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BookBub Diary

Behind the scenes of my Featured Deal

The gold standard of book promotions is the BookBub Featured Deal, when free or discounted books are advertised to millions of U.S. readers via BookBub’s daily deal email. When I started publishing fiction as an indie author in 2016, I heard tales of fabulous success related to these deals. Some people, it was rumored, had 10,000 downloads of their free or discounted books on Featured Deal day. Others had even seen 20,000 downloads. In a nutshell, these deals boost sales and visibility like no other promotion out there.

The problem with BookBub Featured Deals is that everyone wants them. BookBub supposedly only picks 20 percent of the books submitted for these promotions, and many of them are by traditionally-published, big name authors. Lots of authors apply for BookBub deals monthly: if you try long enough, you just might be a winner. People say it’s far easier to get a BookBub International Deal (which goes to about 500,000 readers in Canada, the U.K., Australia, and India) than a Featured Deal.

My strategy

I applied for a BookBub Featured Deal in early 2017, soon after publishing my first novel, The Girl from Oto (Book 1 of the Miramonde Series). I was rejected. I tried a few months later and was rejected again. At that point, my book was in Kindle Unlimited, which makes it harder to get approved for a BookBub. Then I decided to wait until all three books in my Miramonde Series were published wide to start really going for it.

Two years later, when Book 3 in the Miramonde Series launched, I was ready for action. I started applying for BookBubs again. I always checked both the U.S. and International Deal boxes when I applied. And I always discounted the book to .99 cents.

Since then, I’ve had International Deals twice for The Girl from Oto. Both times I saw about 1,000 sales over the course of deal day and the subsequent week, including strong read-through to the rest of the series. See my blog post about my September 2019 International Deal here. These International Deals cost me about $200 each.

Feeling confident, I decided to go for The Big One. I kept applying for BookBubs and ONLY checking the U.S. box on the form. For my genre (historical mystery) it’s close to $1000 for a U.S. BookBub Featured Deal. Yikes. There are horror stories about people whose Amazon accounts get frozen on the day of their deal because of the big spike in sales. Or their prices aren’t reduced in time on the various sales platforms. Or unrelated events—hurricanes, fires, viruses—keep people from clicking on your book in their Daily Deal email.

My book is chosen

Still, when The Girl from Oto was accepted for a U.S. Featured Deal this summer, I immediately paid the invoice and ran screaming through the house. I even cried a little, to be honest. The feeling of being really, truly excited about something during the pandemic was exhilarating. I knew I’d be grateful for the experience, whatever happened. If nothing else, it was something to look forward to and it gave my family and friends something to cheer about.

My deal was scheduled for a Saturday, which I thought was pretty cool. Now that I’ve done some more poking around about this, I’ve learned that Saturdays aren’t ideal. I’m not sure where the statistics are to back this up, but I’ve heard there are more sales Monday-Friday. Also, if you’re aiming to get on the U.S.A. Today Bestseller list, it’s better to have the BookBub Featured Deal earlier in the week. This is because U.S.A. Today tallies your book’s sales for one week, ending on Sunday. If you want them to count sales in the several days after your deal, those sales need to happen by Sunday. (I’ve heard it takes about 6,000 sales to get on the list, but one blogger said it took her book about 4,000.)

The other popular strategy is to stack smaller promotions around your BookBub. This maximizes sales over time rather than having just one day of monster sales and then…nothing. It can help your book shoot to dazzling heights in the Amazon store and other online platforms—and have more staying power.

Getting the word out

I didn’t do a great job of promo stacking. I was rejected for Ereader News Today, which I’ve used to great success in the past. I was accepted for Fussy Librarian, which always drives decent sales for me. And I tried BargainBooksy for the first time, which did not pan out for me. I may be in the wrong genre for that site, because I know others have had great success with it. I’ve read about people stacking a dozen or more paid promos around a BookBub. I was so worried that I wouldn’t make back my investment that I decided to be conservative about spending money on lots of other promos.

Other than that, one author promoted my book to her mailing list, I advertised the deal in my own newsletter, and I ran a bunch of ads. I already had a decently performing Amazon AMS ad running for the book, so I turned up the spend on that one. I ran several BookBub ads the day before, the day of, and the day after the deal. These ads targeted readers in the U.S. and other countries too, because I had discounted the book globally. And I tried boosting posts on Facebook for the first time. The Facebook ad interface has gotten more complicated and frustrating to me over time, and boosting a post is much faster and easier than setting up new ads.

Here’s how things went in the lead-up to Deal Day: The Girl from Oto was ranked at 85,000 in the Kindle store on August 5. On August 6, it was ranked at 36,000. On August 7, it was ranked at 4,035.

Game Day

August 8 was Deal Day. I slept badly and was up at 4:30. I decided to calm my nerves first thing by making scones, which I turned into hockey pucks by accidentally putting them in a 450 degree oven. Gnawing on a tough but nutritious breakfast, I turned my attention to the laptop.

The BookBub Featured Deal appeared in my inbox about 6:45 a.m. Pacific Time. I started seeing an avalanche of sales immediately. The scale of this thing was immense. It was happening on Amazon, Kobo, Apple, and Nook. Google Play was a dud, but it has never performed well for me in any promotion, so I wasn’t surprised.

By the end of the day, my book was #24 in the Kindle store, #18 in the Apple store, #5 in the Barnes & Noble store, and #1 in a few categories on Kobo. I had sold more than 3,000 copies of The Girl from Oto across all these platforms. Naturally, I took about a billion screenshots.

The Girl from Oto got the coveted yellow #1 bestseller banner in several Amazon Kindle categories, including Historical Mysteries and Historical Thrillers. These are such huge categories that my books tend to be invisible in them. Even more exciting, the book stayed at #1 in those categories for a few days.

As the week progressed, I sold another 1,000 copies of the book plus the subsequent books in the series (at full price). All the books ranked higher than ever before for several days on these platforms.

My BookBub ads performed well, as did the Facebook boosted post. For the first time, the boxset of my trilogy started selling. This was helped by two ads I launched on AMS just before the BookBub Featured Deal. I targeted my own books with these ads, because the boxset does not show up on my book sales pages otherwise. Lots of author friends helped promote the deal on Twitter.

All’s well that ends well

It’s now more than a week later and I’m still seeing much higher sales than normal of all my books on all the platforms, with the exceptions of Google Play and Kobo (which is typical for me). My fears about not earning back the investment from my BookBub Featured Deal were unfounded. I made enough in sales on the first day alone to pay for all my promotion and advertising spend. The subsequent sales and read-through have been net income.

I’m happy I started out with International Deals, because I learned how to navigate the process. I also made some connections with the folks at BookBub and tested BookBub ads until I found a winning formula. Plus, I believe having a solid track record with those earlier deals helped me land the Featured Deal this summer.

To me, BookBub Featured Deals are worth the huge investment—especially because I have a series with buy links in the back of each book leading to the next. I will definitely try for another Featured Deal, and next time I’ll have the U.S.A. Today bestseller list in mind as a goal. I’ll also feel comfortable spending more money on promos and advertising to support the Featured Deal.

The best part about the Featured Deal is that thousands of new readers have been introduced to my series. I’m still hoping Oprah or Reese Witherspoon might be among them… If they get in touch, I’ll let you know.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8 Comments

  1. Penny Hampson says:

    That’s fantastic, Amy, congratulations. Thank you for sharing this, I’ve always been concerned about the cost of a Bookbub deal, but it sounds like it’s very much worthwhile.

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      Thank you, Penny! I’m glad it was helpful.

  2. Emma Lombard says:

    What a wealth of information! Thanks so much for sharing all the facts and figures, Amy. You make a very convincing case.

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      Thank you, Emma!

  3. Samantha says:

    This is great info! I didn’t realize that having your book in KU made it more difficult to be selected for a featured deal.

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      Thank you, Samantha. BookBub wants its readers to have lots of purchasing options, not just Amazon.

  4. Mary Anyan says:

    Way to go, Amy! So happy you’re tenacious! My friend and I (a two-person book club 😂) selected “The Girl From Oto”) as a read. I devoured all of your “Mira” books and then was sad I did. I’m so hungry for more books in the series and can hardly wait for the next offering. Thank you for your massive research, fascinating characters, plausible and dovetail storylines, and history lesson!

    1. Amy Maroney says:

      Thanks so much for reaching out, Mary! Hearing from happy readers like you gives me the fuel to keep going. I have a story launching in an anthology with a dozen other historical novelists this fall, then my next series will be published starting in 2021.

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