Ah, the near-mythical BookBub Featured Deal: often whispered about, but rarely witnessed in the wild.
Okay, not quite. Plenty of authors get Featured Deals. But they’re tough to snag, largely because BookBub Featured Deals are the most cost-effective and powerful paid marketing tool at an independent author’s disposal. They can return 2x, 5x, or even 10x their cost (if you have a long series with solid sellthrough). This isn’t news to anyone who’s been indie publishing for long, of course, which makes these deals notoriously difficult to get due to high competition. BookBub themselves indicate that they accept fewer than 20% of submissions; I’d estimate for the coveted US deals (which are far more powerful than their international counterparts), that number is actually below 5%.
Those sound like long odds. What can you do, then, to increase your shot at bagging an elusive BookBub Featured Deal?
Such is the subject of this 3,900 word guide. A point of clarification before we delve further: this guide focuses on how to get more Featured Deals, which are curated (i.e., you must be accepted by BookBub to run one). The pay-per-click ads at the bottom of the various BookBub emails are self-serve and available at any time, without prior approval.
You may wonder what qualifies me to opine on this particular subject. The answer is simple: I’ve had 40+ BookBub Featured Deals for myself or the authors I’ve published under my account over the past 10 years, and gotten plenty more for clients.
My system is simple—and while there are no silver bullets or guarantees, it works with persistence. There are no secrets, per se, although it’s likely that you’ll find a trick or two here that you haven’t used previously, even if you’re a seasoned indie author (true ninja tricks are at the end).
Also, as a matter of full disclosure, this is based solely on my personal experiences from submitting to BookBub hundreds of times over the years. It is not based on actual conversations with their staff or inside information.
So without further preamble, let’s hop straight in with whether the deals are still even worth it.
IS BOOKBUB STILL WORTH IT?
I get asked this question sometimes, so we’ll begin here. This refers to the full-powered deal, where your book runs to either BookBub’s US list only or both their US and international lists (UK / CA / AU).
So is BookBub still worth it, then, in 2023? That would be an unequivocal yes. I’ve run and managed a ton of marketing campaigns built around these deals over the years. A single one lost a modest amount of money. There are no sure things in publishing, but there is no other book marketing tactic that can:
- 2x – 10x your investment
- Be implemented in two minutes or less
- Sell thousands of copies or generate tens of thousands of free downloads in a single day, thus bringing in hundreds of new readers and dozens of new newsletter subscribers.
Even if the sole benefit was #3, and you were running the deals at a modest loss, they would still be worthwhile from a platform and career building perspective. That a deal also almost always produces a sizable return, often on the same day that it runs, makes a BookBub Featured Deal as close to a sure thing as exists in this business.
This question persists, I think, because people sometimes have unrealistic expectations. There’s an ongoing myth that a single BookBub possesses career-making power. While a mega BookBub has kickstarted a few authors’ careers, those have always been isolated, moonshot incidents that garner a lot of attention precisely because of their rarity. I’ve had some great BookBubs that have helped generate $10k – $15k in series revenue over the course of a month for clients, but I’ve never experienced anything resembling a “your career is now established” impact. A BookBub is just another brick in your publishing journey, albeit one often gilded in gold or silver.
A couple notes to further temper unrealistic expectations: BookBub Deals are still powerful, but Amazon’s algorithms don’t offer nearly as much organic visibility in 2023 as they once did. Some placements on Amazon that once showed organic recommendations are now reserved for Amazon Ads. This means the tail (sales and visibility in the days / weeks following the deal) is often shorter, especially if you’re not advertising after the deal ends. And second, sellthrough (people buying other books in the series) from the sales and free downloads generated by promotional newsletters (of which BookBub is the largest) has generally declined over the years.
Neither of these factors means you shouldn’t apply for these deals. They simply mean the tail and overall impact of Featured Deals compared to past years is unlikely to be the same. As such, if you’re reading past case studies or digging through old data, recalibrate your expectations based on the current marketing landscape, rather than something that happened in 2014.
ARE THE INTERNATIONAL DEALS WORTH IT?
The International-only Featured Deals have a far less explosive impact than their US brethren. But they still usually clear a profit, and if not, tend to at worst break even (assuming you have a series).
Thus, from a reader acquisition perspective alone they’re worthwhile.
But the International Deals have an unstated, hidden benefit: BookBub uses them as a proving ground for the more competitive US deals. If you’ve been knocking down BookBub’s submission door for months, and they finally offer an International Deal, don’t scoff at this. BookBub is a data-driven company intent on featuring books that resonate well with their subscriber base. So a good showing with an International Deal increases that book’s chances of getting a future US Featured Deal.
For the skeptical: this is not made-up, hypothetical bullshit. This has happened to me multiple times, where a book did well on International Deal and was subsequently offered a US Deal later.
ARE THE NEW RELEASES for LESS DEALS WORTH IT?
BookBub New Releases for Less (formerly known as BookBub Featured New Releases) differ in three key ways from Featured Deals:
- They’re only for new books (you can only submit a book up until the day it’s released)
- They’re significantly less powerful
- They’re extremely unlikely to be directly profitable (or anywhere close)
Authors expecting something close to the Featured Deal in terms of impact will be disappointed by the performance of the New Releases for Less. This is likely why many authors believe they aren’t worth running. So let’s be clear right away and calibrate expectations accordingly: if you need the New Release for Less deal to drive a profit or break even by itself, it is not the right marketing tool for that job.
Does that make the New Releases for Less useless, then? Not so fast. Because they can produce a good amount of sales volume, a New Release for Less deal can help you drive significant visibility as part of a larger launch push. When you’re trying to spend a lot of money for a launch ($3,000+) that can be very useful because there are few marketing tools that can generate 50 – 100 sales in a day. Thus, while these deals are unlikely to be directly profitable, they can help drive algorithmic visibility on Amazon that, in turn, becomes profitable (or helps you build a readership for the series).
A couple general guidelines for using the New Releases for Less:
- Use them for visibility as part of a larger promo / marketing stack for your launch. As a rule of thumb, if you’re spending less than $3,000 on a launch, you probably don’t want to throw a New Release for Less into the mix yet. At a lower level of spend there are other marketing options that will likely be more efficient from a cost per sale perspective.
- They’re going to drive significantly more sales volume (and thus, visibility) at 99c than full price. I wouldn’t generally recommend using a New Release for Less unless the new release is being discounted to 99c; that’s the only price point at which you’d potentially see 50 – 100 sales (this will vary by genre, too, of course).
WHAT TITLES SHOULD I SUBMIT?
Returning to the topic of Featured Deals, if your books have to be read in order, you’re limited to submitting Book 1s and box sets (say, Books 1 – 3 or the complete series) for BookBub’s consideration.
If your books can be read in any order, a la Jack Reacher, then you can, and should, submit any book and box set that’s currently eligible.
Note that sometimes BookBub will only accept a certain title once. Thus, if you’ve gotten a deal for Book 1 already, you may choose to retire that from the submission rotation if you find it’s consistently getting rejected (say, for a solid year or more), in favor of a different series or a latter book in that series that has not received a Featured Deal. However, I’d caution against disqualifying yourself; I’d only remove a title from the rotation if you have enough other titles to consistently submit without any gaps between submissions. Always strive to have something in the submission fire for Featured Deal consideration.
FREE or PAID?
I’ll accept any deal BookBub throws my way. But deals on free books are both significantly cheaper and tend to be better performers if you have a decent length series. This is because of download volume: in a genre like thriller, you might sell 1,500 or 2,000 copies of a novel at 99c. But you might be able to push 30,000 or 40,000+ downloads if it’s free. That’s a lot more people who can then go on to pick up Books 2, 3, 4, and so forth.
I would not recommend submitting for deals at price points higher than 99c. This is not something I’ve personally tested (I’ve only run deals at free or 99c), but the cost of the Featured Deal itself rises significantly at $1.99, $2.99 etc. That makes it considerably more difficult to earn back your money. And also remember that one of the main benefits of a BookBub Featured Deal is sales / download volume, which will be greatly reduced at prices higher than 99c.
WILL THIS SYSTEM WORK IN MY GENRE?
There are certain niche sub-genres that BookBub really doesn’t run Featured Deals for. That exact list would be too granular to include here, and there are always exceptions to the rule. But it’s unlikely, for example, that a LitRPG book is going to be accepted for a Featured Deal. Not impossible, but in certain genres it’s probably not going to happen.
Subscribe to the BookBub email to get the lay of your genre’s land. But don’t disqualify yourself if you don’t immediately spot books like yours. You could always be the exception to the rule. The only way to give yourself a chance is to submit.
Onward to the flight check.
FLIGHT CHECK: BLURB and COVER
For BookBub to have a shot at accepting your book, two things need to be in order: the cover and the blurb. While they may look at other elements, the cover and blurb make the biggest impact on their editorial decision-making for a simple reason: BookBub wants to send their readers books they’ll like and be interested in. And the cover and blurb are the two key factors when it comes to whether a reader buys a book or walks away.
And yes, while the occasional cover that looks like it was made by a blind dog with a set of popsicle sticks gets accepted, that is not a good strategy to employ. If you’re applying the system below consistently without success, and your book is in a sub-genre that BookBub regularly runs, give your cover and blurb a hard look. A change to either (or both) could shift the acceptance tides.
FLIGHT CHECK: PAGE LENGTH
BookBub requires your book to be 150 pages to be eligible for a Featured Deal. Some novels and titles that hit this threshold are ineligible, however, due to Amazon’s conservative estimated page count feature. This estimated page count is shown on your book’s Amazon page when you don’t have a paperback version available. As an example, my novel Drop Dead is around 46,000 words and clocked in at 175 estimated pages. The actual paperback version, however, is 205 (without including additional content or changing the formatting). Obviously this particular title would qualify for BookBub regardless, but if your estimated page count is 135 pages, for example, that conservative estimate would prevent you from submitting your title.
The solution, then, is simple: publish a paperback version and make sure that Amazon syncs the eBook and paperback versions together so that it displays the paperback page count.
Now let’s talk about that system, shall we?
STEP 1: ACTUALLY SUBMIT
I realize that you were expecting ninja tricks when it comes to this Ultra Special Get More BookBubs System™, and are immediately threatening to close the browser window. However, bear with me for a moment; less obvious tactics will be unveiled shortly.
But the first step in this business of increasing the number of BookBubs you get is simple: submit as often as possible.
Most people give up after one or two submissions, hence why they don’t receive regular BookBubs. There are two primary reasons for this: discouragement and feeling it’s “not worth it” from a time perspective. To address the former, if you’re taking the rejections personally, don’t; as stated in the introduction, your chances of acceptance are probably less than 5%, so this is purely a numbers game, not a referendum on the quality of your book. As for the latter sentiment…when one has encountered 20 or 30 rejections in a row, it’s tempting to declare this whole BookBub enterprise a giant waste of time and throw in the towel.
The math suggests otherwise.
Let’s say that consistently submitting to BookBub takes 10 – 15 minutes total per month. At 10 minutes per month, that’s 2 hours of total work per year. At 15 minutes, 3 hours per year.
One Featured Deal could make $1000, $2,000, $5,000 or $10,000.
Then let’s take one of the worst case scenarios: 3 hours of work a year. And you only get one deal. And it only makes you $1000.
That’s still $333/hr.
If you still invest 3 hours of work, but instead get 3 deals that make $5,000 each, then all of a sudden you’re making $5,000/hr.
So, completely ignoring the massive long-term reader / platform building benefits of selling a ton of books, would you jump at getting paid $300/hr? $500/hr? $1000/hr? $2,000/hr? What about $5,000/hr?
I rest my case.
Always have an iron in the BookBub fire. When one book gets rejected, mark the next available submission date on the calendar, then submit the next one.
To that end, a trick to help you increase submission volume…
STEP 2: SUBMIT AT 99c, THEN FREE
This trick is particularly useful when you have a smaller catalog or when you have a series that must be read in order and are thus limited to submitting Book 1 / box sets only.
Like the rest of the tips in this guide, it’s simple. First submit the book or box set for 99c. If it’s rejected, BookBub will note that you have to wait four weeks before resubmitting. However, you can resubmit the same title immediately at a lower price without waiting four weeks, thus effectively doubling your monthly submissions.
So if a title was rejected at 99c, submit it again immediately for free. Submitting for free won’t make sense for box sets in most scenarios, but for the individual books, submit at 99c then free.
(And yes, this does work, and I have had a book accepted for free right after being rejected at 99c.)
STEP 3: SUBMIT 99c BOX SETS
BookBub loves 99c box sets. If you’re having difficulty getting the individual books accepted, then add the box set to the mix.
STEP 4: GO WIDE
While I wouldn’t go wide for the sole purpose of getting a BookBub, the massive decrease in difficulty in acquiring BookBubs is a key benefit of being wide. In certain genres (supernatural suspense, for example) it’s rare to get a BookBub for a Kindle Unlimited exclusive title. In others (romance, thrillers, crime), while it’s more difficult snagging one being KU exclusive than wide, it is a realistic possibility with persistence.
BONUS: SUBMIT TO CHIRP
Chirp is BookBub’s audiobook deals newsletter. If you have any eligible audiobooks, submit those consistently to Chirp as well.
ADHERENCE: THE SIMPLE TRICK
Surely the system outlined above demands some sort of elaborate tracking methodology or tremendous feat of memory to remember to submit in the midst of all the other things one must do as an indie author.
Not so. The simple trick to keeping the submission furnace stoked: use each rejection email as a trigger to submit again. That is, when you see the rejection email in your inbox, use that as a nudge to immediately head over to the BookBub dashboard and submit again.
That’s it. No elaborate tracking required, just a simple 30 second habit. As for knowing when a certain title is eligible for submission again: you have two options. The first is, upon rejection, to mark on your calendar or notes when a title will be eligible for submission next. The second is to simply look at your submission history occasionally. If it’s been more than four weeks since you last submitted a book, toss that title back into the fire.
With our system established, we’ll close with a few ninja tricks that can increase your chances of bagging that elusive Featured Deal.
NINJA TRICK: EDITORIAL REVIEWS
Before explaining this trick, I want to be very clear: you should only do this when you can lose the money invested in the review and if you’ve submitted a book consistently for a long time without any luck. I would also make sure that you have a solid cover and blurb prior to testing this trick. With that disclaimer out of the way, if you’re subscribed to the BookBub email in your genre (go subscribe if you haven’t done so yet), you’ll have noticed a consistent pattern of professional review quotes within the book teasers.
Not all of the deals have review quotes, of course. It is by no means a prerequisite to being accepted. But BookBub’s editors like professional reviews, and having one can nudge your book over the approval edge. Thus, if you’re struggling, you can get a professional review from a source like Kirkus. If there’s a decent pullquote, adding that to the Amazon description can tilt the odds in your favor versus another similar title that might have been submitted to BookBub at the same time.
This is not a magic bullet. I want to repeat: if you do not have pro reviews, this is not remotely mandatory. None of my books have any professional reviews, nor do most of the ones I’ve submitted for clients. They’ve done just fine in the BookBub submission arena without them.
NINJA TRICK: STANDALONE NOVELS w/ SAME CHARACTER
If you have a series that must be read in order, you may find yourself running out of titles to submit. In some instances / genres, BookBub will really only run a title once. Then it’ll be an endless stream of rejections from there on out. In such cases, if you only have Book 1 + a box set to submit, that means you might only get two acceptances.
If, however, you have a standalone novel starring the same main character (or a spinoff set in the same world), but this particular novel is not part of the main series, you can add that to the submission mix. While I wouldn’t write a standalone novel outside the main series for the purpose of expanding your BookBub submission footprint, if it’s an asset you already have but were hesitant to submit to BookBub due to concerns over sellthrough, start submitting it. People will flow back to the main series as long as you direct them to it in the standalone’s back matter with a link and excerpt for Book 1 in the main series.
NINJA TRICK: PERMAFREE + KU
Under normal circumstances, I would not recommend mixing a permafree Book 1 while having the rest of the series in Kindle Unlimited (KU). It doesn’t tend to work well.
But with a BookBub, you can temporarily make Book 1 permafree while the rest of the series remains in KU and have it still be effective. Naturally, I would prefer a free run on Book 1 with it also in KU when the rest of the series is in KU. But this trick can greatly increase your chances of getting the BookBub, since sometimes it’s nigh-impossible for an Amazon exclusive book to get accepted in certain genres.
After the BookBub, you can leave Book 1 permafree for a bit, or you can immediately take it down from the other retailers and put it back in Kindle Unlimited.
NINJA TRICK: THE PRE-ORDER BOOKBUB FEATURED DEAL + 99c BOX SET
We’ll close with this trick, which can be a powerful way to launch a deeply discounted box set. A BookBub during the first 30 days of release can produce a tremendous burst of revenue because you have the power of said BookBub combined with Amazon’s new release algorithms. These two elements working in tandem can be like nitro fuel. There’s obviously no way to guarantee that you’ll get the BookBub during the launch month, but by structuring your box set’s launch schedule strategically, you can at least give yourself more opportunity to harness that massive upside.
- Put your box set up for pre-order at least 2 – 3 weeks before its release date. Do so at full price.
- ~2 weeks before the release date, submit for a BookBub Featured Deal at 99c.
- If you get accepted, great—build the rest of your launch strategy promo + ads-wise around the BookBub Featured Deal.
- If not, no worries—build out the rest of the launch as originally planned, then resubmit in 4 weeks (i.e., when the set is out) to potentially get a BookBub toward the end of the 30 day launch window, thus still leveraging that new release algorithmic mojo.
Note: you’re submitting the box set for a BookBub Featured Deal here, not a New Release for Less.
SUMMING THINGS UP
- Subscribe to the BookBub email in your genre to see what type of books (sub-genres, wide, KU) / covers are currently being accepted.
- If you’re having trouble getting a deal, make sure your cover and blurb are on point.
- The four keys to getting more BookBubs are:
- Submit consistently
- Submit at 99c first, then free to double your submission volume
- Submit 99c box sets
- Try going wide if your Kindle Unlimited books are continually getting rejected
- Submit to Chirp consistently if you have eligible audiobooks.
- For adherence, use the rejection email in your inbox as a nudge to go and submit again immediately. Either write down in your calendar or notes when a title is eligible for resubmission or occasionally peruse the submission history.
Oh, and by the way…submit consistently. Which we’ve already said multiple times, but it bears repeating here at the end, because the primary reason people don’t get more BookBubs? They give up.
And that’s it for the art of getting more BookBub Featured Deals.
Now go sell some books.