The Best BookBub Ads of 2019

In 2019, thousands of authors and book marketers used BookBub Ads to promote books to BookBub’s millions of readers. To kick off BookMachine’s Marketing month, we decided to take a look at some of the most successful BookBub Ads campaigns from the past year, in this article by Carlyn Robertson.

There are many different ways an ad campaign can be “successful” – some advertisers aim for a low cost-per-click and high ROI (return on investment), while others try to reach as many readers as possible by maximising the number of impressions their ads serve. The following campaigns represent a variety of strategies to promote books of diverse genres, prices and distribution. Each stood out for different reasons, but every one demonstrates the key elements that make for effective advertising on any platform: targeting a relevant audience with engaging designs.

Corinne Michaels, Beloved

Corinne Michaels’s campaign for a free book drove one of the highest click-through rates of 2019. She set up multiple campaigns with this image, targeting one author at a time, and the best-performing campaign had an 18% CTR (click-through rate). Corinne used a $5 daily budget for her continuous campaigns, which delivered a steady stream of clicks and downloads. In the end, her top campaign alone earned 9,000 clicks over four months. Corinne targeted readers across all regions and retailers, with the highest engagement for this particular author target coming from Kobo readers in Canada, with a staggering 27% CTR.

Knopf, The Secrets We Kept

While running ads for discounted books can be a great way to capture readers’ attention, another strategy is to drive exposure and sales for full-price titles. Knopf used low CPC (cost per click) bids to promote this buzzy $13.99 new release to US readers on Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Kobo. The image calls attention to the fact that The Secrets We Kept is a recent Reese Witherspoon book club pick, and the campaign targeted fans of a few other authors whose books were selected by Hello Sunshine. The ad drove a 1.5% CTR, with 3,300 readers clicking to learn more.

Patrick Logan, Shallow Graves

Patrick Logan’s ad campaign for his $3.99 horror novel Shallow Graves began in March 2017 and ran continuously until October 2019 – over 2 years! During that time, it served nearly 1 million impressions and maintained a 3.3% CTR and $0.34 effective cost-per-click (eCPC). Logan used 18 author targets, and he designed his image with the ad platform’s creative builder, which makes it easy to quickly create ad imagest. In his blurb, he compares his book to two well-known horror films, which is a tactic we’ve also found to be effective in driving clicks in our Featured Deals blurbs.

Piper Lawson, Good Girl

Piper Lawson set up distinct campaigns for each retailer to promote a free book, customising her ad images for each one. The Apple Books and Kobo versions drove the highest CTRs, at 12% and 13% respectively. She’d run tests to identify effective author targets with past campaigns and decided to target a single author with the Apple version and a group of authors with the Kobo version. Lawson used a high CPM (cost per thousand impressions) bid for her ads, but the narrow targeting and high CTRs meant that her eCPC (effective cost per click) was as low as $0.07 in some regions.

Brenda Novak, Blind Spot

Hybrid author Brenda Novak set up this ad campaign during the release week of one of her traditionally published titles. She combined author and category targeting to reach Thrillers subscribers who were also fans of either herself or four other authors, including Karen Rose, who provided the blurb Novak used in this ad image. 76% of BookBub readers buy books after getting recommendations from authors they like, so including quotes from other authors is a fantastic strategy. Novak ran this campaign for five days with a high CPC bid, winning nearly 50,000 impressions and driving a 2.3% CTR.

Kensington, A Snowy Little Christmas

BookBub Ads can be a great way to promote books with seasonal appeal. Kensington ran this ad for a new holiday romance anthology during the month of November using a combination of author and category targeting. The audience included fans of 15 authors (including the three authors in the anthology) who were also Contemporary Romance or Women’s Fiction subscribers. The festive book cover, snowy background and Christmas-coloured text spoke to readers who were ready to get into the holiday spirit. Kensington used CPC bidding, which helped them maintain an eCPC under $1 while winning over 230,000 impressions and driving a 1% CTR.

Blythe Baker, A Sinister Spell in Fairywood Falls

One common advertising strategy we see is to promote the first book in a series. When you hook readers at the beginning of a series, they’ll likely go on to purchase later books, maximising the return on your ad spend for book one. Blythe Baker used BookBub’s creative builder for her ad campaign for book one in her Mountain Magic Mysteries series. Baker tested numerous author targets using the same image, but the highest CTR, 4.6%, came from the ad targeting her own fans. This continuous campaign ran for five months with a $20 daily budget and low CPC bid, driving 5,300+ clicks.

Harlequin, His to Claim

This ad campaign promoted a $3.99 new release from Brenda Jackson to the fans of 10 similar authors across all US retailers. Harlequin used CPC bidding to keep costs low while getting exposure to a large audience of readers. The ad served over 260,000 impressions in the three weeks after the book’s release, generating a 1.04% CTR. The simple image design highlights the book’s cover, which prominently displays Brenda’s name and the book’s seductive western hero.

Christopher C. Dimond, The 28th Gate: Volume 1

Free deals consistently generate tons of clicks from BookBub readers, and this ad was no exception. Christopher C. Dimond ran a series of continuous campaigns with $10 daily budgets throughout 2019 with this image targeting the fans of different individual authors. The highest CTR for an author target was 5.2%, and Christopher’s low CPC bids kept his eCPCs around $0.25. Christopher targeted readers on all regions and retailers, and he consistently saw especially strong CTRs for Amazon AU and Kobo across all regions.

Mango Media, Love the Sh!t Out of Yourself

Mango Media set up two versions of this campaign in order to customise the image for Canadian audiences. The image on the left, which highlights that the author is Canadian, targeted all Canadian retailers, and the image on the right targeted all US and UK retailers. Both campaigns used low CPC bids and a combination of author and category targeting, limiting the audience to Advice and How-To subscribers. The Canadian version had a 4.4% CTR, and the other version had a 1.8% CTR. These campaigns demonstrate that the more customised an image is for your target audience, the better it will perform.

Maxime Trencavel, The Matriarch Matrix

Maxime Trencavel started this campaign for her $3.99 first-in-series on 1 January 2019. After testing different author targets, bidding strategies and bid amounts, she decided on a low CPC bid and targeted the fans of four authors who delivered high CTRs in the test campaigns. All four author targets write in a similar niche at the intersection of archaeology, science fiction and thrillers, so this ad copy speaks directly to that audience. When Trencavel ended the campaign in September, it had nearly 10,000 clicks across all worldwide retailers at a 4% CTR and $0.26 eCPC.

Addison Moore, Cutie Pies and Deadly Lies

To promote the perma-$0.99 first book in her cosy mystery series, author Addison Moore tested multiple ad images, each targeting a single author’s fans. This punny image drove a 7.9% CTR, one of the highest of any of her test campaigns. Neither the book cover nor the title are included in this image, but the deal price, book genre, light-hearted tone and cat were enough to entice over 4,000 readers to click!

Simon and Schuster, The Daughter’s Tale

We always love to see the creative ways our partners use the ad platform, and this campaign from Simon and Schuster was one of our favourites this year. To promote the pre-order of author Armando Lucas Correa’s new book, they set up a campaign targeting his own fans on BookBub that referenced his most popular novel. The ad linked to a dedicated page on the Simon and Schuster website that included an excerpt of the upcoming book and links to pre-order. The campaign generated a 2.6% CTR.

Carlyn Robertson is responsible for partner education on BookBub’s Partners Team, where she ensures all authors and publishers know how to use BookBub’s tools to achieve their marketing goals. She writes content for the partners blog and website, speaks at conferences and conducts market research. Follow her on Twitter @CarlynAtBookBub.