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 Jan 31, 2019.
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
- BookBub (price varies): BookBub trounces every site on this list by many orders of magnitude.
- FreeBooksy ($50 – $100): the best site for free books outside of BookBub
- ENT ($35 – $45)
- RobinReads ($30 – $80)
- Fussy Librarian ($10 – $30): account required
- My Book Cave ($15): account required
- BargainBooksy ($25 – $80): FreeBooksy’s sister site for paid books; not nearly as powerful, but still solid
- Book Barbarian ($30 – $60): SF/Fantasy only
- Book Adrenaline ($8 – $20): Book Barbarian’s sister site for thrillers/mysteries.
- FKBT ($25 – $30)
- Booksends ($25 – $75): better for $0.99 rather than free books due to pricing of respective ads
- ManyBooks ($25)
- Book Doggy ($14 – $18)
- EReaderIQ ($15)
- BKNights ($5): only books 14 days in advance
- BookRaid (varies): only charge per click on your book; $0.05/click for free book, $0.08 for a $0.99 book, $20 max
For Free Books
- Fiverr (gig 1) or this gig ($5): submits your free book to 30+ free-to-list promo sites instead of filling out forms; also a far cheaper alternative to services like eBookbooster or ReadingDeals’ submission tool
Author Cross Promos & Newsletter Builders
- Patty Jansen’s SF/Fantasy Monthly Promos (free; alternates between free books and $0.99)
- Dean F. Wilson’s SF/Fantasy Promos (cost varies) (everything from newsletter builders to Amazon/Bookbub builders)
- Ryan Zee’s Author Marketing (Booksweeps) ($60) (newsletter builders in a number of genres)
- LitRing (cost varies) (everything from newsletter builders to Amazon/Bookbub builders)
Done For You
If scheduling promos is unappealing, you can book a service (for a fee) to do the heavy lifting for you.
- Book Rank: submits (e.g. fills out all the pesky forms) to promo sites of your choosing; also has pre-built bronze/silver/gold packages for a set price. Read my review here.
Cost Per Download
I tested these sites during the Spring/Summer/Fall of 2018 with my urban fantasy book Lightning Blade. It had around 195 – 205 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:
- Most sites lose money. Only BookBub is basically a lock to generate a positive ROI on the advertised book itself. ENT and Robin Reads can hit that mark, too. To maximize the benefits of promo sites, you’ll need a series for sellthrough or have goals other than ROI (e.g. reviews/newsletter sign-ups). Some sites will never, under any circumstances, make you money. They have been excluded from this list; pour one out for my bank account. It suffered to help yours.
- It assumes your time is worthless. There is opportunity cost involved in filling out forms, so even free sites aren’t free. The submission process is a massive time suck that can be spent building actual skills, such as writing or learning PPC ads. Don’t forget that your time has value.
- Extreme 80/20: BookBub generates 5x to 10x the downloads of every other site on this page combined. The remaining Tier 1 sites (ENT + RobinReads + FreeBooksy + BookBarbarian) will often generate 2x – 3x as many downloads as the remaining non-BookBub sites combined. You can get 90%+ of the downloads in 15 minutes, using the saved time to write and the saved money on other marketing endeavors.
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:
- ROI (best calculated using the series sales, since sell-through is critical)
- Newsletter sign-ups
- Launch visibility
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:
- Day 1: a couple tier 3 sites (smaller ones)
- Day 2: a couple tier 3 sites, a tier 2 one
- Day 3: a couple tier 2 sites, a Top 4 site
Note: if you have a Bookbub, you generally want to schedule it on the next to last day of the promo, rather than the very last day. Why? Because 15 – 25% of your sales/downloads will come the day after. This will generally make you more money than putting the Bookbub on the last day.
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:
- Optimizing your back matter to increase sellthrough from Book 1 to the other volumes in the series.
- Rewriting your Amazon description or getting a new cover to increase your book page’s conversion.
- Releasing more books – a larger backlist gives new readers more books to purchase if they liked the advertised title.
For more on optimal book promotion strategies, check out the Ultimate Guide to Promotion.