our readers would be able to snatch it up, which makes the book more appealing to our editors. Between two books with equally competitive platforms and deal prices, the editors will always choose the book available on more retailers.”

At Reedsy, we personally know authors who submitted KU books to BookBub over 50 times, without ever getting accepted. One of them, Craig Martelle, finally took one of his books wide, and finally managed to land a Featured Deal with it (albeit an international one). You can read his story on the 20Booksto50k Facebook group (well worth joining!).

Tip #8: Submit for international deals first

When applying for a Deal, most authors focus on US-only deals. These are the most expensive but also the most rewarding in terms of sales and ranking boosts. But they’re also equally harder to get. So if all your attempts at landing a US deal are failing, try for an international one. Even though they’re less powerful, they can be great for boosting your international reach and presence on non-Amazon retailers.

More importantly, there’s anecdotal evidence that once you get a Featured Deal, it’s easier to get another one. So going for free, international Deals is a way to get your foot in the door. And once that door is open, it might lead to paid, US-only Deals.

Tip #9: If everything fails… rebrand!

If everything above is failing, then there’s probably something wrong with your book. Maybe BookBub editors don’t think it fits into one of their categories. Or maybe they think the cover doesn’t match the genre.

This can often be the case for books that were published over 3-4 years ago. Genre expectations regarding covers can change quite drastically, so if you can’t get any Featured Deal for your old books, consider rebranding them. Not only will that boost your chances of getting a Deal, but it’ll also most likely boost your sales, as shown in our case study.

Hurrah! Thanks to our tips, you managed to land a Featured Deal! First off, take a moment to congratulate yourself and celebrate — it’s a big deal. But right after that, start planning your promo period to make the most out of the deal. Here are a few things to consider:

#1. Don’t discount your other books in the series

This is a common mistake for BookBub Featured Deal first-timers. You want to encourage readers finding your book through the Deal to buy your other books, so you discount those as well…

But what happens is that BookBub readers are deal seekers. If they see that your other books in the series are at $0.99 as well, they’ll just go ahead and buy them all. Great, right?

Well, not really. Because while you might be making a bit more of an instant profit, you’re effectively losing all these full-price sales that would have happened when these readers finished reading your discounted book and decided to buy your other ones, full-price. And if you're wondering, yes, BookBub readers do also buy books full-price. Here are the official stats.

#2. Run the promo over a longer period

Almost everyone who ran a Featured Deal is unanimous about this: you’ll get better results if you keep your discount for a longer period than the minimum days required by the service. The reason for that is that Amazon’s algorithms (represented by a friendly emoji below) largely reward plateaus over spikes.

Sales Spikes and Plateaus Bookbub

If you raise your price right after the BookBub Deal, your sales will abruptly stop. If you keep the discount, they’ll still take a dip, but it won’t be as bad, which will help you maintain a high rank on bestseller lists, and have Amazon take over the marketing for you.

If you’re in Kindle Unlimited and manage to get a Featured Deal (congrats, you’re a unicorn 🦄), then running the discount for longer is all the more important to make sure you climb the popularity list and trigger a subsequent wave of page reads — learn how that works in this Reedsy Live with David Gaughran.

#3. To stack or not to stack?

The practice of “stacking” ads is that of buying several placements on other book promotion newsletters on top of the BookBub Feature. The goal here is still the same: achieving a plateau, or an upwards trend, rather than a spike.

There has been a lot of discussion on ad stacking around Featured Deals in the author community, and the consensus seems to be that:

  • Ad stacking can work for paid Featured Deals;
  • Ad stacking is a waste of money for free Deals.

The reason why stacking can be a waste of money for free is that free readers will often sign up to as many promo sites as possible to receive free book alerts. So by advertising your free book on several sites and newsletters, you’re effectively paying more to reach the same readers.

#4. Run other ads on the side

Now, while stacking promo newsletter ads might be a waste of money, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to run ads on your own. Both Facebook and Amazon ads will earn you a lot more sales/downloads if your book is discounted/free.

You can learn how to create your first ads on Facebook and Amazon through our free Reedsy Learning courses:

But there’s a third self-serve advertising platform that will work even better to move discounted/free copies. And surprise, surprise… it’s BookBub’s!

“Wait, what? Isn’t BookBub what I’ve been reading about for the past 10 minutes?”

Yes, but there’s more to it (keep reading)!

Bookbub self-serve CPM/CPC ads

While it’s getting more and more difficult for indie authors to get a BookBub Featured Deal, it’s actually very easy for anyone to get their book in their newsletters. How? Through their self-serve ads.

How do BookBub self-serve ads work?

A few years ago, the company launched “BookBub Ads,” an advertising platform that lets authors and publishers place image ads in their newsletters (and on their website).

To give you a better idea of what that looks like, here’s a typical BookBub newsletter.

bookbub newsletter example

These books are Featured Deals, and there are generally anywhere between 3 and 5 per newsletter.

Now, below these Featured Deals, at the bottom of the newsletter, we have what you see here:

This bottom image is not a Featured Deal — it’s an ad placed by an author (or their publisher) through their self-serve ad platform.

How do you create such an ad? Well, you just sign up for a BookBub Partners account, click on “create an ad” and follow the steps.

When should I use BookBub ads?

BookBub ads have established themselves as a great marketing tool for authors. However, you have to keep one very important thing in mind: the #1 reason why readers sign up for their newsletters is that they want free or cheap books. So BookBub ads will work great to promote a $0.99 or free ebook, but they’ll perform terribly if you use them to advertise your $9.99 masterpiece.

A free course on mastering BookBub ads

Like any other advertising platform, BookBub Ads have their characteristics and quirks. You can choose between CPM (cost per thousand impressions) and CPC (cost per click) bidding, target the followers of any other author or genre, aim your ads at specific bookstore buyers, and A/B test your images.

If you feel lost already, then I highly recommend you sign up for our free Reedsy Learning course on BookBub Ads. It’s written by David Gaughran (THE BookBub ads expert), and will teach you everything you need to know to start your first few ads on there.

Free course: Bookbub Ads for Authors

Indie publishing guru David Gaughran shows you how to reach Bookbub's enthusiastic audience of super-readers. Get started now.

Now, there’s one last thing you should really know about BookBub, which makes it all the more valuable to indie authors. And that is…

Bookbub follow features and alerts

BookBub allows readers to “follow” the authors they like, and view all of these authors’ works on their author profiles. I can hear your question already: “how do I create an author profile on BookBub?

It’s easy (and completely free). Just head here, search for your name, and claim your author profile. You’ll then be able to customize your profile and add all your books to it. Here’s what a typical BookBub profile looks like.

Bookbub author profile page example

Notice that “follow” button? Readers who come across your books (e.g. in Featured Deals) are prompted by BookBub to “follow” your profile. They’ll also be able to find you in their “Discover” section:

Now, the reason why followers are valuable is that BookBub sends an automatic “New Release Alert” to all your followers when you release a new book. So if you have 5,000 followers on there, that’s 5,000 release emails that BookBub will send for you, for free. You can learn more about how these alerts work here.

And that’s it! If you read this far, you now know pretty much everything you need to know about BookBub and how to best use their tools to your advantage.

If you’ve had a Featured Deal in the past, or used their self-serve ads platform, don’t hesitate to share your advice and experiences in the comments below!