I Have Never Paid for It

Bookbub is a new company which, as you probably know, sends out email shots to hundreds of thousands of registered readers, publicizing a handful of free and discounted books each day. It’s not just for indies either; recently I’ve seen ads for books by James Patterson and Ian Rankin.

Ad prices vary, depending on the book’s genre and offer price ( http://www.bookbub.com/advertise/pricing.php ). Their ad prices are apparently rising steadily. Also, they’re selective in which ads they take. The good folk at Bookbub clearly have impeccable taste, because last week they chose to publicize my novel HOPE ROAD. I didn’t ask them to feature it, and I didn’t pay anything. In fact, until they mailed me to let me know I’d been featured I had no idea that Bookbub existed. It seems that, as they develop their business, they select the odd Amazon freebie and include it alongside their paid ads, no charge to the author.

HOPE ROAD was only on a freebie because, well, why not? It had been on a free run a few months ago, and I simply kept it in Select because it was still getting a good few borrows. So, in it went for its second free offer, although I didn’t have very high expectations, coming so soon after its earlier free run. However, I got 55,000 downloads in the US alone, and I reckon Bookbub must have been a significant factor in that.

So, the question is: would you PAY to advertise that your book is FREE? I can understand paying for an ad when a book is on special (paid) offer; you can calculate exactly how many purchases you need to generate to justify the cost of the ad. But paying to publicize a freebie?

A free run on Amazon within the region of 50-60k downloads will probably net you well in excess of a thousand dollars in sales and Prime borrows in the days and weeks that follow. If a Bookbub ad contributes to that, and it costs you $60-230, then I guess it’s worth it. Yet there’s still something which might stop me from paying for the service.

And I think the reason is that if I paid for an ad on a free run and the cost of the ad was not demonstrably recouped in extra sales, I’d feel like an absolute chump.

Author: John Barlow

John Barlow writes both fiction and non-fiction, publishes occasional food journalism and also works as a ghost-writer. In addition, he is a translator, and has a side-line in eBooks for language learning. His John Ray / LS9 crime thriller series is currently exclusive to Amazon. If you'd like a review copy of The Communion of Saints, please contact John through his website.

10 thoughts on “I Have Never Paid for It”

  1. I think this sort of ad was always a gamble… But it was often a very good gamble, if you had an appealing looking book in a big genre. 😉

    Now? Looks like the number of slots sites like Bookbub are able to commit to free books is going to go down. And the price for those slots will probably go up, without any serious change in the net gains. (Due to the changes Amazon has made in their affiliate system to slow down the number if free books being given away… I’m sure most folks here have already read about it.)

    So we’re going to see less slots for free books to be advertised, and probably less free books being given away. I suspect Select is about to lose a lot of writers, unless Amazon adds value in some way.

  2. I agree with Kevin on Select’s newfound problems. I can’t see paying anyone anywhere for advertising a free book now until either Select’s algorithms/progression is laid out for users, or it reverts to something like it was in the beginning.

    There’s is the KOLL aspect of Select to remember as well. I usually do comparatively well with that, and is the only reason I have two of my popular titles in Select (along with a few loss-leaders). My wallet tells me a borrow at $2 is better than a giveaway right now.

  3. I wonder what the stats for Indie books are re. whether the author makes anything. I’d need to research that before making such a decision. On the other hand that could be difficult for some genres if not impossible.

  4. I see no point in buying ads for free books.
    There are many dozens of sites that pimp freebies for free.
    They value of Book Bub would be in pushing a discounted book.
    You have to figure out your ROI numbers, judge the gamble. Doubling your discount price from .99 to 1.99 will half your break-even number of sales, but also reduce the amount of buys you get. Maybe.
    There’s only one way to find out if these things work, and I think everybody has to try them. Book Bub is a pricey, exclusive neighborhood. There are others.

    1. Lin, some very savvy writers were dishing out a few hundred dollars per free Select period, getting listed on a couple of these major sites, which placed their free book in front of a couple MILLION Kindle users.

      If they had a decent cover and blurb, and were in a hot genre like thriller or romance, that generally got them 20-50k downloads, which equated to thousands of dollars in sales once the book went off free. For writers who had a bunch of work up, that led to increased sales of their other books as well.

      never did it myself, but it was a really smart play. 😉

  5. Good post, John, and congrats on your free publicity. 🙂 I would never pay to advertise a free book, either — not without the promise of a bump in paid sales afterward. There’s giving your work away, and then there’s paying to give your work away….

    I’ve been thinking about doing BookBub for my next book. The price for a fantasy listing isn’t too high…yet. Maybe I should lock it in soon, huh?

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