When submitting for a Featured Deal, you don’t have to know which of BookBub’s categories is the best for your book — our editors will take care of that for you! We have data on what works with our readers subscribed to different categories and will always send your book to the category where it has the greatest chance of success. But have you wondered how we make those decisions? What are the differences between BookBub categories, and what might make your book better suited to one category over another?
I sat down with BookBub editors Diane Zhang and Elissa Senra-Sargent to find out! In this video, watch our conversation about how the selection process works and what our editors are looking for when they review Featured Deal submissions. We look at thrillers and romance as example genres, but these tips apply across the board.
If you’d like to skip around, here’s an outline of what you’ll find in this video:
An overview of the selection process [0:54]
The differences between BookBub categories [2:41]
What to include in your submission comments [7:45]
Top tips on how to choose categories [9:07]
Please note that the trends mentioned here may change over time, and should not be considered “evergreen” or applicable to every book we feature. If you have any concerns or questions about the details of your own Featured Deal, please don’t hesitate to contact our team. Our editors are experts on BookBub’s audience, but you know your book best! We’re always happy to pass along any feedback or information about your book’s content that you think might impact the editorial team’s decision.
Hello! I’m AJ from the partner marketing team at BookBub, joined by Diane and Elissa, two of our editors at BookBub. We’re here to talk about BookBub’s editorial process. And I’m excited for this conversation because our partners always want to know what’s the best BookBub category to choose for their book, what readers respond to best in different categories. So thank you, guys, for sitting down to share your insights. We hope this will help partners better understand how we match up books with our different audiences of readers.
Today we’re going to talk about two of our most popular genres, Romance and Thrillers, which are good examples of the different nuances between subgenres and the different signals that readers respond to with each. So let’s kick it off.
Can you start by giving a general overview of the selection process and how category selection fits into the overall selection process?
Sure. I think the first thing to remember is that we have a fairly limited number of spots in our Featured Deals products, so we have to make some really tough decisions when it comes to picking the titles that we think will perform the best to our specific readers.
The first step is that there are some minimum requirements that all books must meet with very few exceptions. There are timing requirements in terms of both book and author eligibility, as well as page number requirements, and if a book meets all those requirements we’ll start looking at content. And we rely mostly on historical performance data of books, or similar books we’ve run in the past, and also our knowledge of reader trends — the content they really like in different categories — to decide whether to promote a book because we think it will perform really strongly to a specific category.
Obviously, choosing what category the book goes to can play a large role in the book’s performance. We really try to optimize the book’s performance by picking a category that we know aligns best with the content of the book. So for example, if we feel that a book will perform slightly better to Psychological Thrillers — for any number of reasons, but mostly based on our knowledge of reader preferences — we will choose to run it there even if it’s submitted to Thrillers or Crime Fiction. So, if your book ran to a slightly different category than the one you submitted it to — for example, if it’s running to Psychological Thrillers instead of Thrillers — that’s the most likely reason why.
And what signals do you use to figure out whether a book would be a better fit for a certain category?
That’s a great question and I can talk a little bit about the thriller-adjacent categories because we have a few of them. I’ll be talking primarily about Crime Fiction, Psychological Thrillers, and just Thrillers, to use as a quick example. But as I mentioned before, we’re always optimizing for content and performance. So although there are some similarities among those three categories, there are some subtle differences that readers do like to see in each one.
Usually, any given book might be able to go to two or three of those categories, but I’ll be looking at very content-specific tropes and plot points and hooks and trends to see where it will perform the most strongly. So for example, if we look at a Crime Fiction book, a lot of times the protagonist is going to be a detective and the content is going to focus a lot on police procedure, so you’re with the protagonist from the minute they arrive on a crime scene all the way to the resolution. This can also happen in some Thrillers, of course, but Thrillers tend to be broader — so for example, the protagonist isn’t always a detective, the plot might hook on some more action-based points, and it isn’t as maybe cerebral or procedural as a lot of Crime Fiction tends to be. So there can be some form of danger that the protagonist is running from. And, of course, Thrillers also encompasses a lot of the most popular subgenres, so for example, if you have a legal thriller you’d like to submit, we always run those to Thrillers. We also run medical thrillers, techno-thrillers. So in a sense, it’s much broader than perhaps our Crime Fiction books tend to be.
I also want to touch a little bit on Psychological Thrillers because that can be a little bit confusing. When we’re running a book to Psych Thrillers, it often has some element of unreliable narration where the danger — which is mostly clearly articulated in Thrillers — might be a little bit more subtle in Psych Thrillers. So for example, a protagonist who might not know whether she’s in danger or whether she herself is a danger is a prime example of a trope in Psychological Thrillers that our readers do love.
And I can talk a little bit about our romance categories and the various differences between them. I believe we have 10 romance categories right now, or romance-adjacent, and they run from the broad to the specific. We have categories like Contemporary Romance and Historical Romance that can encompass a wide variety of things because they’re mostly based on time period and setting. Within Historical Romance you can have a lot of different elements: You can have rom-coms, you can have Romantic Suspense–type things, you can have very spicy books, you can have very sweet books. And some of that can be the same with Contemporary Romance because it’s, again, very, very broad.
But then we have our more specific categories, like Romantic Suspense, that rely on that element of danger. Or Paranormal Romance where you need to have an element of the paranormal, like shifters or vampires or ghosts or psychics, that kind of thing.
In general, like Diane was mentioning with some of the thriller-adjacent categories, sometimes you can say, well, it is a Contemporary Romance because it is happening right now, but there’s that element of mystery or danger — there are FBI/CIA agents, somebody needs protecting, that kind of thing — that makes it a better fit for [the] Romantic Suspense category because that’s the category where people are specifically looking for those elements. And the same can be said with Paranormal and the very spicy books that go to Erotic. The same can be said with Rom-Com where people are specifically looking for humorous books. So in general, that’s why we tend to go with a more specific category in those instances.
What other romance categories do we have? Time Travel, that’s also a very specific category that is based around a specific element.
And then there are instances where we have a broad category and a more specific category but the book can be both: for instance, a Regency romance that features werewolves. In that case, we have found that our Historical readers, because it’s a very broad category, can be very open to that paranormal element. Whereas our Paranormal readers tend to not really like a historical setting, and in that case, the historical setting is the more specific point, and that’s in general where we would send that book even if it’s submitted to Paranormal Romance.
All right, so one common question we get from authors is what to include in the submission comments. What kind of information is most useful to you guys?
What’s most helpful for me is knowing if the authors are flexible in any way on either dates or price point or category; whether they’re open to international-only is also nice; and also if there are any industry reviews or author reviews that are not included on their retailer pages.
Yes, those are all super helpful. And also just to add that the editorial team loves these partner comments because it really gives us a chance to see what the partner thinks about the book — whether there are any comparisons you might want to make to really big buzzy books that our readers would know. Those kind of comments are really helpful because it helps editors get a real good sense of the book. So for example, is it a legal thriller, is it a medical thriller, what’s the plot hook, what might appeal to the reader. It really helps to capture that to figure out whether we would like to promote the book, and if it’s being promoted, it also helps us capture the essence of the book in the blurb to make sure that it’s represented well and that readers will find it appealing.
Okay, so any parting advice on how to choose categories in general?
When you’re picking a category for your book, I think one of the most helpful things you can do is look at the BookBub webpage. We have a lot of books running to all of our categories on our Featured Deals page, and there you can see what category might be the best fit for your book. You can get a sense of covers that are on books that are running to those categories, you can look at the blurbs, you can get a sense for the authors. And I think that’s a really helpful point in getting some guidance on what we might think is the best category fit for your specific book.
I agree with that, and I would also say that if you are struggling to figure out which category your book goes into, pick one, and if we think it will fit better somewhere else we will move it to the category that we think it will perform best to. It really is in our authors’ best interest when we do that — we don’t want anyone to have a bad performance — so there’s no need to submit to multiple categories or anything like that because we will get it to its correct place.
All right, cool, thank you guys. This was really great advice and we hope it was helpful. When you’re ready to submit for a Featured Deal you can follow the link below this video.
Want to share this post? Here are ready-made tweets:
Click to tweet: Interesting! @BookBub editors shared the decision-making process behind how they select Featured Deals for certain categories and what they like to see in the submission comments 👀 https://bit.ly/41DgEbu
Click to tweet: Authors: if you’re confused about how BookBub chooses categories or what to include in your Featured Deals submissions, you might find this context helpful! https://bit.ly/41DgEbu #bookbub #writingcommunity