Recently, I signed up with a company called “BookBub” that is essentially a huge mailing list of books on sale. I promoted my book “The Hidden Institute” on there, dropping the price to $0.99. For sci-fi books selling for under a dollar, the cost was $120 to mail an ad to 90k subscribers who had expressed an interest in sci-fi. If I got even half of one percent of their subscribers to buy my book, the ad would pay for itself.
Before we start talking about numbers, let’s look at everything I hoped to accomplish with this ad.
- Profit – If I sold more than half of one percent of their subscriber base, I would be looking at quite a bit of profit from the ad.
- Amazon Rank – Selling a few copies a month was keeping my book in the #300,000 range as far as Kindle ranking goes. I needed to find a fresh set of eyes to sell to, so that the book could get a higher ranking and, consequently, more organic sales.
- Readers – This is the big one. My main goal, whether I’m selling the book or not, is to get it in front of people. The true purpose of this ad was to get my book on as many e-readers as possible. In a lot of ways, I was thinking of this as “How much do I have to pay, per book, to get the book in the hands of genre-targeted, motivated readers?”
You always hear the term, “Your mileage may vary.” So while my promotion may be a lot like yours, let’s look at the ways that this one could be different enough to keep the same thing from happening to others.
- Sci-Fi. It’s a niche crowd. More than that, I was writing a Neo-Victorian story about manners in a futuristic world. It is kinda Steampunk, kinda Jane Austen. Very niche group. A more mainstream novel will probably see better results.
- 99 cents. My book was discounted to one buck, because I’m gearing up for the next book in the series, “Invito Rex”. I wanted as many readers as possible, so I slashed the price on the first book.
- Monday. I don’t know why I didn’t think of this, but my promo came out on a Monday, which is probably not good for sales. I’m just guessing, but I think people are more likely to buy when the weekend is coming, and they think they have more time to read. Just a thought.
- Echo Chamber. I have already pimped this book out to all my friends and family, to all my social media circles, and I even made a free podcast with the unabridged audio of the book. In short, I had already saturated my local circles. You may not have, which could affect your sales.
So, with that in mind, how did we do?
On the first day (January 7th), the book was listed on their site, but it didn’t get any sales until the e-mails started getting sent around. The first of those sales started at noon (EST), and by 1700, forty copies had sold. So, for the first five hours, we were selling at 8 copies per hour. From 1700 to 1930, we sold another 54 copies, so just after work, people raised the average sales to 21 copies per hour.
By 0630 the next day, there had been a total of 120 sales, which means it sold two copies per hour all night. By 1930 on the 8th, we were at 180 copies, which means that it sold 4.6 copies per hour during the second day.
It is now midnight on the 10th, and we are at about 200 sales, which means we’ve dropped enough in sales for me to say that the promo is officially over.
So that means I sold 200 copies with this ad. The profit on 200 copies is $70, which means my total cost was $50. Now you can look at that and say “Damn, I spent $50 and I didn’t walk away with any profit!” However, I like to think of it as “I spent $50 to get my book into the hands of 200 interested readers.”
At that rate, I effectively spent around a quarter per book, which is less than the stamp it would have cost to mail the book to all those people.
And more importantly, 200 new people now had a copy of my book. That’s big.
On the 7th, when the ad hit, the book dropped in Amazon rank from around 380,000 down to #1295 in total Kindle books. It was #18 in Kindle Sci-fi/Adventure, and #25 in Books Sci-Fi/Adventure. So that was pretty cool. here is a graph showing the level of difference that sale made:
Also, Amazon authors have their own ranking, which is actually more or less hidden to regular readers. My personal ranking went from around 210,000 to 5,000. So, outside of the individual book ranking, my personal ranking went up by a factor of about 42 times its normal value. So that’s pretty cool. It won’t last, but it’s pretty cool.
So, knowing that the promo didn’t make its money back, would I still want to do it again? Well, I paid 25 cents per copy to give my book to 200 readers who cared enough to buy in, so that’s a pretty big deal. I gained one new review (4-stars), and I significantly expanded my audience.
To put it another way, keep an eye out for “Discount Miracles” a book of mine that will soon be dropping its price for a new BookBub promotion.