14 June 2019

The Results of My BookBub International Deal

The email newsletter

About a month after releasing GLOVED HEART, my second book, I submitted the first book (in the same series) for a BookBub deal in all markets after not trying for a couple of years. I nearly fell off my chair when I got the email through saying I’d got a featured deal for THE VAGABOND VICAR. When I calmed down enough to understand the text in the message, I realised that the deal would exclude the United States – it was “international” only. (I put that in inverted commas because I live “internationally”.) This means it is sent to customers who are registered for the markets in Canada, Australia, India and the UK (who are interested in historical romance). I was actually a little relieved about the deal being more limited, as publishing an indie book is expensive and I was apprehensive about spending the huge fee for a US deal. This would be tipping my toe in the water.

I haven’t paid for any significant advertising before. I’ve only boosted a couple of Facebook posts on releasing my books. To be honest I want to wait until I have at least three books out before I start doing any regular advertising. But everyone says to keep trying for BookBub and I thought it might be a good way to have people read through to book two. So did it work? Did I sell enough to get my money back? And are there any long-lasting effects?

Time Pressure and Pricing

The first thing to note is that I was told about getting the featured deal on May the 9th. The deal was to be on May the 19th (US time). Ten days is not really enough time to plan much other paid activity to coincide with the deal (except AMS and FB). I looked at some other major websites like ENT, and I was well short of their deadlines. So I have no idea how people manage to coordinate everything, except that they must already be planning a deal and give BookBub fixed dates. The people at BookBub do say that being flexible with dates will help you get accepted – so it’s a catch 22. The only things I did to promote the deal was to post on Twitter and Facebook.
My feature in the email

While on the subject of getting accepted – the main thing I did different this time around was to follow Bella Andre’s advice and put lots of good reviews and write-ups in the comments part of the submission form. So maybe that helped? Don’t be modest! I also submitted a deal for $0.99, when I’ve only really tried $1.99 in the past.

Kindle Countdown and Royalty Fail

I set up a Kindle Countdown deal in the UK first, as keeping the 70% royalty sounded good. It also puts a countdown timer on your listing which must drive some urgency. This is my first term in KDP Select for either book, so this is the first time I’ve tried this stuff. Figuring out the UK time zone vs the US one was a bit of a mind-bend (particularly when you live in a different time zone again!).

When I went to change the prices in the other markets a few days before the sale, I found that in order to reduce my prices to $0.99 or equivalent, I had to change to the 35% royalty in ALL markets, including the UK. So the main benefit of doing the Kindle Countdown deal was taken away. The countdown deal was also quite stressful as you are relying on Amazon to change the price at the right time, and not being registered for Amazon UK I had to ask people over there to check the price for me at obscene times of the night. Being able to change the price yourself in advance (even though you may have to wait 72 hours) at least gives you a good chance of it actually happening for the sale date.

Of course I only got 35% for sales in the US as well during the promotional period, even though the deal didn’t apply there. I do wish Amazon would not apply a global royalty percentage to allow you to run promotions more effectively. Right! On to…

#1 bestseller in Canada and Australia
The Results

BookBub tells you how many subscribers the email will go to and the “average sales” for each book featured. (There is no information on clicks or anything else that might be more helpful.) Going by that average, I would have no problem breaking even on sales alone (not accounting for KU page reads). On the morning after the deal went live (about 12 hours in), I eagerly checked my phone expecting hundreds of sales. There were 80. Which is outstanding for me on a regular day, but less than I’d been hoping for.

When I finally managed to get to my computer and check on detailed category rankings (toddler wrangling taking priority for a few hours first), I was thrilled to find a “#1 bestseller” banner on my Canadian listing. Australia followed soon after. The UK peaked at #2. India never really fired – only a few sales (although it did get to #61). I got pretty high in the overall Kindle rankings too - 57 in Canada, 103 in Australia, 613 in UK, and 1,754 in India. I stayed high in the rankings all day, and for most of the next day.

#1 in Regency Romance
Sales continued to trickle in for the rest of the first day, reaching 110. Page reads were 1,182, which was a few hundred better than I’d achieved in the few months I’d been in KU. The next day, sales dropped to 53, but page reads went up to 3,296. It was quite frustrating seeing the tiny royalties with the 35%, but I just had to think about the visibility I was getting as the main bonus. Days 3-6 (the rest of the sale) were at much lower levels for sales, but the page reads stayed consistent between 2,200 and 3,200 every day.

GLOVED HEART did get a few sales/reads as a result of the promotion, I think. It also cracked the top 100 in the UK (#68 when I remembered to check).

Once it was over I could add up everything, convert the earnings to my currency (NZD) and figure out whether it was all worth it.

Return on Investment

When I look at how much it actually cost me for the deal including currency conversion and fees, and then converting the royalties back again – I almost exactly broke even. Sales accounts for 58% of the revenue, KU page reads 42%. (Of course I could only estimate the revenue from KU page reads based on previous payouts.)

Total sales during the period were 187, well short of the “average” 390. I’m figuring the BookBub average sales number accounts for authors who have their books available on all the retailers, not just Amazon. But given Amazon makes up at least 75% of the ebook market, I don’t think this would have made too much different – the KU reads would make up the gap for most authors I think.

So I didn’t waste money, which is nice, although it would have been nicer to make some!

The figures above include sales of GLOVED HEART which were 2 ebooks and 3,412 page reads.

Longer-term benefits

It’s three weeks since the featured deal ran. Sales have gone back to trickling in, but they are trickling in those other markets (not counting India) which is great to see. Most of my sales have been in the US in the past, so having this visibility in those other markets really has been valuable.

More reviews are coming in too. I have had bloggers posting features and reviews for book 2 in the meantime which would have helped things along.

What’s changed – my KU page reads have remained much higher, ranging from 1,100 to 3,000 daily (previously they were 0-700). This is not an income by any stretch, but it’s a nice base to build on if and when I do more marketing in the future. And I can see that people are reading my books which is quite rewarding in itself.

The Amazon algorithms got to do their thing, with a lot of also-boughts popping up (when Amazon chooses to put them on and not just sponsored ads).

I got a handful more FB followers, email sign-ups and BookBub followers.

To sum up

It's nice to know that it doesn’t matter how long a book has been around for, you can always give it a boost with a targeted promotion. THE VAGABOND VICAR has been out since October 2014, but it now has many readers discovering it for the first time, and many of them also going on to read or purchase GLOVED HEART. I don't think book 1 not being a new release was any disadvantage.

Was it worth it doing the BookBub deal? I think undoubtedly yes. I didn't lose money during the deal, and I am still enjoying the benefits - mainly in page reads. I still think it would be more beneficial if I had more books out, but as it is I got to enjoy being a #1 best seller and some lovely feedback from readers. I'd encourage authors to keep applying for a deal, you never know when you'll get your moment in the sun.

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