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What if there was a service that helped you sell thousands of books in a single day? You might be astonished to learn, there is! I recently asked David Gaughran (Gock-run) how and why BookBub is such a powerful platform.

David has helped thousands of authors self-publish through his workshops, blog, and books Let’s Get DigitalStrangers to Superfans, and Amazon Decoded. He is also the author of the historical adventures Liberty Boy (affiliate links).

David Gaughran's Books for authors

What is BookBub?

Thomas: Umstattd, Jr.: We’ve heard that BookBub works, but what exactly is it?

David Gaughran: BookBub is a great tool for authors who want to advertise and connect with readers. But the platform is also useful to you as a reader.

BookBub is a really cool site for readers. If you’re not signed up, I’d highly encourage you to visit and start using it as a reader. When you sign up, you can select from more than 40 genres, and BookBub will send you a daily email featuring discounted ebooks in the genres you choose. Some of the books are free and others are discounted to $3.99. You’ll find discounted deals for George R. R. Martin and Steven King, as well as undiscovered gems by indie authors.

Each email features only a handful of books. The email is free to readers, but publishers and authors pay for their books to be featured in the email.  BookBub calls these paid slots BookBub Featured Deals. In 2019, BookBub had 15 million subscribers who read millions of books each year.

On BookBub’s website, you can see how many readers they have in each genre. Their most popular category is Crime Fiction, which had 2,590,000 subscribers in 2023.

The cost to have your book featured in a genre-specific email varies by genre. To offer your book for $0.99 in the Crime Fiction category would cost you more than $1,000, but your book will be seen by millions of people and will likely sell thousands of copies in a single day. The response you’ll get from having that many eyeballs on your discounted book is tremendous. That kind of deal can put you in the top spot on Amazon. You’ll often make back your $1,000, and more than likely, you’ll make twice that within a couple of days. Your book will also stay at the top of the charts for days or weeks afterwards.

Thomas: If your book is well written and it’s the first in a series, you’ll see the sales of your other books go up as well, even those that aren’t discounted.

When I worked for Enclave Publishing, we ran a lot of BookBub Featured Deals and experimented with several of BookBub’s competitors. BookBub was the most expensive up-front cost, but it ended up being the cheapest per copy sold. The Featured Deals overwhelmingly pay for themselves. None of BookBub’s competitors were a close second.

BookBub is so powerful because the email is powerful. It’s anticipated and targeted. People sign up to receive deals from BookBub, so when they read the email, they’re in the perfect state of mind to buy.

David: BookBub wasn’t the first discount deal site, but the others are much smaller. At $25-$75 per slot, they’re also much cheaper, but they don’t have the same impact as BookBub. In fact, if you advertised on all the other discount promotions sites together, I don’t think they’d come up to half the power of a BookBub Feature Deal.

BookBub wasn’t the first, but they arrived on the scene almost fully formed because they had a lot of capital and investors. They took it to another level of professionalism and aggressiveness as far as building up the site and the email list. Courting the traditional publishers to get the likes of John Grisham also helped grow the site. There’s no “sure thing” in the world of book marketing, but getting a BookBub Featured Deal is about as close as you’ll get.

Thomas: I noticed they also added the ability to follow certain authors. I don’t buy ebooks so I was going to unsubscribe, but when I did, they had an automated response that asked if I’d like to follow certain authors from my preferred genres. Bookbub is basically curating another email list based on my author preferences. Just today I got an email about a new release from an author I follow. I clicked the link in the email, read the reviews, and then bought the audiobook. I don’t think any of their competitors have that feature yet.

David: From a business perspective, it was a very smart move. About a year ago they started to build out some social aspects of their website. Authors can review and recommend books and people can follow authors. They’re adding more social features all the time.

A year ago, they reported they had 8,000,000 people on their list and now they have around 10,000,000. I would guess the growth is starting to slow a bit. I would guess it’s getting more expensive for them to add new people since they probably have to add lots of subscribers every day. There is some natural wastage on a mailing list from people unsubscribing or using their work email address and then quitting that job.

From BookBub’s perspective they’re probably trying to build a site where people will come and spend time, and so they’re adding those social aspects.

Those of us who advertise benefit from the social elements they’ve added. I have a few thousand followers on BookBub, and whenever I recommend a book, my followers get an email from BookBub saying that I recommended a book.

How do authors use BookBub to sell more books?

Thomas: How do you use BookBub as an author?

David: The most powerful way authors can use BookBub is to apply for and be selected for a Featured Deal. The only problem is that BookBub only accepts about 20% of the submissions it receives. They only feature a few books from each genre per day, and they get dozens of applications daily. Considering they accept books from J.K. Rowling and George R.R. Martin, who have a better chance of getting accepted, my chances of getting accepted is probably a little less than 20%.

Another factor BookBub considers is whether you’re exclusive to Amazon through Kindle Unlimited. They will feature books in KU, but you definitely decrease your chances of being accepted. They have so many readers on their list who shop at Barnes & Nobel, Kobo, and Apple that you have a better chance of being accepted if your book is available on those other retailers as well.

Because the list is so valuable and the acceptance rate is so low, the ads platform becomes a huge benefit to authors. Authors can advertise whenever they want and reach that same audience through the BookBub ads platform.

Thomas: I think you’re right that traditional publishers have a bit of an advantage. When I was at Enclave, we submitted all our books every month for BookBub Featured Deals. We probably had 30%-40% of them accepted per month. Even as a traditional publisher, many of our books didn’t get accepted. Some books even got accepted more often than others.

What helps a book get accepted?

David: It’s definitely not a random selection. They have a whole team of people who heavily curate the deals they offer. Some discount promo sites will accept nearly any book, but BookBub sets the bar much higher.

They don’t state the number of reviews your book needs, but having more reviews helps.

Factors they consider include

  • Number of reviews
  • Quality of the cover
  • Size of the discount

If you’re applying for a BookBub Featured Deal, one tip is to use the comments box. The application process is simple, but they do provide an optional comments box that many authors don’t take advantage of. In that box you can include your lifetime sales numbers, any awards you’ve won, or mention if the ad is part of a giant marketing campaign. Include anything that will make selecting your book more attractive. Make it easy for BookBub to say yes.

It’s almost like you’re querying BookBub like you’d query an agent. You need to give them every reason to say yes to featuring your book.

Thomas: I agree that reviews help. In my experience, triple digit reviews help you get accepted.

However, it’s also a matter of who you’re competing with that day. If you apply for a Featured Deal on May 17, you don’t know who else is requesting that date. If you’re competing for a couple spots in the email and one of the books is by J.K. Rowling, she’s probably going to get it, which means everyone else is competing for the remaining spots.

Other days will be slower and easier to get your submission accepted for a Featured Deal.

David: It really is tilted against you, but you can mitigate some of that by being as flexible as possible. I recommend letting BookBub choose the date. Take whatever day they give you, and then build the rest of your campaign around that.

Thomas: At Enclave, when we were selected for a BookBub Featured Deal, we’d schedule all the other promo site services around that date. On occasion, we’d be able to get all those deals to go live on the same day, and it would give us an edge.

On any given day, the top 20 ebooks on Amazon are mostly BookBub Featured Deals. They just dominate the list and any edge you can get will make a difference between being fifth or tenth.

David: I would go even further on the flexibility. Sometimes people are torn over whether to offer a book for free or for $0.99 because they don’t know which BookBub will prefer. You can actually apply for both simultaneously and let BookBub decide which suits them more or where they have the open slot.

The power of a BookBub Featured Deal is so important that I would actually change my whole promotion to coincide with BookBub’s terms. For example, if I had scheduled other promo sites for a $0.99 deal, and BookBub accepted my submission for a free deal, I’d cancel or change those other promotions. It’s going to be that big.

When should an author use BookBub?

Thomas: How do you know if you’re ready for BookBub and when should you avoid it?

David: If BookBub is on the menu, I would never say no. It’s that powerful.

Sometimes it’s off the menu though. I don’t think they features books in the first six weeks after release. I think that’s to the authors benefit because you wouldn’t have the necessary reviews by that time anyway. I also don’t think it’s a good idea to offer a new book for $0.99 in the first six weeks. That’s unfair to your core readers who paid full price just six weeks prior.

I wait at least three months to discount a new release. I want to be fair to my core readers and treat them the best. They should be getting the best deals. It also depends on how your launch goes. If you’re releasing a new book four months down the road, then that might be the time to discount the previous book.

Their new feature BookBub New Releases isn’t nearly as powerful so it’s not an easy “yes” from the author’s perspective.

Thomas: Our policy at Enclave was to wait a year after release before we submitted a book for a Featured Deal. We didn’t want our core readers to feel like schmucks for paying full price, and we also didn’t want to train them to wait for the deal. If you train them to wait six months for a deal, then you won’t have a strong launch. In that case, your core readers and fans wouldn’t be the first to leave reviews and everything gets out of whack.

BookBub Featured Deals are not a launching tool. It’s a tool that can revive sales of older books.

How does a BookBub ad differ from a Featured Deal?

David: In every Featured Deal email, at the bottom of the list of selected books, there is always an ad slot. BookBub’s ad platform is totally open and not curated. Any author can bid for that ad slot and reach the same audience the Featured Deal reaches.

Considering these emails are going to more than ten million people every day, it’s a potentially huge audience for your book. BookBub knows a lot about its audience based on the authors each user follows, which genres they prefer, and the deals they’ve interacted with in the past. All that data is pulled into the platform and we can use it to target a subset of the audience.

For example, you don’t have to advertise to the fantasy audience as a whole. You can advertise only to readers who follow Brent Weeks. If you write books like Brent Weeks and only want to target his audience, you can do that via the ad platform.

How does the cost breakdown between Featured Deals and ads differ?

Thomas: If it costs $1,000 to buy a Featured Deal, what would it cost to start advertising in that slot at the end of the daily email?

David: At the bottom of the range, you can advertise for a few dollars per day. When I’m running test campaigns, I only put in a budget of $10 or $15 and let the ad run. You can start on a small budget.

If you really need to save money, you can get much cheaper clicks. The thing that sets BookBub ads apart from Amazon and Facebook ads is that it scales beautifully.

If you run tests and figure out your audience and ad images and start to get a good response, you can turn up the budget without the wheels coming off.

When you turn up the budget on Facebook ads, things can get wobbly. If you turn up the budget on Amazon ads, it may not even help them serve more. It’s difficult to get them to serve to a wider audience without a lot of trouble.

Thomas: Sometimes you can’t spend more on Amazon, even if you turn up the budget.

David: BookBub scales up beautifully. When I run Amazon ads, I’m finding out which keywords words work and tweaking my ad text. When I finally get it nailed down, I may turn up the budget and discover that it didn’t change anything. BookBub presents the opposite danger. You have to limit the ad spend or it will spend your budget in a second.

One thing that catches people off guard is that it’s a really responsive platform. If you put in a budget of $150 thinking it will last you a few days, it could be spent in an hour. I like to micromanage the budget and feed it out a little at a time until I’m sure the ads are working, and then I’ll turn up the budget.

Thomas: That’s a good strategy, and it’s also an advantage over the Featured Deal. You can’t test a Featured Deal. You spend $1,000 whether it works or not. But you can experiment with ads and learn what resonates with an audience and what doesn’t.

How do you get cheaper clicks on BookBub ads?

David: We all start from zero, so there’s no shame in being on a shoestring budget, but I do have two tips for you.


Many people don’t advertise on the weekends. Perhaps it’s because people who run ads for the large publishers don’t work on the weekends. They’re not in the office on Saturday running BookBub ads. Or ot could be because people are out having fun on the weekends. Either way, you’ll get cheaper clicks on the weekends.

Later at Night

Let’s say you advertise a permafree book in your series and you only spend $10.00 per day to keep a little visibility and keep feeding readers in to your series. I’d recommend putting your bids at the low end of BookBub’s recommendation or even below the low end of the range. You might get nervous because your ad isn’t serving throughout the day, but in the evening, after people with bigger budgets have spent all their money for the day, your ad with the lower bid will start serving.

It doesn’t matter whether your ad shows in the morning or evening, so I find I can stretch the budget toward the end of the day.

Thomas: This bidding process happens automatically. You don’t have to stay up late to bid.

Think of it as a real-life auction. They are auctioning off blocks of 1,000 views and the highest bidders get the first blocks. A high bidder might buy 10,000 views and spend $50 per block of views. After they get their views, they leave the auction house. If there are still views left to sell, lower bidders have their chance. You can pay less money for the same number of views.

It happens by proxy. You tell your computer to bid for you at a certain rate, and it happens automatically every five minutes or so.

David: You can also put limits on your spending. You can tell the platform you don’t want to spend more than $5.00 per day or $0.50 per click and your limits will be respected.

Thomas: It’s wise to put limits on your budget. If you don’t, you may easily and accidentally buy $10,000 worth of views. It would be like leaving your paddle in the air at an auction house and then leaving.

David: That’s where BookBub is different from Amazon. Amazon can be sluggish in reporting and serving. At one point it was taking 14 days on Amazon. BookBub gives almost instant feedback. The reports will come within an hour or two, which is faster than any other platform.

The ads also start serving almost instantly. I ran a campaign around the launch of my book BookBub Ads Expert. I put up an ad campaign right before my Featured Deal came out. My Featured Deal email arrived in my inbox about two minutes after I started the campaign, and my ad was already at the bottom of that email.

Facebook takes almost an hour or more for them to start serving because they have to be approved by a human. And any time you tweak, it has to be reapproved.

How do authors create effective BookBub ads?

Thomas: What are some quick tips on how to create an ad that will be effective at the end of that email.

David: First, remember that your ad will appear at the bottom of a Featured Deal email. If you’re trying to advertise a full-price book, the cards are stacked against you. If you’re trying to sell your ebook for $4.99 and Stephen King is selling one for $0.99, that’s a tough row to hoe. You need to offer something tantalizing that will entice the reader.

Second, your ad consists of a graphic only. BookBub ads differ from Amazon and Facebook in that way. BookBub has no ad text, so the image has to do all the work of convincing someone to click.

It’s kind of like designing an ebook cover. It has to be simple, striking, and communicate the genre in two second. This is not the place to be ornate or demure. I recommend being almost obnoxious by putting a giant price tag on your image that highlights your deal. You’re trying to grab attention.

Imagine someone scrolling through an email. They probably have 20 more emails to look through, so you need to grab their attention quickly.

I recommend using your book cover in the as image. If you have a good cover that speaks to your genre, it will sell the book. Covers sell books. Make sure your cover is front and center with a big price tag advertising your discount.

Be careful using text in your image. Facebook doesn’t allow you to have text on your image, so when people see that BookBub allows it, they go crazy. Don’t do that.

I’ve done extensive testing, and I’ve found that a pared back ad gets the best results. Use the book cover image and some kind of background that plays with the cover art well, a big price tag, and one little tagline. It’s a small box.

How do you create a BookBub ad graphic?

I make my own ads using, but if you want to outsource, it’s really cheap. I’ve paid designers $20 to create an ad.

One of the best things to do is to ask your book cover designer if they will create a BookBub ad graphic when they’re designing your cover. You can also ask for other graphics such as a cover photo for your Facebook page. Your designer will probably do it for a nominal fee, and you’ll have all the branded graphics ready.

If you want to do it yourself, you can use Canva or Book Brush. Learning to design your own ads is a handy skill to have. There are many tools available, and Fiver has many graphic designers who can help you.

Tell us about your book, BookBub Ads Expert.

David: BookBub Ads Expert (affiliate link) is a meaty book that goes through everything you need to know about the BookBub platform as well as their ads platform.

A huge chunk of the book talks about the testing process. You’ll learn how to discover which authors you should target and what kind of images your audience will respond to.

The largest section of the book talks about strategy. You’ll learn where an ad campaign will fit in your overall plan for a new release or a backlist promotion and the different ways you can run a campaign.

The book wraps up with killer tricks and ninja moves that will help you take your sales to the next level.

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