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What Are Book Discovery Platforms And How Can Indie Authors Use Them For Promotion?

What are Book Discovery Platforms and How Can Indie Authors Use Them for Promotion?

Not all books are for everyone

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

In this post from the Alliance of Independent Authors, we'll be taking a look at Book Discovery platforms and how they can be used by indie authors as part of promotional activity. We'll look at the big hitters as well as the smaller platforms targeting specific groups or focused on offering book deals. 

What is a Book Discovery platform?

Book Discovery platforms refer to apps and websites that help readers find new books that match their interests and preferences. This can be either in one specific genre or across genres. They are most often used by dedicated book lovers, so they engage a powerful group of regular readers.

Some Book Discovery platforms, such as Tertulia, focus purely on the reader experience, allowing readers to recommend and rate books to support findability. Some also use algorithms to highlight books currently being spoken about in the media. Others, such as BookBub, are designed both for the reader and the author. They focus on matching up readers and books, with an emphasis on offering great deals.

In these instances, authors have the opportunity to share their books with readers either by ensuring their book is listed on the site, or by paying to have their book promoted to members. For this reason authors often describe these sites as ‘Book Promotion' platforms, so you may see both phrases being used. We'll mainly use the phrase ‘Book Discovery' in this post.

Getting started with Book Discovery websites

You can often list your book for free on larger Book Discovery sites by setting up an author profile – or ‘claiming your listing' if the site has drawn your information from another platform. It’s always worth doing so, particularly on sites such as Goodreads and BookBub, simply so that members of the site actively searching for your book can find it, and to ensure your listing is up to date and looking professional. Once you are signed up as an author, you will also have access to promotional opportunities should they be on offer.

We've picked out BookBub and Goodreads for sharing detailed information below, as they reach such a wide cross-section of readers in the millions. However, it's also worth considering the much longer list of platforms that reach a smaller but still very active reader audience. These sites often focus on deals and free books, charging a much lower fee to share your book in a mailer or on social media (sometimes for as a little as a couple of coffees). We've included some examples in this post.

Remember, with any paid-for book promotion activity it's important to carefully consider the costs and potential return on investment before investing.

What is Goodreads and what does it offer?

Most of us will know Goodreads as a Book Discovery platform, where millions of readers go to search for, track, share and review books. However, it shouldn't be forgotten that it can act as a reader engagement and promotional tool for authors too.

Authors can sign up to claim their books and profile for free on the site and will then join theGoodreads Author Program’. Before considering the advertising tools, don’t forget you can also interact with readers directly via the Goodreads platform, for example by taking questions using Ask The Author to share more about you, your books, and your wider interests with your readers. Authors can also use their newsfeed to make followers aware of upcoming release dates, link to blog posts, or to add status updates.

Some of the paid for promotion options from Goodreads include running a ‘Giveaway' (Kindle books or print books) which Goodreads promotes to authors as a way ‘to drive awareness and interest in your book with our community of millions of readers’, or placing adverts to reach your target readers. Both come at a cost, but there are some cheaper options available depending on the details of the deal, so it’s worth looking at what the cost would be for your book. A good way to keep up to date with the promotional opportunities from Goodreads is to check in on the Advertisers and Authors Goodreads Blog. For example, updates to the US Goodreads Giveaway programme was covered in the most recent blog and is worth a look for our US readers: US Goodreads Giveaway Updates.

How to Use BookBub to Boost SalesWhat is BookBub and what does it offer?

BookBub has over ten million subscribers and is still considered the largest platform for book discovery and book promotion. As an author, you can sign up for free as a ‘BookBub Partner’ to claim your author profile and list your books to be found by readers. You can also then access paid for promotions which include sending out pre-order alerts, or placing BookBub ads on the site. If you are looking to place ads, take a look at this ALLi post introducing BookBub Ads with tips from Adam Croft.

The big hitter from BookBub is the ‘featured deal’ emails. These are regular mailers that reader members sign up to which promote books from a selection of genres. Each mailer is built to include a range of both well-known and lesser-known books to create a selection of offers for readers. BookBub looks to include free promos, 99¢ deals, and a few heavily discounted books in each mailer too.

What's the catch?

The hardest part about getting a featured deal with Bookbub is being picked in the first place. Some authors apply multiple times to be placed, and others never quite make it. However, getting a featured deal if you can offers a massive boost, as the promotion may be distributed to millions of readers in the larger categories. Authors report seeing a high increase in sales for 24 to 48 hours after a promotion has gone out, and some see a wider knock on effect too. Cozy mystery writer Libby Kirsch has said:

After my last featured deal, sales were up 400% for the other books in the series, with a 45% increase in sales in the month after the featured deal and 30% the next month, before settling back to their pre-BookBub sales levels.

So, what’s the catch….? Well, a BookBub promo can be very costly. The price of a deal is lower if you are offering your book for free, and becomes much more expensive for higher-priced books. You can take a look at the BookBub price list for a better sense of the investment levels. This also shows how costs vary based on the book's category, discount price, and regional availability.

Person looking

Photo by Chase Clark on Unsplash

Other Book Discovery promotion options for indie authors

There are lots of smaller Book Discovery and Book Promotion sites that may be right for you and your budget. Some sites focus only on free books, others are looking to offer reader discounts, with some specifying the price-point (for example, your book must be priced at 99¢ to be promoted).

A selection that have been mentioned on ALLi blogs and podcasts by members previously have been collated below, with links to the costs where available, or to the author information page where they are not. We’ve also flagged where the platform specifically targets readers of just one genre.

Example Book Discovery and Book Promotion sites

  • Freebooksy: around 700,000 readers (promotes free books only).
  • Fussy Librarian: around 600,000 subscribers for the free book mailers and 125,000 subscribers for the discount book mailer.
  • BargainBooksy: around 380,000 members (if you are looking to promote a series, you can find out more about how this works through BargainBooksy on this Written Word Media post: Promoting a Series).
  • RobinReads: nearing 200,000 members.
  • EreaderIQ: around 47,000 users – ebook promos only.
  • BookDoggy: promotes across a range of platforms with a range of follower numbers for a flat rate.
  • Ereader News Today: ebook promos only.
  • Book Adrenaline: 35,500 Thrillers/Mystery/Crime only.
  • Book Barbarian: 55,000 email subscribers. Sci-Fi/Fantasy only.
  • Red Feather Romance: 185,000 readers. Romance/Erotica only.
  • Red Roses Romance: 40,000 email subscribers. Romance/Erotica only.

To search a much wider selection, Reedsy has recently produced an updated database for 2024: Book Promotion Websites. Other lists will be available on similar websites. Always remember to do your due diligence on a site before using it for promotion, including taking a look around the site from the point of view of a reader.

If you write in a specific niche or micro-niche, it is also worth doing your own research with your reader community to find out where they are going for recommendations and deals. It may be wiser to invest in very small platforms that speak directly to your readers. In these instances sharing your book with a targeted social media forum or similar may be a better use of resource.

Increasing the chances of selection for a Book Discovery promotion

If you are applying for a promotion through a Book Discovery platform, it can be very competitive. Some tips from across different platforms include considering:

  • Professionalising your cover: Books with professional looking covers are selected more often by readers and therefore are more likely to be selected for promotion if the demand for space is high.
  • Increasing your reader reviews: Some sites will look at your listing to see how many reviews you have as a suggestion of the quality of the content, so you may want to invest time and energy improving your review numbers if you find you are not having success with applying for promos.
  • Ensuring your editing and proofing is flawless: This relates both to the book itself and your descriptions and listing information. If you are looking to be promoted alongside traditionally published books, the copy quality must fit with readers' high expectations.
  • Reviewing how much the book is discounted: Users of most Book Discovery sites or email recipients are looking for deals, so take a look at the discounts being offered by comparable authors. If you are applying for a promotion, check the requirement. In general, unless you have an existing bestseller on your hands, the larger the discount the better chance that your book will be selected.

Final tips for making the most of Book Discovery promotions

  • Be informed: If you book a paid-for promotion, always make sure you know exactly what you are paying for; how many readers will see your promo, where are they based, are they focused on a particular genre, what is the expectation for reach, when will it be shared and how?
  • Manage your investments: Never pay more than you can afford, particularly if it’s your first time trying out a new promo. And always keep an eye on the resulting downloads, reads or sales so you know what you received for your investment and if it is worth trying again in the future.
  • Plan ahead: Plan your promotions well in advance, particularly if you are planning to ‘stack’ promotional activities in a particular time period – some sites can get booked up quickly.
  • Check and check again: Double or triple check your book details are up to scratch on your sales platforms before the promo goes out to make the most of the additional visibility your book will get. Horror stories have been shared of promotions going live with authors then realising they’ve uploaded the incorrect manuscript file. So, as always, triple check your book and listings for errors before promoting.
  • Don’t spam your readers: Remember that people join Book Discovery sites to see a range of books from lots of different authors and to explore new books throughout the year. So, as Goodreads says, avoid ‘over promoting’ through these platforms. In particular they advise to avoid ‘sending people private messages about your books, or joining multiple groups to post about your book’. In support of this, you’ll also find some platforms will only promote your book once every 90 days or similar.
  • Manage your expectations: It's worth remembering that, as with all promotional activity, there is no promise of success and it may take a few tries to find what works for you. Don’t think of book discovery or promotion sites as your only marketing route, but another option to consider as part of your wider marketing plan.

Find out more

The Seven Processes of Publishing: PromotionFor more information on paid-for advertising options, includes some additional information on Book Promotion websites, take a look at this blog post: ALLi's Guide to Paid Book Advertising.

To find out more about book promotion in general, take a look at this overview of the Promotion stage of Book Publishing which forms part of ALLi's seven stages of book publishing guidance: Book Promotion Guide..

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