The unexpected side effects of a book promotion

When I joined the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) three years ago, I had never heard of all the ways we can market our books. I certainly never heard of BookBub.

But the more I read, the less they seemed to apply to me.

Many authors write series, so that publicizing one book immediately helps to promote the others. My books, creative non-fiction on completely unrelated topics, are each geared to a different audience.

Perhaps like some other non-fiction writers, I found it hard to identify any paid marketing that would be cost effective.

And my sales numbers felt much lower than those of other writers, although that is a subject that is not often discussed. With my three books, I sold somewhat less than 450 in all last year.

Taking My Chances on BookBub

cover of Life in a Hospice by Ann Richardson,

The book Ann chose for her BookBub promotion

But a few weeks back, on a complete whim, I applied for a 99p BookBub promotion for  Life in a Hospice: reflections on caring for the dying. This isn’t a popular book. It’s certainly not crime or romance. I thought it had no chance of acceptance

But it was free to apply, so why not?

How BookBub Works

For the uninitiated, how these promotions work is that you pay BookBub a not trivial amount of money ($142 in my case, but it depends on the genre), lower your ebook price to 99c/99p on one agreed day and wait to see what happens.

Sounds counter-intuitive, but as others before me have found, it can work.

I applied for the promotion to take place solely in the UK, Canada and Australia (you can apply for the US, but the cost is considerably higher and I wasn’t brave enough). I lowered the price for a week beforehand – and did what I could to tell potential readers that I had done so.

Exceeding Expectations

BookBub said I could expect 300 sales (presumably, an average for the category) during the promotion, which sounded like an unattainable target. But in fact I sold nearly 470, about 400 on the day and the rest in the days before and after. Most were sold in the UK, but about 100 were sold in Canada and 50 in Australia.

BookBub logo

Surprise Bonuses

In addition, there were many unexpected side effects of the promotion.

  • First, the actual promotion day is very exciting, because you can clock Kindle sales in real time. You see them climb to 60, then over 100 and so on. My whole family got involved, placing bets on the final figure (my grandson won). Sales on other channels, such as Apple and Kobo, did not show up immediately, but were a delightful surprise when displayed by D2D the next day.
  • Second, and particularly important, was the huge jump in Amazon rankings. My book went up to #1 in three categories in the UK as well as elsewhere. And the overall Kindle ranking (all sales) rose amazingly. My favourite was a rank of #8 of all Kindle books in Canada. This for a serious book about hospice care!
  • Third, my books had never had much traction on platforms other than Amazon, so the Draft2Digital sales were surprising and have had some continuation since the promotion date.

Finally, perhaps less positively,it has drained my enthusiasm for the daily marketing efforts:

When you sell more books in a week than you had in the previous year, there is a slight feeling of ‘why bother?’

I hope that will change soon.

Who Dares, Wins?

So, if you are a writer, have a go. If you write in a different genre, your costs will probably be much higher, but the rewards may be as well. It is well worth applying, especially as it is free and easy to do so. Many requests are turned down, but you can apply again. Indeed, one friend applied twelve times before he got it.

Good luck.

 

This was originally published as a blog post by the Alliance of Independent Authors (https://selfpublishingadvice.org/book-marketing-case-study-of-a-successful-bookbub-promotion-for-a-self-published-non-fiction-book/)

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