Book Promotion Sites Ranked & Rated: More Thoughts & Tips for Getting into BookBub from BookBub, Plus 20 Questions & Answers with BookBub

So many have pinged me about Book Promotion Sites Ranked & Rated and asked questions that I added more to the article originally and in comments, but will now put those together with additional tips for getting into BookBub from the BookBub team. The details come from research and discussions between January 2014 and December 2014 as well as updates and additions from January 2015.

Before I get into more details and tips for success, remember, a promotion that doesn’t do as well as hoped isn’t necessarily a failure on the author’s part. It can be a failure of the marketing done on the author’s behalf – and marketing does fail frequently in my experience. That said, it's up to the author to put his or her best foot forward. You really need to take your time with any submissions to these services, make sure your work is highly polished with good cover art, and provide as much detail as possible in your submission.

Further, to be clear, no one who participated in the study was disappointed with BookBub. Participants gave BookBub two thumbs up with caveats and our highest rating.

Did the participants think BookBub was a good value? Yes, that's what the score of 10 indicated.

Did the participants think BookBub was perfect? No, that’s why the score was a 10 and not a 20. Online promotion services in this category have a long way to go towards perfection—BookBub included.

Will the participants be using BookBub again? Yes, absolutely.

I was asked many questions about the residual value of online book promotion services, as in: Is there value beyond the promotion period?

To be clear, the study looked at the value of the promotion not just on the day of promotion but within a reasonable window of time that extended beyond. As an example, a book may see 80% of its boost on Day 1 and Day 2, 15% of its boost on Days 3 to 5, and 5% of its boost on Days 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10, and that windowing effect was taken into account.

These offerings are really one-time and done, with little residual value. Remember, many of these services are featuring 20 – 30 or more books a day with promotions appearing on “daily feature” pages, promoted through daily emails, and often on social media. It’s important to remember that success with these services isn’t just about the daily newsletter emails to followers. It’s also about the service’s web site and social media channels. Thus, there are 3-parts to promotion strategies using these services that must be considered.

With the “daily feature” page, your book is one of many. Successive daily promotion pages quickly follow the page your book is on. Thus, after 7 to 10 days, your book is already several hundred books back in the queue. Some promotion services distinguish themselves by making their web sites about more than the listings, and that helps to build traction.

With daily emails, your book is included in a daily email. Successive daily emails quickly follow. Thus, after a few days, the email containing your book has already been superseded several times.

It’s also important to remember that just because a service has 1,000,000 followers doesn’t mean 1,000,000 are going to see your promotion. Typical open rates for promotion services that use daily emails are likely 2 to 3%, though I’ve seen claims as high as 6 to 12%. Open rates are posted by some services if you look for them, though self-reported and based on all classes of recipients.

With an open rate of 2 – 3% and 1,000,000 emails sent, that means about 20,000 to 30,000 are opening the email. With an open rate of 6% and 1,000,000 email sent, that means about 60,000 are opening the email. With an open rate of 12% and 1,000,000 email sent, that means about 120,000 are opening the email. Once those emails have been opened, some subset of those who did so will make one or more purchases based on what they read.

Going back to the idea of residual value. Marketing isn’t just about the sales made, but also building brand, following and cache. However, most of these services would have to rethink their entire approach to build any actual product awareness: daily pages and daily emails don’t build anything.

With 20, 30 or more books featured at a time each and every day, readers are simply being overwhelmed and it’s highly unlikely any value is being built. ENT and BookBub might be exceptions, as their larger followings make the building of traction more likely. As ENT and BookBub are quite popular, they may also have higher open rates than smaller services.

Anyone working at these services may wonder how they can start providing more value more consistently. There's no easy answer but here's a start: Don't feature so many books at once. Build additional value using your website and social media. For examples of better websites, start by looking at how ENT is doing things.

The effectiveness of this category of book promotion services has changed over time. Services focusing on free and discounted ebooks have grown and matured with the ebook/kindle marketplace itself. A mature following isn’t the same as a new, hungry following.

When many of these services started, they were rapidly expanding and growing their following. Now much of their following has matured along with the services themselves. As a result, there’s likely a growing percentage of members who may not be actively seeking new reads or who may not be seeking new reads as frequently, as well as a base of members who continue to actively seeking new reads. Because of this, these services must constantly grow their membership base with not just new members, but with members who are actively seeking new reads.

I know when I first started following these services, I couldn’t wait to open the emails each day to discover new deals. A few weeks in though, I was only checking every few days. A few months in, I was only checking sporadically, and mostly when I needed something to new to read. Now after several years, I check only every now and again—and I’m someone who reads ravenously, daily.

Regarding repeat advertising for the same product, some discussion should be made about the possibility of diminishing returns—and that should definitely be highlighted. The first time you advertise a product in a new market you are likely to capture the attention of a larger part of the market than with subsequent advertising in the same market. In fact, with each subsequent ad for the same product, you may find less and less of a return.

Keep in mind, the concept of diminishing returns applies to advertising the same product in the same market repeatedly. Thus, one way to get continued success is to market different products rather than the same product. Also, keep in mind the market itself can change over time. In the early days, this was especially true with BookBub. BookBub with 2 million members didn’t have the same market as BookBub with 4 million members. Not only did BookBub have 2 million more members, but the company also started doing things in different ways. Growth and change create new opportunity, and if BookBub continues to grow and change these opportunities will continue to flourish.

Open rate is only one metric for success in email newsletters. Other important metrics include clickthrough rates and conversion rates. Going back to what I was talking about earlier with open rates for the email newsletters from these services. The open rate is the percentage of members who open the newsletter. If a service has 4-million members and a 10% open rate, that means about 400,000 will open the email on any given day.

The clickthrough rate is the number of members who click through to a sales page after they’ve opened the email. If the clickthrough rate is 26%, that means out of those 400,000 about 104,000 will click a book link and land on a sales page, whether at Amazon, Google Play, Barnes & Noble or somewhere else. Thus, in the end, the 4-million member base is whittled down to about 104,000 who have progressed far enough to make a purchase decision:

4,000,000 to start

400,000 who open the email

104,000 who click through to a sales page

Those who click through may do so more than once, but typically are only counted on the initial click through. Because the newsletters always have multiple features, each book typically receives some portion of the click through.

Sometimes an additional metric called the conversion rate is used to track the number of people who then make a purchase. However, that’s a difficult metric to track because it relies on sales reporting, which is often estimated or self-reported.

Tips for Getting into BookBub from BookBub, Plus 20 Questions and Answers from BookBub

Like Country Clubs and Men's Clubs, BookBub builds buzz among authors by seeming to be exclusive. In 2014, they accepted 1 out of 4 submissions. For 2015, they’re currently reporting that they accept 1 out of 5 submissions and that’s what we’re seeing as well. But the only real criteria they seem to have relate to:

Current sales rank
Current sale price relative to past on sale prices
Number of favorable reviews relative to total reviews

Or in other words, they're largely looking for already successful authors to make even more successful.

Never forget, BookBub is offering a service. They exist to serve authors, authors don't exist to serve them. In 2014, BookBub earned about $12,000,000 from authors (our estimation, not theirs). If they want to keep earning that kind of money, they'll need to start being fair about their selection process, start looking at the product offered itself, start posting real sales numbers for all authors and not just the winners, and stop paying attention to what we all know can and are being bought: reviews and sales rank.

So what does BookBub itself have to say about all this? Do they have specific tips for successfully getting featured? Yes, they do, and here they are with my revisions as appropriate for clarity.

What is the biggest factor for getting into or not getting into BookBub? Discount. More specifically, the discount relative to the everyday price of the book. Books must be discounted by at least 50%. As an example, a book priced every day at $5.99 and offered at $2.99 has a 50% discount. A book with a discount less than 50% will not be accepted.

BookBub accepts novels. Does BookBub accept novellas, short stories or picture books? Any work of fiction must be at least 150 pages. Any work of nonfiction must be at least 100 pages. The exceptions are for cookbooks, middle grade readers, and pictures books. Cookbooks must be at least 70 pages. Middle grade books must be at least 70 pages. Picture books must be at least 20 pages.

So novellas and short stories are acceptable as long as they meet the length criteria? Yes. We don’t currently accept stand-alone novellas or short stories, but we do accept collective works.

Does BookBub use reviews to determine whether to feature a book? Yes. Customer reviews and ratings are used to determine whether to feature any book. BookBub also looks for critical reviews from trusted editorial sources.

Such as? Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Amazon editors, book review sections in newspapers.

Do deeper discounts help to get into BookBub? Yes. BookBub promises members that any book we feature is deeply discounted or free. The deeper the discount from the everyday price, the better. Remember, the deal BookBub features must also be the best deal available at the time.

Does BookBub accept always discounted books? Not usually. A book that’s always discounted doesn’t meet our criteria for a limited-time offer.

What is the best price point for a deal to get accepted? BookBub rarely accepts deals priced higher than $3.00. For the best chance at getting featured, make sure your deal is $2.99 or less.

Does the price history affect a submission? Yes. BookBub doesn’t accept submissions for books that have had a better price in the previous 90 days. We don’t accept submissions for books that will have a better price in the near term (approximately next 30 days).

Does BookBub accept free books? Yes. BookBub only features books that are free or discounted. Free books are our most popular listings, and we’re always looking for submissions of good free books.

Does BookBub accept always free books? Not usually. A book that’s always free doesn’t meet our criteria for a limited-time offer.

Books that were on sale at the time of submission often weren’t selected. Can you tell us why that could happen? BookBub looks for limited-time offers and typically 14 to 30 or more days in advance of a feature. If the book is already on sale, it won’t be a limited time offer by the time we feature it.

During the submission process, we are asked for how long after the feature will the offer be available. We found that our answer here really seemed to matter. Does it? Yes. Again, BookBub looks for limited time offers. A book that’s going to be on sale for 60 days isn’t a limited time offer.

A deal has to be widely available for acceptance. Can you explain? Yes. A deal must be available on at least one major retailer in the US or UK.

An example? Amazon US or Amazon UK.
I notice BookBub is looking at Amazon Canada too, and breaks out US, UK and CA separately in pricing when you get accepted. Yes. US, UK, and CA pricing is separate. The audiences are separate.

Does the number of retailers matter? Wider availability is better, but a deal only at Amazon US, Amazon UK or both is sufficient.

How often can an author submit a book to BookBub? Each book must have at least 6 months between features. A book featured in February can’t be featured again until August.

But what if a book is rejected. When can the author resubmit? BookBub asks that authors wait four weeks before submitting a book for consideration again.

But what if an author has multiple books? BookBub looks at submissions for individual books. An author with many books can submit each that meets our requirements.

But BookBub will only feature the same author once every 30 days? Yes. BookBub won’t feature the same author twice in any 30-day period.

ReadIndies recommendation: Authors with multiple books should wait to see if they are accepted before submitting a different book for consideration.

Submit your book to BookBub @ https://www.bookbub.com/submit-order/new

Learn about BookBub pricing @ https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing

Hope this special report helps you get into BookBub! To share your BookBub success story with our readers, send an email to williamstanek@aol.com with subject BOOKBUB STORY TO SHARE. Be sure to include full details about your promotion including the cost of the promotion, the total sales attributed to the promotion, the category you were featured in, the sale price, the number of days for the sale, the everyday price of your books, the number of reviews and the overall rating at the time of the submission. No attachments, please enter the details into the body of your email.

Thanks for reading,
Robert Stanek


Book Promotion Sites Ranked & Rated Part 1: AwesomeGang, FussyLibrarian, Ereader News Today, EbookSoda, ReadCheaply, BookBub

With millions of published books out there from authors, there’s no shortage of book promotion sites looking to cash in. Some of these are honest, hard-working folks offering good services at fair prices. Others, not so much, especially some of the ones that are the talk of the town in certain circles.

To help the thousands of ReadIndies, GoIndie, FreeToday and AmBlogging members find the gems and avoid the duds, myself (Robert Stanek) and 14 others tried many of these services and tracked the results. What follows is Part 1 of a summary of results gathered between January 2014 and December 2014. We will be following up with these services for 2015.

The 15 participants promoted 42 books from 11 different genres, including:

Young Adult
Literary Fiction

Each and every service was used by at least 10 of the 15 participants, one or more times. Our overall rating for these services is a simple thumbs up or thumbs down system:

Two thumbs up - Excellent
One thumb up - Good
One thumb down - Not Good
Two thumbs down - Not Recommended

To this, we added a numeric indicator from 0 to 20 to indicate level of success regarding downloads or sales during the promotion:

0 - the lowest score, the worst value for your time, money

10 - the middle score, a good value for your time, money

20 - the highest score, the highest value for your time, money

Before you try any of these services, be sure to read the “tips for your success” at the end of this article. Also note that any service listed who wants us to give them another chance, simply needs to write williamstanek@aol.com with the subject “Book Promotion: Give Us Another Try!”

As you consider using these services, never forget for a moment that book promotion is big business, and that many of these services are making quite good livings from their offerings. For example, we estimated based on the number of listed features each day that AwesomeGang is earning $50,000+ a year. Writers are we in the wrong business?


NOTE: Outlook revised March 2015 to reflect reduced visibility due to too many books featured each day. Sales have become hit or miss, especially if your book is stuck at the bottom of the page. Subscriber and reader base seems to be shrinking.

AwesomeGang (http://awesomegang.com/submit-your-book/) Kudos to AwesomeGang for offering a free submission option along with their $10 paid option. With the free option, each of the ten participating authors saw some nominal results. With the $10 paid option, we saw slightly better results, though not enough sales to pay for the $10 promotion.

AwesomeGang features about 30 books a day, with each featured book getting one day on the home page and some social media promotion. There are also 30 or more free listings of books a day on the home page. Some books seemed to be given preferential treatment over others, which we didn't like, especially if we were all paying $10 for our feature.
NOTE: The recommendation for this service was removed. Sorry for unintentionally misleading anyone with the statement that this was a friendly service. Please read the comments regarding this service below and make sure to expand to see the full details.
Rating: One Thumb down. Service would be much better if listings were limited to 15 - 20 a day.

Success Level Free Book: 2. Fewer than 10 downloads on average for free listings and fewer than 25 downloads on average with $10 promotion.

Success Level .99 & up: 1. Fewer than 2 sales on average for free listings and fewer than 3 sales on average with $10 promotion. .99 and 2.99 books had the best results.


NOTE: Outlook revised March 2015 due to decreasing success. Sales have increasingly become hit or miss.

FussyLibrarian (http://www.thefussylibrarian.com/for-authors/) Kudos to FussyLibrarian for changing the restrictions regarding number of reviews and ratings as services requiring authors to have a 4.0 rating or higher and specifically at Amazon only was causing some to toss 1- and 2-star reviews around to keep others out of services like these.

Fussy Librarian looks at both Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and also allows a 3.5 rating with 20 or more reviews. However, points detracted for requiring an author with a new release or pre-order to have at least one other book with 50 reviews AND a 4.0 rating as again such a requirement encourages shenanigans.

FussyLibrarian states they have 100,000+ subscribers. However, we're just not seeing results indicative of such a large base. With prices ranges from $5 (for genres with 12000+ subscribed) to $14 (for genres with 80,000+ subscribed), this could be a good value, but we suspect the actual valid, active subscriber base is much smaller.

FussyLibrarian features about 25 books each day. Featured books appear on website and in daily email. When contacted, the team at FussyLibrarian was increasingly fussy, even when we tried to give them a second chance.

FussyLibrarian stated earnings for 2014 of $60,000+ and marketing expenses for 2014 of $60,000+, yet wouldn't agree to let a few authors re-try their service at no-cost because "giving away spots is lost revenue". So after our authors spent $300+ on the service, FussyLibrarian wouldn't give up about $80 of earnings for a retry, knowing we were trying to give them a second chance to improve their results? Doesn't sound like a company that spent $60,000 on marketing.

Rating: One Thumb down. Service would be much better if listings were limited to 15 - 20 a day.

Success Level Free Book: 2. Fewer than 50 downloads on average for lower price ranges and fewer than 65 downloads on average with higher price ranges.

Success Level .99 & up: 1. Fewer than 2 sales on average for lower price ranges ($5) and fewer than 5 sales on average with higher price ranges ($14).  .99 and 2.99 books had the best results.

Ereader News Today (ENT)

Ereader News Today (http://ereadernewstoday.com/requirements/) Kudos to ENT for having one of the largest subscription bases at over 500,000 members. This service is also used by traditional publishers for their special promotions. Also looks at Amazon reviews to determine whether to carry a listing for a book. Price for promotion varies according to price of the book and genre.
Books must be free or discounted to $2.99 or less. Free books: $15 to $25. .99 books: $15 to $45. $1.99 books: $30 to $60. $2.99 books: $60 to $120.

Ereader News Today features 5 to 6 books at a time, several times during the day, on its website. Each set of featured books appears in an article that is skillfully put together. Featured books appear in daily emails as well. Because ENT has fewer featured books at a time, there is a higher potential for success than with services featuring 30 or more books all at once --and we liked that.

Rating: One Thumb up, though high marks for being creative and trying to give value.

Success Level Free Book: 4/5. Fewer than 100 downloads on average for lower price ranges ($15) and fewer than 500 downloads on average with higher price ranges ($25).

Success Level .99 and up: 3. Fewer than 20 sales on average for lower price ranges ($15 to $45) and fewer than 30 sales on average with higher price ranges ($60 to $120). With these sales level, authors didn’t earn enough to recoup the cost of the promotion.

At .99, authors earned back $7 on average from royalties and paid $30 on average. At $1.99, authors earned back $14 on average from royalties and paid $45 on average. At $2.99, authors earned back $62 on average from royalties and paid $90 on average.


NOTE: Outlook revised as of March 2015. At present, we're seeing decreasing sales and success. However, we maintain our 1 thumb up recommendation. More updates through the year. 

EbookSoda (http://www.ebooksoda.com/authors/requirements/) Kudos for accepting novellas, short stories and children’s picture books, which not all services do. However, points detracted for looking at reviews rather than the actual book to determine whether books have grammar errors and typos as qualifiers like this encourage shenanigans. Also points detracted for requiring a specific number of reviews and for not specifying any details on the size of its following.

Currently charges $10 for promotion. Ebooksoda features about 25 to 30 books a day.  Features appear on website and in daily email. Unlike many others, listings don't have much information to help readers make purchase decisions. This makes listings easy to browse, but harder to make a buying decision from.

Rating: One Thumb up. Service would be much better if listings were limited to 15 - 20 a day and some details were added, such as limited descriptions.

Success Level Free Book: 2. Fewer than 25 downloads on average.

Success Level .99 & up: 1. Fewer than 3 sales on average.


NOTE: Outlook revised as of March 2015. At present, we're pleased to let our readers know that ReadCheaply read our report and updated their website so that it is no longer all about signing up authors.

ReadCheaply (http://readcheaply.com/submit/) is at present a free service for both readers and authors, though we suspect authors may soon have to start paying.

Selects books based largely on having lots of reviews and high ratings. Looks primarily for free and discounted books from traditional publishers.

Features books in its newsletter and a deals page. However, the only link for the deals page is currently hidden all the way at the bottom of the home page. Thankfully they've now moved the author sell page to secondary pages, which is how it should be done.

Still not responsive to our emails, even when we were trying to give them a second chance and learn about their service. We hope to be able to connect with them soon and will continue testing their service.

Rating: Neutral.

Success Level Free Book: 0-1. Fewer than 10 downloads on average.

Success Level .99 & up: 0-1. 0 sales on average.


BookBub (https://www.bookbub.com/partners/pricing) Kudos to BookBub for being the largest and most successful in this category of promotion services, with 4 million members. Kudos also for having requirements that focus on the book itself, but points detracted for actually looking at the number of reviews and ratings to determine whether to feature a book. For 2014, BookBub states that they received 37,280 submissions from 13,791 authors but only chose to feature 8175 ebooks from 5042 authors across 30 categories/genres. Or put another way, an average of 22 books were featured each day.

BookBub gets a little crazy with pricing, however, which varies according to cost of the book and genre. Books must be free or discounted. Most free books cost $65 to $350 to promote. Most .99 books costs $130 to $700 to promote. Prices go up from there. For $1 to $1.99 books, the cost is $195 to $1050. For $2 to $2.99 books, the cost is $325 to $1750.

Are the prices justified? Hard to say. For all of 2104, BookBub states that the 8175 ebooks featured from 5042 authors across 30 categories had approximately 10 million sales. One assumes these are paid sales only, as the average free book is supposed to get 17,000 to 32,000 downloads during its feature. If approximately half of features were for free books and half for paid books, the average paid book then is supposed to have 2446 paid sales (10million / 4087).

BookBub does indeed list some huge stats for average number of books sold and range of total sales achieved during promotions. There’s also a large spreadsheet that goes into details for each price range. However, these numbers are largely reported to them by authors and not actual sales numbers, and it’s hard to say whether these numbers are truly representative of anything.

How good are BookBub paid promotions? BookBub states that the average Mystery book featured had 3,020 total paid sales as a result of the promotion, the average Fantasy book featured had 1,450 total paid sales, the average Thriller book 2,380 paid sales, and the average cook book had 1,840 sales. None of the participants who used BookBub saw numbers like these. Mostly, paid sales were well below what was listed as the low end of the range, which is 520 paid sales for Mysteries; 250 paid sales for Fantasy; 410 paid sales for Thrillers; and 310 paid sales for cook books.

Paid promotions didn’t meet even the most modest of expectations:

  • At .99, books didn’t recoup the cost of the promotion or even come close. The average .99 book earned $108 (.35 from each sale) but the average promotion cost was $420.

  • At $1.99, books didn’t recoup the cost of the promotion or even come close either. The average $1.99 book earned $224 (.70 from each sale) but the average promotion cost was $772.

  • At $2.99, books came closer to recouping the cost of the promotion. The average $2.99 book earned $788 (2.04 from each sale) but the average promotion cost was $1294.

How good are BookBub free promotions? BookBub states that the average Mystery book featured had 32,400 downloads as a result of the promotion; the average Fantasy book featured had 22,100 downloads; the average Thriller book had 23,500 downloads; and the average cooking book had 33,400 downloads.

None of the participants saw numbers like these. Mostly, downloads of free books were slightly to modestly below what was listed as the low end of the range; which is 9,500 for Mysteries; 6,500 for Fantasy; 6,800 for Thrillers; and 9,900 for cook books. However, the average cost of the promotion was $280.

It's also important to point out that BookBub is primarily about the daily email and that's a major disappointment because their website has so much potential. The home page has a scrolling banner of supposed "recent deals" but it's primarily past deals from big name authors that they're using as a hook for new subscribers. To give authors value, the scrolling banner should feature current deals or at least not the same deals as months ago.

The BookBub homepage doesn't have a direct link to currently discounted books. You must join the site as a member and then sign in each time to access this. If you look hard enough, you can find links on the homepage to the pages for free ebooks and free kindle books. The links are all the way at the bottom of the page and what you find when you follow the links are the current day's deals for free books. To find current deals for discounted and free books without signing in, use these links:




Rating: Two Thumbs up (with caveats)

Success Level Free Book: 10. 8400 downloads on average.

Success Level .99 & up: 10. 336 sales on average.

Tips for Success

When using these services or any other, you’ll do best if you follow this advice:
  1. Take your time with each and every listing. Provide as much information as you can and as much detail as you can. If the service allows you to include links for many different retailers, include links for as many as you can.
  2. Make each listing unique, if possible. If you are asked to provide a summary of your book, try to make this unique each time.
  3. Choose specific dates for each listing. If you want the biggest bang for your time and money, make sure each listing has a different promotion date. For example, have one listing on Monday, the next on Tuesday, the next on Wednesday, and so on. You also may want to have several days between each listing, such as one listing on Monday, the next on Wednesday, the next on Friday, and so on.
  4. As you’ll often be providing some of the same information over and over, create a promotion document for each book you plan to promote in this way. Be sure to track the dates you request for your promotion, and the actual date assigned for a promotion.
  5. Most listing services require payment through PayPal and will email a request for that payment to an account you specify. Make sure you have a PayPal account set up beforehand. Make sure you provide an email address that you check regularly.
  6. Before using ENT or BookBub, make sure you really want to spend that kind of money on promotion and then take extra time in preparing your listing.
  7. Authors with multiple books published will have a better chance of a successful promotion, especially if offering a book free and hoping for a boost in subsequent sales of other books.
When signing up for these services or any other, you need to pick a promotion date and you may be wondering if any particular day of the week was better than any other. Based on our results, it didn't really seem to matter what day of the week was selected for the promotion. That said, a key determining factor for success seemed to be how many books were listed each day. As an example, you'll do much better on a day when 20 books are featured than a day when 30 or more are featured.

In future updates to these special reports, we'll share results gathered from:

Bargain Booksy
Genre Pulse
Book Gorilla
Kindle Nation Daily

and others.

We've also evaluated other types of book promotion services, including those for social media promotions through Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek


A follow up to this article is now available:

Tips for Getting into BookBub from BookBub, Plus 20 Questions & Answers with BookBub

Thanks again,

Robert Stanek


Paid Reviews: Myths, Truths and Misses (Kirkus Reviews, Indie Reader, BlueInk Reviews, PW Select, Self-Publishing Review, BookRooster, Net Galley)

Anyone who’s visited Amazon knows there’s a problem with reviews. Some books have thousands, many from questionable sources. But are paid reviews the real problem? And what really is a paid review?

Amazon seems to have no problem with authors buying reviews through giveaways and special offers designed for the express purpose of getting readers to write reviews. I’ve seen authors giving away thousands of dollars’ worth of swag to readers if and only if they write reviews, everything from $5000 vacations to $150 kindles to $50 Amazon gift cards. Sometimes these approaches to buying reviews are as blatant as headlines in social media that read: “Review my book, win a kindle.” Sometimes these approaches to buying reviews are pitched right under Amazon’s nose, as in through Amazon’s own social media channels.

Amazon also seems to have no problem with authors buying reviews through certain recognized paid review services, including:

Kirkus Reviews (formerly called Kirkus Discoveries and Indie Book Review) – Kirkus Reviews writes a 250-word review of a book in 4-9 weeks and charges $425 for standard service or $575 for express service (https://www.kirkusreviews.com/author-services/indie/).

Self-Publishing Review - Self-Publishing Review writes a 500-word review of a book in 2-4 weeks and charges $59 to $249. (http://www.selfpublishingreview.com/)

Indie Reader – Indie Reader writes a 300-word review of a book in 4-9 weeks and charges $225 - $300. (http://indiereader.com/authorservices/service-sample/)

BlueInk Reviews – BlueInk Reviews writes a 250-word review of a book in 4-9 weeks and charges $395 - $495. (http://www.blueinkreviews.com/purchase)

The paid review game is so lucrative Publishers Weekly even got in on the action with PW Select, which is now BookLife (http://booklife.com/). Under PW Select, authors were charged up to $475 for reviews of their books and the reviews would then appear in special indie sections of their magazine. Authors who got in that game early get to say for all time their books were reviewed by Publishers Weekly, even if they bought and paid for the review out of their own pocket.

So if these paid reviews, costing hundreds of dollars are okay, why is a $5 review from Fivverr.com or any of the other cheap review services not okay? I couldn’t tell you. But I do know this: The problem with paid reviews isn’t with singular paid reviews. It’s with paid reviews bought by the barrel full for the same book. 

Some authors are buying paid reviews 20, 50, 100, or more at a time for a particular book. Some authors have hundreds or thousands of reviews from these services—and that’s the real problem. A problem that makes honest authors whose books have few reviews by comparison or few reviews relative to actual sales look unsuccessful and unpopular—and publishing, like a gallup poll, is a popularity contest.

Okay, so there I’ve said it. I believe there’s nothing wrong with an author buying a single paid review for his or her book, but everything wrong with an author buying reviews by the barrel full. If an author wants to pay $500 for a review, she should have at it and Kirkus, Publishers Weekly and the rest of them will gladly take her money. Some authors will even double or triple down, buying reviews from one paid review service after the other in the belief that all these paid reviews will help them become successful. But do they? And what does it say about an author who shells out $1200, $1500 or $2000 to buy a handful of reviews? After a while, are they any different from the author who paid $1000 for 50 reviews?

Also, is there really a difference between that $500 review and a $5 review? I honestly don’t think there is. I think an honest $500 review and an honest $5 review have similar value. If you’re an author of 10 books and you want to buy a review for each of your books, whether you pay $5000 ($500 x 10) or $50 ($5 x 10) for the privilege should be up to you and I’m going to go out on a limb here and say there’s nothing wrong with either approach if that’s what you want to do. Why? Tens of thousands of authors already have bought reviews. The five review services I mentioned, two of which are from industry titans, collectively have written more than 50,000 reviews. Paid reviews are big business, after all.

To be clear, I’m not talking about buying 10 reviews from 1 review source for 1 book, which is wrong and unethical. I’m talking about using established, recognized sources to obtain a review for each of an author’s books, and in this example that author has 10 books. Also, to be clear, whether from industry sources or otherwise, all of these reviews, the $500 review or the $5 review, can end up on Amazon as a customer review or an editorial review with Verified Purchase / Real Name tags. Verified Purchase and Real Name tags have no bearing whatsoever on whether a review is from an actual reader who was not incentivized in some way to write the review.

In the old days of publishing, one way authors and publishers would get honest reviews legitimately was by sending out galleys. Sending out galleys was costly as publishers and authors had to pay for printing the galleys, shipping and postage. In the Internet age, there are several services that improve upon the galley model, including BookRooster (http://www.bookrooster.com/for-authors/) and Net Galley (https://www.netgalley.com/home/request).

The idea with BookRooster and Net Galley is that they’ll help get a galley of an author’s book into readers’ hands and that some of these readers will then write reviews of the book. BookRooster is the most economical, with prices ranging from $42 to $67. Typically, a book may go out to several hundred readers, and out of these hundreds a small trickle may like the book enough to write a review. Net Galley is the most expensive with prices starting at $300 for one-week of availability and going up from there. Typically, a book may go out to several thousand readers, and out of these thousands a small handful may like the book enough to write a review. At Net Galley, there’s also an indie special at $399 to $599 for a six-month listing.

Disclosure: I’ve never used Kirkus Reviews, Self-Publishing Review, Indie Reader, BlueInk Reviews, PW Select, or BookLife. Although I haven’t tried Net Galley, I tried BookRooster once, but had extremely limited results.

And yes, I have talked much about reviews before:

Amazon’s Broken, Unfixable, Rotten Core

Selling Your Soul to the Company Store

Authors “Writing” Their Own Reviews

Thanks for reading,

Robert Stanek