In my previous post about Book promotion and giveaway sites I found that Bookbub came out best, so since this site was new to me, I thought I’d try it out for myself. If I tried to promote one of my own books via a free promotion on Bookbub, how successful would it be? In an earlier post I questioned whether it was possible to give away too many free books; here was a further experiment.
The first thing I did was to join Bookbub, as a customer. That worked quite well. Like Amazon, the site aims to present readers with the sort of books they are likely to buy, rather than flooding them with stuff of no interest. So as a reader I was asked what sort of books I preferred (I chose thrillers and historical fiction) and gave my email address. Result – each day I get an email offering me deals on between four and six books – mostly either free or at $0.99. They’re attractively presented, with the cover and a short, enticingly written blurb. Great! I’m not swamped with too many books, and the small number offered are all in my chosen genres. As a customer, I like it – I can see how this works.
As soon as I click on the Get Deal button, though, I find there’s a problem. The link takes me to the Amazon US site, which is a problem for me as I live in the UK. Nonetheless, several of the books were sufficiently appealing for me note down the title and search for them on Amazon UK. But then – oh dear! Again and again I find that the DEAL offered free or for $0.99 in the US is NO DEAL at all in the UK – the price is £3.99 or higher for UK customers. If you check the small print under your list of Today’s deals, you will see ‘Some deals may not be available outside the United States.’ In my experience, disappointingly, that means ‘most deals’
I wrote a polite letter to Bookbub about these two problems – no UK link and lack of UK deals – but received no reply.
Nonetheless, I decided to give Bookbub a try. There are a lot of readers in the US and my aim is to introduce my books to them. My legal thrillers – A Game of Proof, A Fatal Verdict, and Bold Counsel – enjoy modest but steady sales but my historical novels – which are just as good is not better!! – can go for whole weeks without selling a single copy. So I chose The Blood Upon the Rose for the experiment. I would make it free for the full 5 days on Amazon Select, and promote the free giveaway only on Bookbub.
This is quite expensive. Bookbub has a handy table which lists the prices and what you can expect from free or reduced price promotions in various genres. For a free promotion of a historical novel cost me $170 which came out at roughly £107 in real money. For this they will promote the book to customers for one day only, and keep it as a DEAL on their site for the full period of the promotion, in my case 5 days.
Would it be worth it? Since the book’s normal price is $3.99 I get 70%=$2.79 for each sale, so I would have to sell 60 copies to break even. It would be easy to attribute these sales to the Bookbub promotion since, sadly, this excellent book (in my unbiased opinion) had zero sales in the previous two weeks.
So, take a deep breath, and plunge in. The book went free on 2 July and by next day – get this – it had been downloaded 16,148 times. In the US, that is. And 70 times in the UK. Five days later I had given away 24,610 copies in the US and er … 169 in the UK.
Success? Well, in one way, certainly. For a while it was actually #1 in the ‘historical fiction’ section (free) So a huge number of US readers saw my book for the first time, liked what they saw, and downloaded it. For this I must say a big THANKS to Bookbub: they presented my book well, wrote an excellent short blurb (much better than my own – they are great at this) and put it in front of thousands of readers who had expressed an interest in historical fiction.
But what about the surge afterwards? Did I make any money? Ah well, there’s the rub. So far, two weeks later, I have sold 40 copies in the US (and none in the UK) That’s 20 fewer than I needed to break even. So – a failure?
Well, maybe. But not a disaster. Readers’ reviews are trickling in, mostly positive, which is gratifying and should help sales a bit. The book is still selling – very slowly – and may continue to do so for a while. And 25,000 readers have the chance to sample my deathless prose, which wasn’t happening before. So all in all, an interesting experiment.
Can you give away too many books? Well, the jury’s still out, I think. It’s a funny old game, this self-publishing lark.
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