Can you make a profit with BookBub ads? Sure you can, just like any other part of the writing business. But it takes work and dedication. You will have to invest both time and money. Here are some tips and tricks, and stuff I have found that works well. 

Targeting

First, BookBub’s author targeting is critical. This means a lot of A/B testing and time. This means researching other books and authors similar to your work and targeting those, not just a broad category. The reason this works is simple, and the other key: bidding. This is why, although I can run ads on BookBub for One Night in Boise even though it is with a publisher not one of my self-published titles, I can’t afford to.

Let’s say you write erotica and you target really big erotica authors like E.L. James. The only way your ads will appear in those newsletters and on BookBub itself will be if your book is better than the others vying for that spot (determined by reviews and sales rankings, an algorithm we can’t see, but can only guess at) and that you have a higher bid than other authors targeting the same group. If you target more middle of the road authors, those with fewer followers, your bid can be lower, because they are not being targeted by the big publishers. So it is easier to get in with a lower bid. 

Think of it this way: if One Night in Boise was self-published at a price of .99, I could win placements with a bid of .25 and get some views and impressions by targeting authors with smaller audiences, and if I get a reasonable Click through rate, I would still make a profit, albeit a small one. I could make .10 per book with a 100% click-through rate, and falling exponentially with the purchases made from the clicks I get. Still, a profitable book ad, no? 

However, since I only get a percentage of that .35 from a publisher, a book priced at .99 is impossible for me to run ads for except at a loss. Good for the publisher, maybe. Bad for me. The more I up my bid, the more money I lose. Even if the publisher ran ads for it, it’s not like it is a loss leader and the rest of the series is a higher price. Every single book would lose money because they are all priced at .99 permanently. BookBub ads are not the right promo avenue for that series, because it is nearly impossible to make a profit from them.

Pros of BookBub Ads

You are selling to the world and other markets besides Amazon. If you run ads, you are more likely to get Featured Deals. I’ve had two this past year and hope to get more soon.

You can also, if you are clever, build up your backlist this way. Using the right targeting and bidding, you can bring old books back to life.

Cons

It can cost you to find out what works. You have to be vigilant, especially at first, about targeting and watching what ads are working, turning off those that don’t work, and also being aware that targeting authors with smaller audiences, you will eventually reach “market saturation” with them, and the ads that were working will stop working. 

Besides money, this takes time. I have Publisher Rocket, and that certainly helps you find related authors (you should always target yourself and your books, too), but even that takes time and effort. There is no freebie shortcut here. This is why many self-pubbed authors don’t run them—they try a few, they “don’t work” and they quit. 

This is the same with Amazon Ads too: one key is not only targeting, but the fact that to be successful, and to figure out what is working, you have to run multiple ads. LOTS of them. At one time, when testing BookBub ads, I had at least eight running for every book I was promoting at the time. 

You can still gather data with low-budget ads. Just set a max budget of $10-$25, and only increase it only on those ads you see working. The rest you can either shut off, or simply let them run out of money, and don’t renew them.

Of course, with BookBub, there is yet another critical factor: the advertising creative you are using. The creative needs to have a good image, a theme that fits with your book, and good ad copy. Many authors are NOT good with writing ad copy. It’s like a synopsis with even fewer words. 

Things that work well:

  • Quotes from reviews.
  • Sale prices. Everyone loves a sale.
  • Compelling book quotes if you can make them fit.
  • Editorial reviews from authors you are targeting.

On that last one, one example was that I had a quote from Vincent Zandri about Harvested and targeted his readers with an ad featuring his quote. BAM! Big ROI.

Things that don’t work: 

  • Dull quotes.
  • Poor Call to Action (the text on the button)
  • Poorly designed or “standard ads”

You can design great ads yourself using tools like BookBrush, or you can hire someone (like Elle J. Rossi, who does a lot of mine) to create them for you. Usually, this is cheap, and a much better way for me to go than learning a new software myself. 

The thing is, I am busy with freelance, and trying to write a Million Words in One Year, so spending a lot of time designing ads is just a waste of my time.

Things to keep in mind: 

  • Wide targeting gets more exposure, and you may get some “incidental sales” but you will have lower Click-Through Rates and Conversion Rates. Your ROI will be lower. 
  • Narrow targeting must be tested. Target ads at one or two authors at a time, so you can get an idea of what works. This is not my original idea. Even BookBub recommends this. Start with low budgets and turn off ads that are not working. Increase budgets on those that are, but monitor, monitor, monitor. 
  • Creative matters. Test two ads, one with great creative, one with the standard one you can create in BookBub. Target the same author and use exactly the same text and Call to Action. See what one works better. 

Another thing: You can hire someone to run your BookBub ads the same as you can hire someone to run your Amazon ads. But if you do, your costs go up, so it is harder to earn a profit. 

Finally, just like with Amazon ads, the key is monitoring ROI and profit. If a book that you have published is just not profitable, it is worth revamping your book description, adding keywords, and trying new things, but if you’ve exhausted those options, you just might find that some titles are not profitable, or that series you started but did not finish or took forever to put out the second book is just not profitable yet. 

Series rule in marketing. Stand-alone books are harder, but not impossible to make profitable. One of the best places to get information about BookBub ads and how to make them work? The BookBub blog. They want you to be successful, not just throw money at them. So listen to their advice. They have data to back it up, and they also know that when ads are not successful, authors will shut them down, and they don’t make money either. BookBub is just one advertising solution. And you can use it to be profitable. But it takes dedication, measurement, monitoring, testing, and time. That’s true of almost all things that have to do with the Business of Writing, at least if you want to do this for a living and make a profit. 

Troy Lambert
Troy is a freelance writer, author, and blogger who lives, works, and plays in Boise, Idaho with the love of his life and three very talented dogs.

Passionate about writing dark psychological thrillers, he is an avid cyclist, skier, hiker, all-around outdoorsman, and a terrible beginning golfer.
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