In November 2017, I decided that I was sick and tired of not selling any books, and decided to do something about it. I took my two novels, RAIN ON YOUR WEDDING DAY and WREATHED off of Amazon-exclusive status and put them up on the Apple, Barnes & Noble, and Kobo services. I did this not just to have more sales outlets for the books (although that’s always nice) but because I wanted to try to get a BookBub promotion for one of the books.
If you’re not familiar with BookBub, it’s a company that sends e-mails to readers about free or discounted books in specific genres. There are several such services, but BookBub is by far the best and most profitable (and most expensive). And because it’s the best service, BookBub tends to be a little picky. Which is to say that every other service will publicize any book that you happen to write, but BookBub will not. They will turn you down flat. They will refuse to take your money, which is the most un-American thing in the world. But if you can convince BookBub to take your money, well, then that’s something really special, because BookBub subscribers will buy your book like you’re selling ice cubes in Hell.
One thing that BookBub suggests when you apply for a promotion is that you take your book out of Amazon exclusivity, because there are people out there who have hardware other than the Kindle, and they want to read your book, too. This is a tough decision to make. Amazon encourages exclusivity in several ways, including letting you sell books at 70% royalty at 99 cents for a short time, and crediting you for page reads for books that you give away free to Kindle Unlimited subscribers. If you diversify, you lose those benefits. But I’d applied for BookBub promotions when the books were Amazon-exclusive, and hadn’t gotten anywhere.
So I bit the bullet and took the books out of Amazon-exclusivity. This meant that I wouldn’t get page views (I’d made about a thousand dollars on page views on my last BookBub in 2015) and I’d have to accept 35% royalty if I dropped the price to 99 cents. So was it worth it?
Well, yes and no.
I did get the BookBub for WREATHED, on December 2, 2017. It cost me $270 for the “chick-lit” list (which includes international listings, about which more later). I contacted several other services and “stacked” promotions for the days after the BookBub promotion–the idea is that BookBub will give you a temporary lift in sales rank, which may induce people on the non-Book-Bub lists to check out your book. All in all, I spent the following on promotions:
|Just Kindle Books||($38.00)|
|My Book Place||($25.00)|
This is a big investment on a quirky self-published chick-lit book, mind you, but given the traffic that BookBub gives you, it seemed like a good deal. And it looked OK at first, because I sold 462 books on Amazon the first day, and 155 books on the other three platforms. That’s pretty good, and if it had been sustainable, I would have cleared good money–especially given that I had stacked ads on all the other platforms.
But the other ads were kind of a fizzle. I just didn’t clear enough in the days that followed to make enough money for the whole promotion to be successful, and without the shot in the arm from page reads, it turned out not to be such a great deal.
But a funny thing happened. Because of various stuff going on in terms of my real life (I was enrolled in graduate school and was busy putting together group projects and preparing for exams), I didn’t have a chance to change the price of the book. I left it at 99 cents. And the book kept selling–not a lot, just a trickle, but a book or two or three every day. So I decided to leave it there until I had three days straight where the book didn’t sell. And so far, as of the end of January 2018, that hasn’t happened. WREATHED turned into a modest everyday performer after languishing with minimal sales for the prior six months.
Over the last two months, earnings have been as follows:
|Amazon US||$ 172.69|
|Amazon UK||$ 50.54|
|Amazon Germany||$ 0.36|
|Amazon Italy||$ 0.41|
|Amazon Netherlands||$ 0.36|
|Amazon India||$ 0.39|
|Amazon Canada||$ 26.65|
|Amazon Australia||$ 22.73|
|Barnes & Noble||$ 112.16|
|Apple Australia||$ 8.17|
|Apple Canada||$ 11.52|
|Apple UK||$ 6.96|
|Apple New Zealand||$ 0.75|
|Apple US||$ 28.95|
|Kobo Australia||$ 1.75|
|Kobo Canada||$ 15.29|
|Kobo Switzerland||$ 0.58|
|Kobo Europe||$ 1.31|
|Kobo UK||$ 5.45|
|Kobo New Zealand||$ 1.13|
|Kobo US||$ 2.74|
|Kobo South Africa||$ 0.60|
|TOTAL (includes a couple of sales of other books)||$ 471.50|
This is not a particularly good performance, and it’s a negative ROI on the promotion overall. (One of the real drawbacks of both Amazon and Smashwords is that you can’t tell where the sales are coming from, so you don’t know if BookBub is the issue or the other services.) I probably would have made money if I had kept my promotional spending down, but there’s no way to tell.
The one money that I spent that was totally worthless was spending whatever BookBub charged for India, because I sold one book there. But that was more than counterbalanced by the very healthy sales from Australia and Canada. I suspect that since I charged 99 cents in the currencies of both countries, and since the Australian and Canadian dollars are about 80 cents to the US dollar at the moment, that there are at least a few thrifty souls out there in the US who are buying the foreign versions to save the 20 cents. Lesson: people are cheap.
I am at least a bit disappointed that I didn’t do better. But I’m going to keep WREATHED at 99 cents, and try to get another BookBub for the other novel. As long as I am selling even a trickle of books, that’s incentive enough to keep at it.
Oh, and one more thing–one reason to get a BookBub promotion is that you usually get a few new reviews for your book. This time, I got ONE review–a three-star Goodreads review that I will quote in its entirety:
Not what I was expecting but pretty decent. wont read it again
So there you go.