Amazon Ads for Authors – A Few Tips

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Hey everyone,

This isn’t an in depth post on Amazon ads.  It’s just a few thoughts based on my initial experience using Amazon’s handy wee marketing tool.  If you’re just starting out and are looking for a fairly comprehensive guide on how to get things going with Amazon ads, I suggest you try this article on Jane Friedman’s site.  It’s written by Robert Kroese, it’s easy to follow (with screenshots) and that’s what I used to begin with.

What follows are just some scattered observations based on my own recent experience.  I’m not an expert by any means but if you’re interested in going the AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) route, you might find them useful.

It’s early days but I’m pretty happy with my initial experimentation with Amazon ads.  I started using them around early January and I’m pleased to report that approximately two months later, I’ve made more money that I’ve spent.  I’m not talking great sums here – I’ve probably made just over a hundred dollars via AMS but I’ve spent considerably less and for me that’s a winner.

My initial advertising has been focused on two books – FAB: The Fifth Angel and Mr Apocalypse.  As mentioned earlier, I used Robert Kroese’s article to get things up and running and while the set-up is fairly simple, it can be time consuming if you’re adding keywords (more on that below)

If you’re thinking about Amazon ads, here are a few things to remember:

 

SPONSORED PRODUCTS/PRODUCT DISPLAY ADS

There are two kinds of ad that you’ll use with AMS.  Sponsored and Product Display.  My advice?  Use Sponsored Ads only, especially if you’re just starting off.  Product Display ads are those rectangular displays that appear on any given product page – they’re usually tucked away on the right hand side and within close proximity to the main product on that page.

As a reader/potential book buyer, I don’t like these ads.

Product Display Ad – Bottom Right

They’re intrusive and what’s more they just don’t look all that good aesthetically with the blurry background and all.  I get it.  It’s not meant to be pretty, it’s meant to be seen.  And they are prominent, there’s no denying that.  These ads can also appear on the Kindle screensaver/Home Page and that’s pretty cool.  The thing is however, that Product Display ads require more of a financial commitment upfront.  To get one of these going, you have to start with a minimum budget of $100.  That”s not ideal for indies who just want to test the water.

I haven’t tried Product Display ads yet.  All the advice I’ve read suggests that indies shouldn’t bother.  If you’re tempted to give it a try however, Robert’s article offers a few pointers.  But again, if you’re on a tight budget you probably want to give those a miss at least for now.

That brings us to a Sponsored Ad campaign, which is what most indies – including myself – are doing.  These are the ads that sit below the also bought section and in my opinion, they’re a whole lot less annoying than Product Display ads.

Sponsored Product Ads

But are they more effective?

You’ve probably got the best chance of getting a positive return on your investment with a Sponsored Ad.  There is no minimum budget here.  Start as low as you like although the consensus seems to be that $5-10 is a good starter point.  I use $5 for each book.  Some days, I go through my allotted budget but there are days when few people are clicking and I don’t.  In fact, the odd day – I don’t spend a thing.  Remember you pay for clicks, not impressions.  If we paid for impressions the cost would be astronomical.  So if you’re not getting clicks with your ad, you don’t pay.

I would suggest you start out with a Sponsored Ad.  As you’re setting up, you’ll have to decided whether you want Amazon to target automatically or whether you want to set up a manual campaign.  If you choose manual then you’re going to have to choose your own keywords.  Mostly these will be books in similar genre and author names.  This is the bit that took the longest but it’s well worth investing the time.  For me, it was half a day at first, searching through Speculative Fiction sub-genres and authors both on Amazon and elsewhere online (scouring through best alternate history lists/best apocalyptic fiction lists, and things like that).

 

KEYWORDS AND TWEAKING

I’ve read various opinions about how many keywords you should be aiming for.  In my own experience, the more the merrier.  I started off with about a hundred keywords for Mr Apocalypse and FAB: The Fifth Angel.  Since then, I’ve built up to over two hundred keywords for each.

I do this when I’m periodically refining each ad.

How to refine?  Tweak, tweak, tweak…and then tweak some more.

Every 2-4 weeks, I go through the data to see what’s working.  I study what keywords are getting clicks and of course, which ones are leading to sales.  I then use these leading keywords to generate new ones.  To do this, I go onto Amazon and find new keywords which are related to the successful ones.  For example, if a particular book title is getting me clicks/sales then I go onto that product page and look at the also bought section.  From there, I’ll usually find new book titles and author names to add to the keywords in my ad.  Over time, this has gotten me a better conversion rate and more clicks have turned into sales.

When it comes to using big mega-sellers and huge authors as keywords, just remember – these might get you a lot of impressions but (for me anyway) there are few clicks.  Still if it’s not costing you anything then these impressions aren’t necessarily a bad thing.  You’re in the shop window and that means somebody can find you if they come looking for a book just like yours.

Look out for keywords that are costing you a lot in terms of clicks but not resulting in sales.  This will drain your budget and you’re best ditching some of these as you constantly refine your ad.

Be wary of sticking rigidly to whatever advice you hear (including everything on this page) Break a few rules and experiment.  I’ve read things like don’t use single book title names as keywords, but this has actually worked out well for me on occasion.  Kim Stanley Robinson’s Aurora has worked out well for me, not only in terms of clicks but sales.  A lot of my tweaking has come via the also boughts on KSR’s product pages.

See what works for you.  But stay on top of things – don’t just set up an ad and then slack off.

 

MICRO-BLURB

The last thing you’ll do before running your ad is to write a micro-blurb that sits alongside your book cover in the Sponsored Ads row.  This is copywriting folks and that means it’s time to sell.  You need to sell your little baby in a just one or two sentences.  After keywords, this is what takes me the longest because I hate any form of blurb writing.

But it has to be done.

Anyway – you’re all set to go after that.  You’ll wait for a little approval period (not long) and then your ad is up and running.

Then you check in a week later.  See how it’s going…

 

LOTS OF CLICKS…NO SALES?

There are several reasons why people don’t buy after clicking.  Maybe they took a closer look at the cover and weren’t too impressed.  Maybe you don’t have enough (or any reviews yet), maybe you have a couple of bad reviews that put them off, or perhaps the synopsis wasn’t gripping enough.  Of course, just because they didn’t buy this time doesn’t mean they haven’t added you to their Wish List or made a mental note of your book for another time.  There’s every chance that they might see your book again during another shopping session and purchase second, third or fourth time around.

Obviously we’d rather they bought first time.   We’re paying for those clicks after all, but it’s out of our control.

I think the review thing might have cost me a few sales.  My reviews are mostly good but for these two books in particular, which are my latest, the reviews are still in single figures.  Having said that, people are buying so who knows for sure – every book buyer is an individual after all.

 

Conclusion

  • Use Sponsored Ads (about $5-10 a day is a good start – or lower)
  • Take your time when adding your keywords.  Don’t rush it.  Do your research and the more keywords you add, the better your chance of getting noticed.
  • Check your ads regularly/tweak/even copy the campaign and start afresh from time to time in order to keep track of what keywords are working and which are redundant.
  • Experiment.  Ignore standard advice if something is going right.

These are just a few observations based on my limited experience with Amazon ads.  In short, I like them.  In contrast to Facebook, people are on Amazon to shop.  That means there’s a better chance of actually converting interest into sales.  So far it’s working okay for me.

Good luck people 🙂

Over and out.

 

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  • Nupur Tustin

    Thanks for these wonderful tips, Mark. How are you researching keywords? And how do you know which ones perform, and which don’t? Thanks again for sharing this.

    • Mark Gillespie

      Hi Nupur,

      Thanks for the comment.

      You’re very welcome. I use the Amazon product pages – the ‘also boughts’ – in particular. This is where I find relevant author names, book titles that I can add to my keyword database

      I can only explore the ‘also boughts’ when i know that a particular keyword (usually an author name or book title) is performing well. This data can be found on your AMS dashboard – impressions, clicks, conversions, cost of clicks etc…it’s actually quite straightforward to interpret (if I can do it anyone can!) and it’s the successful keywords that I then type into Amazon’s search engine to find related titles/author names in the ‘also boughts’ to add to my keywords. It’s a slow process – many keywords will not perform so it’s a lot of trial and error and failing. But they can work well these ads if you stick with them. I’m very much still in the learning phase myself.

      Good luck! 🙂

  • Jo-Ann Carson

    Great article. I,’m off to try yout advice.
    All the best,
    Jo-Ann

    • Mark Gillespie

      Thanks Jo-Ann, much appreciated. Hope you find the tips helpful and good luck 🙂

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