Episode Summary

BookBub is one of the most recognizable and most powerful resources for authors to promote themselves and their work to a willing, world-wide audience. Carlyn Robertson—BookBub’s Product Marketing Manager—joins us to talk about the service and how best to use it for promoting and marketing your books.

Episode Notes

Authors continue to rave about how effective BookBub can be when used in their marketing strategy. But we bet there are some cool things about BookBub outside of Feature Deals that you didn’t know you could do.

Join Draft2Digital’s own Mark Leslie Lefebvre as he chats with Carlyn Robertson from BookBub!

Check them out at bookbub.com

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Mark Lefebvre  00:01

Hello, and welcome to D2D Spotlight Draft2Digital Live. This is Mark Leslie Lefevbre, and I am honored to have Carlyn from BookBub. Welcome, Carlyn.

Carlyn Robertson  00:12

Hello. Good to be here.

Mark Lefebvre  00:13

So let’s get right into the brass tacks here. Let’s get into the details that we’re interested in. First of all, for anyone who’s not familiar with BookBub, it’s a cool name. Where did it come from?

Carlyn Robertson  00:26

Oh, that is a good question. There’s not a great story, unfortunately. Our founders were looking for something that was catchy and had an available URL and related to books, so … We really should have a better story for it. But we have to explain what a “bub” is a lot. No one really has a good answer.

Mark Lefebvre  00:45

See, Bub comes from the old Spider Man 70s cartoon. It was in the song Spiderman … no, never mind. Okay. That’s showing my age. But okay, so for those who aren’t familiar with BookBub itself, what is BookBub? And how is it useful for authors?

Carlyn Robertson  01:02

Yeah, so BookBub is a discovery platform for readers and a marketing platform for authors. So we’ve got a number of different tools that readers can use to discover new books. They sign up completely for free. They let us know what genres they like to read and which retailers they use to purchase their ebooks. And then we send them, the main thing that most of them sign up for is an email every day with discounted books in the genres that they like with links to purchase on their retailers of choice. So we support Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, Google Play, and Apple, and readers can link right out and purchase the books from whichever retailer they use and we’ve got a bunch of other tools beyond that. Featured Deals email, to help promote new releases, help readers discover new releases, readers can follow their favorite authors on BookBub to hear when they launch a new book, or see book recommendations that they make. So it’s a way to bring together a community of readers who are eager to discover books. A lot of them are power readers. I think somewhere in the range of 10% at least are reading a book a day, and that number has probably gone up right now actually. So we have over 20 million readers signed up and they have …

Mark Lefebvre  02:10

20 million readers?

Carlyn Robertson  02:11

20 million, yeah. And certainly in the last couple weeks, we’ve seen that they are engaging at higher rates with our email. Opening them more often, clicking on more books, buying more books right now.

Mark Lefebvre  02:22

Really? Cause I was gonna ask you about that. The engagement has actually gone up since about middle of March, I guess?

Carlyn Robertson  02:30

Yeah. Obviously it’s a very weird time and I hope everyone out there watching is doing okay, healthy right now. Yeah, so we know obviously there’s a lot on people’s minds other than selling books, buying books. But a lot of people I think are turning to books for comfort, for distraction, for solace right now. And so we have seen that our readers are engaging more right now.

Mark Lefebvre  02:51

Well, that’s good. I mean, let’s be honest. People need to escape into fiction or to learn a new skill or whatever. They’ve got different sorts of time on their hands now, and being distracted from anxiety and stress is valuable. And authors can help with that. And BookBub can help readers find great books that have been curated, right? Because you don’t just take anything, right. Let’s explain just for people who aren’t familiar how a Featured Deal works. And again, I know there’s a lot of human curation that goes into it. It’s not just randomly selected, right?

Carlyn Robertson  03:18

Yeah, exactly. So as an author, if you want to have a book sent out in that daily deals email, you submit it to us, usually about a month in advance of when you want to run the deal. And we have a team of editors, real live human editors, that go through every single submission and they are looking at sort of two main things to select the books that end up in the email. One is our readers’ tastes. So we’ve got tons of data on what our BookBub audience has clicked on, has purchased in each of our genres. And that gives us a really good sense of what types of books they like best. We do have a unique audience of readers, they don’t necessarily represent the larger market of book buyers. So we try to send them content that we know they are really excited about. So the editors are using their knowledge of our audience tastes and interests. And then when they review submissions, they’re looking at all of the factors that a reader would use when they are deciding whether or not to purchase a book. So the cover, of course, the book description, the reader reviews, both the total number and also the content of those reviews are actually really important. They will dig into what other readers have said about your book, because that matters a lot to BookBub readers. Looking for quotes by other authors that our audience of readers might recognize. Those are the kind of signals that they are keeping an eye on to decide if a book is going to be something that our readers will respond well to and want to purchase.

Mark Lefebvre  04:40

Excellent. And you said this is available through all the major retailers. So we’re talking about Kindle, Apple Books. We’re talking Nook. We’re talking Kobo. We’re talking Google.

Carlyn Robertson  04:49

Barnes and Noble. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  04:50

Oh, Barnes and Noble, Nook. Sorry. I can’t remember what the brand is. But it’s that one. It’s that cool one in the US. So that’s fantastic. And a question came up from a user, I thought I’d introduce it now since we’re talking about this. Because when I think of BookBub, I think, it’s an American company. So this question from Jesús comes up and he says, “How big is BookBub in Spanish? Is it still small compared to English users and readers?”

Carlyn Robertson  05:18

Yeah, great question. We actually are only in the English language right now. So we don’t have any, we don’t feature any Spanish language books, or any other languages at this point. We do have readers in a couple different countries outside the US. So US, Canada, the UK, India and Australia are our region, and again, all English language there. We do have a handful of readers in other countries who are signed up to usually the US version of the email. And they still use that as a way to discover books as well. But right now entirely English language. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  05:48

Okay. Excellent. Thank you. Now I have to put in a good word for BookBub, because a dear friend of mine, Shawn Costello, and I manage his stuff for him, we had a BookBub Featured Deal yesterday for a free, a permafree book. And I only looked at the stats from Amazon and Kobo, because Sean’s publishing direct to those two platforms. The other ones, the other retailers come in a little bit later in the reporting, but it was over 22,000 downloads on Kindle, which is fantastic. And 2,200 on Kobo, which is really good, considering. You know, Canada’s a much smaller nation, population. So I look at that and go, this has been a huge success. So, you know, on behalf of Shawn and other authors, thank you.

Carlyn Robertson  06:30

Yeah, well, on behalf of BookBub, you’re very welcome.

Mark Lefebvre  06:33

On behalf of BookBub, yeah. Well, so, but it’s not just Featured Deals. Because I think authors, when they think about BookBub, they go, “Oh, it’s like winning the lottery. If you’re lucky enough to win, you know, money rains on your face,” as David Gaughrin so gloriously said years ago. But what, I think there are other tools authors can use, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published, right, that they can use for free on BookBub. I’d love to hear a little bit more about that.

Carlyn Robertson  07:00

Yeah, absolutely. So any author who has an ebook published on one of the retailers that we support can claim their profile on BookBub. And that just means that you get to list all your books on the website, a photo, a bio, sort of standard author profile material. And claiming your profile, we just verify that you are in fact the author that you are claiming to be. But once that process is complete, you unlock the ability to recommend books to readers who follow you. So there are a few different ways that we’re surfacing those recommendations on BookBub.com. But readers who are browsing by genre, looking at deals, sort of browsing the website in different ways, we are helping to surface authors who have claimed their profile and are recommending books. So anyone actually can post, readers and authors alike can post a review and, you know, star rating, and write a short review of a book. But we only highlight the recommendations. There’s a box that you can check to say “I recommend this book.” And that’s the signal that you do want to let the readers who follow you, follow your profile, know about that book. So we’ve kept it focused, really, to be a positive place to recommend books. Obviously, a recommendation from a friend you trust or from an author you trust can be really valuable in deciding what books you want to read. And I think, if I can remember this stat, I think 74% of BookBub readers have purchased a book simply because an author that they loved recommended it. Which, as an author …

Mark Lefebvre  08:26

Wait, sorry. 74%?

Carlyn Robertson  08:28

74%, yeah. I think I have that right. It’s in the ballpark.

Mark Lefebvre  08:33

Wow. I’ve done a lot of work with BookNet Canada, here in Canada, and they’ve done a lot of stats on how people discover books. Now, they may buy the book, you know, online, they may buy it from a local bookstore, or get it at the library, but I think the most common, it was well over 58 or 59% of people find out about books from trusted resources, whether it’s a place like BookBub whether it’s a friend, whether it’s an author that they value, who shares it in the newsletter or recommends it on a cool platform like BookBub. And those tools are completely free, right?

Carlyn Robertson  09:07

Yes, completely free.

Mark Lefebvre  09:08

Okay, so what are some authors doing using some of those free tools that you’ve seen that are pretty ingenious and are actually helping elevate their SEO, their marketing?

Carlyn Robertson  09:21

Mm hmm. So the recommendations, people take a couple different approaches. Some will try to arrange swaps with other authors, you know, sort of a “I will boost you if you want to boost me.” People have various opinions about that kind of practice, but we do see that fairly common, that authors, and indie authors in particular, are really great about lifting each other up and helping each other get more visibility. So, and especially if there are authors that write similar books to yours that you think your audience of followers would like, that can be a fantastic way to help your readers out, keep them engaged, remind them maybe in between releases, your own releases, that you’re out there, you’re also a reader. Some people will, I think we recommend like, around once a week is maybe the maximum, that you should be recommending books. Because we send a Weekly Roundup out to our readers of the books that have been recommended by people they follow. So we don’t want to overwhelm them. But if you’re recommending around once a week, your followers should see that book that you have boosted. But I think a lot of authors have found, in their newsletters, on social media, that engaging with their readers as a reader is a fantastic way to come across more personal, and just find that a fantastic way to sort of give back to their readers and engage with them.

Mark Lefebvre  10:42

That is really, really cool. So you’re suggesting, if there are five books that I adore, and I think they’re amazing, and I think that my followers would love, it’s probably better for me to recommend one a week over five weeks, rather than all five at once? Is that how I understood it? Or …

Carlyn Robertson  10:56

Yeah, generally we would recommend spacing it out. Just, you know, you could recommend all five in a week and someone coming to visit your profile would see that, but I think we might only include a couple in that email roundup, depending on whether other authors they follow are also recommending books, we might mix it up, just so they see recommendations from a few different authors. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  11:16

Yeah, it’s almost like you don’t want to give them too much choice or too much saturation. Because if you recommend five great books, and you think they should read them all, and they pick one, and then they miss the other four. So yeah, it’s like five great desserts all at once. You’re like, “Oh, I’m only eating one time. So I’m gonna …” Well, that’s cool. I like that idea. So I want to go back to a little bit more of the logistics about the ads, because I know people have questions. I’m actually going to sneak in, may as well sneak in some questions. I can pretty much do what I want right now. So Elaine asks, “Are there any plans to divide your emails into sub-genres?” So this would be emails, I’m assuming, for BookBub Featured Deals?

Carlyn Robertson  11:54

Yeah. So right now we have I think over 40 different genres that readers can sign up for, and that we Featured Deals in. I don’t think we have plans immediately to expand to any new genres. We’ve got a ton across fiction and nonfiction. But we do always keep an eye on that. So the way that we do decide to launch a new sub-genre, or to split one of our existing genres into smaller ones, is, if we’re getting a lot of requests from readers is kind of the number one way that we would decide we might need a new genre, or if we’re getting a lot of requests or submissions from authors and publishers that don’t fit well into one of our current genres. So one example that comes to mind is when we split American historical

romance out from historical romance. The reason we did that is that the historical romance readers love, Regency and Highlander books are kind of their sweet spot. So, yeah, but we knew also that there were a lot of sort of American Western romances that also were getting some attention, but not quite capturing the larger audience on that list. So we had enough interest from readers, and were getting some really great submissions, that we decided to create its own sub-genre. So that is something that we are always thinking about and keeping an eye on and will test from time to time. So if there are additional sub-genres you want to see from us, definitely shoot us an email, let us know. Partners@BookBub.com is how you can reach someone on my team. So that’s definitely something that we are keeping an eye on, but I don’t think we have any immediate plans to split out something new right now.

Mark Lefebvre  13:28

I guess yeah, it does make sense based on actual demand from users as well, right? If the readers are looking for it and there’s a there’s a need for it. Now, there’s a comment that leads into something else I wanted to ask you about. So Will from Findaway Voices says “I love the metaphor of book recommendations as desserts.” That’s because you haven’t had lunch yet either, have you Will? But speaking of audiobooks, because you know, BookBub is, you know, often seen as the lottery ticket win to boost your ranking, and people have decried the fact “that there’s no way to promote my audiobooks!” However, both Findaway Voices and BookBub came up with a solution for that.

Carlyn Robertson  14:09

We did, or we tried to anyway. Yeah, so last year, we launched Chirp, which is an audiobook retailer powered by the team at BookBub. It’s completely a la carte, so readers don’t have to pay a subscription fee, it’s free for them to sign up, and they purchase the individual audiobooks that they want to read. And we’ve set up a daily email for our Chirp members very similar to the Featured Deals email. So readers let us know which genres of audiobooks they want to hear, and every day they get discounted audiobooks in those genres. But the difference is that the link is to purchase them from Chirp, where we’re offering those limited time deals on the audiobooks. We do have a full catalog on Chirp as well. So anyone who distributes their books through the Findaway Voices platform that Will is a part of can choose Chirp as one of their retailer options. And they’re the only distributor right now. So if you want your books to be listed on the Chirp website, get in touch with Findaway. Yeah, and so far, that’s been something that our BookBub readers have actually asked for for years, as well as authors who wanted …

Mark Lefebvre  15:11

Oh really, so readers were asking for it?

Carlyn Robertson  15:13

Oh, yeah, absolutely. So we knew that a lot of BookBub readers who are primarily using us for ebook discovery, were also listening to audio, interested in audio. And so we’ve invited over all of the BookBub members, to anyone who’s interested to sign up for Chirp, and we’re growing that Chirp member base as well. But we’ve seen really exciting growth over the last year. I think we’re already at a point where we’re going to be selling millions of audiobooks a year, so.

Mark Lefebvre  15:40

Fantastic. So yeah, yet another resource people can use for a different way to enjoy great books. Excellent. So I’m going to go back, because we started talking about genre. And so that seemed to have opened up some more questions. So I’m going to pop up this other question from Joanna who says, “Is gothic romance one of the sub-genres?”

Carlyn Robertson  16:00

Good question. It is not right now. I’m not sure actually where we would send a gothic romance book, it would probably depend on the details of the story. So one thing that our editorial team is looking for when they review Featured Deal submissions is, the genres that we have are really not necessarily going to have the same definitions as a standard genre elsewhere. So what we’re really trying to do is match up the tastes of that particular group of readers. So we might take a book that ordinarily would fall into a particular sub-genre and might put it in what could be a surprising place on one of our lists based on what we know about what those particular readers are excited about.

Mark Lefebvre  16:43

Yeah, I think I remember an example either from one of my own BookBubs, or one that Shawn got, was, we applied for something. And we heard back, and it said, we’re not going to accept you for this genre. But we would love to put it in the other genre. You do that, your editors do that from time to time, where they think, “You’re here.”

Carlyn Robertson  17:02

Yeah. So you’re always welcome in the comments of your submission to let us know if you think there’s a few different genres that your book could fit into. But it’s something that our editors are always automatically thinking about, is, even though you said this list, do we think it’ll be more exciting for readers on another list? So if we do come back and make that offer to you, we would encourage you to give it a chance, even if it’s not what you would expect. But if you do feel that we’ve proposed a genre that’s not a great fit, do let us know. We’re always happy to have a conversation about that to make sure that your book is reaching the right group of readers who will be most excited about it, and that you’re comfortable with where we’re going to be sending it to.

Mark Lefebvre  17:42

Well, that’s excellent, because I go back to my history with … I’m old. We’ve already alluded to that, but my history with traditional publishing, and if you ever heard back from an editor on a submission, and they said they didn’t want it, but they actually took the time to comment, that to a writer is a sign that they actually liked it enough, because they get thousands of submissions. And BookBub gets thousands of submissions. They actually paid enough attention to it that they gave you feedback or that they shared something. That’s a huge thing, it’s a huge win in many ways, actually, isn’t it?

Carlyn Robertson  18:11

Mm hmm. Well, in that case, I mean, we’ve said we would like to feature the book, yeah. So we’re letting you know that it’s gonna go to a different, or that we’d suggest a different category than what you originally suggested. Yeah, it means that we think that those readers will be really excited about it.

Mark Lefebvre  18:25

So let’s dig in a little bit further into the comment field. How important, then, is that comment field when you’re submitting a Featured Deal request?

Carlyn Robertson  18:31

Great question. I hear that one a lot. So I would say that the best things to put in that comment field are the things that will not be immediately obvious from your book’s retailer page. So I mentioned at the beginning that one thing the editors look at is everything a reader would be looking at when they’re deciding to buy a book. So you don’t need to paste your entire book description into the comments of your Featured Deal submission, because the editors are going to see that. Some things I usually recommend, if you’ve got a really great quote from another author that is not featured on that particular book. So, let’s say another author blurbs one of your other books, throw that blurb into the comment, that’s a great thing for us to see, because that’s the kind of thing that we might put in our own blurb in the Featured Deal email that we write to send out to our readers. If the book was originally published under a different title, that’s really important for us to know. If there are any other reviews or awards that you’ve won, again, not on that particular book, but that wouldn’t be immediately obvious from that book’s retailer page, let us know that. So that’s the kind of stuff that would be really valuable for the editors. And if there is anything about your book and the plot that’s not immediately obvious in the book description, that’s really useful for us to know as well. That’s one thing, that actually the editors will sometimes dig into the reader reviews to look for spoilers, because they want to make sure that the plot is going to be one that our readers will respond well to and be excited about what’s happening in that book.

Mark Lefebvre  19:56

So would that be, for example, let’s say that it’s not obvious that there’s an underlying theme in the book that’s not obvious by genre, by the cover, by the synopsis, but it’s a father son story that may resonate with readers of The Roadby Cormac McCarthy, or something like that, right? That could be an element that they go, “Ooh, you know, Father’s Day is coming up, therefore …” Okay, Father’s Day in North America is coming up, as opposed to in the UK. So that’s kind of cool. Now, I want to, speaking of, you know, North America, the UK etc. There’s discussions with authors about the international. So you’ve got the international deals, and then you’ve got ones that include the US. Which … How do you recommend people approach that or look at that?

Carlyn Robertson  20:37

Yeah. So, when you’re submitting your Featured Deal, you can let us know all the regions that you would like to have included. And I would say, check all the boxes for everything that you want included, depending on how you distribute. So occasionally, we will get back to an author who submitted a deal and say, we don’t have space in the US right now. But we would like to feature your book to our non-US regions. And usually what’s happening there is just the way that our deals calendar works out, we only can feature a certain number of books every day, just because we want to make sure that we’re not overwhelming our readers. We want to make sure that there’s enough options there that they get some diversity, but not that there’s too many. So because a lot of the authors and publishers that we work with don’t have worldwide rights, they might have just US rights, or just North American rights for a book, we often end up with more space in our calendar in the international regions. And so particularly for self-published authors who have worldwide rights for their books, that is sometimes why you might get an invitation to feature your book in those non-US regions. And sort of same for the category discussion there. If that’s something that doesn’t make sense for your promotional goals right now, let us know that. You can pass on the deal and try to submit again in a month as usual. There’s no hard feelings about that. We always want to make sure that whatever deal we’re moving forward with is one that is going to best meet your goals and your needs.

Mark Lefebvre  22:02

Okay. You’ve actually made me think about another good friend of mine, fellow Canadian Robert J. Sawyer. His last book with Penguin Random House, they only bought North American rights. Therefore, he would be able to potentially, because he was using self-publishing to distribute it everywhere else but Canada and the US. And therefore, he could run a BookBub, but it wouldn’t be applicable to US and Canada. It would just be the other regions? So hybrid authors can take advantage, right? Excellent. I like when authors take full advantage of their IP. Now, some other things that are available, and we haven’t really gotten into it, are … A lot of authors are using Amazon marketing ads directly on Amazon. But what I love is, BookBub allows you to market all the places, or just some of the places. Depends on what your publishing strategy is. Can we talk a little bit about about BookBub ads, not Featured Deals?

Carlyn Robertson  23:03

Yes. BookBub Ads is our self-serve auction ad platform. So similar to Amazon ads, Facebook ads, which many authors are using, but you only serve impressions and BookBub emails and on the BookBub website. So when a BookBub reader opens their email or opens a page on our website, that’s the moment when our auction runs, so you know that you’re reaching readers when you’re using BookBub ads. You know that you’re reaching someone who has come to BookBub specifically to discover a new book, so you’re only serving that ad when you’ve got a reader engaging with our platform in some way. Ads are fantastic. They’re a lot more flexible than Featured Deals in a lot of ways. First of all, because there’s no editorial selection process, so anyone can run them at any time for any one of your books, no matter what the price is. Obviously, free and 99 cent, if you can put that in the ad image, does really well and drives a lot of clicks. But we are seeing people use that tool to drive full price sales as well, or even $3.99, $5.99 ebook sales. So you basically get to, it’s a very simple straightforward form with some options to customize that campaign. So you let us know what you want the image to look like. It’s a static 300 by 250 pixel kind of standard ad image that will show up usually at the bottom of our emails. You get to choose which regions and retailers, so if you wanted to reach just Kobo readers in Canada, you could run an ad to reach only those readers.

Mark Lefebvre  24:30

I like Kobo readers in Canada. They’re nice people.

Carlyn Robertson  24:32

Very nice people.So you can get really granular in which audience you’re reaching, in terms of regions andretailers, which is a fantastic opportunity. And usually less competition, actually, for the non-Amazon, non-US audiences with ads. So region, retailer, you specify your targeting. So in addition to all the Featured Deal categories, the best targeting opportunity with BookBub ads is that you can actually reach only readers who are fans of a particular author. Sothat allows you to reach a really narrow audience of readers who are highly likely to be interested in your particular book, your particular sub-genre. So that’s been a fantastic opportunity for a lot of authors to kind of consistently promote their books to the BookBub audience of readers and drive more sales, drive more discovery. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  25:22

Oh, cool. So just an example of that. So for example, if I pick Stephen King, who probably has a big audience, I’m guessing.

Carlyn Robertson  25:27

Very big, I would guess.

Mark Lefebvre  25:28

But, I’m targeting Stephen King, but I’m also targeting writing and publishing, because he’s got one massive book in that genre, and all the rest of them are fiction, literature, horror, etc.That would be an example of narrowing down, by combining an author with a genre, correct?

Carlyn Robertson  25:44

Exactly. Yeah. So if you picked Stephen King fans who were also signed up to, probably nonfiction or advice and how-to, would be the way I’d get at that one. You’d only reach the readers who are signed up to BookBub that are fans of Stephen King, which means either they follow him or they’ve clicked on one of his books before, somewhere on our emails or website, who are also subscribed to those categories. Yes, that’s a fantastic way to eliminate his fiction readers, or at least narrow in on the people who are reading nonfiction as well as his fiction.

Mark Lefebvre  26:13

Narrow down from bazillions to billions. Okay.And then, I think, one of the things I love about this sort of dashboard as you’re creating it is, you’ve got this really cool red, green, yellow,that kind of lets you know you’re right … the Goldilocks era of targeting, right?

Carlyn Robertson  26:34

Yeah. So we do try to provide some guidance in the form to help you out and make sure you’re not kind of shooting in the dark when you’re setting up that ad. So we give some guidance on your audience size, if it’s too small that we don’t think you’ll see enough engagement with your ad, or too large that we think it’s going to be reaching a massive audience of people, and maybe you narrow it down if you want to get higher clickthrough rates. We also offer some guidance on your bid. So it’s cost per click or cost per impression, CPM, CPC bidding. If you don’t know what that means, go to our blog, we’ve got posts that break it all down for you.Basically, you let us know how much you’re willing to pay to reach the readers in your audience with that ad, and we do provide some guidance on what the winning average bids are at any given time. So you have a little bit of a sense of what it might take to be the winning bid for readers in your audience. Yeah, so we try to provide a little bit of help as you’re going through that form.

Mark Lefebvre  27:27

That’s fantastic. Now, you mentioned the blog, because that is yet another amazing free resource which I’ve just posted, insights.bookbub.com. So what can people expect to find there?

Carlyn Robertson  27:37

Yeah, soour blog is full of marketing tips, resources, case studies, both using BookBub data and we have some other authors who come and really generously provide guest posts as well. Talking about what marketing tactics and techniques have worked well for them, providing examples of particular ways that they maybe launched a book or that they use Instagram to engage with readers. Right now we’ve actually shifted focus a little bit. So I know this week, we’ve published a post with some examples of how authors are promoting their books right now in mind of COVID-19 and the situation that so many of us are stuck inside and dealing with a lot of stressors. It might feel like a bit of a weird time to be promoting a book right now. So we do want to make sure that we’re still here supporting all of you who are trying to keep your businesses going in the midst of all this. So that’s a fantastic one to check out.Yeah, so we try to provide just a ton of resources to help all of you be as successful in marketing your books as you can.

Mark Lefebvre  28:37

Well, what I’ve always loved about your blog is you’ve always usedsome best practice examples from authors, because you’re using actual data and you understand what’s working, what’s not working. And I think that’s an invaluable resource. We can’t always be privileged with getting a chance to chat with you. But we can 24/7 go to insights.bookbub.com and reap some of the benefits. Not quite as fun, but still lots of great information.

Carlyn Robertson  29:01

There’s a lot of great stuff in there. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  29:03

That is fantastic. So cool. So there was another comment that popped up that I wanted to, it was sort of a question related to ads, and I want to get back to that. “Are ads only for ebooks? Is there anything for audiobooks?”

Carlyn Robertson  29:16

Great question Will. So BookBub Ads has primarily been for ebooks, but we are actually in the midst of adding audiobook targeting as well. So if you are signed up for our Chirp emails, you’ll notice that some ads have started popping up at the bottom of your Chirp emails as well. So this is in beta right now. We’re kind of slowly rolling it out to work out the kinks. But if any of you watching dohave audiobooks that are available on Chirp that you would like to promote with the ads tool, let us know. Shoot us an email at partners@BookBub.com, and we can get you access to that tool early. And everyone will have access to it soon in the coming months. So, actually, we’ve always seen people using BookBub ads to promote their audiobooks. Like I said, BookBub readers listen to audio. So now we’re just adding that as an explicit targeting choice that you can let us know that you want to reach the BookBub and Chirp members who are listening to audiobooks as well as, or separately from those who are looking for ebooks. And that will again narrow your audience just to that particular audience for whether you’re promoting an ebook or an audiobook.

Mark Lefebvre  30:20

Okay. And I think the other thing about ads that you made me think about, because I was thinking, I use Books2Read links, which is a free tool from Draft2Digital. Hey, I can say cool things about D2D now, right?But right now, you can have a link to the ebook and a link to the audiobook. So you can not only link in an ad directly to a retailer, you can link to your ownwebsite, you can link to a universal book link where it is the ebook and the audiobook, or the library or whatever, right? Like, it’s kind of open.

Carlyn Robertson  30:50

Yeah, for ebooks, that’s the case. For audiobooks right now, you actually do have to use a Chirp URL to have your ad eligible to appear in the Chirp emails.So in that case, I would say definitely use that direct retailer URL. But for your ebook ads, you can get really creative. We’ve seen some really cool ways that people use. The Books2Read links come up a lot.Just make sure that you select the region and retailers that you want to be reaching, and the BookBub audience in that case. Yeah.Some people do really cool things linking to their website, where they’ve got an excerpt available on their website that readers can take a look at, and then links to purchase at the end after they’ve already hooked them with the excerpt. So, yeah, a lot of flexibility with which URLs you can use there.

Mark Lefebvre  31:32

Excellent. Thank you. And so I’ve got a comment here. A question from MrsB. Love that icon with a little ghost. Boo. “BookBub ads have done amazingly well for me.” That’s awesome. “But I wondered if there are plans to allow targeting for readers in New Zealand and more of Europe? Thanks for any info.”

Carlyn Robertson  31:52

Yeah, great question. Um, not immediate plans right now. We do want to keep expanding the regions that we have readers in. So that’s definitely something that we will be looking for in the future to reach more audiences. In Europe, I’ve heard most requests for German is working well, for a lot of authors right now. So we know that obviously a lot of you have global audiences and that that’s really important to reach all those readers. So no immediate plans, but hopefully someday we’ll be able to. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  32:23

Cool. Excellent. I’m gonna move over to a question from Yasmin. Yasmin says, “I think urban fantasy is a much overlooked genre. It doesn’t fully fit fantasy, nor does it always fit paranormal romance. So I always dither about which one to apply for a FD in.” So what do you say?

Carlyn Robertson  32:40

Yeah. So urban fantasy is one of those sub-genres that we don’t have an explicit list for. And this is a great example of what I was talking about earlier, where depending on the details of the book, we might send it to different lists. So an urban fantasy title could go to our fantasy list, it could go to paranormal romance, or it could go to supernatural suspense, which is another genre that we have. So I would say, don’t sweat it too much. Pick the one that you think is probably the best fit. And then our editors will be sure to consider it for those other lists, if there’s something that stands out that they think would work better for one of those audiences over the others.

Mark Lefebvre  33:15

Okay, excellent. Thank you. Now I’m gonna turn to a very, very serious question right now I have to pop up, from—I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this character here—but Dan Wood asks Carlyn, “Carlyn, have you picked your karaoke song for the next time we’re able to hang out at a conference?” That’s really important. I want to know what it is.

Carlyn Robertson  33:33

I mean, it would probably have to be a Backstreet Boys song, in honor of Chrissy, would be my pick right now. But I’ve got time to think about it. Who knows when the next conference will be?

Mark Lefebvre  33:45

It might be, maybe it’s a virtual karaoke party that ends up happening.

Carlyn Robertson  33:49

It could be. Thanks for asking the important questions, Dan.

Mark Lefebvre  33:55

Excellent. Elaine just left this comment, “There’s more crossover between urban fantasy and SFF than UF and fantasy.” So, interesting comment, to think about from that. And another question came up. Yasmine said, “Are there genres that fill up faster?”

Carlyn Robertson  34:11

Yeah, a great question. I would say it’s usually our biggest genres. So crime fiction, thrillers, contemporary romance are the three that come to mind. So the ones that have the most readers signed up for, tend to also be the most popular for submissions. But we have kind of set up our calendar to make sure that we’ve got space to support reader demand in each category, depending on how much they’re purchasing and as well as the demand, the submissions coming in from authors and publishers. So we’ve done our best to try to arrange the schedule in a way that’s going to make sure that we’ve got enough supply coming in from authors and publishers to meet the demand of our readers.But we have that 30 day submission window for Featured Deals. And in general, if you do have very particular dates that you want to run a promotion, I would encourage you to submit that full 30 days in advance. And of course, you can wait a little bit longer if something comes up last minute. I would say it’s always worth a try to see if you can squeeze in. We sometimes do have unexpected space. The schedule fills up at really different rates, just depending on how many submissions we’re getting at any given time. So you can submit every book once every 30 days, and I would definitely encourage you to go ahead and try as often as you can if getting a deal is important. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  35:29

Because you’re guaranteed not to get it if you don’t try, right?

Carlyn Robertson  35:32


Mark Lefebvre  35:33

Yes, exactly. Well, what about nonfiction? I mean, I have some nonfiction titles out there as well. How does nonfiction work? Maybe not as much category splitting there? Is that maybe because it’s not as big of an audience as it is for romance and thriller and …

Carlyn Robertson  35:47

Gosh, we do have a, I want to say like 10 or so nonfiction categories. So general nonfiction, advice/how-to, parenting, humor, which I think sometimes actually gets some fiction in there as well, politics and current events, science … There’s gonna be others that I’m not remembering. But any category that we’ve launched, we did that because there were readers that were excited about it and interested in it. So yeah, so we definitely get a lot of engagement with those nonfiction titles as well.

Mark Lefebvre  36:18

So you’re paying attention then. You’re obviously paying attention to what the readers are looking for, what they’re clicking on, what they’re engaging with, as well as paying attention to the author community. So you’re satisfying both sides in a very fascinating way.

Carlyn Robertson  36:30

We try to, yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  36:32

Now, this question came up and I just want to clarify. So Sylvester asked, “Tell me why.”

Carlyn Robertson  36:39

I’m not gonna sing. That’s a Backstreet Boys reference. I get that.

Mark Lefebvre  36:42

Oh, Oh, I get it. See, I’m too old to know who these people were. No. Is that the crossover in fantasy that he was asking about? Or is he just wanting to … Oh, he wants to sing. I get it. It’s related to karaoke.

Carlyn Robertson  36:56

Nice try. No, no singing is going to be happening here.

Mark Lefebvre  37:01

All right, so let’s talk a little bit about the cool people at BookBub. Now, it’s not just this corporation, this faceless corporation. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting a chance to see them sing, or just hang out with some really great people from BookBub at different events in the industry. How big is the team there?

Carlyn Robertson  37:23

Yeah, so we are about 120 right now. We’ve been, we haven’t seen each other in the office now for about three weeks. Butyeah, we’re very lucky actually, that we can kind of keep our business going remotely and we took steps I think pretty early on tomake sure that everyone is able to keep their job going and stay safe. So, very lucky about that. But lots of video FaceTimes to see everyone now.

Mark Lefebvre  37:50

I’m gonna throw this out there, because I don’t see any other questions unless you’ve spotted some in the feed. The question is, is there a question that you were really hoping I would ask, that I haven’t actually had a chance to get to yet?

Carlyn Robertson  38:02

Ooh, that’s a good question. Um, I guess the one that, I don’t know if it’s like a question but … an answer that I often like to give, or something I often like to say when I’m talking to audiences of authors, is, we’re not intimidating. We again, like, if you email us at partners@BookBub.com, with any question about any of our tools, there’s no such thing as a silly question. We are here to help. We’ve got an awesome team of people. I think often there’s a lot of speculation that happens about our Featured Deal selection process or other things and we can answer any of those questions for you. We can clear up confusion. So don’t worry about guessing. Or I mean, even something like which category to choose for your future deal submission, shoot us an email. And, you know, I can’t promise that we can answer every single question that comes our way. But we’re always going to do our best to help you out. So we’ve got a fantastic team of people there. And you’re always going to hear from a real human when you reach out to us. So don’t be afraid to ask for help. We are definitely here for you.

Mark Lefebvre  39:05

So I can vouch for the fact that these people are real humans. They are book nerds, they’re beautiful book nerds, they love getting the right book into the right reader’s hands. They love helping make those connections. So again, I’m just going to reiterate, because it’s very similar to, you know, applying every 30 days and continuing to try, right? Get up there and try. Because if you don’t ask the question, you’re definitely never going to know the answer, right?

Carlyn Robertson  39:28

Exactly. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  39:30

Exactly. So cool. More comments, are you ready for more questions? “If you make a box set, especially for a Featured Deal, which doesn’t have any reviews, but the individual books do …” So let’s say books one, two and three all have reviews, but the box set’s new and it doesn’t. Will BookBub take that into account?

Carlyn Robertson  39:48

Yeah, that’s a really good question. And the answer is yes, we will. So the editors know, of course, that those other individual books in the set have reviews. So they’ll definitely go and take a look at those to make sure that they get a sense for what those books are about, if they’re going to feature the box set. And we do, box sets are fantastic. It’s an incredible deal for our readers, and even the slightly higher priced deal prices. So $1.99 and $2.99 can work really well for a box set, obviously, because readers are getting more books for the same price.

Mark Lefebvre  40:16

Excellent, cool. And then there’s a sort of a similar, Anita asks, “Do we have to have a certain number of reviews to run an ad? I haven’t had luck in getting any.”

Carlyn Robertson  40:28

Well, I’m sorry, you haven’t had luck yet, but I hope that we can feature one of your books someday. In terms of reviews, there’s not a minimum requirement. So I know that’s a rumor that is pretty persistent. “You have to have 100 reviews.” There’s no minimum. We have found, though … So we run a ton of tests on the blurbs that we include in our Featured Deals, as a way to figure out our readers’ particular tastes, and one that we ran was, does review count matter to readers? And the answer is, yes, it does. So if we can say that a book has over, I think 150 reviews, that’s something that will actually increase the rates that our readers click. So we found that our readers really like to get books that other readers have enjoyed. So obviously, the more reviews you have, the more competitive that is going to make your book, in many cases. Again, reviews are only one piece of that very holistic review process. And there have been cases where we’ve got books that have a very small number of reviews, but the plot is exactly the kind of thing that we know our readers love, and we will give that book a chance and send it out. And, depends on the category, depends on again, like the time that you submit, there’s a ton of different factors that go in. So I would say, do your best to try to gain reviews. Giving away books for free is one fantastic way to encourage that. But if you don’t have a certain number of reviews, don’t let that stop you from submitting.

Mark Lefebvre  41:50

Cool. And I think it’s important to again, to remember that it’s the humans, it’s not a system, it’s not some algorithm that says, “Oh, we’re not even going to look at books that have only this, don’t have this many reviews” or whatever. Because the reviewer, the editor, who’s looking at it may go, “Oh my god, this looks ideal.” And that can make a difference. So that’s really, really cool. So there’s another question here. I’m gonna pop that up. And it’s from Sidney. Sidney asks, “Does BookBub generate different tutorial videos to help with how to do different marketing techniques?”

Carlyn Robertson  42:29

Yeah, so we do have one tutorial video right now for BookBub ads that kind of breaks down, if you’re going through setting up an ad campaign for the first time, what all the different elements of the form are and what they mean, and also shares some resources for how to learn more about all those different aspects. I think we might have a handful of other … We’ve got some great flipbooks that sort of bring together a lot of different marketing examples, but I don’t know that we have a lot of other videos up yet. But if there is something that you would like a tutorial on, again, shoot us an email, that’s great for us to know, if there’s a topic that we’re not providing enough resources on right now, that would be helpful for you.

Mark Lefebvre  43:09

Excellent. And people can check that out at insights.bookbub.com, correct?

Carlyn Robertson  43:12

Yes. I think if you search “tutorial” on the blog, it will come up.

Mark Lefebvre  43:15

Okay, that is fantastic. I love that. Let me see if I’ve got any other questions that I haven’t … Oh, I’ve got one from Saz. Saz says, “Do you review niche genres? South Asian romance for example.”

Carlyn Robertson  43:28

So we don’t have a specific category for it, but we will consider every single submission that comes in. So within each of our larger genres, we are featuring a lot of different sub-genres to our readers, so … There are going to be some sub-genres that our particular audience might not be as excited about. But it’s always, again, always worth it to try to submit for the Featured Deals. And if you don’t have luck with the Featured Deals, then the BookBub ads could be a really good option if you do write something that’s very niche, and you want to reach a really nice audience of readers. Because you have the customization options with the author targeting to really reach those BookBub readers who will be excited about whatever sub-genre it is.

Mark Lefebvre  44:07

Awesome. Awesome. Now, you made me think about something earlier that I wanted to share. And it’s trying again. It’s, you know, I’ve been trying for BookBub ads and I keep getting rejected. It’s not necessarily I don’t have enough reviews. It’s not necessarily that the editors didn’t like it. It may be my name. Under Mark Leslie, I’ve got a horror book. And Stephen King and Dean Koontz have already submitted on the same day I did, and they’re obviously gonna reach a few more people than I am. Therefore, it’s not that you didn’t like my book, it’s just that the spot was already filled. That’s a possibility, right? And that’s why it’s important to keep trying, because we don’t know what’s going on outside of our own little world. So that’s something that I found valuable is, you just keep trying.

Carlyn Robertson  44:52

Yeah, it really is a numbers game at a certain point, that of all of the submissions that our editors are receiving, which last I checked, I think it was around 300 per day. They can only choose a very small number of those, because we keep that limited number of space in the email. So yeah, absolutely. If your book is not selected, it’s not a sign that BookBub readers wouldn’t be excited about your book, it just means that there were other books that at this particular time we decided to feature instead. So don’t give up hope. Keep trying, keep submitting. And, again, shoot us an email if you ever have any questions. Yeah.

Mark Lefebvre  45:22

Well, Carlyn, thank you for that inspiration, that insight, that wisdom, the fun, the laughs, all the things. I really appreciate you taking the time to hang out with me today. On behalf of all the listeners and Draft2Digital authors out there, thank you so much.

Carlyn Robertson  45:35

Absolutely. Yeah, thank you for organizing this.

Mark Lefebvre  45:38

We’ll talk to you later.