The Sinister secrets of successful advertising on BookBub

BookBub have just revealed the ‘most successful BookBub Ads campaigns’ from the past year, which is always fascinating as you don’t often get to see the inside facts and figures on other people’s campaigns.

The company does point out there are a variety of different ways that an ad campaign can be ‘successful’ as some advertisers aim for a low cost-per-click (CPC) and high return on investment (ROI), while others try to reach as many readers as possible by maximizing the number of impressions.

BookBub say the campaigns they’ve picked represent a range of strategies to promote books of diverse genres, prices, and distribution but each one demonstrates the key elements of targeting a relevant audience with engaging designs.

Beloved by Corinne Michaels

This was a campaign for a free book and it drove one of the highest click-through rates of 2019. Multiple campaigns were set up with this image, targeting one author at a time, and the best-performing campaign had an 18% CTR.

A $5 daily budget was set for continuous campaigns and the top campaign earned 9,000 clicks over four months. Readers were targeted readers across all regions and retailers, with the highest engagement for this particular author target coming from Kobo readers in Canada, with a 27% CTR.


The Secrets We Kept by Lara Prescott

This one’s of particular note because the ads were not for a discount book but for a full-price new release — and not only full price but a whopping $13.99 from trad publisher Knopf.

Low CPC bids were used to promote to US readers on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Kobo. The ad focuses on it being a recent Reese Witherspoon book club pick and it saw a 1.5% CTR, with 3,300 readers clicking.


Shallow Graves by Patrick Logan

An ad campaign for a $3.99 horror novel ran for two and a half years (from March 2017 to October 2019) and received almost one million impressions and a 3.3% CTR with a $0.34 effective cost-per-click (eCPC).

Eighteen author targets were used and the blurb compares the book with two well-known horror films, which BookBub says is a tactic they have also found to be effective in driving clicks in their Featured Deals blurbs.


Good Girl by Piper Lawson

Separate campaigns were set up for each retailer to promote a free book, with ad images customized for each one. There were impressive CTRs for the Apple Books and Kobo versions at 12% and 13% respectively.

The author had run tests to identify effective author targets with past campaigns and decided to target a single author with the Apple version and a group of authors with the Kobo version. A high CPM bid was used for her ads but the narrow targeting and high CTRs meant that the eCPC was as low as $0.07 in some regions.


Sinister: Unhallowed by John P Logsdon and Christopher P Young

For the first book in an urban fantasy series available through Kindle Unlimited different images and combinations of author targets were tested, with many targets also having books in KU. They settled on an image targeting one successful author. BookBub believes the Kindle Unlimited logo catches KU members’ attention.

The campaign started in September with a $10 daily budget and high CPM bid and is still running, it has a 9.8% CTR and an eCPC of $0.16. This ad uses one overall image which isn’t the book cover and is very different from the covers. It also doesn’t include a book title.


Blind Spot by Brenda Novak

A campaign for just five days by a hybrid author (with self-published and traditionally published titles) was run during the release week of one of her traditionally published titles. Author and category targeting were combined to reach Thrillers subscribers who were also fans of either herself or four other authors, including Karen Rose, who provided the blurb used in this ad image.

BookBub claim 76% of BookBub readers buy books after getting recommendations from authors they like, so the company say including quotes from other authors is a fantastic strategy. The campaign featured a high CPC bid and saw nearly 50,000 impressions and a 2.3% CTR.


A Sinister Spell in Fairywood Falls by Blythe Baker

This was an ad campaign for the first book in the Mountain Magic Mysteries series. Several author targets were used using the same image, but the highest CTR, 4.6%, came from the ad targeting the author’s own fans. This continuous campaign ran for five months with a $20 daily budget and low CPC bid bringing more than 5,300 clicks.


The 28th Gate: Volume 1 by Christopher C Dimond

A free deal used a series of continuous campaigns with $10 daily budgets throughout 2019 with this image and targeting the fans of different authors.

The highest CTR for an author target was 5.2% and low CPC bids kept eCPCs around $0.25. To date, the campaigns have seen a total of over 24,000 clicks since January 2019.


Love the Sh!t Out of Yourself by Zoey Arielle Poulsen

This is the only non-fiction title on the BookBub selection. There were two versions of the campaign. One had a roundel pointing out the author is Canadian and targeted all Canadian retailers, and the other ad omitted the roundel to target all US and UK retailers.

Both campaigns used low CPC bids and a combination of author and category targeting, limiting the audience to Advice and How-To subscribers. The Canadian version had a 4.4% CTR, and the other version had a 1.8% CTR, which BookBub says shows the importance of customizing an image for your target audience.


The Matriarch Matrix by Maxime Trencavel

A campaign for a $3.99 first-in-series started on January 1, 2019. It tested different author targets, bidding strategies, and bid amounts, and decided on a low CPC bid and targeted fans of four authors who delivered high CTRs in the tests. All four targets write in a similar niche at the intersection of archaeology, science fiction, and thrillers.

The campaign ran until September and received nearly 10,000 clicks across all worldwide retailers at a 4% CTR and $0.26 eCPC.


Cutie Pies and Deadly Lies by Addison Moore

This ad didn’t use either the book cover or the title and pulled in a CTR of 7.9%.

It was for a perma-$0.99 first book in a cozy mystery series and multiple ad images were tested, each targeting a single author’s fans. This punny image only included the deal price and genre and saw over 4,000 clicks.


Are there any lessons to be had from this selection of ads with a wide range of performance? It’s interesting to me that two of the ads featured don’t feature their book covers or even the titles but use a great overall image to draw attention. 

The Sinister: Unhallowed ad has a real cinematic quality and has the advantage of promoting a series which published five books over just three months last autumn, which is excellent planning by the publisher.

The Cutie Pies ad also used an overall image which was very different from the book covers and was backing the first in a popular cozy series of more than 20 titles, so it would be very interesting to discover what the read-through benefits of that ad might be.

The big takeaway for me is to focus on drawing the reader’s attention with a terrific image and use rigorous testing of targets to make sure you’re not paying for clicks that don’t convert.

You can read more about the selection on this link at the BookBub website.


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Chirpy chirpy cheap cheap! BookBub is moving into audiobook discount deals


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