At BookBub, we like to make decisions based on data. Results and analysis influence our pricing, our category offerings, the number of books we feature each day, and more. While it’s nearly impossible to rely on data alone to explain why readers buy the books they do, we often run tests to see what aspects of a book — cover, plot, reviews, accolades — resonate most with BookBub subscribers.
In these randomized A/B tests, we send a slightly different version of the same promotion to two groups of our subscribers. For example, Group A might receive one cover, while Group B receives another, though everything else in the listing remains exactly the same. This test would allow us to isolate the cover and find out which appeals more to our readers.
Over the past year and a half, we’ve collected a large amount of data through this type of testing. One area we look at particularly often is the information included in the BookBub blurbs. We’ve shared the results of five such tests below, and we hope some of the insights we’ve gained might help authors and publishers in their own marketing efforts.
If one thing is certain from the results we’ve seen, it’s that customer reviews can help sell ebooks. We’ve consistently found that mentioning reader reviews in a BookBub blurb results in better response rates. In one test, including the phrase “over 200 five-star Amazon reviews” drove over 20 percent more clicks than a version of the blurb that did not mention reviews.
Interestingly, we’ve also seen better response rates when comparing customer reviews to literary reviews. In fact, a blurb that mentioned a book’s “over 2,500 five-star Goodreads reviews” resulted in over 30 percent higher click through rates (CTRs) than a version that included a positive quote from a Booklist review instead.
2. Bestsellers and Awards
We’ve also found that mentioning author accolades can strongly influence response rates from readers. Unsurprisingly, the results of these tests seem to vary depending on whether the highlighted accolade is more or less recognizable.
For instance, we’ve seen a significant difference in response rates when comparing “New York Times bestselling author” to a blurb that did not mention a bestseller list. But the effect was not as notable when the less specific phrase “bestselling author” was included instead.
In another interesting test, a blurb with the phrase “over one million ebooks sold” resulted in almost 15 percent more clicks than another version that called the author a bestseller, suggesting that readers respond in force to eye-popping sales numbers.
3. Character Names
Including a character’s name in a BookBub blurb, rather than something more general like “a woman,” has historically driven better response rates, perhaps because readers are able to connect more with the book. While the impact doesn’t seem to be as dramatic as some of the tests we mentioned earlier, the results were generally significant, with around 5 percent better CTRs in one test.
4. Descriptive Language
It stands to reason that punchy, exciting word choice is a must for an effective blurb, but we weren’t sure how much our readers agreed. When we tested this hypothesis, the results were surprising even to us, as the addition of just one key word consistently drove better response rates. In one case, placing the word “hilarious” near the beginning of a blurb resulted in almost 4,000 more clicks.
5. Comparison Titles and Authors
Comparing a new book to another popular title or author is a familiar technique in marketing copy, but we have found that the effectiveness of this strategy depends on the comparison — and that making the wrong one doesn’t increase sales. For instance, while a version of a fantasy blurb that called out to “Game of Thrones fans” resulted in better response rates, mentioning Gregory Maguire in another book’s blurb had virtually no impact. The takeaway? Know your audience and their tastes, including what other books and authors they like to read.
Of course, it’s important to remember that these tests were performed on individual BookBub books. What works for one book may not work for another, and what works for our audience may not hold true for the general public. However, our hope is that by sharing some of this data, we’ll be able to help authors and publishers think about their own marketing strategies. If nothing else, these results do confirm that it never hurts to test and experiment with new techniques. You never know what might increase response rates and sales, and you could be surprised by what a difference a simple alteration can make — like adding one new adjective to a book description.
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