By April, the $1300 I’d made from a Christmas promo of The Survival of Thomas Ford had come in from Amazon.

I was faced again with the decision of whether to risk/invest some of that money back into advertising for Thomas Ford…or, on the other hand, whether to “take this money and run…”

I’d heard some interesting things about Bookbub:

In particular, the great results Ingrid Ricks had had with a Bookbub promo for her memoir, FOCUS, made me feel this would be worth a try:

I knew categorization might present problems.  
The Survival of Thomas Ford has always been received by some readers as a mystery/thriller, and others as literary fiction, and then by some others as a “literary thriller” (this hybrid interpretation of Ford goes right back to 2010 when it was represented by MBA Literary Agents in London and it would be sent out on submission as a commercial thriller sometimes, as literary fiction at other times, and eventually as a literary or psychological thriller).

On Bookbub this initially presented a dilemma.
In April, the cost for an ad for a Kindle Select free ebook promo to be sent out to Bookbub’s Mystery/thriller list of subscribed readers was a hefty $230, or £156.
On the other hand, a literary fiction ad cost only $110.

There were twice as many subscribers to the Mystery/thriller list, though, so I thought it over and decided this might well be a worthwhile investment (I should point out here that, since I took out my ad, Bookbub has separated mysteries and thrillers into two separate categories with different prices).

I paid the $230 (out of my $1300 income from Ford in April), and booked my 27 April to 1 May ad for The Survival of Thomas Ford, to coincide with the Kindle Select free promo I would do on those dates.

On 26 April, I made a note of The Survival of Thomas Ford’s vital statistics, all told, from the ebook’s 17 months of online publication:

Downloads all-told, from December 2011 to 26 April 2013: 32000
Amazon US reviews: 41
Amazon UK reviews: 61

A month later, on 31 May, I checked the stats again for The Survival of Thomas Ford, post-Bookbub:

Downloads all-told at 31 May: 82000
Amazon US reviews: 85
Amazon UK reviews: 64

During the 5-day promotion at end of April, The Survival of Thomas Ford had gone to Number 2 out of all free Kindle books on Amazon USA, after 47000 free downloads in the US (with only 1500 free downloads in UK, for comparison, which emphasizes Bookbub’s USA-centric compass, but also emphasizes what an excellent method it can be for Highland Scottish authors to reach readers in the USA).

Of course, the acid test, with an outlay of $230 for the ad, is whether the 5-day free promo and giving away of 49000 free ebooks, led to any paid sales in May.

It did, 1007 in fact, split between paid sales at $2.99 and borrows (which each bring in more than a sale does currently), and mostly in the USA (though with 112 paid UK sales also, plus 5 Canadian, and 1 French).

Total income from this for May then, as a result of the Bookbub ad at end of April, will come to $2030, or £1317 approx.

Minus the cost of the Bookbub ad, at $230, this still leaves profit of $1800 (though of course, this money won’t arrive for 2 or 3 months, and when it does the dilemma will arrive with it again, whether to take the cash and run…or reinvest the money in the business of finding readers).

There is, of course, the intangible profit of having reached 50000 new readers with The Survival of Thomas Ford in May.

I’d like to dedicate this post to the memory of my Mum, Agnes, who passed away suddenly on 1st May.
I’d been looking after my Mum, who was disabled, for the last 9 years, since she had survived a nearly life-taking collapse in 2004.
We had always been close but we became even closer in these last 9 years.
She was the greatest supporter of my writing, and was always very excited to hear new reviews, or the progress of the latest ebook promotion, including this one described here…I was telling her day by day of the increasing download figure…with neither of us knowing the terrible thing that was to come on May 1st.
For most of May I couldn’t write or read a word, some sort of panic attack would take over when I tried, until on the 27th I wrote a short message to my good friends in Authors Electric.
Then on 5 June I found myself writing this dry, technical blog post about a book promotion, but I feel I must publish it, as some superstitious area of my brain is making me suspect that my Mum is somehow behind these 50000 new downloads in May.
(My Mum was a wee bit superstitious herself).
I should also mention publicly, I feel, that though my Mum was disabled physically, she was generally very cheerful, and far more intelligent and stronger in her mind than myself.
She could do the Countdown conundrum on TV nearly every day, when the contestants often couldn’t, and was rightly very proud of this. She loved films from all around the world, which she watched on her TV, Chinese, Iranian, Japanese, French, British, American, Italian…anything with a good story.
Indian films were her favourite though, soulful and often telling the stories of the poorest, most vulnerable people, from family tragedies, to sagas of degradation and redemption.

My Mum came from a small crofting community at Achriesgill, Kinlochbervie, in the far north west of Scotland. Born in 1937, she was caught on camera for a few seconds herself once, walking to school in a black coat, in the film from 1944, Crofters, which documented the traditional way of life of her people and village, where there was no electricity or running water.
The film is online here at this link below, only 22 minutes long, and can be played/watched, that’s her walking to school from 4.43-5.00, she’s the shortest/youngest one with black coat and short black hair, grey socks, third from left at the beginning, seen from side later, then from behind (apparently scratching/rubbing her nose while walking along):
At 4.52 she turns and looks right into the camera as she passes it.
Crofters is a fine, energetic film in its own right, capturing well, and artfully, a time, place and spirit now past.

My Mum believed in the Lord, and that what happens in this world is the Lord’s will, so I will try to honour that belief myself now too.
We loved her very much, her family and her friends.
She was my best friend, and the best person I ever knew.


Mark Chisnell said…
Hi John, that's a lovely memorial to your Mum, hopefully time will heal the loss a little.

And many congratulations on the successful Bookbub promotion. I've just finished my own blog on a 99c sale promoted via Bookbub for my 22nd June post. It looks at it from a slightly different angle, so I think I will still run it...

Elizabeth Kay said…
A terrific tribute, from a very loving son. And congratulations on getting this post together, under the circumstances.
Bill Kirton said…
Fantastic double post, John - on the one hand, such a clear exposition of the impact of the specific advertising method you chose, but far more important, the warmth and love of that lovely tribute to your Mum.
CallyPhillips said…
What a great tribute John, and a great film! Thanks for sharing. My hope is that you might get back to 'the farm' and become an ebook crofter in the near future!
And some stats. Very interesting. Now maths isn't my strong point but it looks to me like you've started a whole new BOGOF trend. The Bookbub experiment suggests give 50 away free get one sale! Interesting conversion rates but since the 'product' is virtual and the profit is just that at least it offers us a real insight into what you have to put out to get back - and if you get a living wage back then as you say, 50,000 new readers and a steady income - why not? Speculate to accumulate and all that eh?
Most of all, in tribute to your mum, you need to keep the faith and keep on writing!

Dan Holloway said…
John, a huge hug from me. My mum died this time last year and it still affects me most days. You were lucky to have the time you did, but she was lucky to have you - you're a wondrful human being and an example to us all. x
madwippitt said…
Great - and heartfelt - post. Ehugs.
A lovely double post, John. And a beautiful tribute to your mum.
julia jones said…
I really like that photo of your mother. Shrewd, intelligent and individual. Thanks for sharing it.

Kathleen Jones said…
What an absolutely wonderful tribute, John. we're all thinking of you.
Thanks so much for the info on Bookbub - I've been thinking about it, but haven't wanted to risk the money. Maybe now I will!
glitter noir said…
Your mother, clearly, was an extra-special woman...and she couldn't have asked for a more heartfelt tribute. Welcome back.
Orna Ross said…
I'm sorry to hear of your loss, John. Sending fond sympathy from me and all at ALLi.
Unknown said…
All I can say after reading this post is that you are wonderful man who writes great books and I'd be honoured to buy you a drink one day mate.

Margaret Tanner said…
Hi John,
I am sorry to hear of your dear Mum's passing. It is a terrible loss for you, but at least you have wonderful memories and you can console yourself with the fact that you were a devoted, caring son.

Very interesting stats about BookBub. Sounds like you did very well.


Pamela Beason said…
Thank you for posting the details of your BookBub experiment: we indies all need to share information to sort out what works.

Your mom was lucky to have you for her son.
Hunter said…
John, what a great post. I loved hearing about your success with BookBub (and I'm making a note of it forthwith).

And much like the others, I too am sorry to hear about your loss. She sounds like a great human being. I hope when you're ready, you will consider writing a book about her. You write so beautifully about her. I loved seeing her in Crofters. I too believe that she was behind the 50,000 downloads! (That's an incredible run, my friend.)

I wondered where you were these last few months. So glad to see you're writing again.

I think it's wonderful you had someone in your life who supported your work. She had an eye for talent, my friend.

Here's to much more success for Thomas Ford and your next projects!

Take care and talk soon!


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