This is a curated list of promotional sites that I personally use to sell books (I’ve booked ads in almost every genre other than romance and YA/MG). Last updated on Sept 12, 2018.
Note: Many sites offer “book of the day” options or special packages. Stick with the standard vanilla offerings; they often provide better results on a cost-per-download basis. There are exceptions, but it’s difficult to keep dozens of options straight, and expensive to separate the wheat from the extreme chaff.
Unless otherwise noted, these sites can be used for free and paid books. Some sites have review requirements; if you need reviews, learn how to get those here.
Top 4: Always, if Available
For Free Books
Author Cross Promos
These are generally free. A great way to cultivate quality also-boughts and/or generate mailing list subscribers.
Paid Newsletter Builders
Done For You
If scheduling promos is unappealing, you can book a service (for a fee) to do the heavy lifting for you.
Cost Per Download
I tested all these sites during the Spring/Summer/Fall of 2018 with my urban fantasy book Lightning Blade. It had around 195 – 200 reviews at this time, and featured the same cover during the tests; the Amazon description, however, varied. The book had run on many of the promo sites before; where this was its first time running, you’ll see “first run” noted in the column.
The book was permafree for these tests. Why? After a book is permafree for a little while, it produces a baseline trickle of daily downloads. I then subtracted this baseline from the total downloads produced on a given day to determine how many were from a given promotional site. I ran a single site per day—leaving a day or two between each ad—to make the numbers as accurate as possible.
Only Amazon downloads during the actual day of promotion are included (e.g. these numbers don’t include downloads from subsequent days, commonly referred to as the “tail”).
I’ve included a 2017 Bookbub run, FreeBooksy run on another urban fantasy book (Soul Storm), and results from a few other genres for the sake of comparison.
Important Notes on This List
My aim here has been to cull to the absolute essentials, rather than publishing a collection of garbage I’ve never actually tried. I can’t guarantee results; all I can say is that I assembled this list for my own use and refer to it when booking my own promos.
This list is constructed based on data and experience: I’ve spent $30k+ on promos over the past four years. In the beginning, I lit a substantial amount of money on fire.
I’d like to spare you a similar fate.
To answer the inevitable “why isn’t site X included?” objections: I’ve probably tried site X – likely multiple times – and was underwhelmed. Many sites produce no discernible results at all; others provide some “pop” but are so overpriced that you’ll be swimming in a sea of red. These can be useful during special circumstances (e.g. gunning for the USA Today Bestseller List), but you’re usually better off saving your money.
I’ve seen authors claim there is “no harm” in listing all sites – or, worse, submitting to tons of them. It’s important to address this point, since it’s incorrect for three reasons:
A Quick Guide to Effective Advertising
While it’s wonderful to see your sales graph spike upwards, buying sales at a premium is not a smart way to run a business. Never pay for visibility alone (e.g. a ranking boost). 99.9% of the time your book ends up right where it started 1 week after the promo concludes (e.g. the cellar).
Always have a concrete goal when running a promotion:
The number one rule of promotion: structure your promos to produce an upward trending sales curve over a 3 – 10 day span:
Why? Amazon’s algorithms aren’t favorable toward sharp spikes. Spreading sales out mimics organic buying activity, which in turn maximizes visibility and your promotion’s tail. The tail is the sales period after your promos end. A good tail will produce a significant chunk of revenue, as your series continues to sell from the visibility you generated during the promo. With a little luck, you can even get sticky – which is when your book stays at a high Amazon rank and continually sells without additional marketing. This is rare, but can obviously be quite lucrative.
In practice, this means you should schedule your promos like this:
Traffic sources like your newsletter, social media accounts and so forth can supplement the promo sites to help create an upward trending sales history. Just slot them in according to their firepower – if you expect 5 sales from Twitter and 15 from your mailing list, put the former on Day 1 and the latter on Day 2.
You can’t predict exactly how many sales you’ll get from any source, so just estimate. It’s okay if there’s a dip on Day 3 or 6; we just want to be generally trending upward and end with a bang on the last day.
Important: the first time you use a promo site on a book will be the most effective. If a site generates 50 sales on the first run, expect it to produce 20 – 30 sales on a second run for the same book. Use that first promo blast wisely, because none of the subsequent runs will match it. BookBub is exempt from this “rule”; sales hold much steadier from run to run, although there is an occasional drop off depending on genre.
Do not use a site on the same title more often than once every six months. Optimally, to minimize the decline in second/third/fourth run sales, wait a year before using a site on the same title again. This does not apply to Bookbub—but they’ll only run the same book once every six months, anyway.
You can mitigate the second run decline by advertising your book at a different price point. This typically means running the book for $0.99 the first time, then six months (or more) later, you run it for free. The decline in effectiveness will be much more muted, because even though you’re reusing the same site, you’re hitting a different part of their subscriber base.
There are other reliable ways to maximize your promotional efforts – both paid and otherwise. A few of these include:
For more on optimal book promotion strategies, check out the Ultimate Guide to Promotion.