BookBub Builds a Book Marketing Platform

Expert publishing blog opinions are solely those of the blogger and not necessarily endorsed by DBW.

38ensoI 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.

Observations:

  • 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.

Opportunities:

  • 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.38enso

15 thoughts on “BookBub Builds a Book Marketing Platform

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  3. PeterTurner

    Great post, Jack. I think BookBub’s success says a lot about the value of eMail marketing for selling books (a value often discounted in the age of social media and social recommendation). The lack of strong marketing platforms like BookBub for non-fiction does seem to point to a missed opportunity.

    Reply
    1. Jack W PerryJack W Perry Post author

      Thanks. Having an email delivered to in-boxes when the person has agreed to receive is very powerful. Regarding the non-fiction opportunity, I wonder if the higher prices for serious non-fiction creates difficulty? Maybe the heavy BookBub subscriber is looking for free and 99 cents bargains only?

      Reply
  4. PeterTurner

    I agree that low price point approaching zero is the right approach for what I call consumable ebooks like genre fiction and that’s been BookBub’s focus. Perhaps some other model will emerge for non-fiction, which is owned, returned to again and again, rather than consumed, so to speak.

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  8. Ebook Bargains UK

    The downside of BookBub is that it is a US operator and a good many of the deals on offer are not available outside the US.

    As long-time UK subscribers we are constantly frustrated at having to follow through a link to see if the offer (or even the title) is available from a UK retailer, often to be disappointed.

    From such frustration Ebook Bargains UK was born, and it quickly became clear our frustration was shared globally.

    We now send out daily promo newsletters to thirteen countries / regions and aim to have twenty daily newsletters going out to English-language readers across the world by the end of the year. Each one features the same titles but only with links to retailers available in that country / region and in local currencies.

    These are nascent markets, and we’ve only been going a few months, so subscriber numbers are low, but with around 850 million English-speakers outside the USA there is vast potential for expansion.

    Unlike Bookbub we also provide support for authors / publishers with advice provided both one-to-one and through our blog, helping authors understand and reach the nascent international markets that will in the next few years dwarf the US market.

    Reply
  9. Serena

    I’ve subscribed to other email marketing based book recommendation services in the past, but Bookbub is different. They obviously put a lot more work into their recommendations. They’re very reader oriented when it comes to their selections, and their daily email is very well laid out and so uncluttered that it doesn’t feel like junk. I guess that’s what makes it such a favourite with readers.

    Reply
  10. AJ Flamingo

    FYI I got my BookBub invite from a friend in Canada. So while many comments here state BB is a US-only enterprise, that is clearly no longer the case. An updated blog on this topic would be appreciated. Do they still have 1M subscribers? Is Harper Collins got a piece of it or just the budget to offer their list there? So much to wonder about…

    Reply

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