Is BookRiot a Good Investment? Here are two user experiences


I do a lot of face-to-face sales at conventions and book events. Oftentimes I run into my buddy Scott Burtness who writes Horror Comedy (think Buffy the Vampire Slayer.) In fact, we met at one of such event for about the third time in a row and just decided to start doing a lot of the same things together and learning what is working for the other guy and try to replicate those results.

He and I have both been guest speakers at MN based MinnSpec meetups and try to help other Indies up north. We were discussing marketing one day and had both been looking into BookRiot as an alternative to a Bookbub ad (since neither of us had scored one yet.) BookRiot was a little cheaper, but came with what seems like a lot of accolades to its credibility from libraries, etc.

One thing that I found as odd was that I could not find any actual user reviews/reports on the service. Bookbub provides its users with a genre-based breakdown for estimated sales from previous users. After we both decided to drop over $1,000 each on an ad package we agreed to keep informed and report back. Here are the detailed results of our ads…

I’m gonna start with a quick caveat. My book was speculative fiction and Scotts was a similar genre. Maybe Bookriot does very well with mainstream genres. I don’t know, but so far, I’ve been unable to locate any other results that answer the question, “Is bookriot a good investment?”

Scott Burtness:
How was my BookRiot promo?

Awful. Horrible. Terrible. Abysmal. So very, very bad.

My book: Wisconsin Vamp, a horror-comedy novel with 103 Amazon reviews, 4.1 star average

My campaign: 3 sponsored emails 10/28, 10/29, 10/31

Cost: $1,150.00

  • 2 days sponsoring the Daily Deals email – Book featured at the top with book cover, name, short tagline
  • 1 day sponsoring the Riot Rundown email — Book featured at the top with creative, name, 100 word blurb

My results: 419 clicks on my book, resulting in 44 downloads at $0.99 ea. At 70% royalties, I made ~$0.70 per download for a whopping grand total of ~$30.00

I spent $1,150.00 and I made $30.

So what went wrong?

The BookRiot Ad Deck for August 2018 states that:

  • Riot Rundown has 84,000 subscribers
  • Daily Deal has 72,000 subscribers
  • 23% open rate (19,320 opens)
  • CTR 22.06% (4,250 click-throughs for the email)

At the end of the campaign, I was sent a report showing how many subscribers the emails were sent to, the open rate, click-through rate.

First thing to understand: The CTR only applies to opened emails. It’s 22% of 23% of 84,000. That’s 22% of 19,320, or 4,250 people out of 84,000 that will click on something in the email.

Which brings me to the second thing to understand: The CTR is for the whole email. If the email has a popular, well-known author’s book, that book will get most of the clicks and the “email” will have a high CTR, even though most of the listed books might get very few or even no clicks.

The third thing to understand: A click-through doesn’t equal a download. It just means someone clicked on the book so they could learn more about it.

So let’s think about conversion. Someone needs to subscribe to the email, open the email on the day your book is listed, click on your book, and finally, download your book.

It’s a numbers game. You need a TON of subscribers on an email list – hundreds of thousands – to have a shot at making a decent number of sales. Not only does BookRiot not offer subscribership of hundreds of thousands, but the actual lists for my campaign were much lower than advertised. The list my Riot Rundown email went to was a full 10,000 subscribers (11%) less than advertised, and the CTR for the email was 17% lower than advertised. My Daily Deal subscriber lists were about 10% lower than advertised as well (~65k compared to 72k advertised). So out of the gate, the actual number of people that could have potentially seen my book was 17,000 people less than anticipated.

It’s been months since I ran the promo and I still feel like an idiot for letting myself be so completely duped. I’ve spent $40 on eReader News Today, and $100 on BargainBooksy and FreeBooksy had had massively better results than what BookRiot delivered.

Back to me:
I feel much the same as Scott. Book Riot was trash. I think I could’ve done so much better with promos spent with smaller services. A better investment might even have been purchasing some master classes on marketing or an enrollment in Mark Dawson’s SelfPublishingFormula. A person could do SPF for $800 and still have  $200 left over to spend on highly targeted marketing.

Details on my campaign—

My book: Wolf of the Tesseract, YA/NA Speculative Fiction 29 Amazon reviews, 4.7 star average

My campaign: 4 sponsored emails 10/12, 10/29, 10/30, 11/8

Cost: $1,050.00

2 days sponsoring the Daily Deals email – Book featured at the top with book cover, name, short tagline

1 day sponsoring the Swords & Spaceships email — Book featured at the top with creative, name, 100 word blurb

1 day sponsoring the What’s up in YA email — Book featured at the top with creative, name, 100 word blurb

My results: 433 clicks on my book, resulting in 3 downloads at $6.28 total (70% rate)

I spent $1,050.00 and I made $6.28 (and some change from KENP).

Comparing the emails with Scott’s, my CTRs and total open rates were MUCH worse… open rates on their email lists were ALL below 20%. The average open rate was only 17.49% I suffered the same problems that Scott did and wound up with extremely poor results. In fact, when you look at things like Click Through Rates and compare them to the average cost involved to things like Facebook adverts (which can be fairly expensive depending on the details) FB can be a much better investment, dollar for dollar.

When I decided to take the plunge with BookRiot, it was because of the rising costs of FB ads. I used similar CTRs and CPCs (Cost per Click) data to determine that if my BookRiot ad did only a fraction as well as FB ads, I would break even and be happy that I’d found a new, quality ad outlet. I want my $1,050 back. My experience was so much worse. I could’ve bought 300+copies of my book and given them away for the difference in what I spent versus what I made and come away with a few new fans, at least.

These two Indies gave Bookriot a chance. But I’ve been unable to locate other Indie Authors who will give me a response to their experience. It’s a small cross-section, for sure, but it’s info that I’ve been unable to find elsewhwere (and which cost a joint $2k+). What disturbs me most is that I’m sure there mut be other data/reviews out there. When I searched for that info, I could never find it and would go 15+pages deep on Google search results. Most of those pages were filled with articles from BookRiot, making me believe they are intentionally using their SEO in such a way to bury negative results under a pile of links and obfuscate user reports. Maybe that’s just me, or maybe every other user is just too ashamed of their results that they won’t post them.

Live and learn, I guess.

If you want to help me recoup some of my investment and also get a great resource in return, check out my Indie Author’s Bible series, filled with lots of great details and practical advice on self-publishing. It is a DIY how-to guide that, much like this post, will help you avoid the same mistakes I’ve made.


If this sort of post is helpful and you want to support me as an author, signup for my mailing list! (Just for signing up, you will get FIVE FREE books as part of my exclusive Free Starter Library, books you would have to pay for anywhere else!)

About Scott Burtness


2 thoughts on “Is BookRiot a Good Investment? Here are two user experiences

  1. Suspicious of Book Riot email lit – i applied for a job via indeed and wound up spammed with marketing emails from BookRiot.


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