Joanne Phillips

A Writers Journey



Results of a Free Promotion Using Bookbub’s UK Only List

Regular readers will be aware that I ran a free promotion on my romantic comedy Cupid’s Way just under a month ago. The stats are in and it’s time to report on the results. For those of you who are keenĀ to skip to the end, I’ll save you the bother and say right now that it was a big success. Not huge – I had a better download rate and sales on return to paid from the full Bookbub promotion I did last summer with The Family Trap – but still very good in terms of paid downloads, and in terms of reviews and follow-on ranking. And the return on investment for the $25 fee from Bookbub is excellent. So, here are the figures in more detail, with lots of nice graphs and images …


Before this promotion, Cupid’s Way was selling very little. I don’t know why this is – it’s a popular book, and gets overwhelmingly good reviews – but my best guess says it’s just plain old discoverability. No one sees it, so no one buys it. I changed the cover just before going free; even though I loved the old cover I thought it just didn’t speak to the market as well as it could. Only time will tell whether this new cover, combined with the effects of the promo and a couple of other category and keyword tweaks I carried out, will have a longer term effect on sales.


The promotion ran from 7th to 11th May, with the Bookbub listing on Friday 8th. For this I paid $25 to be seen on the UK list only. Compare this with a fee of $340 to be in the US and UK listing (and Canada), and it’s a massive saving. But would it have any effect at all? I thought it was worth taking the risk.

CW Free Promo stats 2015

So, you can see from this graph that on day one, 7th May, Cupid’s Way was downloaded free over 1,500 times. This was great, and without any advertising at all. I didn’t even list with the usual free sites. Honestly, I couldn’t be bothered – and I wanted to purely test the Bookbub list without any other factors. On day 2, the Bookbub day, downloads shot up to 3,000. These were, as you might imagine, mostly in the UK. (Breakdown below.) Then, of course, the effect of positioning comes into play – because Cupid’s Way was starting to rank highly in the free charts it was seen by more people and achieved yet more downloads. It only tailed off on the 11th because this was the day the promotion ended – it’s reasonable to assume that the book would have continued to be downloaded for a few more days until it reached saturation point for the number of people looking for this type of book for free at this time.

So, overall download figures:

US: 3073
UK: 6704
DE: 119
FR: 1
ES: 6
IT: 10
JP: 1
IN: 17
CA: 21
AU: 14

Not bad, really. Cupid’s Way has been free once before, back in October last year, where I did list it with all the major free sites, and it was new to the free market, and it got a similar number in the UK and almost 14,000 downloads in the US. Proportionally, though, this massive download figure last year didn’t see a huge upturn in paid sales in the US, although it did show a marked increase in the UK. Could it be that Amazon UK apply a different algorithm to free downloads than Amazon US for positioning? I don’t know. I think you really do need to reach the top 10 overall in free in the US and stay there for a couple of days at least to see any real impact on sales after the promotion ends. In the UK maybe it’s the same, but the market – and the competition – is smaller. Cupid’s Way reached number 4 overall in the UK Kindle store for free books, and number 20 in the US. So, what happened after?


Did I mention that prior to running this promotion, Cupid’s Way averaged at around #140,000 in the UK Kindle store? It went back into the paid charts at around #5,000, and quickly rose to the awesome position of #548.

CW top 600

This was really nice to see šŸ™‚ (Understatement of the year there.) The book glided gracefully down the charts over the following couple of weeks, while Amazon’s algorithms did their thing and gave it a nice chance at being seen by lots of new readers. Remember, all the time there are other books coming off fantastic free promotions, or being pushed by publishers – even the best efforts can’t keep a little indie title up in the top #1000 forever. Not without a lot of luck, anyway.

By May 20th, Cupid’s Way was just about to drop out of the top #100 in the Romantic Comedy category. This is a key category and was responsible for a lot of sales.

CW top 100 rom com

I think it’s important to be in major categories like this, and to take your results from performance here. There are so many novelsĀ now in spurious categories that call themselves ‘Number #1 Bestseller’ just because they made it to the top of a list of about 300 books, most of which aren’t even fiction! One particular romance series ranks high in various non-fiction sub-sub-sub categories, but really, what’s the point? Anyway, I’m getting off topic here. Let’s get on to the nitty gritty – sales figures.

The Results

Any free promotion is only concerned with after sales. Well, maybe that’s a sweeping statement – there are authors who use free books to drive people to email lists, or to provide a lead-in to a series. But that, when you follow it through, is still concerned with sales, so my first statement was right.

The really interesting thing about after sales for this promotion was the increase in the number of borrows/Kindle Unlimited downloads. As part of KDP Select, my books are available to borrow or download as part of a monthly subscription fee. Authors get an amount per borrow – this amount isn’t fixed, so until my sales figures come in on the 15th June I won’t know exactly how much money Cupid’s Way made after the promotion. But I do know downloadĀ numbers, and the number of borrows, and I’m about to show you and tell you here:

CW sales after promo

This chart shows Cupid’s Way from 18th April to 18th May. The red line is the number of paid units, the blue line the number of KU (Kindle Unlimited) and KOLL (Kindle Owners’ Lending Library) borrows/downloads. (The green line you saw above was the number of free downloads, and that is deselected in this chart.) See the big spike in sales, from zero to 40? That was the day it went back to paid. Sales continued, leveling out at just under 30 a day, then around 20 a day, finally dropping off to around 5 a day, where they currently remain. You’d think that the borrows might mirror this, but they are a bit haywire if you ask me! Still, borrows continue to be even stronger than the sales, and by the end of MayĀ Cupid’s Way had achieved, post promotion, 240 Kindle sales and a further 300 borrows. Even at Ā£1.00 per borrow, that’s a good return on the investment of $25 to list the book with Bookbub.


Would I do the Bookbub UK only list again? Of course I would! But they will be putting the price up, no doubt about it, as their list and traction increases in the UK. I’m happy to announce that the first in my Flora Lively series, Murder at the Maples, has been accepted for a US & UK Bookbub promo this month (June), so it will be interesting to compare the results.

I hope you found this interesting and helpful, particularly in terms of planning your own promotions and knowing what to expect. Let me know in the comments below if you found it helpful, or if there’s anything else you’d like to know about this or other promotions.

Q: Why Do I Love Bookbub? A: Because They Write Great Blurbs

Check out the blurb Bookbub have written for Cupid’s Way, ready for their one day listingĀ of my free promotion:

Bookbub excerpt

“Greedy housing developers and clueless grandparents don’t mix well. It’s up to bored, single Evie to save the day – but she never expects to fall for the evil corporation’s CEO in the process. Fans of romantic comedies, let us welcome you to one crazy neighborhood.”

It’s genius! Bear in mind this isn’t what it says in my blurb, or in any of the reviews. This is a brand new description, and in my opinion they’ve captured the essence of the book, the fun and the conflict and the main reason for reading. You know, I think it’s worth paying for the Bookbub promotion just to let the creative minds at the ‘Bub come up with such stellar product descriptions. The downloads that will (hopefully) follow are just the icing on the cake šŸ™‚

You can download Cupid’s Way for Free right here until Monday 11th May.

All Hail Bookbub – The Bub’s Effect On My Free Promotion

Last weekend I ran a free promotion on my novel, The Family Trap, hoping to entice new readers into signing up to my mailing list ready for my theĀ release next weekend of Cupid’s Way. To give the free promo a bit of a boost, I tried once again to get into Bookbub. This was the third time I’d applied, and the second with this particular title. I was prepared for rejection – I know, from my Alliance of Independent Authors forum, that the Bub is difficult to get into and that many great titles get turned away all the time.

When I got theĀ email to say that The Family Trap had been accepted I was really chuffed, and I duly went along to PayPal and coughed up the Ā£117 to be listed in the Women’s Fiction category for a free promotion on Sunday 15th June. On the Bookbub websiteĀ it states thatĀ this category is expected to achieve a range of 10,400 to 29,500 downloads, with an average of 20,200. (Spoiler alert: TFT smashed this range.) I thought that was pretty cool, and as TFT has some great reviews in the US, as well as in the UK, I was hoping for a good uptake generally.

A week before the free promotion I did all my usual hard work listing the title on all the main sites that push and promote freebies. I paid another Ā£15 or so for some of the listing sites, and put in the hours filling in forms etc. I blogged about it on the first day, popped it on Facebook and Twitter, then went away for the weekend with my family.

Amazing Results

On Saturday night I logged in to see what was happening. I was gobsmacked to see almost 7,000 downloads in the US already (this was before the Bookbub promo had started), and surprised that it was only 1,500 in the UK. This is ever the way – it’s a fact that most of the free listings go out to readers in the US and have yet to break into the UK market. I logged out and wondered what would happen the following day when the Bookbub email went out to subscribers. Little did I know that I’d spend the rest of the weekend with my jaw on the floor.

bookbub effect free


This graph shows the free promotion downloads over the five day period (Friday 13th to Tuesday 17th June). The numbers are staggering. On the first day it hit 5,000 downloads, which was fantastic in itself. But look at what happened when the Bookbub email went out to subscribers – on June 15th The Family Trap was downloaded 38,223 times! In one day! Hey, I know there are bestselling authors out there who get this many paid downloads every day, and that these were books going out for free, but for little old me – sitting in a log cabin in the Derbyshire Dales, watching the figures on a borrowed iPad – it was astonishing.

no 1 US Amazon

The Family Trap got to #2 in the Amazon US free bestseller chart overall, and was #1 in the romantic comedy category. None of my books have ever got this high on the US Amazon site, not even back in 2012 when free was still new and exciting. In the UK, where downloads were lower, it crept up over the 5 days and peaked on the last day at number 7 overall. Which was still pretty amazing! Here are the figures for anyone who’s interested:

UK 6829
US 57135Ā 
Germany 110
France 3
Spain 7
Canada 342
Italy 13
Japan 7
Brazil 7
India 95
Australia 141
Total:Ā 64689

So, that’s 64,689 downloads overall. I have to write that in words: sixty-four thousand, six hundred and eighty-nine people downloaded my book in five days. Some of them might even read it šŸ˜‰

So, What Was The Point?

Which brings me to the point of doing this, because I know there are authors out there right now wanting to throw things at the computer at the thought of giving all these books away for free.

First of all, let’s remind ourselves that not all the people who download free books would have paid actual money for it, even if they had it shoved in front of their noses. Even paying 99p for a book by a new and unknown author is a risk – there’s this question all the time of whether your 99p could be better spent elsewhere. And remember, when it comes to books it’s not just about money, it’s about time. As Hugh Howey said at LBF, we are asking potential readers to give up something very precious when we ask them to read our books – we are asking them to give us their time. Time is so valuable, perhaps the most valuable resource many readers have.

You have to view the free promotion as a way of reaching readers you would never have reached otherwise, a way of getting onto their Kindles and into their consciousness, and perhaps onto their list of favourite authors if you are very, very lucky. The Family Trap is over a year old now, it sells reasonably well without any advertising, but let’s face it – over the 5 day promotion I missed out on maybe Ā£20 of actual paid-for sales. And I got into the hands of thousands of new readers. Even with the extra cost of the Bookbub listing, getting me into the hands of tens of thousands of new readers, I’ll take that as a cost-effective marketing exercise all day long!

bookbub effect paid

But of course, there are other benefits to a successful free promotion, and one of them is the boost it gives to other titles, in this case my debut novel – and the book that comes before The Family TrapCan’t Live Without. The graph above shows the number of paid units downloaded over the same period. Yes, that’s actual sales where money exchanged hands šŸ™‚ It’s interesting how it follows the same pattern as the free promotion, almost exactly. And even though Can’t Live Without retails at only 99p, the 970 (to date) extra sales this gained me is still a welcome boost to royalties, easily covering the cost of the Bookbub listing.

CLW no 11 rom com


Can’t Live Without has shot up the bestseller charts again, hitting #11 in the Romantic Comedy chart in the UK yesterday, and #1 in Parenting and Family Humour. Not bad for a book that’s been out for over 2 years and has already had almost 100,000 downloads itself!

And of course, the post-free boost, while not what it used to be, still has an effect on the free title when it comes back to paid-for. The Family Trap is currently at #429 in the UK Amazon chart overall, and is climbing high in its categories. I’ve had an additional 90 sales so far (these are at the regularĀ price of Ā£1.99), on top of what I would usually expect, and it’s only the second day after the promotion finished. I’ve also had loads of new reviews, both in the UK and the US, and so far about 20 new sign-ups to my mailing list.

What About Cupid’s Way?

The idea of the free promotion was to use what I consider to be my best book to gain new readers in the run up to the launch of Cupid’s Way. There is a link in the back of TFT, taking interested readers to a landing page on my website, which will be populated with buy links once the book is live. There is, of course, a link to sign up to the mailing list, and links to all my other books. I’m not kidding myself that each and every one of the 64,689 people who downloaded TFT will read it, or even that all those who do will love it – but some will. 1% alone is still over 600 people; 0.1% is 64 people that I would never have reached otherwise. I’ve already had an email from a lovely reader in Philadelphia who said she really enjoyed The Family Trap, and building your readership one reader at a time is, after all, what it’s all about šŸ™‚


Cupid’s Way will be released next Friday 27th June – sign up to the Facebook Event now to make sure you don’t miss out on all the fun!

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