My Bookbub experience and a few tips

Phew. What an experience. Talk about pins and needles.

I ran my first Bookbub promo on May 15th and wanted to share a bit of my newbie experience — what I learned, and what I might do differently next time.

First of all, I dove into this effort after reading a detailed post by Deborah Jay (author’s of The Prince’s Man – an excellent fantasy series, I might add). Deborah provided wonderful guidance regarding her strategy as well as a look at her results.

I wasn’t as financially successful as Deborah, but I did turn a profit. Two months after the promotion, my sales are still above pre-promo levels. I’m happy with that.

I also hit #1 Bestseller in a number of categories including Epic Fantasy, ahead of Sarah Maas (and her 22K reviews) for a day! And ranked #24 in the Fantasy genre over all. That little “Best Seller” banner was a giddy high while it lasted.

Some things I learned:

Make your book available through multiple retailers.

Some authors say this doesn’t matter, but I had tried to snag a Bookbub promo a number of times in the past and was always turned down. My books were exclusive to Amazon, a requirement of Kindle-Unlimited. This worked great for lazy old me, but from my perspective, it seemed to be a problem when it came to Bookbub.

I took seven books off KU, including the series I wanted to promote, and three other books that were languishing on Amazon anyway. I had to wait for the KU contracts to expire which can take up to 3 months, so I did this step first.

When the KU contracts expired, I published all seven books on multiple platforms: Smashwords, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, and Googleplay. I didn’t realize that Smashwords publishes (on your behalf) on Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and Apple. So I did more work than I needed to. But live and learn. Smashwords and Googleplay would have done the trick.

A special note here: Bookbub knows what they’re doing. If the book had only been available on Amazon, I would NOT have made my investment back. For me, the multiple platforms were essential to pushing up the sales.

Pricing

I went with the $.99 promotion, dropping my retail price from $2.99. I’ve heard that the bigger the drop, the bigger the incentive to buy from a reader’s perspective. I have no idea whether my price deal was significant enough to cinch a purchase if someone was on the fence, but there you go.

I dropped my prices a week ahead of the promotion on all sites. I didn’t know how long it would take for all retailers to make the adjustment and didn’t want a hiccup. This also enabled me to do some pre-Bookbub promotions to give the book a bit of a boost in rankings.

Be sure to check ahead and make sure the prices changed. This should be a no-brainer. But… I set up Googleplay to drop automatically and it didn’t! I discovered it the day after the promotion and lowered it then. UGH!

Pre-Bookbub Promos

The Bookbub promotion is expensive – $705 expensive. I used the family’s vacation funds, hoping, HOPING, that I’d be able to replace them. Phew. I also ran $100 in pre-promotions with various sites to build momentum and improve the book’s Amazon ranking. I went with 12 sites, about half of them free with no guarantees.

(There isn’t time to book some of the better promotion sites, so act fast before slots fill).

Basically this was a bust. I sold about 12 books this way with a revenue of $4. Next time, I’ll go with more free sites. Authors who use multiple platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) may do a lot better than I did.

First in a Series

Catling’s Bane is the first in a (4-book) series, and this was key, for me, in making the promotion a success. Sales of the other three books in the series topped 125 in the first week after the promotion, and they continue to sell across the retail platforms. I would not have broken even without them. If you’re thinking about giving Bookbub a try, I recommend going with the first book in a completed series (unless you’re last name is Rowling or Clancy).

Reviews

One question that Bookbub wants answered when considering your book, is how many reviews you have (and your average). I had 66 at the time of submitting, and apparently, this was enough. (I’ve hear that books with fewer are accepted too.) Getting reviews is no easy task! I’ve recommended Goodreads Reading Rounds before, and still believe it’s a great tool. The reviews are Amazon approved. Here’s a link to a post that explains more about them: Goodreads Reading Rounds.

Post-promotion reviews are coming in from Bookbub readers. Yay for Bookbub Readers! Not many of them are text reviews, but even those star-only reviews add up.

A Few Other Things of Note:

US or International or Both:

Bookbub offers a choice in promotion markets. It’s more expensive to go global, but I’m glad I elected this option and was accepted. I had sufficient sales both domestically and internationally to cover the combined cost. I would go this way again if I have a choice.

Reporting lag times:

Don’t panic if a week has gone by and your numbers are giving you heart murmurs. Retailers report at varying times! Apple, for example only reports at the end of the month, so if you run a promo at the start of the month, it will be a while before you have the slightest inkling how you did there. It took me almost two weeks to know that my family vacation was back on again.

Payment lag times:

This takes months, so don’t panic. My promotion was mid-May which Amazon will pay at the end of July. The other retailers take just as long.

Bookbub writes the blurb:

I didn’t know that Bookbub would be writing the blurb for my promo. A bit scary to say the least. They did a good job, but it wasn’t what I would have done (or did). My eyeballs fell out of my face. Just be prepared.

Cover:

This goes without saying. A professional cover is essential. Your promotion is competing with others in your genre.

Quality:

This also goes without saying. A Bookbub promotion is a big investment, and you not only want to snag a bunch of sales, but you want the readers to pick up more of your work. I made another editing pass through the series (and corrected a score of typos) in the weeks before the promotion. I was glad I did.

Was it worth it?

It appears so. I was a wreck, but ultimately Bookbub did what it says can do – provide a return on the investment, sell books, increase sales over time, improve ranking, and generate reviews. No guarantees, of course, but this seems to be a consistent outcome. Would I do it again? Yes.

Goodreads 2018 Challenge

I’m a slow reader, so I gave myself a Goodreads Challenge of only 26 books for the year.  Imagine my surprise when I found I had read 39 books!  I love the way Goodreads recaps a year of reading. I’ll bet you recognize a few books in here, maybe your own! Thank you for a year of amazing entertainment.

My goal for 2019 is 30 books, and I’m looking forward to every single one of them!

Happy Reading!

Those Darn Cussing Characters

cussing 1

All modified images from pixabay

I don’t cuss. Well, rarely, and when I do, it usually makes me laugh, which defeats the purpose of expressing the strength of my irritation.

Yet, my characters cuss, some worse than others, and my cursing characters have elicited some negative reviews. It was a risk I chose to take, and I’m not shocked by the occasional blow back. Since profanity is controversial, authors should weigh whether swearing will occur in their books, and if so, what kind and how much.

Consider that these choices apply to a blog too. Readers may forgo your cuss-free book because of cursing on your blog. Just saying.

Certain books lend themselves toward cursing more than others. Carrie Rubin of The Write Transition commented on her blog that, “a 17-year-old, inner-city Cleveland bully would not call his victim a “chubby poo-poo head.” I would agree. The same may apply to a whole host of characters, particularly when they’re in dire straits.

If I’m driving off a the side of a cliff, I might yell something stronger than “Oh, darn it!” My character that’s facing an advancing horde of barbarians might mutter something dicier than “Rats!” And my character that just lost three fingers in a sword fight might cry something more powerful than, “Bummer!”

cussing 3

For some reason, readers who dislike “real” swear words will tolerate “swear-like” words. Thus, we get fricking, freaking, frigging, fragging, frecking, flipping, and the close call fecking (not a word in the US though we all know what it means). There’s no mystery as to what any of these variations mean, but somehow they’re more acceptable.

Writing fantasy gives me a bit of an out. If I’m inventing a world, I might invent my own cuss words and trust readers to make the leap.

In The Melding of Aeris, the cataclysmic event of the past was The Burn. So cuss words fall along these lines: flaming foul, burn me, foul and fire, burn them… In my current WIP, The Rose Shield, the cussing of one secondary character is a bit more colorful: filching codwit, spanking corker, codding torch-benders, glistering goat-licker… (To avoid mortification, be sure to research your fake words!)

No one seems to mind the bloody violence in my books, but heaven forbid someone says, “Shit!” (There, I said it – grinning foolishly.)

Well, that brings me to The Sorcerer’s Garden. It takes place partly in contemporary times, so I used present day language. Not too foul-mouthed – mostly “crap” and “shit.” A reader didn’t care for the word “shit” and commented on it (it appears 28 times in 90,000 words). I couldn’t add any more “craps,” but I suppose I could have swapped a few out for “darns, rats, and bummers.” I chose not to. The book is written for adults, and though I don’t say that word often in real life, my 28 year-old character is far less reserved.

She is who she is. I took the risk.

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Well, then comes The Bone Wall. Oh dear. A reader mentioned not being able to finish it because of the prevalence of the “f-bomb.”

Now, I’m NOT suggesting that the reader was wrong or unfair. There aren’t hundreds of f-bombs in the book, but there are a lot. Readers are free to like and dislike whatever they want. I will put down books if the writing doesn’t appeal to me, and every reader has the right to do the same. We know as authors that not everyone is going to be a rabid fan, and I knew when I wrote the book that I was poking a few boundaries. I wrote it anyway.

Knowing that I would irritate some readers, why did I do it?

Because I felt it was necessary for the authenticity of the book, characters, and the main character’s arc. The story takes place in a violent post-apocalyptic world. One the main characters goes through a process of hardening, reacting to the brutality of her environment by increasing her own ruthlessness. Her language degrades as her choices and experiences do. Her cursing is in direct contrast to her twin sister, who doesn’t swear at all. To me, the language choices serve a purpose, and I was willing to accept the consequences.

When writing books for adult audiences, authors make choices about profanity, violence, and sex, knowing these are a few of the hot topics that some readers are sensitive to. There are many books with violence that don’t cross the profanity line. Perhaps cussing isn’t a prerequisite for any book. Authors must weigh their creative freedom and choices against offending readers and suffering those unfortunate reviews.

Do your books include cussing? What is/was your decision-making process?