In recent years there has been a proliferation of subscription services promoting free and discounted books. I’ve spent a lot of time researching these services since publishing my debut novel and in the process I’ve signed up with several of them. I’d say that while not all of these services are created equal, most are terrific for readers. They have turned me on to several interesting authors I wouldn’t have heard of otherwise and they have been incredibly helpful to me as a new writer trying to build an audience.
That said, some of the characteristics that make these services attractive to authors can make them less attractive to readers. A few have some drawbacks that aren’t particularly great for either demographic. It’s a select few that strike that perfect balance between offering new authors an outlet to promote their books while looking out for the interests of readers.
One word of advice to readers trying to decide which service to sign up with: Check out the site’s author submission requirements. Readers should look for services that are selective in who it promotes with an eye towards featuring well-reviewed writers. You’ll also want some level of customization. A subscriber interested in thrillers and mysteries shouldn’t have to wade through a sea of how-to books and children’s stories to find something to read. Check to see if the service allows you to customize your emails by genre, bonus points if they allow you to set your email frequency. Most I’ve encountered do not.
With that in mind, here are some insights on a few of the better ebook promotion services I’ve encountered:
This is the granddaddy of all of the ebook promotion sites and the Holy Grail for authors seeking a boost to their personal brand. Every author I’ve talked to who has been fortunate enough to get a promo with Bookbub has seen a huge increase in sales and/or downloads.
If you’ve ever wondered why new authors are so keen on seeking new reviews, it is largely because of BookBub. While their selection criteria isn’t written in stone, they tend to feature authors with 100 plus reviews and an average Amazon rating of four and above. They also charge a pretty penny for their promotions. Together that adds up to offering readers a high quality selection.
These guys know how to sell books. Subscribers can set what genres they read and even list individual authors they are interested in. This means readers get the content most relevant to their needs and interests.
Ereader News Today
Ereader News Today or ENT is not as selective as Bookbub. They don’t have a set review requirement, though they do take reviews into account. They also review all author submissions and will reject books that are poorly edited, formatted or designed. All told, their selection criteria appears more rigorous than most, which translates into a higher quality selection of books. And, like Bookbub, they offer readers the ability to customize their emails by genre.
One note: The service offers a book of the day promotion for authors. The book of the day is displayed more prominently on their web site and featured first in their emails. These spots tend to get booked up fast, though it’s not clear whether the selection process is any tougher than for simple inclusion in their regular email promotions. As far as I can tell the book of the day spots are reserved on a first come, first served basis and don’t equate to an added endorsement from ENT’s editorial team.
Sweetfreebooks promotes free and $0.99 books. They require at least five reviews and a 3.5 star average on Amazon to be included in their emails … kind of. They do offer exceptions to new authors with fewer than five reviews as long as they have another book with five or more reviews and the requisite 3.5-star average. Their promotions are rather affordable for authors, though they’ve very recently raised their prices from $5 per promotion to $7. I think that bodes well for the service and it is still a good deal for writers.
Speaking as a reader, I appreciate that they give you the ability to refine your emails by genre. Putting on my author hat, I really like that they tend to restrict their emails to around three or four books per promotion, meaning I get a bit more exposure than I would with a lot of other services. All in all, they are a great value for authors. Readers on the other hand might prefer a larger selection of books. I can’t say that I find books I am interested in with the same frequency as the services mentioned above, though they have turned me onto some authors I’ve really enjoyed.
Freebooksy and Bargain Booksy
These two services are offered by the same company. At risk of stating the glaringly obvious, they segregate their promotions by price with Freebooksy covering free promotions and Bargain Booksy handling discounted promotions. They don’t have a minimum review requirement, but according to their site they do put books through an editorial evaluation and reserve the right to cancel promotions with authors if they don’t find the work to be up to their standards. They also allow you to choose genres you are interested in as well as frequency of emails. So far they’ve turned me on to several good writers.
They charge authors a bit more for their promotions, but speaking from experience, they provide great value. My one Freebooksy promotion netted me more than 2600 downloads in a single day and helped send me to the top of the Amazon charts in two catogories: Thrillers > Pulp and Mysteries > Private Investigator. I also added more people to my email list in one day than I did with any other promotion I’ve run. I had similar good luck with the $0.99 promotion I ran on Bargain Booksy, reaching #17 on Amazon’s paid Thriller > Pulp list (just four spots below Jurassic Park, which was kind of cool).
I can’t say enough good things about these services. I highly recommend them for both readers and authors.
Digital Book Spot
Digital Book Spot is something of an oddity. Remember my earlier advice about looking for services that are selective about the authors they promote and offer readers some measure of customization? Well Digital Book Spot doesn’t do either of those things. They could hardly be called selective. Most any writer can get a promotion with them and at a very low cost. And they don’t allow users the ability to customize emails by genre. Their emails consist of a collage of that day’s featured books and a link to a long, scrolling webpage listing them.
Despite these flaws, Digital Book Spot is one of the better promotion sites. The reason is that they are so accessible and so affordable that virtually every author uses them to promote their books. And because everyone is using them, you stand a good chance of finding some good books if you’re willing to do a little work. Based on my limited experience, it appears most of their subscribers know this. I’ve had a couple of promotions where my novel was buried deep on their website and yet they each delivered several hundred downloads and a sizeable boost in my Amazon rankings.
Speaking as a reader, I’ve found some good writers through them. I liken the experience of visiting their site to shopping at a used bookstore. Things aren’t organized very well and you have to sort through some sub-par and amateurish books, but with patience you can find some real diamonds in the rough. Give them a look when you have some time on your hands.
These are my go-to sites when I’m looking for an inexpensive new read. I’d love to hear about any services you’ve subscribed to and what you like about them. Feel free to comment here or drop me a line at email@example.com with any recommendations.