Regular visitors to the blog have probably noticed that my posts generally tend to fall into one of two categories. Dubious advice for self-published authors, or informing my perceived enemies that they may eat a dick. This post, as the title suggests, will fall squarely in the latter category.
So it's promotion time again. For seven of every ninety days, my books get featured on Amazon's Kindle Countdown, one of the benefits they enjoy due to their enrollment in KDP Select. It's a fun week for me. I get to watch my novels and short stories crowd the top of Amazon's Top 100 Comedy list. I get a few more likes on my Facebook page. And, if I'm lucky, I nab a few more good reviews.
The week preceding a promotion, however, is decidedly less fun. This is when I wait around for my inevitable rejection from Bookbub. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, Bookbub is a service which advertises discounted books to subscribers via email. With millions of subscribers signed up, an author lucky enough to have his or her book featured in an ad can generally expect a pretty big boost in sales for one day, usually more than enough to make up for the substantial cost of placing said ad.
But as the service gets more and more popular, the competition for limited ad spots intensifies. And while I don't have any numbers to back this up, I'd speculate that a large percentage of their subscribers are indie authors just like me (you have to subscribe to at least one category in order to submit your book).
So what you wind up with is a service that repeatedly wags its middle finger at most of its customer base. I can't think of many industries in which that is a viable long-term way of doing business.
It's like a heroin dealer who you let live in your basement, reminding you by email every day that he's in your house, but ignoring you or flipping you off every time you try to buy some of his product. Do you boot his ass out? Or do you let him hang around, because he really doesn't make that much noise, and maybe, just maybe, someday he'll give you that fix you've been craving?
I'm no business expert, but I can think of several things off the top of my head that Bookbub could be doing better, both to make more money for themselves, and avoid alienating the people they depend on.
1. Double (or triple) down on the ads.
I get that they don't want to send more than one email a day to their subscribers. There is only so much ad spamming a person wants in their inbox, even if they did ask for it. But who would be averse to one email containing ads for two or three books? It's not like the thought hasn't occurred to them. On rare occasions, I've seen Bookbub ads with two featured books. Why are these rare occasions, when people are lined up around the block to get a spot? The only possible answer I can think of is stupidity.
2. Charge higher prices.
Bookbub ads are expensive. That's why, in spite of their proven effectiveness, some authors I've talked to don't want anything to do with them. This is basic Economics-101-supply-and-demand-like shit.
If they doubled their prices on their most competitive categories right now, I'd be willing to bet they'd still have more than enough submissions to fill the slots. And while people don't like to pay more, I know I'd rather choose not to apply for an ad because of the price than be told "Go fuck yourself. We don't need your filthy commoner money."
Maybe they're going for an exclusivity thing to make the books they choose look more attractive to potential subscribers? I don't know. But I do know that you can only read so many of the shitburgers they routinely serve up before you come to realize that the standards of quality they tout so proudly are a joke.
3. Add more genres (and divide up the ones you've already got).
I'm forced to submit my books as "Fantasy" only because "Comedy" isn't an option. How much better could they serve both readers and writers by catering to more specific tastes?
Again, this isn't something they aren't aware of. They've got at least six categories for "Romance", only one of which is erotic. Hell, "Bear Smut" alone could probably be divided into subcategories at this point.
Amazon currently has eighteen different subcategories for the Fantasy genre. (Frustratingly, "Comic Fantasy" isn't one of them.) It's a very broad category, and fans of one style of fantasy probably aren't fans of certain other styles.
For example, fans of Arthurian Fantasy might not enjoy my books about gamers and fart jokes.
4. Realize you aren't the only game in town.
It's easy to coast when you're riding high. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it", and all that. You can act with impunity when you're the biggest badass on the block. But how long is that going to last? Bookbub isn't doing anything groundbreaking or revolutionary. They aren't sitting on any secret patented technology. They're like Paris Hilton, famous for being famous.
How long is it going to be before someone comes along and says "Wait a minute. Hold the goddamn phone! This is just a fucking mailing list!"?
You can point to the current imitators out there and show me how terribly they're doing in comparison, but with all the potential customers out there who are not being served by the Bub, you can bet your balls that it won't be long before an imitator starts to gain some traction. (Personally, I like the sound of "BookBob".)
Once there's a viable alternative who can offer everything Bookbub has to offer, along with the bonus innovation of not constantly shitting all over their customer base, I believe you'll start seeing the Bub's subscription rates drop. When the guy down the street is throwing in a cheerful smile with your heroin order, there's no need to keep that deadbeat jerk in your basement around anymore.
In the wake of rejection after rejection, I've been getting better at using targeted Facebook ads. While they haven't yet packed quite the same punch as a Bookbub ad, I've found the effects have lasted longer, and they have some other special advantages.
Publishing is a business, and when I'm choosing how to spend my marketing budget, I want services I can rely on. Say what you will about Facebook, but they've not once turned their noses up at my money.
Experimenting further with Facebook ads may be a good topic for a future post, but that's not what this post is about.
So what is it about? Why am I writing this? Is it just to expose myself as a little crybaby bitch who's taking his ball and going home because he didn't get his way?
Well sure, that's part of it.
Am I so narcissistic as to think I have the clout to take any significant amount of wind out of Bookbub's sails?
But I don't need to. I honestly believe they'll collapse under the weight of their arrogance and stupidity without any help from me. That said, I still want to do my part.
And that's why I'm really writing this. So that one day in the not-too-distant future, when I'm paying some dead-eyed former Bookbub executive five bucks and half a sandwich for a handjob behind a bowling alley, I can know that I played a small part in putting him or her there.