Friday, December 30, 2016

Free & Bargain Book Ads—Part 1, Subscription Services

by Madelle Morgan

How does a reader discover a good romance novel among the gazillions of ebooks flooding the market? On the other side of the coin, how can indie authors get their books noticed by readers?

Advertising is the time-proven mechanism to attract buyers, but 20th century approachesprint and television adshave limited reach in the Internet age. Authors fight for the attention of readers via three providers of relatively inexpensive ad space that reaches ebook buyers worldwide:

  • Services that provide daily lists of free and bargain books.
  • Amazon
  • Facebook

In this post I describe ads in e-newsletters that provide curated lists to subscribers. 

That is, a reader subscribes to receive daily lists of free and bargain books via email.

The digital newsletters offer each subscriber a list of books that is customized to stated preferences. 

An author pays to have her book included in the e-newsletter—the ad.

The more popular an e-newsletter is, the better for the reader. Look at it this way: an e-newsletter doesn't retain subscribers by recommending poorly-written books. For example, hugely popular carefully screens books for inclusion in daily newsletters that arrive in millions of readers' inboxes.

A site with a hundred thousand or more subscribers can be selective in accepting books for the e-newsletter, and authors will pay more for the privilege. Selection criteria may include good covers, 4 & 5 star reviews, availability on several sales platforms (Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Nook), bestseller status, and popularity of the book's sub-genre, trope or niche. 

Romance readers enjoy books with seasonal themes such as holidays, Valentine's Day, summer weddings, etc., so an appropriately-themed book has an improved chance of being accepted at certain times of the year.

BookBub Ads

For an author, having a book selected for a BookBub email is the brass ring, but it's expensive. Per BookBub's featured deals pricing and statistics page on December 27, 2016, a one-day $367 USD ad for a free contemporary romance would generate an average of 40,000 downloads. You may wonder why an author would pay so much to give away 40,000 ebooks? Well, the author hopes to profit if and when readers of the free book proceed to buy her other books.

Similarly, a one-day ad for a 99 cent contemporary romance would cost the author a whopping $734 USD, and would sell an average of 3,100 books. At a royalty rate of 0.35, the author would earn an estimated $1,085, for a net profit of $351. Note that these are statistically average figures. Losses or greater profits are possible.

Other Bargain Sites

In comparison to BookBub pricing, another bargain site might charge only $35 for a one-day ad, which appears to be a much better deal for the author. However, the $35 ad is less likely to reach as many readers, or generate as much of a profit.

Authors should therefore investigate a site's number of newsletter subscribers before deciding whether to invest in an ad. BookBub's approach is the gold standard. It breaks down the number of U.S. or international subscribers by book category.

Below is a partial list of bargain sites I've come across. If you know of others, please add them in the Comments section.

The Fussy Librarian
Robin Reads
The Elite Reader
The Naughty List
Romance Reads
Many Books
Read Cheaply
Bargain Booksy
Free Booksy
Ereader News Today

Checking out these sites can fill up your ereader fast! In researching this post, I downloaded several free books.

The Big Question: Do Ads Work?

Readers, what is your go-to source for discovering bargain or free books? Do you subscribe to any discount or free book e-newsletters? If so, which are your favorites?

Authors, in your experience, how profitable are paid ads in these e-newsletters compared to other marketing options? What's your most successful marketing tactic?

In Part 2, I'll address Amazon ads for romance novels.

Happy New Year!


My Bargain BookFor a Limited Time

Amazon, Kobo, Apple Buy links:

Caught on Camera, a New Adult romantic comedy, is available for 99 cents/ 99P through January, 2017.

Madelle tweets and posts about Hollywood, filmmaking, the settings for her stories, and, of course, writing and publishing.

Subscribe to her blog at and follow her on  TwitterFacebookGoodreadsPinterest, and Wattpad.


Linda Lovely said...

Good post. I need to do some advertising in 2017. Unfortunately, BookBub seems to now be dominated with books published by large publishers.

Maggie Lynch said...

I've found Books Butterfly to do well for free books. I received as many Apple downloads as Amazon which is always a difficult thing to achieve as the vast majority of these newsletters rely on Amazon affiliate money.

However, though there is some sell through from non-BookBub newsletter ads, I have found this method not to be reliable if you are looking for good numbers. If you are only looking for visibility that is a different goal then sell through. For me, FB ads have been the most reliable for both newsleter list-building and sales. Also, participating in multi-author contests where books are given away to readers and the marketing for the contest is well-targeted to actual readers.

BookBub does take ads from many indies. Almost every successful indie author I know has received BookBub ads. The difficulty, particularly in the Romance market, is that the competition is very stiff. Though it is not the only criteria, an important criteria is the number of reviews. It seems that 50 is a minimum with BookBub now. Another part of the decision-matrix is your current ranking on vendor sites. This is where distributing beyond Amazon really helps and having a a nice GoodReads following. Once you've built up your reviews and your rankings then it is a matter of applying every week and being open to any time you can get scheduled--not just one particular time you've been counting on.

Sarah Raplee said...

Interesting post and comments! I always learn something new from your posts, Madelle.

Madelle Morgan said...

Thanks, Maggie!

Sharing your guidance and experience as a multi-published author is so valuable to this relative newbie (only two novels published so far).

So 50 reviews, eh? I thought Caught on Camera was doing well with 10 reviews from its launch blog tour, LOL.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe, New Year's Eve and much success in 2017!


Judith Ashley said...

Always good information, Madelle. Thank you so much for adding a guest post to your regular second Tuesday slot!!! I'll be tackling FB ads in early 2017. Was going to try to do something this week but Life got in the way. One of the things I've learned is that when I feel a certain level of stress, I need to step away. Only a few hours left in 2016!!!