Why I Lost $4,000 on my BookBub Featured Deal (& Why I'd Do it Again)

Why I Lost $4,000 on my BookBub Featured Deal (& Why I'd Do it Again)

After fourteen rejections, as I outlined on episode 247, I finally landed a BookBub Featured Deal. Once I tallied up my results, I had lost more than $4,000 running the promotion. I’ll tell you why, and why I’d still do another BookBub Featured Deal in a heartbeat.

My BookBub Featured Deal Results
  • Book: The Heart to Start: Stop Procrastinating & Start Creating
  • BookBub Category: Advice and How-To
  • Date: Wednesday, June 10, 2020
  • List Price: $9.99
  • Deal Price: $1.99
  • Territory: United States
  • BookBub Promotion Fee: $1,008
  • Promotion Size: ~1,000,000 subscribers
  • Copies Sold: 2,541
  • Revenue: $1,841
  • Supplemental Ad Spend: $4,847
  • Total Profit (Loss): ($4,014)
bookbub featured deal results email 

The breakdown of copies sold (across all countries):

  • Amazon: 2,236
  • Apple: 204
  • Barnes & Noble: 49
  • Google: 36
  • Kobo: 16
  • Total Copies Sold: 2,541
bookbub featured deal results book on home page 

The breakdown of revenue results (across all countries):

  • Amazon: $1,462
  • Apple: $266
  • Barnes & Noble: $59
  • Google: $34
  • Kobo: $19
  • Total Revenue: $1,841
bookbub featured deal results amazon sales 

Overall ad spend results, broken down by network:

  • BookBub Ads: $1,910
  • BookBub Featured Deal: $1,008
  • Amazon: $1,761
  • Facebook: $1,187
  • Instagram influencers: $185
  • Total Ad Spend: $6,051
My BookBub Featured Deal made my book a bestseller across several categories

bookbub featured deal results #1 self help creativity

The Heart to Start ranked as high as:

  • #136 overall on Amazon

  • #1 in Self-Help/Creativity

  • #1 in Arts & Photography

  • #1 in Entrepreneurship & Small Business

  • #6 overall in Self-Help

  • #6 overall in Business & Investing

bookbub featured deal results #6 overall self-help

Three reasons my BookBub Featured Deal results were poor (financially)

The three main reasons I lost $4,000 running my BookBub Featured Deal are:

  1. I was trying for a bestseller list
  2. I poorly allocated advertising spend throughout the promotion
  3. I poorly allocated advertising spend amongst platforms
1. I was trying for the WSJ bestseller list

Word on the street is, to qualify for the Wall Street Journal nonfiction ebook best-seller list, you need to sell 3,000–5,000 ebooks in a week, in the U.S. Supposedly you need to sell at least 500 of those copies in a single non-Amazon channel to trigger reporting to the list.

I contemplated not trying for the list and instead reaping what profits I could, but decided to go for it. I felt The Heart to Start was a longshot, but was curious to learn so I could later apply what I learned on my then-upcoming-now-out book, Mind Management, Not Time Management (read about my BookBub Featured New Release results for my new book).

Despite spending more than $6,000 on the promotion, I did not break the 3,000-copy barrier. Here is my sales breakdown for U.S. sales (the above sales are worldwide):

Sales (U.S.)

  • Amazon: 2,123
  • B&N: 51 (countries unknown)
  • Apple: 185
  • Kobo: 7
  • Google: 29
  • Total U.S. Copies Sold: 2,395

As you can see, perhaps harder than selling 3,000 copies overall is selling 500 copies in a non-Amazon channel (for this book in this genre with my audience, anyway).

bookbub featured deal results barnes and noble  2. I poorly allocated ad spend throughout the promotion

I broke my ad spend down into three buckets:

  • Warm Up: Starting around 10 days before the promotion, I built awareness about my book to “warm up” the audience, so they would act more readily when the deal hit their inboxes.
  • During: The day of and a couple days after my promotion, I advertised the discount (where possible).
  • Last Day: The final day of the promotion, I advertised the discount, with messaging that it was the last day (where possible).

My ad spend results amongst these three buckets:

  • Warm Up: $2,225 (46%)
  • During: $1,477 (30%)
  • Last Day: $1,145 (24%)
  • Total: $4,847

I do not recommend this allocation. Without much time to plan my promotion, I got overly-zealous, and spent way too much early on. By the time I got to the Last Day, I was trigger shy and didn’t want to spend more money.

If anything, this should have been reversed. The last day of any promotion will generally get you more bang for your buck. In the future, I plan to spend 50% of budget on the Last Day.

3. I poorly allocated supplemental advertising spend amongst platforms

I ran ads on Amazon, BookBub, and Facebook. My breakdown amongst these channels:

  • Amazon Ads: $1,761 (36%)
  • BookBub Ads: $1,910 (39%)
  • Facebook: $1,177 (24%)
  • Total: $4,847

(note, I spent $10 on Instagram ads, which went to Facebook thus the discrepancy from above “Facebook” numbers. I also paid $185 for promotion from Instagram influencers, which is not reflected in this report, for simplicity.)

bookbub featured deal results bookbub ad

I do not recommend this allocation. I spent too heavily on Facebook, and I especially did so during the Warm Up phase. I do not normally advertise on Facebook, and don’t aspire to build my skills in running Facebook ads.

I already run Amazon Ads regularly, but their terms and platform features make it impossible or impractical to advertise discounts, especially with “Last Day” messaging.

I think you get more bang for your buck on a BookBub Featured Deal by advertising on BookBub itself. Yes, you can target BookBub subscribers on Facebook, but it’s more straightforward to advertise on BookBub. Therefore, in the future, I plan to spend 50% of budget on BookBub Ads.

The long-term results of my BookBub Featured Deal

Part of the appeal of a BookBub Featured Deal is not just the sales you make during the promotion. There are also long-term benefits.

Amazon algorithm boost (and increased profits)

Word on the street is, Amazon has 30-day and 90-day “cliffs” on their algorithms. If your book has a big sales spike, you can expect to see a lift in organic sales for 30 days, and a less-pronounced lift that lasts for 90 days. I can tell you that once Seth Godin recommended The Heart to Start on his blog, my sales were lifted permanently.

In the five months before the month of my BookBub Featured Deal, my average monthly profit for The Heart to Start was $511.

In the five months after the month of my BookBub Featured Deal, my average monthly profit for The Heart to Start was $633.

I saw a 24% increase in average monthly profits after my BookBub Featured Deal. It’s impossible to say the deal caused my increased profits, but I’m sure it didn’t hurt.

New readers

It’s fantastic to get a shot of 2,500 new readers in a single week. The effects your book can have on someone can last a lifetime. It’s hard to measure the impact new readers can have on your author business, because new readers may buy every new book you publish for decades.

Sales of other formats, or books

BookBub Featured Deals are discounts on ebooks, but readers who like your ebook will sometimes buy other formats. Directly after my deal, I noticed a spike of a few dozen sales of my IngramSpark hardcover version. I suspect readers who liked the book picked up “souvenir” copies. I make more than $8 per book of profit on the hardcover.

It can be worth losing money initially on a BookBub Featured Deal if your book is the first in a series. As a nonfiction author, I don’t string together my books into series – at least not as strongly as fiction authors tend to. It’s hard for me to say how the promotion affected sales of my other books. I was promoting a new book at the time, too, so there were too many confounding factors.

More reviews

You need decent reviews to get a BookBub Featured Deal, but your deal also brings in a lot of new reviews. When I ran my BookBub Featured Deal, I had 275 Amazon ratings/reviews. After the deal, I quickly gained more reviews. Now, nine months after the promotion, I’m closing in on 500.

Cheaper Amazon Ads

When you make more sales on Amazon, your ads run more. This also usually means you can run your ads more cheaply. As I reported in my June 2020 income report, I had a number of Lockscreen Ads set up on Amazon well before my BookBub Featured Deal. With my 18¢-per-click bid, they weren’t running. But once the promotion kicked in, suddenly I was getting cheaper clicks.

bookbub featured deal results on amazon ad bids

More sales on Amazon leads to cheaper ads, which can lead to more sales.

Why would I run another BookBub Featured Deal?

My BookBub Featured Deal wasn’t pure gravy like my Kindle Daily Deal, but I would run another in a heartbeat. Why?

Because I’ve learned through experience that I should have allocated my ad spend better. If I spent ads more wisely on a future book, I may be able to hit that WSJ best-seller list. And if I didn’t try for a list at all, I’d be interested to see if I could break even for the promotion – which would surely be profitable in the long-run, thanks to the effects of a sales boost.

Free budget calculator

To better plan my next BookBub Featured Deal, I’ve created a calculator. Enter your total budget and it helps break down ad spend according to phase of campaign and advertising channel.

Get this calculator free here. No email address required, though if you’d like to get my highly-detailed income reports delivered to your inbox, I do recommend signing up for blog post updates.

Want help with your BookBub Featured Deal? Call me!

If you’re planning a BookBub Featured Deal, and would like to discuss it with me, I do consultations. Book a call with me on Clarity or Superpeer (recommended).

The Mind Management, Not Time Management audiobook is here!

Listen to the Mind Management, Not Time Management audiobook free with an Audible trial, or search for the audiobook on your favorite platform.

Thank you for having me on your podcasts!

Thank you for having me on your podcast! Thank you to Trey Kauffman at The Mosaic Life and the team at Domestika for having me as a Comic Sans expert on their Curious Minds podcast.

As always, you can see a full list of podcasts I’ve been here.

About Your Host, David Kadavy

David Kadavy is author of Mind Management, Not Time Management, The Heart to Start and Design for Hackers. Through the Love Your Work podcast, his Love Mondays newsletter, and self-publishing coaching David helps you make it as a creative.

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