BookBub Ads – What the FAQ?

BookBub is a wonderfully passionate community of over ten million book buyers – and its ad platform is the only one at this scale which is exclusively made up of readers. BookBub Ads is unique in lots of other ways too and I’ve received hundreds of questions from authors over the last few months who are confused about one aspect or another. Today, we’ll look at the most frequent issues… and give you solutions to all those problems.

Four recommended BookBub Ads resources before we dive into the mailbag:

  1. BookBub Ads Expert is THE best book on BookBub Ads. I can say that without hesitation because it is also the only book about BookBub Ads. Read more about the book at this dedicated page on my site, where you will also find links to all the retailers and a bunch of nice things people had to say about it.
  2. My weekly marketing newsletter is free, where we regularly cover BookBub Ads, along with Facebook and Amazon Ads, as well as all other book marketing topics: reader targeting, email sorcery, how to launch a book, content marketing – the works. That goes out every Friday, and you get a free book just for signing up. Do that here if you know what’s good for ya…
  3. Continuing the freepalooza is a killer set of bonus resources for purchasers of BookBub Ads Expert – a gallery of winning ad images, detailed optimization advice, up-to-the-minute info on BookBub changes, case studies, and a place to ask questions! – but you only get access to that when you buy the book, because I am crafty like that. It is a great add-on for all the glamourous and discerning folk who do purchase the book though, and they will tell you that I’ve been adding to it continually since March and it has grown into something quite cool.
  4. Prefer podcasts? I’ve got you covered. But also check out a couple I did with William Bernhardt and Novel Marketing.

I’ve been using BookBub Ads for two or three years, I’ve been covering the platform in some depth for my mailing list for well over a year at this point, my dedicated book came out a few months ago, and the course… I can’t quite remember when that launched. Around the same time?

I’ve also run some giant campaigns for authors in a range of genres, as well as my own ads, and compared data and strategies with hundreds of other authors writing every kind of book imaginable.

These are the issues and questions which come up most frequently.

Honestly, as fond as I am of BookBub Ads, Featured Deals beat anything hands down. You are probably getting clicks for a third or a quarter of the cost than you will get them on any ad platform, with unparalleled conversion rates too. The ROI on Featured Deals is wonderful, and nothing else comes close to matching it. A Featured Deal can deliver thousands of sales and put you in the Amazon Top 100 all on its own. They are quite something.

This power means they are in high demand though, and acceptance rates are as low as 20%. Meaning you can’t count on being selected, and you will most likely get rejected even if you have a great, well-presented book with a strong sales record. And you will almost certainly get rejected if you are in Kindle Unlimited, as BookBub strongly prefers that Featured Deals are also available to the significant numbers of readers on its lists who use Apple Books, Kobo, Google Play, or Barnes & Noble/Nook.

But aside from being open to everyone, BookBub Ads does have some key advantages, ROI differences notwithstanding: you can run them whenever you like, at whatever budget suits you, switching between whichever titles you need to push, and can choose to push harder in whatever country or retailer suits your strategic needs. It’s very flexible.

I think they can perform a great 1-2 punch. You have a few different options here. Sometimes I like to scoop up any stragglers after a Featured Deal with some BookBub Ads pointed at the same audience. Other times I like to hit that same audience again with a deal on another book.

There are lots of ways to do this. For example, you can target yourself the day after the Featured Deal and you will see the Reader count – i.e. the total size of the audience you can target, which is all your Followers plus anyone that has ever interacted with your books on the platform – will have grown significantly. With new people who are proven to be interested in your work! So hit them with something else while you are fresh in their minds. Either a deal on Book 2, or something else.

Alternatively, you can use the ad platform to hit different pockets of readers that might not have seen your Featured Deal.

How much do BookBub Ads cost?

You set your own budget, and you decide your own bids. You can (and should) start small before scaling up, and that minimizes your risk. Just don’t dump money in and expect it to work out. Be cautious to begin with. Even if you are Ms. Genre Queen. Seriously. BookBub is a very different platform and you must start from scratch here, even if you are whizz with Amazon Ads or killing it on Facebook.

CPC or CPM – which is best?

BookBub is the only ad platform that lets you truly choose CPC or CPM – i.e. cost per click or cost per impression. Facebook appears to give you that choice, but it’s really an illusion. No matter which of the many choices you pick on Facebook, you are always getting billed by CPM regardless. Anyway, back to BookBub. Most people choose CPC because that’s what they are familiar with. Just paying for clicks sounds like just paying for results and has a logic to it. That logic is flawed, I respectfully suggest.

I find CPM works better almost all the time. And when I say “works better” I mean that it delivers cheaper clicks, more of them, stretches out your audience, teaches you how to be a better advertiser, and gives your promos more power overall. They win on every metric for me. The only time CPC works better is if you have bad ads. So… make your ads good, use CPM. It really is the way to get BookBub Ads working for you. The only real way, IMO, that you can drive click costs down to really cheap levels, and still deliver at scale. (Fuller discussion/explanation on all that in my book.)

What kind of images work?

Good ones!

Haha, I was so tempted to just leave it at that. I probably shouldn’t, because this is the area people screw up most often. Use your book cover, have an offer, highlight the price, keep text to a minimum (even though there are no restrictions like Facebook), and above all else, make it look good FFS. I see people making their own ads, and they are just baaaaad. Honestly. Either take the time to get it right, or just outsource.

I’ve paid as little as $20 before to get some ads made up. Actually, I’ve paid less than that because my designer bundles ad graphics for free now when I get my covers made up. I also make my own quite regularly. There are a bunch of tools now which make this much easier.

I have used Canva a lot. And I’m looking forward to experimenting with Book Brush – a dedicated tool for authors making promo graphics – and also trying out a more general one called Stencil. I think I’ll do a three-way post comparing them all at some point over the next few weeks.

Can I use BookBub Ads to push a reader magnet?

No. There is a hard restriction against using BookBub Ads to directly collect email addresses. You can point them at a book you are selling on your site, that’s perfectly fine, but not a free book where readers have to sign-up to a list before getting the download. Absolutely 100% no.

A freebie at a retailer is allowed, of course. And pointing them to a book for sale/download somewhere that has a link to your reader magnet/sign-up inside the book is totally fine as well, of course, just to be clear.

What’s wrong with my targeting? I can’t get anything to work…

Well, the problem might be your image (see above). That’s the problem most of the time. Targeting can be tricky too though. You need to be patient and go through a proper period of testing. It’s so important that discussions around testing images and targets takes up about 20-25% of my book. If you rush through it, you are setting yourself up for a fall.

One of the common mistakes people make is simply importing a list of comp authors from Facebook or Amazon Ads, assuming they will work just as well on BookBub. You really can’t make that assumption. What you need a comp author list native to BookBub.

(If you want to learn more about the general topic of comp authors, what they are and how to find them, read this post.)

Can’t I just target my genre?

You can, that is an option, but I strongly recommend you don’t do that. You need to target by author. Often targeting by author and genre is the way to go, especially useful when any of your targets write in more than one niche but targeting by author is a must in almost all cases.

What about full price books?

Advertising El Dorado. Everyone wants to sell full price books. We all want some kind of machine working away in the background that will sell thousands of books for them while we sleep. But let’s get realistic: if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it.

Advertising is a tricky business. All the platforms are difficult and complex in their own way. One of BookBub’s quirks is that it is a deals newsletter primarily, so its readers respond best to discounts. Of course they do. That doesn’t mean you must have a 99¢ book or a freebie to make BookBub Ads work. But it does mean it’s a lot easier if you do. You can sell more expensive books on BookBub, but maybe not for your first rodeo. Learn the ropes first.

Oh, and a 99¢ book is best for testing, in my experience. Testing with a higher priced book is really, really hard. Also keep in mind testing with a freebie means increased response rates will mask some problems with your ads that a 99¢ book will be better at teasing out.

What about scaling up if they are working?

This is what BookBub Ads is best at, for my money. Testing is tricky, there’s no avoiding that. But once you get over that hump, and you have a reliable list of author targets, you can scale your campaigns with relative ease. It’s not like Amazon where the wheels can come off right away when you try to up the budget. And it’s not like Facebook where you often have to step it up a little, then recalibrate, then step it up again, and so on.

Once you are seeing positive results with a campaign, you can turn BookBub Ads up to 11 and enjoy the ride.

Do you use BookBub Ads differently when wide versus in KU?

Great question. I would punt slightly and say everything about marketing is different when you are wide. I wrote a long post about that here. Read that for a comprehensive answer.

Has there been any big changes since your book came out?

Two changes, in fact. The first is one that people THINK is huge but is actually quite small in my opinion. The second is one that seems to have flown under the radar completely, but I think is a much, much bigger deal.

Readers v Followers: BookBub introduced a new metric called Readers. This is just a new label really for a concept that has always existed. Contrary to what many believe, BookBub doesn’t just show your ads to a target author’s Followers, but also all the people who have interacted with that author’s books on the platform – for example anyone who has clicked on their Featured Deals or Ads previously. Obviously that number is bigger. In the case of an author who has had multiple Featured Deals of free books, that number can be MUCH bigger. This has always been the case, the only change is the new label, and those numbers are now surfaced in our interfaces. Adjust accordingly.

CTR-by-Author is the change that seems to have been ignored by many people, but I think is pretty huge. If you dig into your Aggregated Stats for any campaign, you will now see a breakdown of the CTR (and CPC and CPM and impressions) for every single author in any set that you target. This is a wonderful change and is going to be so very useful in so many different ways.

Can you share more tips around these changes?

I already have! On my BookBub Ads Resources Page – which is exclusive to purchasers of BookBub Ads Expert. I’m a cad, yes, but also one that likes eating with some regularity as my increasingly porcine appearance will attest.

Sure. BookBub themselves have a great blog – you should check it out. Here are all their posts on BookBub Ads, for example, although the blog covers all book marketing topics. There are some other guides and resources and case studies there too if you nose around.

But really, BookBub Ads Expert is where it’s at, he says, not quite dispassionately. It genuinely is a comprehensive guide covering all sorts of uses for the platform, and getting really deep into strategy too – with some killer tricks that could really take your sales to another level.

Do you have any questions I missed? I’ll do my best to answer them in the comments, but, fair warning: I may say “that’s covered in more detail in the book,” quite a lot, especially to very complicated questions.

Anything I can answer quickly and easily I will happily tackle.

One last thing…

I hope you enjoyed this post! I just wanted to let you know that I send out exclusive content every Friday to my mailing list subscribers.

I talk about the latest tricks with Facebook Ads or BookBub Ads, I also get into topics like content marketing, reader targeting, and everything else under the sun that pertains to building audience and reaching readers.

By signing up to my list, you get access to the all the old emails too, as well as sneak previews of upcoming books (meaning you get the jump on the latest tricks strategies of everyone else), and exclusive discounts too.

You also get a FREE copy of Following – a book that you can’t get anywhere else! I strongly recommend that you join over ten thousand authors and sign up today because there are all sorts of bonuses you will enjoy.

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David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.

21 Replies to “BookBub Ads – What the FAQ?”

  1. If your book is only available on Amazon it’s very unlikely to be chosen by Bookbub for advertising. It doesn’t matter how good it is. That’s just the way they run their operation.

  2. On an ad for a first-in-series suspense novel selling for $2.99 in the US and market-appropriate equivalents in other markets, I am getting CTRs of >1% of B&N US, Google, and Kobo US but <1% on Amazon US and Apple US. Is it worth turning off the lower CTR platforms to focus on the more successful ones? Thank you!

  3. I’ve read (and re-read) BookBubs Ad Expert, and everything I can get my hands on that you’ve written—all GREAT STUFF! My question is how often (if ever) can you recycle the same successful ad (untweeked) with the same comp authors?

    1. Hey – thanks! This is a bit of a “how long is a piece of string” question tbh. A really great ad that readers are responding to can often be recycled right away with only a minor dip in performance. Slightly less strong ads might need a little refresh of the ad image (I might swap out some of the strong colors for something else). And then ads which weren’t good enough in the first place won’t magically improve on Round 2.

      That’s all with an ad over a short space of time (like supporting a Countdown or launch). Stretch that serving out over time (like with a permafree) and then you could theoretically repeat the ad forever, depending on how much you are spending – a lower spend will chew through the audience slower. And the size of the audience affects things too, especially when taking that approach.

      Did that, errr, non-answer answer your question?

  4. Hi David, I read and enjoyed your BookBub book. But, I cannot find follower numbers for a given author on BookBub. Half of the authors I am interested in targetting are not even members and as for the others there are no follower numbers given. Have these been removed since you wrote your book? I am under the impression they have, and if so this changes things markedly I assume.

    1. Hi Guy, this change was actually made back in 2018, just as I was formatting the book, and beyond the point I could make changes to the text. However, I did write extensively on it for the Resources Page for the book – accessible via the book itself. I strongly recommend checking out that page for a fuller discussion. Let me know if you are having trouble accessing it. I’m releasing a quick update to BookBub Ads Expert soon which will account for that change and make the link to that Resources page a little more obvious (I’ll be updating that page too with lots more info). The good news is that nothing has changed about the method and approach in the book. The short version is that this “Readers” metric just surfaces a number that was always in the mix, but not explicitly stated. It’s the number of Followers + the number of people who have clicked on your ads/deals before or otherwise interacted with your books on the platform. And that’s always the audience who your ad was shown to, so no change on that front. You just have to do a little adjusting in terms of the min/max numbers for your targets (I get most joy betweek 5k/10k Readers and 50k Readers).

    2. One last thing: you still can see Follower numbers also. Well, depending on where you are. I see the US version of the site, so I can see Follower numbers in a number of places. I’m guessing you are based somewhere outside the US. I just want to check something, can you see my Follower count on this page here:

  5. It may be a case of me wanting to find what I am looking for … but when you said, er, wrote, “If it was me, I’d knuckle down and save the money to make a bigger splash when I have 2-3 books in a series I can push” it resonated as spot on advice.

    Thanks for the reassurance … and straightforward honesty.

    You might have said, “Buy/read my book.” And the last chapter say, “Before you spend on ads, write another book.” But you didn’t.

    Kudos to you.

  6. My main criticism of this post is your assumption that everyone reading it knows the jargon. You lost me with all the initials, and even when you said what one of those was, I was none the wiser. What is ‘cost per impression’? There are others I didn’t understand, too, so that made things no clearer.

    1. You’re correct – this post is not aimed at people unfamiliar with basic advertising terms like CPM. It’s aimed at those already advertising on BookBub. (I’d respectfully suggest that anyone who doesn’t get such terms should familarize themselves before spending money on any ad platform.)

      But there are a ton of resources listed up top which will walk you through CPM and CPC and CTR and everything else too – some of which will only cost you a click.

  7. I had disappointing results with my BookBub ad. $22 for 9 clicks on a $0.99 book. I noticed the deals have doubled and the ad is still at the very bottom. Readers may download a book or two that they really want (because most people can’t read ten books a day) and they never get to the bottom of the email. That’s my theory, anyway.

    My deal went great! I only targeted International markets (much cheaper) and let the ad take the US readers to the deal. I thought that was a smart way to cover all bases. Thanks to the International sales I made enough to cover the cost of both and leave a little change in my pocket.

  8. If you only have one book out, I’d respectfully suggest that your overwhelming focus should be on writing rather than marketing. It’s very difficult to make a profit with ads when you have only one thing for reader to buy – and that goes for any platform. If it was me, I’d knuckle down and save the money to make a bigger splash when I have 2-3 books in a series I can push.

    1. I do have two finished novels in the ancient historical fiction genre ready to go, once formatting is done and cover design finalized. I should’ve made that clearer. Sorry about that. The last book of the trilogy is partially finished. But, yes, a completed trilogy would be easier to push. This is my magnum opus. I’ll be moving on to a more popular genre than ancient historical fiction, though I do love it. Thanks again.

  9. Are Bookbub ads-or indeed, any type of advertising- worthwhile if your novel is in a less than popular subgenre, say, ancient historical fiction? Haven’t done anything yet, just musing on the promo plan for my two novels this fall and cursed by the limited budget 🙁 Don’t want to be flushing all my loonies down the drain. Thanks.

    1. Rather than recommending a specific designer, really, this is something any designer can easily handle. It’s significantly easier than designing a cover and something that a practiced designer can whip up in a few minutes. I’ve used a good few different guys, and the cost was always around $20 or $30 – when they didn’t just bundle them for free with the covers anyway. In fact, that’s the ideal: order a bunch of marketing assets when getting your cover: Facebook Ads, BookBub Ads, website graphics, Facebook Cover Photo. A designer can spin this up really quickly, and switching from one format to the other basically just involves copying and resizing and a tiny bit of fiddling (I know because I do all my own stuff now).

      For covers already commissioned, the next best thing, perhaps, is to go back to the original designer, as they will have all the original art etc. at their fingertips. But if that’s not an option for whatever reason, any designer should be able to do it (but it does help if you have a high-res version of your cover, a PSD file of your cover, and/or the cover art without lettering etc.). But even without that they should be able to gin something up. It’s a pretty easy job for a designer tbh.

  10. I have to say that I tested out the wazoo and never found anything – specifically a comp list – that worked. I tried a couple of dozen varieties of style and graphics thinking that must be the problem. I spent quite a lot of money testing and eventually gave up. Maybe it is my genre. Maybe my books. But for me, they just don’t work.

    1. I remember talking with you about this on Twitter. Honestly, I think those images could have been improved significantly. It might have been worth outsourcing that part. The small fee of $20 or $30 or whatever comes back to you pretty quickly in terms of improved results. I always strongly advise doing that unless you are very comfortable with Canva/Photoshop.

  11. This is fantastic. And a confirmation for me, as I’ve just bailed out of Mark Dawson’s course Ads for Authors (during the refundable period), which is excellent but not quite right for where I am with my 2 narrative non-fiction books. Having read your ‘BookBub Ads’ and illuminated it with highlights, I’ve followed your guidance with some success (I think, perhaps deludedly). So that’s the way I’m going.

  12. Regarding BookBub and reader magnets – I went back and forth with BookBub on how to use a BB ad to point to a location where I could distribute ARCs. We finally settled on a method where the ARCs can be distributed via BookFunnel. There is a type of BookFunnel page called a ‘download’ page instead of a ‘giveaway’ page. The download page does not collect emails, and you can set up a multi-book landing page too. I ran this by the folks at BB and they are fine with it, so that’s another option for distributing reader magnets that meet the BB restrictions.

    1. That’s distributing a freebie, not a reader magnet. A reader magnet is something which is gated behind a sign-up. You can’t point people at one of those. You can point people at a free download, whether at Amazon, Kobo, BookFunnel, or your own site… as long as they don’t have to sign-up to get it.

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