Gaughran Tests BookBub Ads

David Gaughran.[1]2019. BookBub Ads Expert: A Marketing Guide to Author Discovery.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Composing and managing online ads challenges the best minds publishing today. A good ad must have an attractive graphic, communicate the book’s theme, and motive the purchase. The ad must contribute to an effective sales strategy, reach an inspired audience, and generate enough sales, directly or indirectly to cover the ad expense. With so many moving parts to preparing good ads, the moment I heard about David Gaughan’s BookBub Ads Expert, I ordered a copy.

Gaughran writes: 

“Many authors try the [BookBub] platform half-heartedly, and invariably fail—so if you take the time to master it, you’ll have a serious competitive advantage. We’ll cover everything you need to know in this one book.”(xiv)

In my case, I began writing BookBub ads in December 2017 after taking an online class on book advertising and have run campaigns periodically since then to support my efforts to publish worldwide and diversify away from dependence on Amazon. While I have not been half-hearted in my efforts, I write nonfiction books that are harder to market than fiction books and up to this point I have had more success advertising with Amazon Advertising, which has frustrated my efforts to publish wide.

What is a BookBub Ad?

Gaughran emphasizes the need to understand the BookBub platform in order to succeed in running ads. BookBub ads are displayed on the BookBub website, but the primary forum for these ads are daily emails that are sent to avid reads worldwide, but primarily in English.[2]These readers self-select the genre that they are most often read so these ads are being served daily to people who read a lot of books, unlike Facebook or Google ads that reach a more general audience. The ads allow you to target individual genres, readers who like particular authors, and retailers who already stock your book.

BookBub subscribers get a daily email that lists a series of Featured Deals that are nearly impossible for new authors to qualify for.[3]At the bottom of the email is a single slot for paid advertising—this is BookBub ad that we are talking about. The ad itself is a 300 by 250-pixel[4]graphic—think two-thirds the size of a business card—that presumably displays your book cover, the deal being offered/description of the book, and a call-to-action—normally a big, bright button.

How Do You Use BookBub Ads?

Gaughran writes:

“I use them [BookBub Ads] to strategically boost launches and promote backlist, and I’ve also run huge BookBub campaigns for some bestselling authors.”(13)

More generally, he talks about these uses for BookBub ads:

  1. Supporting Launches
  2. Backlist Price Promotions
  3. Creating an International Audience
  4. Going Wide
  5. Pushing a Permafree [book]
  6. Opting for Exclusivity
  7. Solidifying Also Boughts [from the bottom of Amazon sales pages] (14-18)

For those new to book advertising, fiction authors will often discount the first book in a series (or make the EBook permanently free) to get readers hooked hoping that repeat sales (Also Boughts) will pay for their ads. Because nonfiction books are less addictive than many fiction books (I offer a prayer book for 99 cents), this marketing strategy is less effective but crossover sales are still important—if you advertise one book and see a spike in sales of another, then this is a crossover sale.

Key Takeaway Points

Gaughran rightly emphasizes that BookBub patrons expect EBook discounts. I typically do not offer discounts and my ad performance has suffered. 

Gaughran recommends a strenuous testing process focusing on both the author’s targeted and the ad presentation. He suggests a 10-15-dollar test focused on the U.S. Amazon market, where if you can succeed there, then you can succeed in his experience in other markets. He recommends testing ads until their click-through rate (CTR) is over 2 percent for a 99-cent book ad. 

I was surprised to hear Gaughran recommend opting to bid on cost per mil (CPM) rather than cost per click (CPC). A mil is a thousand impressions. His reason for this recommendation is that your ads will serve more quickly and in higher volumes. When targeted properly with well-tested ads yield CTRs over 2 percent, the CPC will decline in his experience.


David Gaughran’s book, BookBub Ads Expert, is a helpful book that will likely be a big hit among publishes. He writes in an approachable, breezy style, but don’t let it fool you into thinking he is a marketing lightweight. Although I have used BookBub ads since December 2017, his marketing tips proved insightful and I found myself constantly checking into BookBub as I read the book.


[2]I publish also in Spanish so the focus on English came as a disappointment.

[3]BookBub wants well-known authors whose books have a lot of reviews and even best-selling authors have trouble qualifying for these deals.

[4]For people new to BookBub ads, keep in mind that BookBub insists that graphics be exactly 300 by 250 pixels, which was in my case a painful lesson.

Also see:

Penn Attracts Readers to Books

Bly Writes to Sell, Part 1

Teague Gives MailChimp a Spin

Other ways to engage online:

Author site:, Publisher site:


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