A newbie writer’s guide to getting your first Bookbub ad (or other major advertising)

In conversation.

GH = Grasshopper
VA = Veteran Author

GH: Soooooo, I hear Bookbub is all the rage, but is that site even open to us indies, because I submitted my book once, and they didn’t want it.

VA: *loud belly laugh* You submitted ONCE? Mwahahahahahahaha!!!

GH: But they didn’t even tell me why they didn’t want it. The whole site is a stitch-up between the trads and the people who already sell well. Those people don’t even need it. Look at meeee. I’m down in the rankings and no one is seeing my book. It’s a conspiracy.

VA: OK, so let’s look at your book.

GH: *blushes*

VA: Is your cover the best you can make it? Is it appropriate for the genre? Is is skilfully made?

GH: Well, it was made by a friend who has a design business–

VA: Book cover design?

GH: No, she designs business cards. But it’s all the same, isn’t it?

VA: No, it isn’t. The format is too wide, making the cover look odd. The type is far too small. The picture is OK, although the photoshop skills could be better, but it doesn’t represent the genre. Get another cover.

GH: Okaaayyyy.

VA: Let’s look at your blurb. Is it short and snappy? Does it give a clear idea of what sort of story we’re going to get? Does it support the genre indicated by the cover?

GH: Well, I got my friend and her mother to review the book, so I copied those reviews into the blurb. I don’t want to give too much away about the story.

VA: Get rid of those reviews. They’re already in the review section. Don’t be too coy about what happens in the book. Lift a corner of the story and entice readers. Look at blurbs of successful authors.

GH: Okaaayyyyyyyy…..

VA: What about your sample? I see that you start the book with a dedication to your dog, a poem by another writer (do you have permission to use this?), a glossary of terms and a long prologue that’s a condensed history of the world. Get rid of those things, or at the very least move them elsewhere. The back of the book would be a good place.

GH: But why?

VA: They’re cluttering up your sample. People downloading the sample get hit with a wall of irrelevant stuff–

GH: But they need to know–

VA: Trust me, they don’t.

GH: Okay, but tell me, I asked why lowly indies like me never get featured on the big sites. What does that have to do with all this?

VA: Hear me out. What about your formatting? I see that your book uses HUGE indents and sometimes has empty lines for no reason.

GH: Formatting is the easy part. You just upload a Word file.

VA: That will work, if you have your Word file correctly formatted. You DON’T EVER use tabs for indents.

GH: You don’t? Really?

VA: Learn how to do it properly.

GH: Okaaayyyy, but I still don’t see–

VA: Reviews, how many do you have?

GH (sigh of relief): All right, you’re getting to the problem. It’s simply impossible to get reviews. And then you do giveaways and people will only review on goodreads, where the reviews are of no use to me. Everything is conspiring against new authors getting reviews.

VA: Nope. Reviews are a function of sales. Sell more books, and get more reviews.

GH: But they’re saying you need at least fifty to get into Bookbub! That’s impossible. Everything is stitched up by the older crowd.

VA (annoyed): Stop blaming other people for your failure.

GH: *blushes* Sorry.

VA: Because reviews are a function of sales, you must sell more books. Have you done all the things I mentioned earlier?

GH: I’m getting to it.

VA: OK, when you’ve done them, lower your book to 99c.

GH: WHAT? Do you know how much all this cost me? *faints*

VA: Do you want to do this or not?

GH (weakly): I guess…

VA: Lower your book to 99c for a week every month and run promotions on it. Start with the cheaper ones. Sell as many books as possible. Offer your book free to people who want to review. This will take a while.

GH: But! FIFTY reviews!

VA: They will come.

Six months later.

GH: OK I have 45 reviews, but it’s really slowed down a lot. Should I apply again?

VA: Yes, you should.

GH: What if they reject me?

VA: You apply again, as soon as you can. And again, and again. And again.

GH: But what if they never accept me?

VA: It happens. But by doing all the steps above, you’ve ensured that you may not even need it anymore. And above all, stop obsessing and keep writing.

GH: That’s what I most enjoy doing anyway.


  1. Jonathan Bergeron

    Before I finished a novel I never heard of BookBub. Every person I’ve asked (offline) has not heard of BookBub, all the people I’ve asked online who’ve heard of BookBub are authors. Ads with BookBub only go out on emails most people forgot they signed up for.

    My question is, what is the purpose of paying hundreds of dollars for a website to email your book to a bunch of people who will likely never open that email because it’s routed to a spam folder or lost somewhere else.

    Did you see an increase in sales when you ran a BookBub ad that can be verified as a direct result of running a BookBub ad?

    • Answer: my bank account. I got a 20 TIMES + return on my latest ad. I’m kinda afraid to say how much I made, because Bookbub will increase their rates. I have never seen an author not make a profit from Bookbub who had the following in place: 1. First in series 99c or free, 2. at least two full-price books in the series. The more, the merrier, 3. Genre for general readership (it’s much harder with YA or kids)

      • I am a reader, not an Author. I read your first Ambassador book you gave free on bookbub Monday. I have bought the rest at 3.99 and read them all. It is now Monday morning at 2:48am. Just got thru number5.

        Patty, your going to have to write faster! I don’t think I can wait till December 2016 for number 6!LOL

        • Ha! The series has taken off a bit, but I’ve already committed to doing the second Icefire Trilogy (which is something I’ve wanted to write for years). I’ve almost finished book 2 and I will definitely get to the next Ambassador book by the end of the year. I’m enjoying the series a lot, and it’s pretty much open-ended, with tons of possibilities of spin-offs.

    • BookBub hits millions of readers–fewer for smaller categories, but 1-3 million for the major genre fiction categories like Romance, Mystery, Thriller and Sci-Fi. That may only be a small percentage of the market, but it’s still huge for an email push, and it’s opt-in–people sign up for BookBub, so most don’t consider it spam.

      If my book is in 2 million emails and 1 in 10 open, that means 200,000 eyeballs. If one in 10 download, that’s 20,000 downloads. If 1 in 100 buy, that’s 2000 sales in one day. Those numbers are, by the way, conservative. 2000 sales at 99c nets you $700, so your promo is already paid for and now it’s all about the read-throughs–which depend on how many people love your book enough to buy the next one. Even if that’s 1 in 10, you just sold 200 more books at full retail, and then the next in the series, and the next, and so on.

  2. Looking from the other side a reader not a writer I can only quote Eric Flint who says give the first dose away free and watch your addicted readers flock on and pay for your later books. (A paraphrase). I use bookbub as a reader, I buy far too many for 99c or free, I find it hard to read all that I would like but I do read a few every week, when I find an author who’s work I really like I tend to buy everything they have written!

    The biggest problem you can have is not piracy it is of lack of exposure, that is what is needed, people must know you exist before you can make sales.

    Peter D Hull

    • Exactly! That’s how it works, not by being precious about your work, but sharing it.
      I met Eric Flint a few years ago (somewhere there is a photo of us together) at the WOTF workshop. He also bought my very first pro story sale for the Universe Annex of the Grantville Gazette (formerly Baen’s Universe–it was not a histfic story but hard SF)

  3. Pingback: A newbie writer’s guide to getting your first Bookbub ad — via Patty Jansen | Ruth Nestvold – Indie Adventures

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