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1.20.2015

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:

Mystery
Thriller
Romance
Scifi
Fantasy
Young Adult
Teen
Horror
Literary Fiction
Nonfiction
Children's

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?


AwesomeGang

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.


FussyLibrarian

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.


EbookSoda

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.


ReadCheaply

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


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:

bookbub.com/deals

Or

bookbub.com/ebook-deals/latest


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:

Freebooksy
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

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