I expect that just about every author knows about BookBub, the 90,000 pound gorilla of daily discounted book emails. There are over a hundred on-line advertising platforms that can offer an author from 10,000 to a few hundred thousand daily subscribers across all genres. But BookBub dwarfs them all – and perhaps all of the combined – with its more than 7.5 million subscribers.

Equally importantly, instead of including dozens of books every day in each of its genre emails, it includes. The result is that in my genre (thrillers), an author BookBub accepts can expect an average of 3,000 downloads of a book priced at $.99 (and over 30,000 if it’s priced at free), and many more over the days that follow, due to the way Amazon’s algorithm works, and the fact that at least some readers will go on to read other books by the same author. And while BookBub is not cheap ($863 in the case of the fee I just paid), the downloads alone on the day of the sale should cover the cost.

So what’s wrong with this picture?

The problem lies with that one, little word: “accept.” Because BookBub doesn’t accept much.

That can hardly be a surprise, though, as over 1 million books are now published a year by traditional and Indie publishers. At two books a day per genre, that means that all the books BookBub accepts a year combined represent a tiny fraction of one per cent of all books published each year. In other words, your chances of getting accepted by BookBub are just about nil.

Still, “just about nil” is nevertheless not nil, full stop. If you pay careful attention to BookBub’s criteria, work hard, and exercise patience until you’ve accumulated a solid base of favorable reviews, it can be done. For me, that happened this week when BookBub accepted my first book, The Alexandria Project, for January 3, and here’s what I think tipped the balance:

– The book I submitted now has over 120 reviews, almost all of which are 4 and 5 star (note that a favorite BookBub newsletter blurb line is “Over 100 5 star reviews!)

– I took the book out of Kindle Unlimited and “went wide,” uploading it through Draft2Digital to Barnes &Noble, Apple and Kobo. BookBub will run an Amazon-only book, but they favor books with wider distribution. I haven’t monitored this, but I suspect that a book listed only a Amazon would be hard to have accepted unless it was discounted to free (i.e., the excuse for only selling through Amazon)

– I agreed to BookBub’s global reach U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia and India), and not just U.S. (this costs more, but they favor it)

– In the ad application form, I provided a blurb quote from someone with name recognition (Four Star Admiral James Stavrides, former Chief of NATO). If you get their newsletter, you’ll see that more often than not, they include a quote from a famous author or a recognized media source

– I so noted in the form that the book had current relevance, as it describes a fictional cybersecurity plot to get North Korea to launch a nuclear attack against the U.S. I haven’t noticed this as a trend at BookBub before, but assume it might have helped

– I refrained from advertising the same book for over 90 days prior to applying to BB, as they won’t run a book that’s recently been discounted anywhere else on the Web within that time frame (you also must agree not to discount elsewhere for at least thirty days afterwards as well)

– Finally, the book I submitted is the first book in a four book series, meaning that readers will have more books to move on to if they liked this one. I don’t know whether BookBub actually cares about this, but I’m hoping that this may parlay into it being willing to accepting other books in the series in the future. Note: some advertisers will only accept the first book in a series.

Of all of the above points, I expect that the solid number of reviews is the only essential requirement for a non-“name” author, as well as complying with the BookBub criteria.

One final tip for my author readers: if you haven’t already, I suggest you sign up for BookBub’s daily newsletter in the genre(s) you write in, even if you don’t ever plan to advertise with them. The reason is BookBub has years of experience with advertising, and monitors the performance of each book it promotes, often running two different ads for the same book against each other at the same time to see which text in which ad results in the most sales (BookBub has useful blog entries on this and other topics at its Partners Blog). If you read their ads daily, you’ll internalize their style, and that should help you reach the point where you can easily write the best blurbs possible, borrowing on BookBub’s years of marketing research.

If you have your own helpful tips to share, please add a comment below.

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