How I sold 1,000 books over the holidays #marketing #bestseller

Here is my promised share of how I sold 1000 books and became a bestseller (in Canada and Australia, at any rate) over the 10 days of the Christmas/New Year holiday. Settle in, folks, this is going to be a long post.

First up, what I did was nothing ground breaking, just plain old advertising and spreading the word.

For a bit of background, the book I promoted was THE PRINCE’S MAN, first in my Epic Fantasy series (only 2 books out so far, 3rd one is underway).

I know it can sell in quantity – when it came out, it was an Amazon Top 100 Hot New Release, selling 1500 copies in the first 6 weeks. That was back in 2013. I’ve written and released several other books since then, including its sequel, THE PRINCE’S SON.

I haven’t promoted TPM in over 12 months, and sales had dwindled to just the odd copy each month. I haven’t put much effort into marketing anything this year, for personal reasons, and I simply made the decision one night in November to have a crack at a holiday promo, so I sat down with my list of marketing sites and set to it. All the sites I used, I’ve used before, some with more success than others, and this time I will be able to refine that even further on the grounds of ROI (return on investment) – details coming further down this post.

I set up a 99c/99p sale, to run from Christmas Day to January 4th, hoping to capture all those people with new ereaders, and all the established readers with time on their hands over the holidays, and I guess it worked!

I fretted at first, having spent what I considered to be quite a lot of money on adverts – around $200.

Then came the big one.

BookBub.

I’ve been applying for a BookBub advert on and off for about 3 years, but never yet succeeded. If you aren’t familiar with BookBub, let me tell you, getting an ad with them is about as hard as getting an agent to read your book (I’ve had 2 agents, so perhaps its harder!). Particularly since Traditional publishers have jumped on the bandwagon and are now hogging many of the ad spots, making it even harder for indies to get one.

Bookbub also make it impossible to know why you didn’t get a spot – they insist your cover must be professional (agreed) and your book must be well edited and free from typos (also agreed). They don’t have a minimum number of reviews, but they do scrutinise them to check for negative comments. They do say that competition for spots is hot (I can believe that), and often a book will be turned down simply because it isn’t the best fit for their list that time around.

What they won’t do, is give any feedback on what you might change to improve your chances.

I believe in my book, my cover, and I have great reviews (thanks to all my awesome readers), so I just kept on applying every so often in the hope that at some point I might be lucky.

Don’t get me wrong – their prices are SCARY!  But reported sale figures are sky high – for example, for a 99c fantasy book, an ad costs $614 , but average sales on that one ad are around the 2000 mark, with many reporting as high as 3000.

[To give your fantasy book away for free, an ad costs $307 !!! But average number of downloads is in the region of 40,000 – if you are giving away a first in series as a loss leader, that makes it well worth it.]

So when an email arrived from BookBub, I nearly had a melt down!

What I read put me somewhat off balance – they were offering me an International ad, which means it will appear in all countries – except for the US.

That did reduce the cost (to $174), so I jumped onto a couple of author Facebook pages I belong to, and asked for advice. It was mixed – lots of encouragement, but also a couple of authors who’d taken this type of ad with “less than stellar results”.

In the end, I decided to give it a go. At least the offer means they are willing to take my book on, and the email also invites me to apply for a US ad after 30 days, so I had no desire to prejudice them against me by refusing the International.

Right, pre-amble over, here is what I did:

Current advice is to stack your ads for a slow increase in sales, rather than a big, sudden peak which might trigger alarm bells for the Amazon watchdog algorithm. As you can’t pick your precise day for BookBub in advance, it wasn’t totally ideal, coming in the middle of my other ads, but at least it wasn’t at the start.

(BTW if you are having a FREE promo, it’s apparently fine to have a big spike in downloads immediately).

25th Choosy Bookworm  $17.50  (£13.68)                       sold  3 copies (Amazon)

26th Fantasy Bookplace  $15.60   (£12.19)  

          Book Pebble             $5           (3.91)

          Bargain Booksy       $40         (£31.26)  

Book Barbarian      $25           (£19.55)                            sold 54 copies (Amazon) + 5 copies B&N

(I put most of Boxing Day’s sales down to Book Barbarian, as that’s the sort of figure I’ve had from them before, although a few might belong to the other sites)

27th  Fussy Librarian       $14           (£10.94)                sold 11 (Amazon) + 1 Kobo  

28th Book Lovers Heaven   $5     (£3.91)

          Booktasitic                  $10       (£7.66)                 sold 3 (Amazon)

29th  BookBub (non-US)  $174   (£132.98)              sold 456 (Amazon)   79 (Apple)    80(Kobo)

30th  BookScream            $5        (£3.91)                   sold 10  (Amazon)

31st   BookGorilla             $50       (£39.05)               sold 137  (Amazon)

Jan 4th eBookBetty         $12.60   (£9.63)                 sold 18  (Amazon)

I shared on my blog, on THE WRITE STUFF, and to my newsletter and my Goodreads fans. I also advertised on the following free sites, though I can’t confirm whether/how many sales should be attributed to any of these.

http://www.bookzio.com/
http://www.readfree.ly/

These first two were actually active on the 24th (because of the holiday, prices needed to be lowered earlier than usual) and I had 2 sales that day – whether from both sites or only one, I can’t tell.

https://bookpraiser.com/
http://ebookasaurus.com/
http://www.ebooklister.net/
http://ebookshabit.com/for-authors/
http://kindlebookpromos.luckycinda.com/
http://newfreekindlebooks.com/
http://www.peoplereads.com/
http://zwoodlebooks.com

I had a further 15 sales on Apple, 17 sales on Kobo and 29 on Amazon that I cannot directly place with any specific ads (they came on January 2/3), PLUS, and now comes the truly awesome part, readers went directly on and have bought so far 125 copies of THE PRINCE’S SON at full price ($4.99), the first 4 sold on the 26th!

AND its now mid January and I’m STILL seeing sales averaging 10 copies a day, even though THE PRINCE’S MAN has gone back to full price!

Here is one of the most exciting things that happened during this sale:

That’s THE PRINCE’S MAN at #1 in the Canadian Top 100 Epic Fantasy books – a HUGE category 😀 – #bestseller 

In fact, it made it to #1 (Canada) in both Epic Fantasy and ‘Sword and Sorcery’ (another hotly contested category), AND #24 paid overall!

 

The story was similar in Australia:

(I do have the original screenshots, showing these stats do, indeed, belong to my book, just in case you’re wondering).

And in the UK, TPM made it to #2 in both categories as well, all of this courtesy of that BookBub International advert.

ROI

Return on investment is nigh on impossible to calculate with any accuracy, especially during a promo like this – you have no idea which site purchasers clicked through from, so it’s all a bit of guess work.

If we take a rough calculation that, at 99c, and Amazon’s 35% royalty, 3 sales = $1 income, then we can calculate roughly how many sales are needed to pay for an advert.  This doesn’t take into account any sales of further books in the series, but its a starting point.

Looking at straightforward ROI for the ads I used, the only one that actually earned back and produced a profit was the BookBub ad. Book Barbarian and Book Gorilla both came close.

Of course it isn’t that simple, because the up sell to other books isn’t possible to calculate on an individual ad basis, or the financial benefit of increased visibility resulting from higher ranking.

What I CAN take from this is that certain sites were less effective than others, and I will trim them from my next round of ads. This time around, Choosy Bookworm disappointed, as did Book Lovers Heaven and Booktastic. Fussy Librarian didn’t show too well either.

Of the rest, I will include them another time around and review again.

Sales sites

Do remember that some of the sites I used are genre specific for fantasy (such as Book Barbarian – a SFF only site). There are other sites that do well with different genres I have tried, but found them not to be effective for fantasy.

I DO normally use  http://ereadernewstoday.com/bargain-kindle-books/ and find them to be the other big-hitter in ROI, but they were full this time around.

You can find several downloadable lists of promo sites on my resources page (scroll to the bottom), and I’m in the process of putting my own together, the only issue being it needs frequent updating as sites come and go, and change their requirements, which eats time.

Overall

So the take home from this for me, is to once again highlight the persistence you need to be a successful indie – if you have previously applied, more than once, for a BookBub ad, don’t give up. I think this was my fifth attempt, although I know authors who have tried many more times than that, but if I’d given up sooner, I would never have discovered that yes, they did approve my cover, my quality of writing, and my reviews. Now I have the confidence to apply again, and hopefully get a US ad next time, although I certainly won’t turn down an International, though I wouldn’t do that for a while.

If you haven’t tried, don’t be put off by the huge price tag – it’s worth it!

I can’t say I made a huge profit in the short term – something in the region of $325 (£240). But I count any profit to be a successful promo, and the benefits are continuing afterward, in the ongoing sales and raised sales rank making for increased visibility.

The final bonus from this, is that BookBub also write their own original advertising copy for your book (I guess someone reads it? Or at least skim reads it, because some of this info isn’t in my original blurb), and I love it!

What do ya’ll think:

Rustam, a rakish royal spy, joins a beautiful assassin on a mission of espionage — only to make a startling discovery about who he really is… Magic, intrigue, and romance collide in this captivating fantasy adventure!

Any questions about the promo? Please ask away…

 

 

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43 comments

  1. That was a great post. I’ve been wondering about using those sorts of marketing outlets. Thanks so much for sharing your experience.

    1. You are most welcome – it’s always useful to get reports of first hand experience instead of relying on the site’s own bragging.

  2. Reblogged this on The Write Stuff and commented:

    For those of you interested in the facts and figures of paid promotions, I’m sharing details of my latest successful promo over on my blog.
    Hop across, take a look and tell me what you think.

  3. Fantastic post and really informative. I went on BookBub for my first book, Babe Driven when it was free and I had well over 3,000 downloads and went to #1 in free romance books and other charts on Amazon. It was fantastic for a first book and created awareness for me.

    1. Well done for getting an additional with them, it’s not easy, but so worth it. None of the other services can come anywhere near BookBub results.

  4. What a fantastic post! First, a huge congrats on your success! Second, thank you so much for sharing. I’ve not had your level of success but I have found that when I spend money on advertising and spend it wisely, it pays back over and above my investment. I’ve hit Amazon paid best seller status a couple times that way.

    Those BookBub prices ARE scary, but I have heard a lot of authors put stock in them. Thanks for all of the wonderful links you’ve shared. Some of them I’m familiar with, but others are new to me, so I’ll be checking them out.

    And congrats again. You rocked it!

    1. Thank you Mae, I’m still excited about the results, and the after effects, which are still going strong. I already sold 32 books this week, and its only Wednesday!
      I usually make a profit on my sales, but I feared I’d not been sensible with my outlay this time around until that BB ad came along. Next promo I will be able to be even wiser with the sites I use and the order I stack them.

  5. Cheers to you, Deborah! Thanks so much for sharing this. It’s all new to me, but it’s encouraging and I love celebrating a fellow author’s success. Bravo! 🙂

    1. Thanks Natalie, I hope I’ve given you lots to think about, and something you can check back with at a later stage in your author journey 😀

  6. A fascinating post and interesting to read which sites are worth paying for. I got a BookBub the very first time I tried whcih totally shocked me as I didn’t expect it and had only five days to organise other promos around it. It was when I put No More Mulberries Free. It was amazing – about 35,000 downloads (I kept think how wonderful if people had been paying 99c!). The best thing was lots of people downloaded it on Kindle Unlimted and the number of pages read more than covered the BookBub cost. Sadly, I’ve never been successful in snagging another – but I will keep trying.
    I also like eReaderNewsToday and have had good results but they do get booked up pretty far in advance. I need to be better at planning promos and not be last minute about it.

    1. I’m very much a last minute person too, Mary, but this is the first time I’ve missed out on an ERNT ad, so I will try to plan better another time.
      Wow to getting a BookBub ad first time of trying – when was that? Fantastic results and having the book in KU is obviously a great way of leveraging a return on a free promo.
      I’m certainly not counting my chickens re getting another BB promo, but at least I know its worth the effort trying, having had the one.

  7. Two years ago – but none since. Maybe I should try for an international promo without USA? BookBub remains a total mystery to me! And, I suspect, to most of us.

    1. Oh I can agree with that!
      I have heard it’s got so much harder in the last year or so, with the Traditional Publishers grabbing most of the paid slots, leaving just a few places available for indies in the free category, which is why I was so delighted to get one for a 99c promo.
      To clarify, I just applied as normal for a spot, it was BB that offered the International ad – I don’t know if you can elect to try for one as a choice.
      I noticed David Gaughran had an International ad not long ago, the first time I’d heard of it, and he did quite well out of his too.

  8. Another writer friend in America said she’d been turned down for a BookBub promo and reapplied for an international one – I suppose you don’t check the US box – and got it and did pretty well. BookBub have told me I’m now eligible for an Ad (as opposed to the promo) but I’ve heard a lot of negative comments about the ads. Have you any experience of them?

    1. Not yet. They are on my list to try, I’ve seen another UK author (in a facebook group I belong to) who says they are his best promo results, so I think I might have a go. I’ve tried Amazon Ads to no avail 😦

    1. Thanks for the reblog 😀

  9. Deb, thanks for coming back and sharing your strategy with us. Very interesting, and I’m further impressed by the trickle effect in sales after Bookbub. Perhaps you’ve encouraged me to give them a try. I’ve been lame with promotions this past year. Time to try something new. 🙂 x

    1. As I said, I’ve been trying for years to get one, very frustrating, but rewarding in the end that persistence paid off. Definitely worth a go.
      I’m seriously impressed with the ongoing effect of higher ranking – I’m still up at around the 7K (overall) on the UK charts, and around 20K US, which is equating to ongoing sales this week of average 12 per day.

      1. That’s amazing! I’ve never tried submitting to Bookbub for all these reasons – price and rejections, but thanks for showing that persistence pays off! When I get my act together I will give it a go. 🙂 x

  10. […] How I sold 1,000 books over the holidays #marketing #bestseller […]

  11. Thank you for sharing. I am listed on BookBub and I am going to apply for my first ad soon. Hopefully I will be accepted. You reaffirmed that they are the next step for my book Watching the Daisies.

    1. Good luck, it took me about 3 years and half a dozen attempts to get my first one, but I’m glad I kept trying.

      1. I will keep my fingers crossed…

  12. Reblogged this on The Dragon's Lair and commented:
    A wonderful article from Deborah Jay, comparing Bookbub and other marketing company’s results. So useful I simply HAD to reblog!

  13. Wonderful, Deborah, thank you for your generosity in putting together and sharing this! It’s a great tool for my marketing tool box. I reposted on The Dragon’s Lair.

    1. Thanks for the share 😀

  14. davidjrogersftw · · Reply

    Deborah, thanks for the detailed information that seems to me will be very helpful. Best wishes

    1. My pleasure, and thanks for dropping by 😀

  15. Congratulations Deborah, this is fantastic!
    I am so glad your hard work has paid off.
    Happy Reading, Writing, and Marketing!
    ~Icky. 🙂

    1. Thanks Icky, same to you 😀

  16. […] Jay presents How I sold 1000 books over the holidays posted at Deborah Jay Author, saying, “I used good old-fashioned advertising for my holiday […]

  17. Reblogged this on YOURS IN STORYTELLING… and commented:
    Wow. These are the kinds of e-book sales that I dream of…

    1. Thanks for the reblog Steve 😀

  18. Deb, congrats again. I found your post in the Bookdesigner’s weekly mail out 🙂 x

  19. Great info–I’ve been trying for a Bookbub ad for about 4 years. Thanks for sharing and huge congrats!

    1. Thanks, and keep trying!

  20. Great post! I also tried something similar, sold 910 copies of my first novel in one day. I have to do it again with my new novel! Thanks for inspiring me!

    1. Yay! Another great result. Now I’m wondering how soon I can repeat!

  21. […] by Allen C. Paul Star Flame: A Story From the Meclauks Kingdom by Yvonne Carder Tip #1: Title Wave Tip #2: A Promo’s Worth a Thousand Words Tip #3: Kobo-cabana News #5: Identity Wars (1) News #5: Identity Wars (2) News #5: Identity Wars […]

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