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How I got nearly 1,000 book sales from a BookBub promo

International BookBub deals boost sales and read-through

Happy fall, everyone, and greetings from the land of crisp apples, bubbling soup, blustery skies, and flame-colored leaves spiraling to the ground. I love this season, can you tell? And this year, it’s been even better than usual due to the unexpected gift of an International BookBub.

*Warning: this is going to be a long post. So grab a cup of hot cocoa, curl up under a cozy blanket, and settle in.

I’ve long heard the stories about how game-changing BookBub promotions are for authors. The Holy Grail is the domestic (U.S.) version, which goes out to millions of readers and can trigger thousands of book sales in a day. The less-coveted but still awesome version is the International BookBub, which goes out to about 500,000 people in various countries all over the globe.

I had waited to apply for a BookBub until I had a full series to promote. The idea being that once someone downloads Book 1, they’ll be sucked in to my captivating trilogy and subsequently purchase books 2 and 3 (otherwise known as ‘read-through’). So last month, as I was putting the finishing touches on A Place in the World, Book 3 in my series, I decided to go for it. I applied for a BookBub for The Girl from Oto, Book 1.

Of course, I had to shoot for the stars, so I tried for a domestic BookBub with all the trimmings. It would cost over one thousand dollars if I was selected. Gulp. But the potential rewards were so huge, I knew I could not pass up the opportunity to try. I was especially eager to get traction on any platform other than Amazon. This was because so far, my attempts to ‘go wide’ had been dismal.

The trouble with wide

In 2018 I ditched exclusivity with Amazon and took my books to other platforms, wanting to diversify my income streams and avoid “all eggs in one basket” syndrome. I had been warned that going wide was tough and it would take a while to get sales anywhere else. This was absolutely….accurate. My books sat unnoticed on the virtual shelves of Apple, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and other platforms. Sure, I had a few sales now and then. The only spikes occurred when I snagged a promotion on Kobo and got a modest trickle of new readers. Then, once the promotion ended, even Kobo would become a dry desert once again. Amazon was still the primary source of my sales, and now I didn’t have page read income from Kindle Unlimited. Ouch.

I was starting to lose hope in the concept of wide. Plenty of others were exclusive to Amazon and they were raking in the page-read income. Plus I had noticed that Amazon seems to boost the visibility of books that participate in Kindle Unlimited, which mine now did not. My books drifted down lower and lower in the rankings. It was time to do something different. Something big.

And that big thing, I hoped, would be a BookBub. So I applied. I know many people who have applied dozens of times and never gotten selected. I assumed I would be one of them, and figured if I start applying this fall, I might get picked in six months or a year. With that logic in mind, I knew that the small changes I’d meant to have my formatter make in the front and back matter of my book would be done by the time I got selected. Namely, adding book links to the subsequent books in the series so people could click immediately upon finishing the book and purchase the next book. This is foreshadowing, people.

Okay. So the one piece of advice I saw over and over in Facebook author groups from people who had succeeded in getting a BookBub was this: use the comments section when you apply. Talk about why your book would be a good fit, etc. When I filled out the application in early September, I diligently wrote a few lines about my series and the timing of my request for a BookBub. I’m telling you this because it might have made all the difference. I also selected the “International” option because even though it’s a smaller market, more people are picked for it so I figured why not cast a wide net? A few days later I got an email from BookBub telling me I had scored an International BookBub deal for Sept. 18.

*Cue maniacal screaming and embarrassing solo dance sequences.

I win! I win!

For my category, Historical Mysteries, in the regions of the U.K., Canada, India, and Australia, it would cost $194, it would go to 530,000 subscribers, and I could expect about 550 sales. Yes, it’s peanuts compared to a domestic BookBub, but guess what? Another nugget of gold I dug up in Facebook author groups is this: if BookBub gives you an International Deal and you don’t royally screw it up, your chances of getting a domestic deal skyrocket. Okay, maybe not skyrocket, but definitely improve.

So now I had an International BookBub, and I was determined to show that I was reliable, responsible, and capable of pulling in at least 550 sales. The main thing an author has to do when getting ready for a BookBub (unless you’re planning to buy ads and stack a bunch of other promos around it) is to make sure the book’s price is what you told BookBub it would be when you applied for the deal. That means going to each online platform and adjusting the price. It can take days for this to happen, so I followed the good advice of other authors to drop the price to .99 cents well before Sept. 18. (Which was not much more than a week away, so I jumped on this immediately).

There were some confusing moments during all of this, due to yet more advice I’d seen on Facebook about having to drop prices below .99 in certain countries to account for VAT taxes. After quite a lot of back-and-forth with the super helpful people at BookBub, plus some emailing with Draft2Digital, Kobo, and PublishDrive, all of my prices were adjusted properly. Here is a very helpful article about how to view your prices in various stores internationally.

Game Day

September 18 arrived. I was up before six checking email and drinking coffee, and decided to keep detailed notes about the day. The first words I wrote sum up the anxiety that preceded this momentous occasion: “Did not sleep well. Dreamed about huge ancient machines dispensing thousands of mimeographed copies of a BookBub email overseas.”

I really tried to get other stuff done on September 18 but with the exception of a few hours when I had to go to an appointment, I was glued to my computer, the refresh button, and the keyboard shortcuts to make screenshots. It was exciting, what else can I say?

I had arranged a newsletter swap with a British author for that day, so the first sales I saw that morning in the British U.K. store and the U.S. store I attributed to her readers. Nothing was happening anywhere else, at least nothing was being reported. I was a  bit discouraged. But by 1:30 p.m., when I returned from my appointment, my Amazon dashboard was showing 265 sales and Kobo reported 100. The Girl from Oto was rising in the sales ranks for the Amazon U.K. and even faster in the Canadian store. Nothing much was brewing in India or Australia yet.

At 2:30 pm I was stunned to see that my book was #1 in historical fiction bestsellers in the Canadian store. And it was #5 in the overall top 100 paid bestsellers in the Canadian kindle store. I was thrilled to get the coveted yellow flag for #1 bestseller in historical fiction.

At 3:30 pm the book had also moved into #1 for two other categories in Canada. In India, it was #20 for historical fiction and #726 paid fiction in the kindle store. In the U.K., it was #9 in historical French fiction. In Australia, it was #421 for paid bestsellers, and in the top 20 for three categories.

Things kept cooking along. The book stayed at #1 for historical fiction in Canada until Friday. In Australia, it reached #3 for historical fiction and #6 for women sleuths. In the U.K. is reached #4 for both historical European fiction and historical French fiction. In India, it reached #574 paid in the kindle store, and #17 for historical fiction in the kindle store.

Over on Kobo, sales kept pouring in. Apple picked up steam and made a respectable showing. GooglePlay dribbled along in fits and starts. I kept track of everything as the days progressed. One week later, I tallied the results. My International BookBub had garnered nearly 1,000 sales. More than half were on Amazon, but Kobo had pulled in nearly 300, Apple about 150. GooglePlay was the only disappointment, with just 20 sales.

Just as exciting, my other books were gaining momentum. Sales of Mira’s Way, book 2 in the series, began to pick up. And A Place in the World, which launched on Sept. 26, benefited as well. When I ran a bunch of promos and ads around the launch of that book, it all helped sustain the push my series was making through the online stores. In fact, The Girl from Oto got all the way to #1,692 in the U.S. Kindle store (from a low of nearly #400,000 just a month earlier), which is an all-time high for the book, plus it got to #1 in several categories for a few days. It even achieved a personal goal for me: to see The Girl from Oto overtake All the Light We Cannot See in the Amazon Historical French Fiction category, which of course I immortalized with a screenshot.

The Aftermath

Of course I shared my results with BookBub (they send you an optional survey to fill out afterward, which I figured was a great way to let them know that not only am I a pleasure to work with, and reliable—but my book had almost twice as many sales as the average International BookBub novel.) Hopefully, when I start applying for domestic BookBubs in the future, this will help move the needle in my favor.

Now, a month out from my International BookBub, I am still seeing much higher sales than normal of The Girl from Oto, plus a few sales each day of the subsequent books in the series. The hard reality is that huge spikes in sales and rankings come from spending money on marketing, promotion, and advertising. So I can’t hope to sustain those exciting surges in sales unless I fork out cash. But there are long-term benefits to the experience that I’m starting to see. For example, my Kobo and Apple sales are still trickling along. They still don’t come close to Amazon, but it seems the books are making inroads there, finally. I’m also getting reviews for my books on international platforms and stores, as well.

Although I didn’t get my store links into The Girl from Oto in time for the International BookBub, I’m heartened by the read-through I’m seeing across the various platforms and I’m confident that my book has all the right ingredients to inspire readers to buy it, then seek out the rest of the series. When I do get a domestic BookBub, my front and back matter links in all three books will be perfect. And I’ll already know the ropes, so my pre-BookBub jitters won’t be as bad. All in all, I now consider the International BookBub to be my personal Holy Grail, and I couldn’t be happier.

  • This post contains affiliate links, which means that if a sale of my book on Amazon results from one of these links being clicked, I will receive a few cents.

 

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