5 Tips for Getting Accepted by Bookbub

| Posted in Book Marketing |


I mentioned on Twitter last night that I’d snagged another Bookbub ad for one of my boxed sets, and someone asked what the trick was, since they had been trying for years to get accepted. I thought I’d do a write-up with some tips, since I’ve had 20-odd ads with them over the years, between my pen name and my regular name (there’s one tip: you can technically have two Bookbubs in a month if you have two names). I don’t apply every month, but I do it as often as it makes sense. Maybe one day I’ll have enough series out there that I can keep cycling through my Book 1s and have a different one to promo each month of the year.

For those who haven’t heard of Bookbub, it’s the one sponsorship site out there that pays off for most authors who use it, meaning you’ll often make your money back and more on Day 1 or 2 of the ad if you’re doing a 99-cent title. If you’re advertising a free book that’s the first in the series, you’ll often make the money back and more in the sales of the subsequent books, though that usually takes a little longer, as people have to work through the series. Bookbub is also the most expensive site out there, with ads in some categories costing over a thousand dollars. But right now, the size of their subscriber base is far, far larger than that of any of the other sponsorship sites.

As you can imagine, they’re popular with authors wanting to purchase ads, too, and they hand at more rejections than acceptances. So, what’s the trick to getting an ad? I’m sure most, if not all, of this is already out there, so I’ll attempt to keep my list short. I’ve also included a video of an interview with a Bookbub employee at the end, and she answers a lot of questions about what they’re looking for and why some books are chosen over others.

1. Have a professional cover

They get tons and tons of submissions and can afford to be picky. I’m a subscriber to the sci-fi and fantasy lists, and it’s super rare to see a cover that looks homemade (usually when it happens, it’s an old trad published book!). Plenty of indie books get accepted, but they all have covers that look like a pro made them.

If you have a truly awesome cover (and sometimes it’s hard to self-judge on this), your odds can only get better.

2. Make sure you’re offering a big discount

I’ve had $2.99 books that I wanted to drop to 99 cents get accepted, but they’ve stated straight out in interviews that they want to give their subscribers the best deal possible. I believe this is why the boxed sets get accepted so often–a lot of these are 6.99 and more, and the authors are discounting them to 99 cents. If you’re selling your ebook at 99 cents or 2.99 right now and planning to apply eventually, you may want to bump the price up to 3.99 or 4.99 for the three months prior.

3. Make sure you’re promoting Book 1

Unless you have the kind of open-ended series where someone can jump in at any point, make sure you’re applying with the first book in your series. (If it is an open-ended series, I would mention that in the comments box.) Bookbub has specifically stated that they prefer Book 1s.

4. Have a LOT of reviews

I’ve had books accepted where there are less than 100 reviews on Amazon, but it just seems to be much more likely that you’ll get a spot if it’s clear that your book is already popular and that lots of readers have liked it. The more competitive the category, the more true this appears to be.

Yes, it’s a chicken and an egg thing — how do you get that many reviews before you’ve used something like Bookbub and gotten massive exposure? If you’re struggling to get reviews, consider doing a free run and using some of the smaller and less picky sponsorship sites to get some exposure to your book at the same time. Also, in the back of the book, politely ask your readers to leave a review. Believe it or not, that does make people more inclined to do so.

I’ve heard that Bookbub looks at reviews on Goodreads as well as Amazon and some other sites in determining whether to accept a title, so if you don’t have much going on over at GR, you might consider doing some giveaways there of physical books or just asking your regular readers to leave reviews there.

5. Make sure you’re a good match for one of their categories

With the stuff I write under my regular name, it’s easy. It’s all fantasy. I request the fantasy category.

With my pen name, things get trickier. It’s science fiction (space opera) romance, and they often balk at the idea of putting those kinds of books into their sci-fi category (I wouldn’t be surprised if that’s dominated by male subscribers).

The first two times the pen name got Bookbub ads, they insisted on putting the books into paranormal romance. That’s usually vampires and werewolves and the like, and the stories are set on Earth and have magic in them (in short, they’re fantasy). I didn’t think my space adventures would be a good fit. I paid for the ads anyway, because even a bad Bookbub experience tends to pay for itself or at least get you a lot of exposure, but they definitely underperformed compared to what I was used to. I knew that even with the romance element, the pen name stuff would do better in straight up SF.

So… when it came time to submit a boxed set, I redid the cover and gave it a pure space opera look (stars, a planet, a space ship!) with no sexy shirtless guys or couples in the clinch. I also composed a blurb that mentioned that romance was included (along with adults scenes), but which played up the adventure sci-fi aspect. The boxed set got in, and it did extremely well.

Tip: it’s tougher to get a Bookbub ad with a KU title, but if you can, you’ll probably do really well running it as a Countdown Deal, since you earn 70% on that 99-cent book instead of 35%, and you’ll also get a lot of extra borrows.

Note: you may be asking if it’s worth redoing your blurb and maybe even your cover just to have a better shot at fitting into a Bookbub category. It probably is, not just because of Bookbub, but because the book might very well perform better in general if it seems more inline with a specific category’s tropes. Sadly, originality isn’t usually what sells books. An original story on the inside is fine, but in general, people seem to be more likely to buy more of what they already know they love!

If you have any other Bookbub acceptance tips, please leave them in the comments. Now, here’s that interview and a couple of links to helpful articles on the Bookbub blog too:

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Comments (13)

Great advice, Lindsay! I’m definitely taking notes! Garnering enough reviews is going to be the big challenge for me as a new indie author with a new novel series, beginning late this year, hoping to promote book 1 probably after book 3 is out early next year. Any advice on garnering those reviews cheerfully accepted 🙂

(The plan is to release the first two a month a part, beginning in November with the first, then the third six-seven weeks after the second, and then moving out to not quite three months between 3 and 4, and then 4 and 5).

You could do some free runs with the first book to try and get the reviews. You could also trying starting out in Kindle Unlimited as it’s sometimes easier to get a book to stick on Amazon that way. Reviews are, of course, a natural byproduct of a lot of reads. And it doesn’t hurt people to ask for them!

Lindsay, those are great points! I also plan on sending out ARCs early and often 😉

Hi, very interesting post! I got accepted by BookBub last year for my debut novel and it’s still doing pretty well. I’m in the literary fiction/Women’s Fiction categories and it seems particularly difficult — my second book (not a sequel) has been rejected a few times. I’ve rewritten the blurb again so hoping I might have better luck next time. However, I’m still doing price promos with my books, using several other newsletters. And I’ve even co-founded a daily deals newsletter, BookStar Daily, that focuses on deals on Women’s Fiction, Romance, Chick Lit and books written by women — we’ve had a lot of interest from authors! So, thankfully, there are creative solutions to book promotion.

Middle Grade, if you’ve a good cover and twenty or so reviews on Amazon, seems to be one of the cheapest options on BookBub (not surprisingly as it’s the least attractive option for many Indies) but it still has a good reach to many tens of thousands of subscribers and a reasonable percentage return if the published averages are anything to go by.

I’m certainly building it in to my marketing plan. But I think it’s wise for me to wait until I have all three books out in my first trilogy before I apply, so I’ve got a bit of traction and something to hook reader/buyers into.

You know what, Lindsay, without you and your generous advice, I wonder where some of us starting out on this road would be. You’re amazing. You should be awarded medals or something. Just thought you should know that. 🙂

I had a Bookbub ad run last year in January. It was WILDLY successful. I write contemporary romance. However, since then I have not been able to run another ad.
I subscribe to their daily e-blast so I can see what they are choosing and I have noticed various issues. One, they really don’t stand by what they preach. I have seen amazing covers and honestly some pretty crap covers.
I saw a bear on one cover with some crazy font and thought -who would buy that?
Secondly. I have noticed a MASSIVE drop in Indie books at least for MY genre. If I see 20 books in their e-blast over the course of a few days there will be only one Indie book.
I emailed BB to ask them if they were turning away from Indies and they claimed no. Of course what else would they say. But honestly I think BB has become like some sort of Holy Grail/Oscar like site and they basically can do what they want. If that means no Indies, then I guess no Indies it is.
Other items of note. I have never seen less then 10 reviews. They NEVER run new releases.
Again, the benefits to a BB ad is great if you can get it and I did. But they do seem to be anti Indie for my genre and that is unfortunate.

I’ve noticed it’s usually the trad published stuff that will have the dubious covers, at least on the SF&F lists. I guess we have to try harder to be spectacular as indies. No, they don’t do new releases, as far as I know. They have started announcing new releases to an author’s followers, but you have to plug them into your dashboard there.

Hi Lindsay,

Great post! You’ve included a lot of wonderful information here. I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving an example of how to ask for reviews at the back of the book. I’m sure it’s good to be polite and friendly, but I’m not quite sure what to say!

Hi Catherine,

May I politely suggest buying one of Lindsay’s books and then you’ll see what she does when you get to the end! You don’t even have to buy one as there are permafree series starters. Easy as that.

Hope that helps. 🙂

Thanks, Austin! I actually don’t have it in the back of many books anymore (I usually encourage newsletter signups first and foremost), so I wouldn’t know where to send her. I’m most likely to do it on a new Book 1 where I’m hoping to get a series off to a good start.

Just something like, “Thanks for reading X! If you enjoyed the adventure, please consider leaving a review. This is super helpful to authors, since readers will sometimes skip right over books without many reviews.”

Just something like, “Thanks for reading X! If you enjoyed the adventure, please consider leaving a review. This is super helpful to authors, since readers will sometimes skip right over books without many reviews.”

Sometimes? Much more like “regularly”. :/

[…] your genre. Since we’ve yet to crack the BookBub nut, here’s a lovely blog from author Lindsay Buroker with some great tips on how to maximize your chances of getting […]

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