Adventures in advertising: Can anyone beat Bookbub? Part II


This is part II of a two-part series on advertising with the site Please check Part I out here.

Several friends–Amanda Brice, Karen Cantwell, and Misha Crews–had amazing results using Bookbub for Romance and Mystery. Misha, in particular, had great success featuring her novel Homesong, garnering 68,000 downloads in just three days. So, I had high hopes going in…and not just for the book on sale–the main thing was to get lateral sales to Marty Singer #1, A Reason to Live, and the brand-spanking new #3, One Right Thing, e-published the night before the sale.

I wasn’t disappointed. Blueblood was featured for free March 12-13 via KDP Select. Here are the sale and post-sale numbers as of 3/24/2013 at noon:

Units sold: 1013
Refunded: 29
Net units sold: 984
Units borrowed: 313
Free units-promo: 41574
Highest rank free: #1 overall (!)
Highest rank paid (3/17): #550 paid (?), #3 Hard boiled, #14 Crime & Mystery
New reviews: 19

A Reason to Live
Units sold: 644
Refunded: 19
Net units sold: 625
Borrows: 0
Free units-promo (3/13-3/22): 21,542 (explanation below)
Highest rank free (3/17): #50 overall, #2 Hard boiled
Highest rank paid: ?
New reviews: 11

One Right Thing
Units sold: 485
Returned: 4
Net units sold: 481
Borrows: 20
Highest rank paid (3/24): #2,582; #30 Hard boiled
New reviews: 6

Needless to say, I was stunned. These are fantastic numbers. At one point I had the #1 and #2 spots in Hard Boiled detective fiction (against guys like Michael Connolly and Lee Child). Blueblood was the #1 book in the entire Kindle (free) store for about 24 hours. None of my titles have fallen out of the Top 100 (paid) in Hard Boiled since I started. has a permanent fan.

What Not to Do
You may have noticed the 21,542 free giveaways of A Reason to Live…and may be asking yourself, wasn’t the Bookbub deal supposed to be for Blueblood?

Well, yes. The original “deal” was to feature ARTL so that readers would be tempted to buy #2 and #3 in consecutive order. But all attempts at making ARTL free by 3/12 (the day of the ad) went nowhere…Amazon wouldn’t price match (for complicated reasons, ARTL is my only title not in KDP Select, so I had no control over making it free).

After a series of anxiety attacks in the days leading up to the ad, I finally contacted Bookbub directly and asked them if they would feature Blueblood instead–it was in Select and had free days left. To my ever-lasting appreciation, they said yes in about 10 minutes. The day was saved…right?

Nope! Amazon, curse their black hearts (just kidding, Zon!), price matched to free the day after the ad. I’d already sold a whopping 300 copies of ARTL in just 24 hours…but it all came to a screeching halt as it went free for the next week. I then had two out of three titles free for a substantial time and thought I’d just screwed myself out of thousands of dollars. Apply palm of hand to forehead.

But the silver lining was that the 21,500 giveaways of ARTL catapulted it up the free charts at the same time Blueblood was selling like hot cakes and once I got it off free on 3/22, I started selling it like gangbusters, too (so far, averaging around 75 copies a day or so).

Lesson learned: Price matching is just too random…don’t do a free Bookbub ad if your title isn’t in Select.

The cynic in me feels that Bookbub will eventually be pressured into making big bucks by increasing prices or watering down its offerings, or be so swamped with writers clamoring for ads that you can almost number the days of its value to indies. In a way, that’s okay–something else will come along to take its place.

But for now, you better believe I’ll be applying every 30 days. At the moment, Bookbub equals indie advertising nirvana and, long story short, no. For now, no one can beat Bookbub.


Writer of crime fiction, psychological drama, and dark humor.

Tagged with: , , ,
Posted in Advertising, Epublishing News, Tips for eAuthors
17 comments on “Adventures in advertising: Can anyone beat Bookbub? Part II
  1. Huge congrats, Matt! Sounds like it’s money very well spent, but when I first heard of it, my initial thoughts were, “Yeah, but it’d be hard to line up the sale/price change with Amazon,” and it sounds like that happened to you a bit.

    I’m still frustrated that I tried to increase my book price on my two novels to $4.99 roughly two months ago, and yet they’re still at $2.99 because (presumably) one of the Smashwords distributors haven’t raised their price yet.

    Enough whining on my end though, just huge congrats on the book sales and rankings. You’ve made an incredible, almost unbelievable, ascent! And you’ve been more than generous in sharing your trip and the lessons you’ve learned along the way.

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Thanks, Stan. It really, really, really was worth it. The staff there is ultra-responsive, too.

      Definitely don’t try to do it with price matching unless you’ve got direct control over all of your distribution channels. I use Smashwords for B&N and iTunes, do Kobo through Writing Life…Kobo took 3 days even though it’s direct, Smashwords took a little longer for B&N, but iTunes never changed…I finally just cut out distribution to them altogether. Even when all channels went free, Amazon took 4-5 days to respond. Lesson: don’t do Bookbub if your title isn’t in Select.

      Not long ago, I was on the “distribute far and wide” bandwagon, but the other distributors aren’t treating this like a business, so I’m taking mine away as of this week. When I get famous enough for them to actually pay attention to me, then I’ll move back to full distribution; until then, unfortunately, it’s Amazon for me. I’ll get famous through 3rd party channels (like advertising through BB) rather than wait for the others to get on board.

      • Damn it, Matt! You’re a genius. Only a few channels through Smashwords are blowing me off on price changes and book descriptions, so of course I should dump them. (And I know this isn’t Smashwords’s fault. I actually really like their service and simply can’t see myself pulling my books from them. — Partly, this is because I want their to be plenty of competition, and partly because I’m selling books on some of their platforms and I figure reviews now, plus improved algorithms set up by the retailer, will serve me best in the long-term.)

        Anyway, I just went and opted out of some of their channels and hopefully that will get my price change done like yesterday. : )

      • Matthew Iden says:

        Genius…I like that! 🙂 Don’t crown me until you get those price changes, though!

        But I agree, I really like what Smashwords is trying to do and it’s not really their fault that B&N and iTunes (in particular) drag their feet, technologically speaking. But unfortunately we have to look out for ourselves for now. I’ll do my best to support them if I ever get some clout, but for now Amazon is just offering too many advantages (though the conspiracy theorist in me wonders when that’s going to stop and the Zon implements gatekeepers…have you heard about the White Glove program?

      • I think everyone should go read the “A personal thought on managing expectations” at the end of that White Glove program post. 😉

  2. Congrats on the successful experiment, even if you took a few left turns to get where you wanted! 😉

  3. Okay, now I see what not to do. I think I’m safe…whew…

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Lol…yeah, don’t be an idiot, like me! If you’re doing free, don’t bother with Bookbub unless you’re in Select. If you’re $.99, you should be fine if you have good control over your channels (watch out for latency to iTunes if you’re using Smashwords).

  4. Ellen says:

    Great news! Congratulations!!!

  5. Hey Matt! Are you just tracking your rankings through Author Central or do you use another service?

    • Matthew Iden says:

      Ah…I have a ringer. My wife is a web developer for a data mining company, and has been so excited about the success of the Bookbub ad that she’s been recording the ranks of all my books manually and putting them in Excel. It’s pretty fun watching the trend lines (did I really just say that?). I’ll try to post the graph tomorrow or monday-ish.

      If you aren’t married to a data mining expert, however–or even if you are–may I suggest you hie thee over to Kindle Nation Daily and click on their “Ebook Tracker” link. Set yourself up with the simple registration, find your books and save them to your account, then request said alerts be emailed to you once a day.

      While the historical data gets a little lost (you can only view today, 24 hours, and “previous months” which kinda flattens out the data), it is pretty freaking awesome for a totally free service. It doesn’t do sub-list ranks, though (like Hard boiled detective fiction), just overall Amazon sales rank. Which is still cool.

      I was going to highlight this whenever I got around to dissecting my KND promotions from last October and February, but haven’t gotten around to it. I’ll try to go more in-depth when I blog about it, hopefully soon (I plan to do more promotions with KND in the next few weeks).

  6. […] tuned for my results in Part II…not to mention a colossal mistake I made that almost cost me the whole […]

  7. My question here is did you use the Free option or the Paid option on Bub? In most instances, I agree with giving a free book away. But, if I pay $150 for an ad – it is not going to be free lol. Once you answer that, Ill ask my next question.

  8. switch11 says:

    Hi Matt, please take a look at our Site for Promoting Free Books – .

    We have 72,000+ email subscribers and offer guaranteed number of downloads. If you don’t get downloads corresponding to the slot you get, you get a 100% refund. thanks for your time.

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