Guide to Amazon Ads: Power Your Book Sales
Amazon advertising can be a game changer for your book promotions. Here’s your guide on the basics and insights to know. After analyzing over 1,400 recent ad campaigns, we have best practices to share.
We go over:
- What is Amazon advertising?
- Why Amazon ads for books?
- How to get started: the basics
- Best practices to know
What Is Amazon Advertising?
Previously called Amazon Marketing Services (AMS), Amazon Advertising is Amazon’s platform where you can advertise and sell products in front of visitors based on related products, keywords, and consumer interests.
For authors and publishers, the platform is available for Kindle Select and non-Kindle Select books distributed with 3rd party services like PublishDrive.
There are two main types of book ads on Amazon:
- Product Display ads that show up near the “Buy” button and on Kindle screensavers.
2. Sponsored Product ads that show up at the bottom of Amazon product search results and below the “also-boughts”.
Why Amazon Ads for Books?
As a self-publishing indie, you’re having to juggle a lot. Compared to traditional publishing houses, you may have to be more mindful of how you spend your budget and energy. It’s important to ask, is Amazon advertising really worth starting?
For fantasy writer Karen Myers, it was:
See her drastic sales spike with Amazon ads? Authors achieve their highest sales when releasing new books. Then there’s a drop that stays down until the next release. Karen maintained and boosted her earnings with paid advertising.
Before seeing results, it takes a bit of experimentation. But when done right, promoting on Amazon can be a powerful tactic.
How to Get Started: The Basics
Like most things, there is a significant learning curve with Amazon advertising. Prepare to learn (like you’re doing now!) Here’s what to know when starting out.
Each ad is a “campaign”
An ad is called a “campaign”. Under a campaign, you set a maximum price you’re willing to bid for the ad. You also use either product or keyword targeting. We suggest using “automatic” targeting in the very beginning.
Use product targeting to have your ad appear in related products suggested by Amazon or chosen by you. You can use PublishDrive’s AI Savant, an easy-to-use tool for finding bestselling books and categories.
A keyword is any search term the customer types in the Amazon search field. For example, “vampire romance book” could be a keyword for your fantasy book about vampires. You can supply up to 1,000 keywords or keyword phrases. We recommend adding at least 20.
Amazon suggests “automatic” keywords, but we suggest adding your own “manual” keywords. Note that this targeting option is better suited for advanced users. We go over keyword strategies under the best practices section further down.
Start with a low budget
You can start with a budget as low as $5 a day. Because you’re charged the bid amount each time someone clicks on your ad, your daily budget should cap the maximum spend.
Raising the budget for a campaign does not necessarily make Amazon display the ad more frequently (we wish it was that easy.) That’s why it’s crucial to start with a test campaign.
Remember to be patient with your results. Amazon counts sales in a 14-day window after an ad closes. It can take up to 90 days to get paid by Amazon for sales made. It may take between a few days and a week to see sales generated for the previous period in your ads dashboard too.
Have a bomb cover and description
An ad gets your book in front of people, but it can only do so much. It’s crucial to have a shining book cover design that makes people want to click and learn more. Look at bestselling designs in your genre. What do they have in common? Invest in a professional graphic designer, too.
When someone does click, you want your book description to keep their attention. Is it compelling? Are the most emotional hooks in the first few sentences? Convince your audience to make a purchase at every corner.
Ensure at least three solid reviews
Like your cover and description, reviews tell people if your book is worth buying. Amazon ads expert Laurence O’Bryan said, “rarely will a book sell without at least a few reviews and preferably ten or twenty. You don’t want to ask family too, as their reviews might get removed by Amazon because they are likely to be considered biased.”
Before you waste any money on ads (or other digital advertising), land some reviews. Read this article on the quickest way to get book reviews. Aim for having a total rating of above 4 as well. To help with your online credibility, don’t forget to create an author page on Amazon.
Understand the metrics
When your campaign goes live, you’ll want to understand these metrics:
- Clicks: the number of times someone clicked on your ad
- Impressions: the number of times your ad is displayed, whether someone clicks (effective in boosting brand awareness)
- CTR (click-through-rate): the number of clicks divided by impressions, used to gauge how well you’re converting. The higher your CTR, the better.
- ACOS (advertising cost of sales): how much you spend for every dollar of revenue you make, calculated by the total ad spend divided by the total sales. The lower your ACOS, the better.
Interpret your results
If your ad has low impressions, focus on improving your targeting method. You can use automatic targeting which helps with getting more impressions and optimize your conversions (getting someone to buy) from there.
If your CTR is low, look at your book cover. If overall sales are low, your ACOS may be too high. We go over more on how to improve performance below.
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Best Practices to Know
You got the basics. Now it’s time for the nitty-gritty. After analyzing over 1,400 recent campaigns, we identified key findings from the most successful ads. Let’s go over them.
Look at metadata: promote higher-priced books for a better ACOS
You can run into the issue where your ad has a high impression and people click on it, but doesn’t convert into a sale. This means that your book has the right targeting with the cover and blurb being good enough to raise interest. But it may be worth looking at your book’s metadata, like pricing.
Do you have the right price for your book? From our recent data, running ads for higher-priced books resulted in better sales. That’s because you can break even or achieve a higher profit with a lower ACOS.
On average, the best performing ads were:
📈Kindle editions above $7
Your ad can appear for many people but without converting into clicks, aka a struggle with CTR. This can be resolved by fixing your cover, the first sentences of your blurb, and adding your author page on Amazon.
When prioritizing CTR, there is an exception for book prices. Out of the 1,400 campaigns we looked at, lower-priced books performed better by CTR. This meant that people liked to click on cheaper books. Additionally, using keyword and product targeting resulted in a way higher CTR than automatic targeting. This meant that using a more specific targeting method resulted in higher clicks.
Without impressions, no one clicks on your ad. That means you miss the chance for people to buy. It’s important to appear in front of your target audience. Looking at your targeting and budget can help.
The best performing ads by impressions were priced above $12 and mostly fiction books. Here’s what else:
Automatic and product targeting generated more impressions
Automatic targeting was 3x more profitable
Advertisers spent a lot more for higher impressions
Books with more reviews and ratings above 4 hiked impressions significantly
If you have a standalone book on the 70% royalty plan, maintain an ACOS below 70% to be in profit. If you have a book series, an ACOS of 150% for the first book works if half your readers get the rest of the books.
With KDP Select royalties, your profit on the ad spend would be about 33%. This means for a monthly spend of $1,000 you get back $1,500. You can make more if you get your ACOS down further.
Here’s what the best performing ads by ACOS had in common:
Paperback and hardcover
Priced above $12
Used keyword targeting on buying behavior
Descriptions usually started with another author’s review
Cover designs matched its genre trends
Here’s what the best performing ads by conversions had in common:
✅Automatic targeting had higher conversions
👌Ads with higher CTR had higher conversions
📈Books with more reviews and ratings had higher conversions from clicks, resulting in higher sales
Pay attention to cost per click (CPC)
Another good metric to look at is your CPC. A low CPC of 25¢ means it cost 25¢ every time someone clicked on your ad. On average, one in ten people who click will buy your book. That accounts for costing you $2.50 for an actual sale. If you only have one book, don’t bid too high.
How to keywords
Although Amazon suggests keywords, we recommend adding your own. Do keyword research with these methods:
- Look at similar authors and titles: Create your list of keywords with similar authors and titles. Since you’re familiar with your own genre and audience, think about which books your ideal readers are most likely searching for.
- Look at the “also-bought” section of your book page: This shows you a list of items your readers also bought. What does it say about your people’s buying practices?
- Look at your current metadata keywords: Plug in your current keywords such as subgenres and look at related products. Are there any overlaps with the “also-boughts”?
- Look at searches made by others: Check what people are searching for. You can use Merchant Words or free keyword research tools like Google Trends. With your list of potential keywords, check just how popular the authors and titles are.
Here’s a takeaway by author Karen Myers on keyword targeting for books: “It doesn’t matter if I have a perfect list of classic authors whose readers would like my books, if no one is buying those authors currently and seeing my ads. It’s much better to find authors who are currently being bought whose readers buy my books now, or might buy my books based on similarities of metadata keywords.”
For book bundles, use 3D images
If you decide to run ads for book bundles, get your professional to create 3D designs. 3D portrays a more realistic and gratifying visual for potential customers:
Monitor, fine-tune, and optimize!
At last but not least, review your performance and make tweaks regularly. You not only want to generate more sales but prevent unnecessary costs. Monitoring your campaigns helps with that.
Ads may lose you money for a variety of reasons:
- Your book cover is misleading
- Your ad is running on pages too far removed from your target audience
- Once arriving at your book page, the description, reviews, or other elements may not be up to par
Set up a schedule for yourself to check performance – commit to weekly check-ins at least. Record data on an excel spreadsheet. Note the keywords resulting in the most sales.
Monitor impressions, the number of times your ad gets displayed. If you have more than a few thousand impressions for a keyword and no clicks, suspend it because it’s obviously not working.
Conclusion: Is Amazon Advertising for You?
Advertising and selling on Amazon is the real deal, but it’ll take a willingness to learn and experiment. Since we don’t truly know how Amazon algorithms work, it’s about monitoring and fine-tuning your campaign continuously.
On PublishDrive, anyone can set up Amazon ads with its easy-to-use tool. Beyond Amazon KDP, extra perks include targeting support from AI, the capacity to run ads for co-authored books, and more.
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