During the entire month of September, my self-published suspense novel Valley of Thracians sold a grand total of four copies. This was despite the fact that the book had received favorable reviews on Amazon; it had been featured and spotlighted on many book blogs; and I had written guest posts on various authors' websites.
My marketing strategy since publishing the novel at the end of January included its being part of the KDP Select program, making it available for Kindle exclusively at Amazon. During the month of March I ran a five-day free promotion, and the book was downloaded by over 8,000 readers all over the world, making it a 'bestseller' for three days, if you can define a free book as something that 'sells'. But after the digital book went back to its normal price of $4.99 a copy, sales dropped off steadily, reaching a new low with the four books sold in September.
Clearly, potential readers were not being enticed to buy the book. I needed to do something to increase sales.
I had heard about BookBub many months ago from other authors who were raving about their great sales after posting paid advertisements in the targeted newsletters. In comments on writers' forums the authors said, without exception, that they had made their money back and that advertising in BookBub was the only place guaranteeing such a high success rate.
Consider this: BookBub sends newsletters to readers according to their specific tastes in books. Looking through the various categories, I considered Valley of Thracians a suitable candidate for the Action and Adventure newsletter, which reportedly has more than 200,000 subscribers. Twice during the month of April I applied to advertise in BookBub and twice I was rejected.
This is the other thing I learned on writers' forums. BookBub is very selective about the books it includes in its newsletters. I believe that my applications were rejected for two reasons. I had just run a free promotion during the month of March. And, I did not have very many reviews on Amazon at the time.
Is advertising a wise investment in your book?
The summer passed and with the sales drop in September, I decided to make another attempt to advertise in BookBub. By now, my novel had garnered 37 reviews on Amazon, and the overwhelming majority of them were 4 or 5 star reviews. My application was successful. I paid $180 in advance and scheduled the promotion.
Another major advantage of selling books solely through Amazon's Kindle Direct Publishing is that I can change the price at will. On October 1st, I lowered the price to $0.99. The BookBub advertisement was scheduled for October 3rd, giving me two days to try promoting the discounted book by myself on Facebook and Twitter. My own efforts did not result in more than a handful of sales. And then the newsletter came out.
The wording in the advertisement is BookBub's. I would never have thought to describe my novel as a cross between "Taken" and Indiana Jones. But, it did the trick! When I checked my book's ranking on Amazon the next day, it had peaked at 176th place in the overall ranking for the paid Kindle Store. In the Action and Adventure category, the book was listed in 10th place, behind the likes of Dan Brown, Tom Clancy, and Daniel Silva. In the Travel Adventure Fiction category, my book was ranked in first place.
I hesitated about checking how these great rankings translated into actual sales. I decided I would only look at the Kindle reports at the end of the week-long discount. Also, there was one additional element of the promotion.
Results of my promotion
For the discount period, I had basically put all my eggs into one basket, spending money only on the BookBub advertisement. However, I had a good feeling for EReader News Today, the newsletter that had helped me "sell" more than 8,000 free copies of my book back in March. With this newsletter, you don't pay in advance, but rather a percentage of the sales recorded as having taken place through the link they provide. A short advertisement appeared in this newsletter on October 7th, however, as I would later see in the statistics, not too many sales took place as a result.
When I finally checked my reports, I was amazed to see that I had sold 910 copies of Valley of Thracians. And that was just on Amazon.com, as there were a few sales at Amazon's Canadian and UK sites. You can easily do the math. 910 copies at 35 cents royalty each is $318. I had more than covered the expense of the advertisement. And a few additional sales were made after the book went back to its original price of $4.99.
Was it worth it? Absolutely. I could not have afforded advertising the book at its original price and I certainly would not have sold as many books if I had not reduced the price to $0.99. I highly recommend advertising through BookBub, as their newsletters reach exactly the kind of audience that will be interested in your book.
** How My Book Became an Amazon Bestseller (for 3 Days)
** The Kindle Author Who Has Never Seen a Kindle
** How I Found My Editor