With ebooks as a popular medium for readers and writers, there has to be a way to wade through the noise to find the books you want to read.

BookBub looks to be that middleman by promoting discounted books to email subscribers. The company was launched in early 2012 by Josh Schanker and Nicholas Ciarelli. They didn’t have a background in publishing, but instead digital media.

It seems they have a found a good mix as the company has more than two million subscribers.

“They were exposed to this industry for the first time when a friend asked them to help her think about how to get ebooks from unknown authors discovered,” said Katie Donelan, BookBub’s Director of Business Development. “They came up with the idea of giving away free and deeply-discounted ebooks to gain exposure and a fan base.”

They didn’t put together an email list right away as they looked for the best possible way to market ebooks.

“It wasn’t until the rise of ebooks that publishers began to shift an increasing amount of resources away from marketing to retailers and towards marketing direct to consumers instead, creating a need for consumer-marketing vehicles used in other industries that had not yet developed in publishing, like BookBub,” Donelan said.

BookBub has seen its membership grow. In spring of 2013, it hit one million subscribers. Just a few weeks ago, BookBub passed two million email subscribers. The daily emails feature several books with big discounts, or even free.

The emails have a picture of the cover with the title and a short description. There are also links to where the ebooks are sold such as Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Amazon, Sony, Kobo and others.

Author Julia Kent has used BookBub five times since July with the most recent coming last week. Her first four books appeared in BookBub’s Erotic Romance category and the fifth was in the Contemporary Romance category.

Kent keeps coming back because the promotions have been successful for her. She sold between 2,000 and 3,000 copies of her promoted books within three to four days at $.99. However, the subsequent books in her series received a 200-300 percent growth in sales the following month, according to Kent.

“Readers are bombarded with advertising and information in general, and services like BookBub act as a filter,” Kent said. “The reader gets exactly what he/she wants: targeted information about books in a genre he/she prefers. That makes one-click purchases for sale items easier, and BookBub has taken an older marketing tool — the curated mailing list — and updated it in a very smart way.”

BookBub’s prices for its listings start at $30 for a free book in its Supernatural Suspense category. However, the prices quickly add up to more than $1,000 if books are priced higher than $2 in its most popular category, Mystery. The prices are based on sales data, according to blog post on BookBub.

“We carefully track purchase statistics for every listing we run, so we’re able to look back at historical sales and download numbers from the past few months and determine an average purchase rate for each category,” BookBub wrote. “This tells us what percentage of the subscribers on that list are likely to buy or download a book.

“We then multiply each category’s total subscriber count by the purchase rate, which allows us to arrive at an average sales number. This gives us an idea of how many copies an author or publisher can expect to sell during a typical promotion on that list.”

Prices for accepted books can be expensive, and authors have noticed prices have only gotten higher in recent months. BookBub lists the average expected downloads next to each category, and many of the most expensive promotions have an average of more than 1,000 downloads for paid books. Free books have an expectations of thousands, sometimes greater than 10,000 downloads.

For new authors, the prices may be too expensive as one promotion could be more than a mortgage payment. However, there is also added competition just to get listed in BookBub’s emails.

BookBub receives 50 to 100 submissions a day from authors or marketers, according to Donelan. However, because there is a limit to the amount of books that are placed in the emails every day – at most 15, depending on the categories the subscribers have picked – only about 20 percent are selected, which can be frustrating for many people whose titles do not get picked.

BookBub employs a staff of editors to research each book. Different factors are taken into consideration such as critical acclaim, cover art and quality of writing when picking a book for submission.

“We believe that curating and targeting the books we include allows us to maintain a high quality product with an engaged and active user-base, which is ultimately what makes BookBub an effective marketing service for our partners,” Donelan said.

When BookBub first started, it worked with mainly self-published authors. This was a natural fit as indie authors needed a way to get their books noticed.

However, BookBub has since worked all the big five publishers, many smaller publishers and indie authors.

“At BookBub, we aim to reflect the diversity of the current publishing ecosystem,” Donelan said. “So regardless of where they come from, we’ll take any quality book that we think our readers will enjoy, and we hope to always maintain a healthy mix of traditionally published and self-published titles.”


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