By now I’m sure just about every indie author has heard about Bookbub. I seemed to have heard about them later than others, but I’ve used them a few times now for advertizing. And although their results are better than anywhere else, I believe that there are some concerns with their site. Read on…
Bookbub – Bookbub Indie Savior?
I’m stealing that headline from Rob Guthrie. He wrote an interesting post a while back about Bookbub and their editorial staff. If you haven’t read the post, it’s worth getting another indie author’s perspective on Bookbub. One thing Rob notes is:
The Bub better be careful. The window of success for businesses who treat their clientele like meal tickets rather than valued partners is very small. Microscopic in the long run.
I’m feeling a bit like Rob these days, especially as Bookbub continues to raise its prices, reject books that should be accepted, do very little to answer questions, and does not verify that their mailing list is indeed as large as they state (more on this below). So what’s my deal with Bookbub? I’m glad you asked…
Bookbub – Bookbub’s Numbers
Bookbub claims to have over one million subscribers for their daily email blasts. That’s quite a number, one that they never verify (believe me, authors have asked them to but never get an answer from Bookbub). Bookbub also has a page that breaks down their pricing (you’ll choke when you see it) and averages on book downloads. Let’s take the mystery category. Right now, Bookbub states that this list has 770,000+ subscribers. Free book downloads average 17,000, with a range of 8,000 to 25,800. Discounted books average 1,730 sold with a range of 250 to 4,720.
Bookbub – Breaking Down The Numbers
Let’s say that Bookbub’s numbers are true. What then should the indie author be able to expect? In email marketing, a decent click-through rate would be 1% to 2%. Really good click-through rates would be 5% or higher. So, is Bookbub delivering? We should expect at minimum 1%. Let’s check it out, using their highest numbers in the mystery category:
4,720 / 770,000 = 0.0061298701298701
Wow. Bookbub delivers at a whopping 0.6% rate. Not good at all (especially for the price they charge). And herein lies my main issue with Bookbub…
Bookbub – The Cost
The main complaint I hear from indie authors is that Bookbub is SO expensive. And rightly so. Don’t believe me? Right now, to advertize a 99 cent book is $520. To advertize a book at $2+ is more than my mortgage payment! Think about that.
Of course Bookbub can charge what they want, but wouldn’t you expect that such a costly site would have a better click-through (sales) rate? Now I’m sure many of you are saying but I’m getting more sales than I have anywhere else. Yep, me too. But don’t be fooled. You should be expecting more from Bookbub, and they need to hear this.
On a side note, I fill out the feedback form every time I do a listing. This last time was the first that I had a book offered on other sites, and when I gave Bookbub my numbers, I forgot to include Barnes & Noble. And I also quoted my numbers based on the one day that the Bookbub listing ran. Boy, their staff came back within minutes that I’d reported the numbers wrong. And they were only partly correct. They’d included all sales since the listing, not just for that day. So they are sensitive to their numbers, but I also think they are erroneous in how they figure out what they charge. Here’s why.
Bookbub – What They Should Focus On
Bookbub focuses on the wrong thing, in my humble opinion. They look at their email list (questionable, and some are wondering if they’re buying their lists, which would be really bad for them if that ever comes out) and say wow, we’ll charge you based on how many people are on the list. Then they say the author get 35% or 70% of the listing price, which is also not true. Authors pay a delivery fee, depending on the size of the ebook, and royalty rates are also dependent on whether an author is enrolled in KDP Select or not. But Bookbub doesn’t care. And finally, just looking at the download numbers is wrong, again, based on the royalty rate. It take a lot more downloads to break even if you’re royalty rate is 35%. Bookbub should be thinking about this. But again, they don’t.
And this is all wrong on their part. They should be charging on the click-through rate, which would be more fair to those advertizing on Bookbub, and it would encourage authors to continue using the site (without the growing grumbling). But again, they don’t care. They should (read Rob’s post for reasoning on this), but they don’t. They should be concerned that authors are only breaking even or barely making a profit. Why? They want authors to come back, and the more authors don’t make money, the more likely they’ll look elsewhere. Yes, it may take some time, but it will happen.
Another concern is that the more readers see the same books on Bookbub (i.e. an author advertises the same book every six months), the effectiveness of the listing could go down. Now, maybe not. Maybe a reader who passed the previous time decides to buy the book this time. I don’t know, but at $260+ on up for advertizing, the risk becomes greater.
Bookbub – Indie Author Expectations
Well, I’ve broken even or made a little money on most of my Bookbub listings.
Call me crazy, but wouldn’t you want to do more than break even or make a few dollars when you advertize? Yes, I realize that we’re looking for new readers and new reviews and more exposure, but at what point do you want more than a break-even scenario? This isn’t a good long-term marketing formula. And yes, I know some of you have done very well, but I suspect this isn’t the vast majority, or Bookbub’s numbers would reflect this. And again, using the same site over and over again to boost your sales or keep the sales high may lead to ineffective advertizing there.
Bookbub – The Editorial Team
Another issue I have is their selection/editorial process. I recently submitted The Maltese Felon for consideration. It’s the third novel in the Reed Ferguson mystery series. It should be exactly what Bookbub is looking for, as their readers would want more in the series. Bookbub should be looking at the whole series and making their decision based on that, not just that The Maltese Felon only has 5 5-star reviews. But the book is not what their readers want…really? And, as others have noted, some of what they accept seems pretty sketchy, so you wonder if they’re looking at anything but the money. Not good if you’re advertizing there. For the cost, we should expect more from the editorial team.
Bookbub – Their Help
And lastly, I think for as much as we pay for listings, we should expect more from Bookbub when it comes to support, and our questions. I realize they get inundated with listing requests, but there ought to be a bit more feedback on why a listing was denied. If an editorial team really is checking each book, it wouldn’t take that long to send standard emails that break down why you’re listing was rejected (not enough reviews, poor quality etc.) instead of one standard email.
Will I continue to use Bookbub? Sure, with reservations. I’m also looking for other sites to give Bookbub competition. If you haven’t checked out The Fussy Librarian you should, and you should get all your readers to sign up there. More competition will force Bookbub to be more equitable. And that would be good for all indie authors.
Alas, Bookbub will be around for some time, but it will become more and more difficult to get a listing there. From what I see on my daily emails, they are focusing more on mainstream-published books (they get more money that way), and as more indie authors submit, the higher competition will mean many get rejected. I do hope sites like The Fussy Librarian take off (especially because The Fussy Librarian vows not to charge mortgage prices to advertize there), but that remains to be seen.
I’m sure many of you will tell me how great Bookbub has been for you, that you’ve had great results, and that’s fine. Just remember, the numbers in and of themselves isn’t the point of the post :).
Does anyone know of other sites to advertize where you feel that you’re getting good results? Let us know. Thanks!