Book Marketing Using Paid Promotion: Targeted Email Lists

One of the keys to promotion is building an email list of fans who like your books. This is a non-negotiable in terms of book marketing, but building that list often takes a long time!

PriceTagsBlogging, social media, speaking events and networking are brilliant but they are all long-term marketing activities that don’t result in sales and ranking spikes.

One way to move the needle quickly in terms of sales and ranking is by using paid promotion sites that have lists of avid readers who might be interested in your book.

This is a short-term tactic, not a long-term strategy so should be used in conjunction with other marketing.

Note: This is NOT the same as ‘buying email lists’ which is a scam – don’t do that!

Who should consider paid promotion?

It’s worth using paid promotion if:

  • You have a book with a great cover and great reviews. The social proof of reviews is critical for people to trust the buy process.
  • You can reduce the price easily and quickly for a short period – which means you need access to the ‘back end’ of the publishing process, which generally means it’s open to indie authors only
  • You have more than one book, and it’s definitely worth putting the first of the series on special
  • You have a budget for promotion, as you may not make back what you spend – results vary.

What is BookBub and how does it work?

bookbubBookBub is a free service for readers to get a daily email with curated books on special – either free or reduced. As a reader, you can enter your email and then choose the categories you’re interested in. It’s quick and easy to sign up.

On the other end of the process, they also offer a paid promotion service to authors where you can advertise to this list.

I like the fact that the listing is curated, so not all books are accepted, only the ones with good reviews. You can’t automatically pay, they have to check your book out first. This is a great idea because it means their list stays happy and keeps buying. An email list becomes unresponsive if you send out stuff they don’t want.

Yes, their prices are high and change monthly BUT you have to weigh up the up-front price over potential book sales and the impact on your rankings and the algorithm. Exact outcome is hard to show over the long-term, but my results are below.

pentecostAnecdotal evidence: My experience

OK, first up – any results will vary depending on an incredible number of factors, so don’t assume my results will be yours if you try this route. My husband is a statistician and he has also reminded me that this is anecdotal evidence only, and not statistically significant, so don’t apply my results to your possible situation.

Also, we all know that the algorithms at Amazon and other sites change regularly and what worked this week might well not work next week!

Plus, these sites change a lot, prices change monthly and new players emerge. So take this as one example in a snapshot of time!

Pentecost is an action-adventure thriller, the first in my ARKANE series. You can read more here. It has 92 reviews with 4 star average on, 31 reviews with 4 star average on and 215 reviews on Goodreads fed to Kobo with 4 star average. So it was in a good position before the promotion and there are 2 other books now available, Prophecy and Exodus. Pentecost is also available in print.

Service used:

* BookBub 1 day promotion for Pentecost, An ARKANE Thriller (Book 1). Cost ~$200.

* I went for the Religious & Inspirational list instead of the Thriller list because this series often ranks well in that category anyway. Even though the books are not religious, they are based on Biblical and supernatural themes. It’s a smaller list than the Thriller one and therefore is much cheaper, but doesn’t go to as many people.

* Reduced price from $2.99 to 99c on Amazon and Kobo (as those are the sites it’s easiest for me to change prices quickly on). I decided to use a price instead of going free because I wanted to actually make some money and the algorithms prefer paid books these days.

Stats prior to the promotiopentecost reviewsn: #41,304 in Kindle Store #6023 Paid in Kindle store, #26 in Religious Fiction

Kobo: #908 in Religious Fiction & Literature

Day of the Promotion

BookBubStatsBooks sold in day of promotion + 2 days afterwards:

* & 717 at 99c and 30% royalty = $215.10 (Pentecost only)

* Sales of Prophecy and Exodus were also up – ~50% more, so ~45 copies at $4.99 = $157.18 (70% royalty)

* Kobo: 10 @ 99c = $3 (hmm … )

Approximate income: $375.28

Highest ranking reached: #236 in Kindle Store, #3 in Kindle – Religious Fiction, #3 in Genre Fiction -> Religious & Inspirational, #2 in Christian/Literature & Fiction/ Mystery. #14 in Movers & Shakers. #2658 in Kindle Store, #11 in Religious Fiction,

Kobo: #431 in Religious Fiction

Stats a week after the promotion: #7532 in Kindle Store, #26 in Christian/Literature & Fiction/Mystery #12,637 Paid in Kindle store, #44 in Religious Fiction

Kobo: #260 in Religious Fiction & Literature

The books are slowly dropping, but the rankings have definitely been impacted over the last week.

Was it worth it?

Yes, it was definitely worth it, and I will certainly use the service again but I would probably go for the Thriller listing instead in order to reach more people and attempt a higher place on the charts. The Religious & Inspirational list was possibly not the best as many people would be looking for the more Christian end of the reading scale.

In terms of ranking and visibility, it was definitely great for moving Pentecost back up the charts. I made my money back, which was great, but the spike in the data was more important in the longer term.

I have had similar results from a paid promotion before when I used Pixel of Ink who are no longer doing this service.  New sites also spring up all the time, so keep an eye out for opportunities.

Have you used paid promotion for your book? Would you consider it? I’d love to know your thoughts so please leave a comment below.

Top image: Bigstock price tags

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  1. says

    I am late to this party, but want to add my thanks for so much valuable info. Surely, what you caution against is every bit as valuable as what you say makes sense. In a word (well, two words), you are a class act.

  2. KIT says

    I have a question Joanna!

    I looked on the site and googled it for a while but couldn’t come up with an answer. Does bookbub allow you to target your ad to more than one category. Say if you had decided to target Religious and Inspirational as well as Mysteries and Thrillers and Action and Adventure. Of course paying for all three categories. Would they allow that? or are you limited to one category per ad.

    I’m trying to work out of that would have gotten you in front of more readers in your genre. Wondering also if that would be more effective or if it would be a better idea to send a targeted ad every 30/90 days period, the first time to religious, the second to Mystery and the last time to Action. That might prevent bookbub customers that might be signed up for both genres getting double shout outs for your book in one go…

    Love to know what you think!

    • says

      I’m not sure Kit – you’d have to ask Bookbub. But I am certainly going to try the Thriller list next time, now I have ‘proof of concept’ with the smaller, less targeted list.

  3. says

    I think it’s great that you took a chance on a different category. I would’ve hesitated in your shoes but it does show you’re willing to try a new trick or two. Love the marketing articles!

  4. says

    Hi, Joanna – I am reading the second book “Pentecost”, and think you are a great writer, and I enjoy your comments very much. I signed up with, but realize they target websites that are mainly promoting product, rather than writing. I have an appointment with a fellow who will get me started, but he is talking about a fee of $98.00 per month, rather than the $2.95 I thought it would cost me per month. He said he had heard of A.Weber, the company you use, but I think he may try to talk me into using them specifically for promotions. At present, I don’t feel I can afford the $98.00 per month. What would you advise, so I can go at this slowly, and learn what I need to do next. The website I mentioned above is with, and set up for me by Global Information Systems – huge mistake, and very costly – nice site, but have made O dollars. Who would you use in starting out with a web site? I have to change the site now to, since has been used with the other company, and Global Information Systems will not call me back to see how I can buy the domain and make changes. I know you’re very busy, but would appreciate any thoughts on this.
    Thanks much for all your tips.
    Alice Shepler

    • says

      Hi Alice – I reckon everyone should be using WordPress which is free software and then a hosting service like Hostgator which is $6-8 per month, so very cheap The Aweber system is for list/email management but you could use Mailchimp which is free up to 1000 subscribers. If you want to DIY, then check out the resources at
      Otherwise, I can recommend Joel The Blog Tech Guy, who won’t rip you off
      Just make sure you have control – it really shouldn’t cost much at all to run a site.

  5. says

    I know I had visited this thread awhile ago and I am back again. I wanted to see if anyone else had heard of anything other than BookBub, but I guess not lol. That’s unfortunate because not all of us can afford a $450 “ad” with the chance (on the low end) of only making back $75. That is just really really scary to me. Of course on the up chance, I could make $4,000 to $8,000 (average sales and high sales), but holy crap, those odds are still really really scary. Has anyone ever had a BAD experience ie; lost money on BB?

  6. says

    Thanks for the post Joanna. My own anecdotal experience has been that, despite the high cost, few people seem to ever lose money promoting with Bookbub. The problem is getting accepted…

  7. William Struse says

    I had a great experience with BookBub. Last month I ran a free promotion for my book The 13th Enumeration. This promotion was in conjunction with the release of Book II in my Christian fiction series. I chose the religious & inspirational category which cost $140. To be fair I also signed with several other sites which listed my book for free. Here is an overview of the results:

    Day 1: All free promotions began (except Bookbub) 2000 copies downloaded the first day. This was okay but a little disappointing.
    Day 2. Bookbub kicked in. 3000 downloads in the first 4 hours. 13,000 the first day. #7 in all free Kindle downloads #1 in Christian Fiction
    Day 3. 10,000 more downloads. #1 Christian Fiction
    Day 4. 2000 #1 Christian Fiction
    Day 5: Final total 26,650 downloads. Top 10 Christian Fiction

    One month later I’ve sold almost 100 copies of The 13th Enumeration (@2.99) and several times that of Book II: The 13th Prime. (@5.99)

    I’m a new author with no connections and I was able to reach 26,000 potential readers. My initial investment was more than paid for with follow on sales from my free book. Sales of Book II have been great. Compared to 1 or 2 sales a week before the promotion I am thrilled with my current book sales. In a sea of fellow writers, I got noticed and the results were well worth the money. Given the chance I will definitely use them again.

  8. says

    I’m wondering if you’ve discovered additional paid advertising sites since this article posted. I’m finding several in my searches, but I want to use a credible source.

  9. Andi says

    would you have an idea how many days notice would be best on BookBub before the discount starts on amazon?
    Let’s assume the discount on amazon starts on Monday, Feb. 17.
    When should it be advertised on BookBub?
    Is a certain weekday better than another? Should it be three days in advance or five or more?
    Thank you.


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