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How Amazon author ads are working for me

A great cover and great reviews lead to sales

Amazon ads work for authors. Here’s the proof: I’ve been running just one “Sponsored Product” Amazon author ad campaign for about 10 weeks, using about 600 of my allotted 1,000 keywords. So far I’ve had 2.4 million impressions of my ad, I’ve spent about $450, and I’ve sold about $2,000 in kindle and paperback books.

What is a sponsored product ad? When you’re browsing an Amazon product page, you’ll see underneath the product a row of “sponsored products related to this item.” These are all ads. For authors, they’re cheap and easy to set up. More importantly, they work.

My sponsored product ad

I only have one book. And thanks to this ad, I’m selling between 1 and 10 copies of it per day. I’m also tallying between 500-2,000 pages read daily in Amazon’s “lending library” program, for which I get paid about $0.04 per page. (For me, about 1,000 pages equals royalties for one book sale.)

Why are Amazon ads working for me? The consensus seems to be that if you have an eye-catching cover, compelling ad copy, good reviews, and your sample “Look inside this book!” pages are enticing, people will buy after clicking your ad. That recipe seems to be working for me, and I’m not spending inordinate amounts of time tweaking my campaign anymore.

I occasionally do research on books that seem similar to mine, then add their titles and author names to my keywords. I also finesse the bid amounts for various keywords from time to time. Of my 600+ keywords, only about 75 actually make money. I’ve left most of the others running because they are accumulating impressions, which to me is also very important. Eyes on my book–who doesn’t want that?

Key takeaways about sponsored product ads. Amazon’s automatic bid setting per click is $0.25 but you can adjust that after you see how much Amazon is actually charging you for a specific keyword click. I’ve had to adjust a few popular author names and book titles to a higher bid (I’ve tried as high as $0.75 but I’ve never been charged more than about $0.35). You can set your bids as low as $0.02. I set a budget of $20 per day but haven’t been charged nearly that. Lately I’ve been charged about $5 per day. I would love to try scaling up, but that number has held steady for weeks. With Facebook ads, I’ve always been charged the entire budget every day. If anyone knows why Amazon doesn’t charge the full amount, please enlighten me!

How did I figure out which keywords to use? My strategy is to find authors and books similar to me and my book, The Girl from Oto, and to use the “customers who bought X also bought Y” data on pages of those authors to find even more. Historical fiction book titles and author names are my top earners. I’ve tried using themes and settings related to my book (the Camino de Santiago, the Pyrenees, Spain, France, monks, nuns, etc.) but those generally don’t get many clicks. On the other hand, I threw in some random keywords like animal names, and a couple of them have gotten a lot of clicks. One thing I don’t understand is how Amazon judges relevancy. They say that they won’t show an ad for a keyword they don’t deem relevant. But I look at the sponsored product ads for historical fiction titles and see tons of romance novels. How are those relevant to readers of All the Light We Cannot See?

Is there a step-by-step process for setting these ads up? In my previous post on this (which you can find here) I linked to a great article about setting these ads up. Since then I’ve heard an excellent podcast on this topic by Joanna Penn and Mark Dawson. The two of them are also offering a free webinar on setting up Amazon ads next week.

What’s next? This is a fairly new program for Amazon, and my gut feeling is it’s going to change soon. Just how is a mystery. For one thing, there will be more competition as more authors jump in and experiment with the ads. The company is taking feedback from authors and fine-tuning the program (I recently got surveyed by Amazon about my experience with AMS ads). Whatever changes result from that, I’ll adapt to…but for now, I’m hopeful that this will continue being an excellent way to garner some sales and get my book in front of millions of eyes.

Wait! What about Facebook ads? At this point, I’ve tried Facebook ads three times. While I had a lot of people clicking on my ads, there was no way to tell if any of them actually bought my book (the FB ad link took them straight to my Amazon page, and Amazon doesn’t share data about who buys your book or which sites those people come from). I watched my Amazon sales dashboard carefully—one might say obsessively—while the ads ran and I did not see any marked uptick in sales during these campaigns that could be directly attributed to Facebook. All I know for sure is that I spent between $5-10 per day while running the ads. And with a $5 per day budget, I only had about 1,000 impressions over the course of a week-long ad.

I installed a Facebook tracking pixel on my website. This does not track purchases on an Amazon page, though. I would have to set up my ads to click to my website in order to capture data with the pixel. Since I’m trying to sell books, Facebook users would have to click at least twice to buy my book: once to get to my website landing page, then again to get to my Amazon book page. I’m hesitant to add more clicks, because Facebook users aren’t browsing Facebook to buy books. They’re catching up with friends and watching baby animal videos. Taking them away from that to click several times in order to buy a book is asking a lot. Contrast that with Amazon ads, where users are already shopping for books. They see my ad, click it, and they’re on my book page, primed to buy a book anyway. It makes way more sense to me.

The bottom line: Amazon AMS ads work for me. I’ll keep using them until the game changes or the prices skyrocket—or some other unforeseen bump in the road comes along.

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