For the first time in three years I had a new contemporary romance series to promote, Cade Brothers, and I wanted to reach a new audience. I had two goals for the launch of the first book in the series, Tempting Levi:
- Sell as many copies as possible to introduce the series as widely as I could, particularly to a slightly different readership than my previously-published series (adult contemporary romance readers versus new adult romance readers).
- Make it onto the USA Today bestseller list. The bestseller list was my secondary goal. My primary goal was to reach new readers.
The hero in Tempting Levi is the brother of the hero in Cocky Prince, the last book of my Men of Lake Tahoe series. Because of this connection, I chose to submit a BookBub Featured Deal for Cocky Prince. My biggest fear was that readers wouldn’t download Cocky Prince because it was the last book in the series instead of the first.
The results were much better than I expected. The new release Tempting Levi reached a brand new audience and sold more copies in the first week than any of my other titles have sold in the first month. And it made it onto the USA Today bestseller list!
How I Promoted the Free Deal
1. Submitted Cocky Prince for a BookBub Featured Deal
I’ve promoted the first book in the Men of Lake Tahoe series a few times with BookBub Featured Deals, but never the last title. Even though each book in the series is a standalone, I still worried people wouldn’t download Cocky Prince because it’s the last book in the series. I also wasn’t sure if BookBub would accept the title for that same reason. But hey, one hurdle at a time, right?
I submitted Cocky Prince for a free book deal about four weeks prior to my new release. I chose the free deal instead of a $0.99 book feature in order to reach more readers, and submitted for a US and international Featured Deal across all retailers. Under the comments section, I explained that the last book in the Men of Lake Tahoe series contained a hook to the first book in the Cade Brothers series, which was releasing on June 6, 2017. I also indicated that each book in both series were widely distributed and available in audiobook (the Tempting Levi audiobook was up for preorder). I figured it couldn’t hurt to mention all the clickable options for readers.
I got lucky. Not only did BookBub accept Cocky Prince for a Featured Deal, but they scheduled it for the release day of Tempting Levi. I was excited, but not jumping up and down just yet. I figured I still had a fifty-fifty chance Cocky Prince wouldn’t get downloaded as much as I’d hoped because of the last-book-in-series negative bias (I made that up, but you get the idea). Despite my concerns, I lined up promotions and other ads, hoping for a successful feature. I also made sure the back matter in Cocky Prince was catchy and hooked the reader with a description, book cover, and buy link for Tempting Levi.
2. Tested ad copy and design during the preorder period
Coming from a research and statistics background, I nerd out on ad analytics. I spent time and money running display ads for the preorder on BookBub, Facebook, and Amazon. I wanted not only to build preorder sales, but also to test out different ad copy and designs.
I priced Tempting Levi at $0.99 during the preorder period and the first week of sales to reduce barriers to purchase. That said, gaining preorders was tough. I was a new author to many of these readers, and in general, earning preorders is harder than making sales when the book is live. I tested out ad copy and images and tried to maintain a steady flow of downloads. My goal was to break even on spend versus getting a positive return on investment for the entire campaign, given this was a readership-building endeavor.
Once I discovered what worked best, I planned to spend A LOT of money on ads during release.
3. Promoted the heck out of the new release
For about two months prior to the release of Tempting Levi, I shamelessly solicited newsletter swaps from anyone who would listen. I mainly recruited authors who had at least 4k subscribers (my list was about 20K at the time), but I didn’t require that many. My main concern was that the authors wrote steamy adult contemporary romance so I could reach my target audience.
I also created a newsletter to send to my own subscribers. You can view the entire email here.
Meanwhile, I scheduled other promotions for the week of the Tempting Levi release, determined which BookBub, Facebook, and Amazon ads I would run, and sent ARCs to reviewers.
4. Ran BookBub Ads
When running BookBub Ads after Tempting Levi’s launch, I continued testing different ad creative. Like all good hindsight lessons, it wasn’t immediately obvious which ad variations would work best, but data gave me the answer. In terms of ad copy and design, less was more. Here are examples of what didn’t work and what did.
Poor Performer (click-through rate < 2%)
This ad was too busy and repetitious with two images of the same guy. I learned also that a low price isn’t always necessary to win your reader. A solid hook can work better.
Solid Performer (click-through rate >3%)
I think this ad worked because it was simple and catchy with a solid hook and a sexy guy on the cover. Abs anyone?
4. Ran Facebook Ads
My Facebook ads strategy focused on visibility. I wanted to get my book in front of as many eyes as possible — the idea being that they might not buy it the first time they saw it, but maybe they would the third or fourth time. I ran several ads after testing images and copy during the preorder period and increased my spend during release week on the ads that had low cost-per-click with high click-through rates.
The Campaign Results
Between the various ads, newsletter swaps, BookBub Featured Deal of Cocky Prince, and other featured promotions, Tempting Levi made it to #118 in the Amazon store, and the top 40 on iBooks and Barnes & Noble. Additionally, I could tell based on the “Also Bought” section that I’d reached a brand new audience of contemporary romance readers.
More importantly, Cocky Prince as a free last book in series surpassed my expectations with over 20,000 downloads on the day of its free BookBub feature in the New Adult category. That means readers don’t necessarily have a last-book-free bias. Good to know! I also earned back my advertising costs within the first two weeks of raising Tempting Levi to its regular $3.99 price point.
The blue bars show the Cocky Prince free book spike. The orange bars show the Tempting Levi preorder spike and increase in sales following the Cocky Prince Featured Deal.
Tempting Levi hit the USA Today bestseller list!
After release week, I raised the price of Tempting Levi from $0.99 to $3.99 and checked the USA Today bestseller list for the heck of it. I didn’t think I’d made it on the list — despite all those ads and promotions, Amazon had a glitch that caused “page not found” errors during my release week. That meant I paid to reach some new readers who couldn’t download or even view the book. I thought my sales had suffered a bit from the glitch, and I wasn’t sure if I had enough US sales to make it onto the list.
Also, given that I’d never made the USA Today bestseller list before, I didn’t know how to check the darn thing! I checked on Monday and Tuesday, and when I didn’t see my book, I thought, ah well — I was happy with the new readers I’d reached. It wasn’t until I received a congratulatory Facebook message from a friend that I learned Tempting Levi had made the USA Today bestseller list at #135. Because, you know, USA Today posts on Wednesday, not Monday or Tuesday. Yet another lesson learned, and one that put a huge smile on my face. Okay, I was crying like a baby, but that’s to be expected, right?
My biggest takeaways
Don’t be afraid to try a new marketing strategy if you feel there’s a logical reason to do so. I was nervous to run a free Featured Deal for the last book. And by nervous, I mean sweating bullets. But that book contained a good hook for the new release. If people downloaded it, read it, and liked it, there was a good chance they’d grab the new spin-off title. Even if my strategy hadn’t worked as well as I’d hoped and the new release didn’t get as many sales off the free book as planned, there’s no such thing as a bad BookBub promotion. Any BookBub exposure is good BookBub exposure. It’s all about growing readership.
I also learned that readers might download a later series book over a first-in-series book if the later book resonates more with them. Maybe they liked this book’s particular sexy guy, or maybe the title was catchier, or maybe the blurb did it for them. Whatever the reason, I saw a nice spike in sales to my other titles in the series by putting the last book free, which wasn’t something I had expected.
I hope this information was helpful! Thank you, BookBub, for asking me to share how I hit the USA Today bestseller list with the help of a BookBub Featured Deal.
Editor’s Note: Thank you, Jules, for sharing your experience! ☺
The views and opinions expressed in this guest post are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of BookBub.
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