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Penguin Random House Launches LitFlash, a BookBub Competitor

There are approximately eleventy bajillion websites that help you find cheap reads, and if that’s not enough then you might be interested the latest project from Penguin Random House.

Yesterday a reader tipped me to the launch of LitFlash, a new service from PRH which, from what I can see from the outside, is some type of black-box clone of BookBub which will serve up recommendations for Kindle, iBooks, Nook, and other ebook retailers.

Unfortunately, I cannot tell you more. I’ve just signed up for LitFlash, but I am still waiting for an email. According to the about page:

LitFlash is a free daily email that provides you recommendations of low-priced eBooks chosen just for you based on your reading preferences and where you buy your eBooks.

With ten categories to choose from ranging from romance to biography to thrillers, you can get recommendations every day about inexpensive eBooks that readers have loved, including books that may be temporarily discounted only for a very short period of time.

This is potentially a good move for PRH, but it is also a situation where PRH has the deck stacked against them.

LitFlash differs from other recommendation services in that its corporate parent raises a certain degree of suspicion that the recommendations stem from PRH’s desire to sell more PRH titles, and not find you the best deal.

I am subscribed to a half dozen different services like LitFlash, including eReaderIQ, ManyBooks, Fussy Librarian, BookBub, etc. TBH, most of those emails now go directly to my trash folder (I don’t need more recommendations right now) but I stay subscribed because I generally trust the services to serve my best interest as a reader and buyer.

I don’t know that I would feel the same way with LitFLash, and I have Hugh Howey to blame for that. The launch of LitFlash reminded me of something Hugh said a couple months ago when he wrote this about BookBub:

There was a discussion recently in one of my Facebook groups about a possible BookBub for indies. If you don’t know of the service, BookBub has a massive mailing list of readers, and their daily blasts move a TON of titles. Subscribers sign up for their preferred genres and are then notified when books they might enjoy are on sale for cheap. Many an author has hit a bestseller list thanks almost solely to BookBub. The program is so powerful that many consider BookBub to be the best marketing tool available to authors today, if you can snag a spot.

And therein lies the rub. The reason BookBub works is because its users trust them. The works are vetted, and however imperfect this system, it results in a high level of trust and satisfaction. From what I understand, BookBub looks for a minimum number of Amazon reviews, a minimum average ranking, and solid cover art/blurb/etc. For readers, a BookBub promotion serves as a stamp of approval.

Would you trust Random Penguin’s book recommendation service to suggest good, cheap books, and not just ones published by PRH?

Thanks, Karen!

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David Gaughran August 4, 2015 um 12:57 pm

I’m guessing this will be about as successful as HarperCollins' attempt – BookPerk – which shifts less units than a small reader site.

Nate Hoffelder August 4, 2015 um 1:00 pm


Fbone August 4, 2015 um 1:42 pm

I give HarperCollins credit for trying different things. They were one of the first to join Scribd, Oyster, Overdrive and other sales avenues. Bookperk is a decent way to alert people to sales.

Anne August 4, 2015 um 2:09 pm

If this is what HarperCollins has been doing, that’s fine. If I have time to check out the email and something sounds interesting enough to buy, I just make sure to do it using a different affiliate’s link.

I do rely on ereaderiq notices for the books that I have actually flagged for price watching. That’s how I caught what I can only assume was a pricing error yesterday. Otherwise, I rarely even open the daily emails from these services.

Nate Hoffelder August 4, 2015 um 3:20 pm

I use ReaderIQ for flagged titles as well. But I’ve never gotten an email about them. For some reason the ebooks I won’t just don’t go on sale for the prices I’m willing to pay.

Will Entrekin August 4, 2015 um 9:57 pm

Isn’t BookBub BookBub for indies?

David Gaughran August 5, 2015 um 3:19 am

No, BookBub has had a mixture of indie and trad from the start.

Richard Sutton August 5, 2015 um 1:25 pm

No. I would think that anyone who signed up would realize that their recommendations would not include any Indie-Published titles unless they were million-sellers. For hundreds of years, the big players OWNED the entire supply side. Of course, they want it back and will run up any flag they can find if they think it will grow their market share to gobble up any scraps that fall off the table. That’s how business works. Bookbub works as well as it does for exactly the same reasons. They are seriously motivated to own the market, etc.

Nate Hoffelder August 5, 2015 um 4:21 pm

It’s not just indie; I doubt that LitFlash will recommend titles from other major publishers. Bookish had a similar problem; when it launched in early 2013 that site overflowed with promotions for books published by the 3 trad pubs that owned it.

But who knows, maybe LitFlash will have great deals from PRH.

Anne August 11, 2015 um 12:32 pm

I received one of these emails yesterday. The first book on the list was by Macmillan and not really a deal, it was a novella listed at regular price. Book 2 was from HC and it was a deal but it didn’t include any special thing saying how much you were saving. The other five books were PRH. Three of the five were really deals and they had a notation in red telling you the percentage off. If they weren’t deals (a novella and a digital only) they showed just the price.

When I set up my preferences, I included a high number of genres but limited my retailer to Amazon. Mostly because I hope it irritated them but it may also affect what I’m seeing in the emails.

Nate Hoffelder August 11, 2015 um 8:11 pm

I still have not received an email. Maybe I was too specific.

And thanks for confirming my suspicions. They really are just promoting their own books.

Anne August 11, 2015 um 9:34 pm

Ok, I just got another email. I’m going to track this for another week or so and then cut back on categories.
#1 Penguin: novella, not a deal
#2 Simon & Schuster: a deal and has the red you save 87% stuff.
#3 RH: a digital only but $.99 cent deal, save 67%
#4 HC: not a deal, digital imprint book
#5 Soho Press: a deal and has the red you save 80% stuff.
#6 RH: a deal and has the red you save 75% stuff.
#7 RH: a deal and has the red you save 83% stuff.

So 3 of the 7 are not PRH books. Today they’re actively marketing how much you save on the deals even on non PRH books and that’s a change from yesterday’s list.

Do you have an Amazon affiliate account?

Daily eBook Deals Are Yesterday's News, And Tomorrow's Marketing Tool | The Digital Reader January 3, 2016 um 1:24 pm

[…] including HarperCollins, Simon & Schuster, and .Penguin Random House. Earlier this year PRH launched LitFlash, a Bookbub competitor, while HarperCollins acquired an email blast service and folded it into […]

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