kdp select bookbubThis post is a spiritual successor of sorts to KDP Select: The Secret to Hitting the Top 100 and KDP Select: Is it Still Worth it? Thoughts for 2013You might want to read those first, you might not — it’s your call.

Yes, another KDP Select post.

A couple of weeks back, I told you I’d be sampling a BookBub advertisement to coincide with my latest free promotion for What We Saw. I’ve been hearing a lot of good things about BookBub lately, mainly from J.A. Konrath, who took a u-turn on his ‘no advertising’ approach to eBooks to sing the praises of the website.

What is BookBub?

If you aren’t already aware, BookBub is an absolutely enormous mailing list with over one million subscribers. The premise is this: you sign up, select the genres of fiction/non-fiction that most interest you, and BookBub send you an email of three or four ‘Daily Deals’ generally ranging from free books to $2.99.

What sets BookBub aside from the other mailing lists? Well, I believe it is this targeted genre tactic. It tailors to your own interests as a reader, not to mention offers a focused number of books. Sometimes, these ‘book deal’ mailing lists are so sprawling and messy that it just isn’t worth trawling through them. BookBub, therefore, is a refreshing change.

But anyway, I digress. We’re only here for one reason, and one question.

How can BookBub help my KDP Select free promotion?

Short answer? More than you could ever imagine.

Slightly longer answer? Okay, but a bit of context first.

On Wednesday 27th March, What We Saw began its second big free promotion with KDP Select. I scheduled the free promotion to run for three days, coinciding with the Easter weekend. I took my usual steps that have brought me success in the past (I won’t go over them in detail again, so check the links at the top for info) — checked my eBook files, notified the major free promotional websites, and updated the info on my website. The BookBub ad was set to go live on Friday 29th, so I expected the promotion to go out with a bang and bring in a healthy amount of weekend sales.

By Thursday evening, I was a little underwhelmed.

Very few of the big free promotional sites had mentioned me, apart from one in Germany, which really boosted downloads over on Amazon.de (thank you!). Instead of the 11,000 in two days of my previous KDP Select free promotion, I’d given away around 1,000, which is nowhere near enough downloads to catalyse a post-free sales boost. All my hopes were with BookBub.

By Friday evening, I was in awe.

What We Saw sat at the top of the overall Amazon.com charts. The moment the BookBub emails went out, copies were being downloaded in the thousands. So many, in fact, that I decided to extend my promotion to Sunday evening. My hunch was that the new found exposure guaranteed me a spot in the top rankings for another couple of days at the very least, and this proved correct, staying in the top four for the remainder of the weekend.

How many books did I give away?

20,000? Pah. 30,000? Nah.

How about 40,775 on Amazon.com alone?

I went into the BookBub promotion a sceptic and came out a believer. A quick glance at today’s free charts on Amazon.com reveal, unsurprisingly, a list of the books recently advertised on BookBub. If KDP Select was the big shortcut to indie nirvana in 2012, then BookBub is the best way to boost sales and visibility in 2013, and used in conjunction with KDP Select, it’s heaven.

But BookBub costs a lot, right?

Right. I think I paid something around the £150 mark for my advertisement, which was a major risk. However, I’ve made that back already with my post-free sales boost, and am beginning to see profit. At the moment, if you’ve got a quality book with a nice cover, I think it’s worth taking that financial investment. If everything breaks right, you’ll make the money back in no time.

So, I’ll be submitting What We Saw again next month, then?

Unfortunately not. Not only have I used my five free KDP Select days at once, but BookBub runs a (rather wise) 90 day policy, whereby it refuses to feature the same book more than once every 90 days. They also run a 30 day policy for authors too, so no shortcutting there.

However, with websites like BookBub, it is clear to see how a writing career can be forged without much fuss. If you have three books, that’s one BookBub promotion every thirty days (if you’re lucky) whether with KDP Select or simply a discount. With six books, the path becomes even clearer.

Main lessons learned

My second major KDP Select free promotion has taught me a few things.

Firstly, it’s much harder to be mentioned by the major free websites since the Amazon affiliate changes. With the focus turning to discount books over free books, it really is hit and miss with a lot of those sites now.

Secondly, if you aren’t mentioned by any of those major free websites, then your KDP Select free promotion will probably struggle. I was lingering around the 1,000 mark and my free promotion was fizzing out until BookBub came along, so again, my argument a couple of months back of the importance of these websites stands. It might be harder to get a mention, but you should still absolutely give it a shot if you aren’t planning a BookBub ad.

And finally, BookBub really does work. It shot me to the top of the Amazon charts and has boosted sales since. Sure, it’s costly on the surface, but I see that as more of an investment than anything else. If everything breaks right, you’ll make that money back in a day.

In independent publishing, we spend far too much time searching for the next big thing, when in fact what we should be doing is using the best tools available to us right now. Sure, Amazon KDP Select might not be as easy to break as it once was, and BookBub’s bound to decrease in influence as membership numbers increase, but right now? They work, and until they don’t, I’ll continue to use them.

Have you tried a BookBub promotion? Do you have any reservations about doing so? How has KDP Select worked for you in 2013 so far?