For authors looking to drive more book sales, running BookBub Featured Deals for free ebooks can be incredibly powerful, often driving tens of thousands of downloads. This influx of new readers typically leads to increased sales of an author’s other books and a significant boost in revenue.
But what if a book has been offered for free for years? Can a Featured Deal still have a big impact?
Author Jane Steen ran a feature for her permafree first-in-series historical mystery The House of Closed Doors in January. This ebook has been available for free since 2016, but with a brand-new book cover, the feature drove 18,000 new downloads and doubled the sales of this series over the following month. Here’s how Jane leveraged the power of a Featured Deal for a longtime permafree book that had been featured several times already!
1. Promote the permafree first-in-series to drive sales of a new book
Jane wanted to coincide this Featured Deal with the release of the fourth book in this series — her first new release since 2018.
I don’t produce books very fast, so for me, Featured Deals are part of a strategy to keep my backlist visible and selling well. Consistent promotions on all of my full-length titles have seen my market grow at a slow but steady rate, with the biggest jumps in performance always associated with a BookBub Featured Deal.
Running a Featured Deal on a backlist book is a proven tactic to boost new release sales: 89% of BookBub partners who used this strategy saw increased sales of the new release after their feature. And discounting the first book in a series leads to 5x higher sales of the later books than discounting any other book in the series.
2. Update the book covers
In the lead-up to the release, Jane redesigned the book covers for the whole series to try to refresh the branding and appeal to a broader audience of readers.
I wanted to move away from having a central female figure in the cover for this series. I felt the trope was becoming a little dated and didn’t quite sit well with the mystery/thriller/suspense categories where my books sell best. It was a very tough decision — who wants to change the covers on books that are selling well? — but my wonderful designer, Rachel Lawston, was enthusiastic about the idea. The result, I think, is less genre-specific and is reaching a slightly different, possibly broader, market than the previous covers — a good thing for a series that’s been around since 2012 and a first-in-series that’s already had over half a million downloads!
Jane tried a few promotions with other book bargain websites in December to confirm that readers were responding well to the updated covers before submitting The House of Closed Doors for another Featured Deal. In her Featured Deal submission comments, she highlighted that the book had a brand-new cover that BookBub readers hadn’t seen before.
3. Link readers directly to the next book in the series
To encourage sell-though, Jane uses the back matter of her ebooks to make it as easy as possible for readers who finish book 1 to discover her other titles.
I make sure that immediately after the book ends, on the next page there is a promo for the one after. I also have ‘Books by Jane Steen’ included wherever I can so that readers are aware the books are part of a series. I figure that if readers love the books they will look for more.
The House of Closed Doors was featured in BookBub’s Historical Fiction category on January 27, 2021. Over 40,000 readers clicked on the deal, and Jane reported 18,000 downloads as a result. On the day of her feature, daily downloads increased by nearly 60x.
Before the Featured Deal, The House of Closed Doors was already attracting a very satisfactory 190 downloads a day. The day of the deal netted an extra 11,000 downloads, with another 7,000 or so in the following days. I find that BookBub’s Featured Deals have a much longer ‘tail’ than other promotions.
Jane said that sales of later books in the series, including the newly released book 4, were almost double in the month following the feature compared to the month before, leading to a positive return-on-investment (ROI) for the fee of the feature.
I usually calculate ROI on permafree promotions based on the read-through figures for the subsequent books. I find promoting The House of Closed Doors in a BookBub Featured Deal has consistently produced an ROI of several hundred percent.
Even though this was the seventh time this book was featured in BookBub’s Historical Fiction category, there was still a massive audience of readers who were introduced to Jane’s series for the first time. And while they picked up book 1 for free, many of them went on to purchase the later books in the series at $4.99.
Obviously nothing will ever compare with the first Featured Deal on any book! But since then, the performance of Featured Deals on this title has been remarkably consistent. There is a large and hungry market out there for free books, and many readers willing to buy subsequent books in a series when they find a book they like.
To increase your chances of getting a book selected for a Featured Deal, check out the following resources:
- Read how BookBub’s editorial selection process works
- Find tips for making your submissions as competitive as possible
- Discover the most common reasons why books aren’t selected
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