At BookBub, we regularly test and launch new categories to include in our daily Featured Deals email. This helps our partners run more targeted and effective book marketing campaigns.
Since we just launched two new categories — Psychological Thrillers and American Historical Romance — I asked one of our editors to explain how and why we decide to create new categories, and to share some advice for running deals in these newer categories.
Nadia Junaideen is a BookBub editor, where she currently reviews submissions for some of our mystery and thriller categories. Prior to this she was living in Sydney, Australia, where she worked in the book industry for several years, most notably at Australian independent publishing house Allen & Unwin.
Nadia had plenty of insights to share on our process for launching new categories!
How does BookBub decide it might be time to launch a new Featured Deal category?
There are a few things we look out for! In some cases, new categories are created by popular demand. Readers, authors, and publishers frequently send us requests to launch new categories or split the categories we already have. Although every request doesn’t generate a new category, they do help us keep track of growing interest amongst our readers and partners.
At other times, internal findings point the way. When data suggests we have a distinctive audience being underserved by a larger category, it might be time to divide that category — for example if a subgenre significantly over or underperforms.
Interesting! How does breaking out smaller categories from bigger categories help?
Smaller categories give readers more direct access to the content they like, while partners get more “bang for their buck” due to more effective targeting.
In the past, we’ve seen these results play out across genres. Historical Romance, for example, was split out into a separate category a few years ago when we saw that books within this subgenre were underperforming to our general Romance list — despite noticeable demand. Once the Historical Romance category debuted, interested readers were able to find and interact with this content more easily, while readers who weren’t interested in Historical Romances were no longer receiving those deals. This in turn meant better sales, stronger returns for partners, and a higher chance that Historical Romance titles would be selected for Featured Deals. More recently, American Historical Romance was similarly split out from the Historical Romance category.
Another thing to keep in mind is engagement. Many of the smaller categories we’ve launched, such as Business and Science, have extremely engaged subscribers. While these more targeted genres might attract a smaller base of total subscribers, they draw very active readers who consume a high volume of content in that genre.
What steps does BookBub take before launching a category?
We start by assessing demand: Do we have feedback to support the creation of a new category, either from partners and readers or based on our own internal data? We’ll also look at past submissions to assess the volume we’re receiving in this genre, and past performances for books that could potentially run to the new category.
Then comes the testing phase. We’ll test the new category on the BookBub sign-up page to see how popular it is, primarily amongst new subscribers. We also usually run a few test Featured Deals to gauge user engagement and determine pricing before officially launching the new category.
What advice would you give to an author submitting a deal to a new category?
I’d focus on the same things we consider important when submitting to any other category. There are some great articles on the Partners Blog to help you optimize your submission, but I would pay extra attention to elements that could set your book apart. A professional cover, a clear and concise product description, supportive reader reviews, and wide retailer availability are some of the first things that catch an editor’s eye. Because the category is brand new, we’ll be looking for polished submissions to set the tone for the category and attract readers’ attention. Also, since we test each category before launching, authors can browse books that have already run to the new category to see what kinds of books are being selected.
Why is it a good idea for partners to submit their books to a new category?
New categories offer partners a unique chance to target a fresh, engaged group of subscribers while enjoying a higher ROI per deal! These categories are usually underpriced — if you run a promotion while our team is still gathering information on appropriate pricing and average returns, you’ll benefit from the early engagement at a lower cost.
And while we’re always testing different kinds of content in each of our categories, new categories are especially good places for experimentation. It takes a while for editors to determine exactly what tropes and themes resonate best with our readers — and while submitted books do of course need to be relevant to the chosen category, we’re likely trying a lot of different content in the early days!
We just launched a new Psychological Thrillers category, which is really exciting! Why did BookBub decide to launch this specific category?
The popularity of psychological thrillers has skyrocketed in recent years, with books such as Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train achieving huge international success. This trend is definitely something we’ve witnessed here at BookBub — our readers have been very engaged with books falling into the psychological thrillers subgenre, and submissions from partners have been consistently strong. Thanks to great sales and high click-through rates within the current Thrillers category, we realized it was time to test whether a Psychological Thrillers category could stand on its own — and have been met with positive signs so far.
Our new category is for suspenseful fiction where the primary plot tension stems from questions of memory, transparency, and trust. Although there may be external mysteries to solve (everything from strange behavior and disappearances to murder), the key to untangling these exists not in the outside world, but in the characters’ own heads. If a book forces you to question what really happened and who is telling the truth, you may well have a psychological thriller.
When selecting deals to run in this new category, I’d be interested to try the following nerve-racking tropes: perfect relationships or idyllic situations turned sour, past secrets bubbling to the surface, lapses in memory, and unreliable narrators. In the past, we’ve seen readers respond well when the book’s main characters share a close or unavoidable connection — family members, spouses, friends, or even neighbors — and have also seen demand for books set in small towns and the suburbs. I’m really excited to see what submissions we get!
We also recently launched a new American Historical Romance category. What kinds of books does this include?
We’re always interested in splitting out new romance subgenres; with American Historical Romance, we now have nine. This new category is for any historical romance set in the Americas. While one of the most common tropes in this subgenre is western romance, we’ll also run Revolutionary War romance or tales set in the early 20th century.
Partners have been requesting we split out this new category for a long time now, so we tested the popularity of two names: American Historical Romance and Western Romance. American Historical Romance had the higher interest rate, and it also gives us more flexibility on which titles we include. We tested a few books and engagement was strong, so we decided to break out the category. Traditionally, the highest performing American Historical Romance titles have been mail-order bride stories — or other variations where a woman goes west and has to figure out life in a new town. But we can’t wait to explore more of what engages our readers now that we’re officially launched!
Ready to submit a book to the new Psychological Thrillers or American Historical Romance lists? Submit a deal here.
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