Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.
I first heard about eBook direct marketing company BookBub in February 2013. I was introduced to founder Josh Schanker at the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference. We had an excellent talk and I remember walking away from the meeting impressed and that his company would be successful.
Then a month later, BookBub hit 1-million subscribers. They also were getting a lot of press because Goodreads had just sold themselves to Amazon, and many in the industry were looking for alternative ways to promote their books. Goodreads remains stronger than ever, but BookBub has also established itself.
BookBub was close to 1.5-million subscribers this summer. It took about six months to add the last 500,000 subscribers. At this rate, they could reach 2-million by the end of 2013.
I hadn’t focused much on BookBub as of late. I knew they were making great strides with publishers. But then they were randomly mentioned in four different publisher meetings I was in over the last two weeks. I figured it was time to check them out in a bit more detail.
- The BookBub Advertising Sheet is excellent. It has all the detail, numbers and costs to make an intelligent decision. It is also very clear and easy-to-understand.
- There are 21 categories with 17 devoted to Fiction genres. Biggest categories are Mystery (730k); Contemporary Romance (540k) and Thrillers (520k).
- The program costs are based on the size of the email list and the price of the eBook. The costs range from $50 – $1250 per promotion and can fit most budgets.
- Email marketing is still the most effective way to market on-line. The better the lists, the more valuable. They have gone to great lengths to maintain strong lists.
- Curates the ads. They accept about 1/3 of the submissions and are selective as to what works best for their subscribers. There is a fine line between effective emails and spam.
- There is a “halo effect” and although sales drift off, they still remain higher than before – even when the price goes back to the original and the deal over.
- Can be used as easily by corporate publishers as it can by self-published authors. Many self-pub authors experienced huge sales increases.
- There are only four non-fiction categories and one of them is “General Non-Fiction.” This is too big a catch-all to be focused and as effective.
- Given the suggested max price-point of $2.99, many non-fiction titles are excluded.
- Children’s Books are two of the smallest categories. This area may need more specialization to reach the right target markets.
- According to BookBub’s website, only 20-30% of submissions are selected for a feature. That leaves a lot of publishers and authors ready to spend marketing dollars but unable to do so. An opening for other services?
- There is a lot of competition in this area. Numerous start-ups are aiming for this same or similar space. Book discovery will always be a hot area and email marketing the most effective.
- Work with some of the new eBook models such as eReatah; Scribd.; Oyster; and Total BooX. Sure the accounting is different, but in an “eBook-of-the-month”; “subscription-based” or “pay-as-you-read” models, the more people read the title, the more the publisher and author makes.
- Have more options in non-fiction categories. Or are the communities too small and/or already served by other email marketers?
- Related to the point above, would this model work with going after higher-priced books? Many business, history and serious biography eBooks carry a $14.99 price or higher, so 50% off would be $7.50. Or is that too far off the basic model to be successful?
- Add features and more editorial on their site. The site look is minimalist and it works well. But is it enough to continue building communities?
- Provide More Analytics. I have not seen the publisher reports so possibly this is being done. But by tracking the impact on sales, a very powerful tool will be developed for publishers as they launch new authors and re-introduce forgotten backlist.
As publishing continues to transform, new companies will rise to fill the needs of the industry. BookBub is one of those and will be interesting to watch.