Author Shannon Esposito joins us in this episode to discuss her recent experience with BookBub.
Have you had the opportunity to run your first BookBub promotion yet?
If you have, then you know how powerful BookBub can be as a tool for promoting your books to readers. But, do you know how your results compare to the results of other authors? If you haven’t run a BookBub yet, what should you expect when the time comes to do your first promotion?
In this episode, hybrid author Shannon Esposito shares the specific results of her most recent experience with BookBub. We walk through the entire process, from applying to BookBub, to pre-promotion planning, all the way through to post promotion results, with real numbers.
Shannon indie published her KARMA’S A BITCH, the first book in her now three volume Pet Psychic Mystery Series in 2012, so the promotion was only able to lead readers into two more books in the series, but as you’ll hear during the interview, this promotion led to a significant number of new readers, reviews and, most importantly, sales.
In this 24 minute episode, we’ll take a deep dive into Shannon’s BookBub promotion, the free service she used the day before her ad ran, and go out six weeks from the promo date to review her results.
- Shannon writes the Pet Psychic Mysteries, a series with three books.
- She decided to run the promotion during a period where are book sales are historically slow. For this promotion, she made the first book, KARMA’S A BITCH, free.
- The day before her BookBub she ran a free advertisement with E-Reader Cafe, which generated nearly 2,000 downloads.
- Shannon walks us through her day of watching free downloads, which she describes as surprisingly fun.
- The BookBub promotion generated 19,600 free downloads at a cost of $120. The total free downloads for both BookBub and E-Reader Cafe were nearly 22,000.
- Within 24 hours of running the back to back 24-hour promotion, she had added 50 new reviews in the US and her first 15 reviews in the UK.
- We discuss the sell through she saw with the other two books in her series, and the surprising momentum of the free book, which continued to sell at extremely high levels after the promotion ended.
- Shannon shares specific unit sales numbers for the series in the month prior to the promotion, the month of the promotion and the month following the promotion.
- She learned that if an author is turned down for a BookBub ad for the US it is now possible to resubmit an application for an international ad which she says are cheaper and easier to get.
- Shannon suggests all authors claim their BookBub author profile partners.bookbub.com.
- Shannon is a hybrid author with a traditionally published book, FAUX PAS, being released in the US on December 1st.
Stephen: Shannon Esposito, welcome to the Author Biz.
Shannon: Hey Stephen, thanks for having me.
Stephen: It is a pleasure. And one of the great joys of doing this show is being able to have someone come on who occasionally listens to the show and shares some knowledge with us. So thank you for coming on, being willing to share some very specific information and this is essentially a case study of a recent BookBub campaign that you did. We’re going to walk through the entire process and we’re going to have some real numbers in here which I think is going to be very interesting for listeners.
Before we get started, the series we are talking about is a series that you have written. You are a hybrid author. And this is something that you’ve published yourself. It’s the Pet Psychic Mystery series which I’ve read and really enjoy, by the way.
Shannon: Thank you.
Stephen: And you have three books in the series. So a lot of people think you can’t do this unless you have five books, ten books, whatever. This is a series with three books and you did a BookBub promotion and these are the results. So let’s sort of step through it. First, why did you decide to do a BookBub promotion?
Shannon: Well, when Kindle Unlimited came out, my book sales plummeted. My ranking plummeted and of course book sales plummeted after that. So I was trying to find a way to kind of get my books back up in ranking, get them noticed again. And summer is a notoriously bad time for sales for me. So I decided to go ahead and try something different.
Stephen: Okay and so the something different was a BookBub ad. Your books are, we mentioned the Pet Psychic mysteries, for people who don’t know they’re cozy mysteries. And I wanted to say your website which is murderinparadise.com. You have a great tag line, “sun-splashed cozy mysteries” which I think tells people all they need to know about your books.
For people who are subscribed to the five essential elements of an effective author website, that’s one of the things we talk about near the end of the sequence, that tag line. Did you come up with that yourself?
Shannon: No, actually, Stephen, you did.
Stephen: Did I really?
Shannon: You tweeted about my books after you read them and used that, and I was like, “That is my new tag line. That is brilliant.” So thank you.
Stephen: Oh my gosh, and now that you mention that I sort of remember it, and this is one of the great things, this is a warning to you, Shannon. Don’t get old because you’ll forget important things like that.
Okay. So you went to BookBub and you probably said, “I want to run a BookBub ad in the mystery section.”
Shannon: I did, and they said, “Actually, we’re going to accept you, but we’re going to put you in the Chick Lit category, which you know, was a lot cheaper to advertise. It was I think about $540 for the mystery section to advertise, and only I think about 120 for the Chick Lit category. And you do have a lot less potential people downloading, but their [inaudible 00:03:20] for that was about 20,000 downloads which was good enough for me. I only have three books in the series, so I figured that would be a great start.
Stephen: Okay, and was this your first experience with BookBub?
Shannon: I did one about two years ago, and it turned out pretty well too, but I only had two books at that time.
Stephen: Okay, for people who are thinking about doing this, what’s the actual process for signing up or requesting to be part of a BookBub promotion? What do you do?
Shannon: It’s real easy. You go to their website. They have this little form on their website you fill out and they give you an answer in a few days whether they’ll accept you or not, and they’re very friendly people. They have their stuff together.
Stephen: Okay. All right, so when specifically did you apply for this BookBub promotion? It’s going to be hard for me to say that 1000 times during this episode.
Shannon: Tongue-twister. I actually did it pretty quickly, it was only two weeks I decided that I was going to. First of all, let me tell you, I did put my books in the KU program because I wanted to utilize their free days. And I had heard nightmare stories about Amazon not price matching free days, and since I only had two weeks, I figured I’ll just go ahead and try it this way.
Shannon: So yeah, they gave me an answer in a couple of days, and a week and a half later it was in there.
Stephen: So this was around the 1st of August?
Shannon: August. Yeah, first week of August.
Stephen: So you applied, you got the response, and then you probably needed to do some planning because I know you did something else prior to the BookBub. So walk us through what you did during the two weeks immediately prior to the BookBub.
Shannon: Well I wanted to take advantage, there used to be a couple of places that you can advertise your free books for free, so I wanted to take advantage of those. But I found out that only one place does it for free anymore, and that was eReader Cafe. I submitted my book to them and they actually don’t take many books.
They’re a smaller company, but they accepted it and so they put an ad in for August 18th which was the day before my BookBub ad. And that actually worked pretty well. By 5 p.m. that day, I had 1780 downloads, and that was enough to put it at number one in free animal cozy and number ten in free mysteries. So a good start.
Stephen: About where was it prior to that?
Shannon: Oh gosh, I think I started at, 230,000.
Shannon: Yeah, it was bad.
Stephen: All right, okay, so just the eReader Cafe thing generated some pretty good momentum for you.
Stephen: So the next day, the email goes out from BookBub, so walk us through the day if you would.
Shannon: Yeah, I’ve got to tell you, it’s really fun to watch those free downloads. You wouldn’t think that giving away a bunch of books for free would be so fun, but you pretty much spend the day watching people download your book for free. By 5:00 in the US, I had 11,600 downloads, and my book had hit number 25 in free books. I’m sure everybody knows that there’s two categories in Amazon.
You have the free books for ranking and the paid books for ranking. So it hit number 25 in total free books, which was awesome. And then by that night, 11 p.m., it had hit 15,000 downloads and was number four in the top 100 free mystery thrillers. So not bad.
Stephen: No, not bad at all.
Shannon: Yeah, and then by the next morning, 8 a.m., it had hit 19,000 downloads in the US, and it was up to 112 reviews overnight which was a really big deal. Those reviews are like gold to writers.
Stephen: So let me stop you here. You got an addition 112 reviews overnight?
Shannon: No, it was 112 total. I started at 62 so it was 50 reviews overnight. But I did end up with 150 new US reviews total.
Stephen: That’s extraordinary. The book was so entertaining that people read it that quickly and did a review overnight. That’s great. And I’m sure it only took you like three days to write the book.
Shannon: I wish.
Stephen: Okay, so you’ve got 50 new reviews. We’re at 8 a.m. the next morning, 19,600 downloads. So when you signed up, you signed up at a price level and a category that would get you around 20,000 downloads, that’s around 20,000 downloads, so what’s next?
Shannon: Just enjoying the new reviews that are coming in. There were so many good things that came out of this. I got 15 new UK reviews, which I had not had any UK reviews. I had sold books in countries that I hadn’t before: France, Mexico, India. It was just, it was nice watching all those little things happen that help sell your books.
Stephen: All right, and when was this first book, this was Karma’s a Bitch, right?
Stephen: Was the free promotion, that’s the first in the Pet Psychic Mysteries series. That was published in 2013? Or ’12? Originally.
Shannon: Originally ’12.
Stephen: Okay. So that was published in 2012. After around three years, you had 62 reviews. One day later after running the BookBub ad, you have 112. I checked this morning, you have 218 this morning. So there is a certain amount of momentum that you’ve gathered through this process. And the average rating, just to brag on you, is 4.7 stars, which is really good.
Shannon: Yes, I love readers.
Stephen: Okay, so that’s the immediate process, and we’re just talking about free books. And it’s great to talk about free books, and it’s great to see these downloads, and it’s great to see these reviews, but it doesn’t put any money in your pocket. So what happened that actually did put some money in your pocket?
Shannon: The idea of all of this, of giving away a free book, is to sell the next books in your series, and I only have two books after that. So if you guys have 5, 10, 15, I’ve seen people with 20 books in a series. You guys really need to do this, because the payoff is just going to be exponential. I mean, I can’t even imagine. I wish I was a faster writer.
My other books stayed under, this is the same, just days, I guess until the end of August, my other books stayed under 1000 ranking in paid books. So they did really well just from that exposure.
Stephen: And where were they prior to this promotion?
Shannon: They were the same. They were up in the 200,000s.
Stephen: Okay, so you’re under 1,000 for both the other books which are Lady Luck Runs Out and Silence is Golden.
Shannon: And also, when it switched from free to paid, Karma’s a Bitch actually stayed under 2400 ranking too and number 18 in cozy animal mystery, which I was shocked about that, because I’ve always heard that once it switches from free to paid, your ranking tanks. Your exposure goes away.
Stephen: That’s interesting, because a lot of people have said that recently. It’s like that’s the way it used to work from what I’ve heard over and over again. It used to be if you did a free promotion, the momentum would carry over into paid. But so many people have said that doesn’t happen. It’s just a hard stop. And in your case, that wasn’t the case at all.
Shannon: No, and my theory it’s because I’m in the KU program and they kind of skew towards people in their own program. That’s not proven, but that would be my theory.
Stephen: It’s a good theory, it’s a valid theory.
Shannon: Yeah. And then . . .
Stephen: So that’s through the end of August. You’re under 1000 in every book in the series.
Shannon: Right, and by the 21st, I’d sold over 100 books in three days. And then besides that, I had four times that in the Kindle Unlimited borrows. So I was really making more money on the borrows than the book sales.
Stephen: And just so that listeners can understand this is a series that’s been out for a while. There are three books. The most recent one was published a year and a half, two years ago?
Shannon: Yeah, about that.
Stephen: Okay. And on average, what were you selling? What number of books were you selling on a monthly basis prior to this?
Shannon: Probably about 70, 80 books.
Stephen: Okay, and so between August 21 and August 31, you sold 100 books and had borrows for around another 400.
Stephen: Pretty good.
Shannon: Yeah, not bad.
Stephen: Okay, so that’s August, but there’s all of September.
Shannon: Yeah, and also in September, I want to mention one more thing is that I hit number one in paid cozy and all mysteries in the UK which as soon as it switched off the free, I was all of a sudden number one in paid animal cozies. So that was amazing.
Stephen: That is really cool.
Shannon: Yeah, I’ve never sold in the UK, so they got introduced to my books.
Stephen: And all of this for $120.
Shannon: Yeah. Good bargain, right?
Stephen: Yes, so then we’re in September now. What happens? This is two to six weeks after your promotion. I assume it’s not still accelerating, but is it hanging in there?
Shannon: No, not accelerating, but definitely hanging in there. The book borrows are definitely hanging in there. They were about the same. I had 900 books borrowed by the end of August, and I had 860 books borrowed by the end of September. The sales went from 421 in the US, 150 in the UK, to 280 in the US. So still not bad.
Stephen: No, it’s still three times what you were selling prior to the ad.
Stephen: And the borrows.
Stephen: In terms of a return on investment, and we proved earlier before we actually got on the air, we were trying to do the math. And I’m pretty good at math and I completely flubbed it and thankfully I did not have the recorder on that because I wouldn’t have wanted that to turn up on a blooper reel somewhere.
But anyway, we’ve got essentially a 1000% increase in sales over the course of the two months after, if you include the borrows and the revenue generated from the borrows, from the month prior to the promotion to the two months after the promotion. And in terms of money, the difference is extraordinary.
Shannon: Yes, definitely.
Stephen: Okay, so you’ve done this. What’s the number one thing you’ve learned about doing a BookBub ad having done this? You’ve done it before, but you did it again. What did you learn this time?
Shannon: First of all, I’ve learned I really need to write faster and get some more books out there, so I can do this again. But the one thing I have to ask myself if I do it again is, is the visibility with higher ranking being in the KU program worth the dollar I’m losing on each book if it’s borrowed instead of bought.
When I do this again without being in the KU program, that’s what I’ll be looking at. Because my profit on a bought book is about $2.80 approximately. And it’s $1.80, well of course that changes, but according to their 0.006 cents per page as far as I know right now, it comes to about $1.80 a book. So I lost about $900 even though I made a lot of money on the borrows. If they purchased that book instead, I would have made another $900.
Stephen: But I suspect that not all of those people would have purchased.
Shannon: Yeah, that’s another question. You don’t know.
Stephen: Right, so that would be a valid experience. Now that you are the voice of experience, what advice would you give someone out there who has never done a BookBub ad and maybe is in the same position that you are where they have three, four, five, six books in a series? What advice would you give them in doing a project like this?
Shannon: Okay, just do it. Just do it. Go to their website and submit your book and see if you can get in their program. And if you get rejected for a US ad, what I have found out is you can submit for an international ad now. They’re in the UK and Canada and India and it’s much easier to get an international ad and it’s cheaper. So don’t give up, there’s other ways to get in.
And I don’t remember if they suggested waiting every six months or a year, but they don’t like it if you try to get in every three months, because it just doesn’t do any good. The same readers are there, you need to wait until fresh readers sign up.
But here are some stats. I met Katie Donelan, a lovely smart woman on the business side of BookBub and she told us that 63% of BookBub readers purchased other books by an author they discovered through price promotion. So 63%, that’s incredible. And also, they do have the 99 cents promotion but you get 10 times more downloads of free books than you do at 99 cents.
Stephen: Okay, that’s great information. And I can say that as a BookBub subscriber, I get those lists. That’s how I found a number of books where I’ve read the entire series. You get one book for free. Mike Faricy is that way. He uses BookBub a lot and that was my introduction to full-length novels by Mike, was one of his BookBub things. I also read one of his novellas, but there are a lot of people who do this very successfully, and there was almost nothing for you to do, other than to sign up and do it.
Shannon: Yeah, definitely, and everybody needs to go claim your author profile there whether you’re getting ready to do an ad or not. Readers can follow you and search for you by name or your books there and they are planning a lot of promotion around that. So go get your author profile.
Stephen: How does one claim their author profile?
Shannon: Just go to BookBub.com and search, I’m not quite sure, it was pretty easy to find.
Stephen: Okay, I’ll put a link to it in the show notes. Shannon, we mentioned that you are a hybrid author. You have a new book coming out, so tell us about that. We’ll give you a little Shannon Esposito commercial here at the end of the show.
Shannon: Okay, yes, so I have a new book coming out December 1 in the US and it’s called Faux Pas and it’s a Paws and Pose mystery, another dog cozy mystery. And it’s already out in the UK, so if you’re in the UK listening you can buy it there. And it’s a basically about Elle Presley, she’s a doga instructor. She teaches doggy yoga for . . .
Shannon: It’s a thing. It really is
So she teaches on this private island that’s really dog friendly and apparently has a lot of people get murdered, so fun stuff.
Stephen: It’s coming out soon. It’s published by Severn House. Shannon Esposito, thank you so much for being here.
Shannon’s website www.murderinparadise.com
Shannon’s Amazon author page
E-Reader Cafe website
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