Some Insight into Bookbub’s Selection Criteria and Why I’m Over It

Last Updated on July 30, 2015 by Palessa

Getting the word out about your books isn't easy - Author Palessa

How many of us authors know about Bookbub? Well, if you don’t, here’s the bottom line: BookBub is a highly niche service that authors use to advertise their book sales. It’s very expensive but this organization has taken the time to really get to know their readers

in a way that makes them highly desirable as an outlet to get the word out about our books via targeted emails. I’ve known an author who did over $10,000 in sales in a week thanks to getting Bookbub. The effect lasts for a while on their book sales, like a ripple.

Sounds great, right? I mean, who wouldn’t want to do that much in sales ANY time much less a week. But as they are so powerful, they are also pretty picky. It’s common for authors to get rejected at least a dozen times only to be suddenly accepted. I have applied only a few times (you can apply once every 30 days) and I used to be so focused about getting my books into BookBub. I love what I do and would love to reach more readers (some of their categories have a million subscribers) and get more exposure.

But a few months ago, I just decided to let it go a little because something just struck me as insane. You apply to get your book out of obscurity only to be rejected because your book is obscure. Their site states that you must have a minimum page count of 150 along with good reviews. It’s preferable to be on sale as people love to get a good book for a low price if not free…but I got the impression that there were some unwritten weighted factors that were mentioned but not really emphasized.

Then I saw this:

Formatting, cover, I am confident in my publisher and am happy with those. No errors, um, I’ve read plenty of great books that had a few in them. As long as BookBub didn’t expect perfection, my books were OK there too.

Accolades & Critical Reviews – with special emphasis on Bestselling categorization like USA Today and New York Times. THAT was when I got it. I am probably not BookBub material because I don’t have those. Someone like me who really works to get more readers would be pushed down the ladder, if not OFF the ladder, because I don’t have a critical review or accolade from those notable sites they mentioned. While they ask for this when you’re filling out the form, they don’t say that it’s a big deciding factor in being selected.

Now you may say that, well, I know authors who got into BookBub without all that. That’s great and rare. So they are lucky. I’m just one of those who believes strongly that there are some really great micro/small published authors out there who aren’t getting the eyes because they don’t have that label. Some authors have even resorted to asking about putting that “bestseller” label on their books because they know what it means to their promotion efforts. That’s all sorts of BAD but that’s the desperation some feel to get out of obscurity.

BookBub is a business. They have to cater to their clients or business suffers. I just decided a while back and it’s now official that I’m not obsessing over getting in any more. If I have a decent book that’s well received by the audience and is slowly growing in reviews, PLUS I’m getting the word out there with events and giveaways and the like, I can’t be so focused on a site that dances around the real criteria of what it takes to be curated by them. You DO need some sort of notoriety from “established publications” (their words, not mine) beyond being voted most popular author on some Facebook contest.  Look at the graphic. The example of the historical fiction in the infographic shows that the USA today best-selling title is the winner hands down despite the other book having stronger reviews.

Am I still going to go for BookBub? Absolutely because to not do so would be idiotic. I am not only an author, I am a business and a brand. It just also means I’m not holding my breath for them and am also turning my attention to other sites, like FreeBooksy and Book Gorilla, et al, who tend to give us, the “notoriety deficient” a chance to be seen by new sets of eyes while yielding strong results. Now, I may not be dealing with a million subscribers in one shot with these guys but at least I know and understand where I can go when I need the help to grow.

So, my take, for what it’s worth,

  • Go for BookBub but don’t hold your breath. They have their ways and means and if you don’t fit, well you just don’t fit. Move on.
  • Look at others, like those listed in Nicholas Rossis Call to Arms article that really helped me see some viable alternatives that authors found effective. I knew about Freebooksy and Book Gorilla, but BookSends is one I had to add to my list. These are other smaller but robust alternatives that will give you a chance. Just a FYI: with the Midlist you need about 6-8 weeks lead time (lean more towards 8 weeks) and steamy covers may not make it. They were great when I asked them for a reason why Unchained Hearts was not accepted. That’s how I found out about the longer lead time and the cover. The fact that they replied made me respect them a lot.
  • Keep building your platform. Go to events, do giveaways and other promo. Marketing is not a dirty word so stop treating it like one.

What are your thoughts on BookBub or any other service out there? If you’ve got one you swear by, let’s hear it!


photo from Gratisography


  1. Great post – and many thanks for the kind mention 🙂

    Bookbub is a great marketing tool once you have a few book sunder your belt and are higher up in the food chain. It’s pricey, but I still have to meet someone who said they didn’t make their money back. The only problem is that they’ve now started taking on traditionally published works as well, which makes it even harder to get listed. So, you’re wise in exploring other options while climbing your way up.

    1. Thanks! I figure, they have their bottom line and, well, I also have mine. No use cutting my own legs out from under by just focusing on one avenue. 🙂

  2. Palessa: This a great post and your attitude promises success. I want to share with you that even Best selling indie authors, real ones… get rejected by Bookbub, too. I’d mention that 30 day restriction to resubmit is for the same title. If you have another title to submit, the 30 day restriction does not apply–yet. You can run effective FREE and discounted campaigns sans a Bookbub and see 18,000 to 30,000 downloads. Planning is everything in a promotion and those successful campaigns are plotted for a month or more in advance. We are always at the whim of the market and it is draggy right now. I also often run small .99 campaigns to test the market and promo site delivery. Most sites are fab for FREE, less so for .99 units. So I keep my expectations in check. I always keep in mind that every book borrowed or sold is in the hands of a reader–and that is the goal.

    Wishing you many sales.
    Jackie Weger

    1. Thank you, Jackie. Absolutely, I recently compiled a list that I’m working on and it contains some of the sites I mentioned and I’m going to work them. I know that the 30-day rule applies but right now, I feel as if that money could be spent on the other media. I’ll hit them BB every once in a while because I’m working to expand my platform. I completely agree that planning is essential. I’m working on a 6-week cycle. Now that I have more of a catalog, I can work my free offerings more effectively I think, changing things up and making sure my book isn’t “fatiguing” by hitting the same people over and over. It’s slowly coming together and I would love to hit those download numbers for sure. I know I can do it. It’s just a matter of time and timing. Thanks for the encouragement and to your success as well!

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