Ah, the near-mythical BookBub Featured Deal: their power often whispered about, but rarely witnessed in the wild.
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 less than 20% of deals; I’d estimate for the coveted US deals (which are more powerful than their international counterparts), that number is actually less than 5%.
Those are long odds. What to do, then, to get more?
Such is the subject of this 2,500 word guide. A point of clarification before we delve further: this guide is about how to get more Featured Deals, which are curated and that you must be approved for. The pay-per-click ads at the bottom of the emails are self-serve and available at any time, without previous approval.
You may wonder what qualifies me to opine on the matter of getting more Featured Deals. 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 8 years, and gotten plenty more for the clients that I run ads for.
My system is simple. It’s not a magic bullet. There are no secrets, per se, although it’s likely that there is a trick or two here that you have not encountered, even if you’re a seasoned indie author (true ninja tricks are at the end). But the system works with persistence.
Also, as a matter of full disclosure, this is based on my personal experiences from submitting to BookBub hundreds of times over the past 5+ years. It is not based on actual conversations with their staff or inside information. Just purely my experience.
So without further preamble, let’s hop straight in with whether the deals are still worth it.
Last updated January 2021.
IS BOOKBUB STILL WORTH IT?
I get this question sometimes.
The answer is yes. I have run and managed a ton of these over the years. A single one has lost (a modest amount of) money. There are no guarantees in this business, but there is no other marketing tool that can:
- 2x – 10x your investment
- Be done in a minute 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 subscribers.
Even if the sole benefit was #3, and you were running the deals at a modest loss, it would still be worthwhile from a platform and career building perspective. That it almost always produces a sizable ROI, often on the same day that the deal itself runs, makes a BookBub Featured Deal as close to a sure thing as exists in this business.
One myth that perpetuates this question is that people think that single BookBubs have career-making power. Those were always isolated, moonshot incidents that garnered a lot of attention and excitement 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, but I’ve never experienced anything resembling a “your career is now established” impact. They’re just another brick in your publishing journey, albeit one usually gilded in gold or silver.
Especially in 2021, I’d caution against unrealistic expectations. BookBub is still quite powerful, but Amazon’s algorithms don’t offer nearly as much organic visibility to books as they once did, so the tail and overall impact of the Featured Deal compared to yesteryears isn’t usually the same.
ARE THE INTERNATIONAL DEALS WORTH IT?
The International-only 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.
Thus, from a reader acquisition perspective alone, they’re worthwhile.
But they 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 door with a book for months, and they finally offer an International Deal, don’t scoff at this. Should this book perform well with their international readership, BookBub’s editors will take note of this. They are a data-driven company intent on pushing books that resonate well with their subscriber base. So a good showing in the International Deal will increase that book’s chances of getting a future US Featured Deal.
(Also, 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 on)
WHAT TITLES SHOULD I SUBMIT?
If your books have to be read in order, you’re limited to Book 1s and the box sets (say, Books 1 – 3 or the complete series).
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, in favor of a different series or a latter book in that series that has not received a Featured Deal.
FREE or PAID?
I’ll accept any deal BookBub throws my way. But the free ones are both significantly cheaper and tend to be better performers if you have a decent length series.
I would not recommend submitting for deals at price points higher than $0.99. This is not something I’ve personally tested, but the cost of the ad itself rises significantly at $1.99, $2.99 etc., and one of the main benefits of BookBub is sales volume, which will be greatly reduced at the higher price.
WILL IT 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 email to get the lay of your genre’s land. Also, don’t disqualify yourself if you don’t immediately see 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.
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, those are going to make the biggest impact on their editorial decision-making for a simple reason: those are the two key factors when it comes to whether a reader buys a book or walks away. BookBub wants to send their readers books they’ll like and be interested in.
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 the type of book that BookBub regularly runs, give your cover and blurb a hard look. A change of scenery could shift the tides.
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, however, is simple: submit as much as possible.
Most people give up after one or two, 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 a series of 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 massively overestimate and say that consistently submitting to BookBub takes 10 – 15 minutes total per month.
One Featured Deal could make $2,000, $5,000 or $10,000. Let’s say you get two a year; at 10 minutes per month, that’s 1 hour per deal.
Completely ignoring the massive long-term reader / platform building benefits of selling a ton of books, would you jump at getting paid $2,000/hr? What about $10,000/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 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 everything else 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 those 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) it’s almost impossible to get a BookBub for a Kindle Unlimited exclusive title. In others (romance, thrillers, crime), while it’s more difficult snagging one for KU exclusive than for a wide title, it is a realistic possibility with persistence.
And that’s the system.
Submit consistently, do so at 99c first then free to double your submission volume, submit 99c box sets, and try going wide if your KU books are continually rejected.
Oh, and by the way…submit consistently. Which we already said, but it bears repeating, because the primary reason people don’t get more BookBubs is simply a lack of persistence.
With the 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. With that disclaimer out of the way, if you’re subscribed to the BookBub email in your genre (go sign-up 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 them have review quotes. 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 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 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. If you only have Book 1 + a box set to submit, then that gives you just two bites at the apple.
If, however, you have a standalone novel starring the same main character, 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 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 / excerpt.
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. 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 in KU if 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 a KU 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 KU.
NINJA TRICK: THE PRE-ORDER BOOKBUB
We’ll close with this trick, which can be a powerful way to launch a box set. A BookBub during that initial release month 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 in tandem can be like nitro fuel. There’s obviously no way to guarantee that you’ll have the BookBub during the launch month, but by structuring your launch schedule strategically, you can at least give yourself the opportunity to harness that massive upside.
- Put the box set up for pre-order at least 2 – 3 weeks before the release date.
- ~2 weeks before the release date, submit to BookBub 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 – proceed as originally planned with whatever strategy you were going to use originally. You can resubmit in 4 weeks and potentially still get a BookBub at the end of the 30 day launch window, thus leveraging that new release algorithmic mojo.
And that’s it for the art of getting more BookBub Featured Deals.
Now go sell some books.