Every morning, I receive an email from Bookbub with a slew of 99 cent deals that I may be interested in, and every morning I scroll through the list of books that are tailored to my interests. More often than not I find a book worth purchasing—how can I say no to a New York Times bestseller for $1.99? Websites like Bookbub and Freebooksy, a similar service that alerts you to daily free e-book deals, are a great tool for readers who like bargains.
But for indie authors, are websites like Bookbub and Freebooksy worth their price? Bookbub is not a cheap service, and it’s a very selective one at that. Depending on the genre of your book and length of promotion, you might be dropping anywhere from $300 to $700 to be listed on their daily newsletters and website for your bargain. Freebooksy costs less and has a wide audience as well—a listing on their site won’t break your bank, and they are nowhere near as selective as Bookbub. That being said, we used both BookBub and Freebooksy for authors, and they both delivered.
BookBub, although amazing, is more complicated. We worked with an indie author who had a great medical thriller e-book that we thought BookBub would immediately grab, because his book was glowingly reviewed by Publishers Weekly, even receiving a starred review. But BookBub rejected our request to pay $600 to have his book listed—twice. (Note: BookBub does not ask you to pay upfront. You select the genre and price listed, but only if they accept do they then bill you.)
Each time your book is rejected by BookBub, you must wait a month before requesting a listing again. Although it’s disappointing, that rejection gives you a 30 day window to receive more editorial and Amazon reviews, which is exactly what we did. Third time was the charm, and we were invited to list our book on the Thrillers/Mysteries page for one week on BookBub.
Our author’s book did amazing on Amazon—the thriller ended up in the top ten e-books on its first day of listing. As the days wore by for his week-long promotion, the book dropped from the top 10 to the top 15th bestselling book, the 40th, etc…It stayed in the top 100 e-books for the entire week, and as the weeks wore by the book gained many Amazon reviews. He sold a few thousand books through the BookBub promotion too, from what I remember. However, once the promotion was over, we were back to a few e-book sales a day.
Our promotion on FreeBooksy for an author who had a contemporary mystery had similar luck—his book received many downloads and was a bestseller in free contemporary fiction, but the author and his publisher made virtually no money. The goal, however, was different: we submitted the book and paid a nominal fee to be listed for a single day, and we were focused on the idea that people would download the book and review it on Amazon, which they did.
So, are promotional marketing tools like BookBub and FreeBooksy worth their price? Depending on what you’re looking for, yes—but keep in mind services like these provide quick fixes, and can’t be relied on for building consistent sales or a loyal audience for authors.