How to get your book picked for a BookBub promotion

Ebook promotion site BookBub is notoriously picky and has just revealed that its selection rate for non-free books is under one in five titles while for free books it picks almost one in four of the books submitted.

BookBub says over the last six weeks, the selection rate for free books was around 24%, but it was only around 18% of non-free books.

It says the difference in selection rates can partly be explained by the fact that it gets far fewer submissions for free books and the lower number of free submissions means it can often take a chance on books with smaller platforms in those spots.

But it adds that the selection rate varies significantly by category. The site gets relatively few free Historical Fiction books, so the selection rate is significantly higher for free Historical titles than the average across all the lists.

It can be much harder to get picked for a selection slot in popular categories, such as Fantasy, where there are multiple submissions for free books every day.

The number of subscribers in each category also influences selection rates as there are some lists where BookBub can only feature a book or two a week.

On its Unbound blog, the company recommends submitting at the most competitive price that aligns with your marketing goals, and if you don’t get picked for a promotion with a discount price, then it says it could be worth trying again with a free promotion.

BookBub is a leading ebook promotion service and claims to drive over a million ebook sales a month, plus massive numbers of free downloads. It sends its three million subscribers email alerts for discounts on selected ebooks and offers authors and publishers advertising deals on their discounted books.

Advertising with BookBub is expensive but the deals can pay off with a mass of downloads and subsequent continued attention, although some authors have reported that the benefits have been declining. Traditional publishers have flocked to use BookBub and some self-published authors feel they have been crowded out of a site which they supported in its early days.

BookBub now covers the US and the UK and its top category by number of subscribers is Mysteries, with nearly two million on the email list. The cost of promoting a free Mystery book is $345 and the firm says the average free promotion in that category would see 29,500 downloads, with a range of 7,300 to 45,700.

The cost for a non-free Mystery book priced under $1 doubles to $690 while a book priced at over $2 would face a charge of $1,725, five times the cost of a promo for a free book.

For discounted Mystery books, BookBub’s statistics for the category show the average sold is 2,870 while the range sold is 230 to 7,330.

On a Mystery book priced at $0.99, the cost-benefit analysis would be:

  • Promotion cost: $690
  • 35% Kindle royalty to author: $0.34
  • Number of book sales needed to break even: 2,029
  • Total royalties on lower estimate of sales range of 230: $78
  • Total royalties on average category sales of 2,870: $975
  • Total royalties on higher estimates of sales range of 7,330: $2,492

On a Mystery book priced at $2.99, the corresponding figures would be:

  • Promotion cost: $1,725
  • 70% Kindle royalty to author: $2
  • Number of book sales required to break even: 863
  • Total royalties on lower estimate of sales range of 230: $460
  • Total royalties on average category sales of 2,870: $5,740
  • Total royalties on higher estimate of sales range of 7,330: $14,660

Historical Fiction is the area highlighted by BookBub as having less competition in terms of submissions and the company has over 1,240,000 subscribers in this category.

The Historical Fiction advertising costs are $275 for a free book, $550 for a book under $1, and $1,375 for books over $2.

Average downloads for free Historical Fiction books are 19,700, with a range of 4,800 to 30,500, while discounted books in the category see average sales of 1,680, with a range of 140 to 4,290.

At the average paid sales total of 1,680, an author promoting a Historical Fiction novel would net a total of $571 on a $0.99 book (promo cost $550), and $3,360 on a $2.99 book (promo cost $1,375).

Promotion sales are likely to show an inverse relationship to price, so a book priced at a higher rate could see fewer sales than a lower-priced book. The main aim of many subscribers is bound to be downloading free books and BookBub does promote the site as offering free books.

For authors, the benefits, in cash terms or recognition, of promoting a free book on BookBub can only be assessed individually, although there is a growing feeling that paid sales, which used to be strong after a free promo, have tailed off considerably.

BookBub plans expansion