How to Sell More Books with Amazon Ads for Authors
Today you’ll learn how to sell more books with Amazon Ads for authors. I’ve been in publishing long enough to remember the good old days of self-publishing eBooks; back when Amazon’s KDP service was launched, it was an indie author’s dream. Not only could you easily publish a book, but writers were making thousands of dollars a month doing it—quite easily.
As with anything people make money with easily, others caught on. It didn’t take long for Amazon to be cluttered with eBooks. Hundreds of thousands of eBooks. Indie authors who had experienced success in the first wave of KDP were suddenly having difficulty getting noticed.
Amazon’s answer to this overpopulated marketplace came several years back: Amazon Marketing Service (AMS) for KDP: a way to market your book to the right readers cheaply and effectively. In a crowded marketplace, it means you can buy your way to the top of the results list and make sure people discover your book when they search for the keywords you want to rank in. On paper, it sounds great, but most indie small publishers and authors feel more than slightly overwhelmed when they first use the service. At its core, it’s quite simple to use—but to use it effectively takes time and practice.
I first started using AMS several years back. My ACoS (which means the amount I spend to get a sale) was about 60%; that means for every $1 I spent in ads, I was making about $0.40. I was barely breaking even, and it was not worth my time. But I was still intrigued by the idea of AMS and kept at it. Today, my ACoS typically hovers around 10% or 15%–which means for every $1 I spend, I make $0.90 to $0.85. This doesn’t factor in the royalty that is taken away, but I am still turning a pretty good profit.
Having a good AMS strategy has become key to ensuring you successful sell your book on Amazon. For less than $10 a day, writers and publishers can increase their sales by 50% or more. Understanding how to get from an ACoS of 60% to 10% takes more than an article to explain, but there are plenty of tips and tricks that can help get you there while you research it more.
|Getting Started With AMS|
Not sure how to get started with AMS? You can start your free account two ways:
By visiting advertising.amazon.com By going to your KDP account and clicking the three dots next to any book in your account, then selecting “Promote and Advertise”)
As of this writing, you do need a KDP account to use AMS.
Understand the Types of AMS Advertising Campaigns
One of the first areas I see independent authors and publishers get stuck on is the type of campaign that is right for them. There are three: Sponsored Products, Sponsored Brands, and Lockscreen Ads. Sponsored Brands is the newest campaign; it’s touted as a way to promote a series of books (vs. just one book); it sounds great, but it’s still too young to know the results.
I have seen very few authors or publishers have any luck with Lockscreen Ads; many argue that it’s only ideal for campaigns with high budgets, and it’s more of a brand campaign to get people familiar with the book, so they buy it later. Finally, Sponsored Products campaigns are the right campaign for most people. This is the type of ad that will help you rank in search results and appear in the carousel of sponsored products on another book’s page. Avoid the temptation of doing anything but a sponsored campaign unless you have a large budget and know what you are doing.
Automatic vs. Manual Targeting
Nobody knows Amazon like Amazon. They know what people like to buy, and they know how to target, which is why one of the first options you see when you create an ad is automatic targeting. It’s selected by default. For newer books, automatic targeting can be problematic because it takes a little bit of time for Amazon to know how people find your book and who is buying it. The best AMS ad strategy, in my opinion, is to use both automatic and manual targeting together, then run reports each month to adjust them accordingly. Eventually, you can take the successful keywords used in an auto campaign and put them to work in a manual campaign.
Never Pay the Suggested Bid
Not sure how much to bid for your book? AMS will happily tell you. The trouble is they will suggest a bid that is quite high. I can’t recall ever seeing a suggested bid lower than $0.50 or $0.60. For most genres, that’s probably at least two times more than what you should be paying. Experiment with the bid, and start on the lower side of things—not with the suggested bid.
Understand Negative Keywords
Negative keywords are an important part of any successful campaign but one that is frequently ignored. Let’s pretend you wrote a book about Marlins—the marlin fish. If you do an ad campaign, you’ll be competing with books about the Marlins baseball team. Adding “baseball” to your negative keywords will help ensure you are getting the right audience.
I always recommend adding terms like “free,” “free books,” etc. to the negative keyword list to ensure your book isn’t showing up to readers who only want free books. If they’re searching for free books, there’s a pretty good chance they have no desire to purchase one—however interesting yours looks.
How to Find the Wrong Keywords
Before talking about finding the right keyword, let’s talk about finding the wrong ones. To make sure you are not blowing your budget on bad keywords, here are a few tips:
- Don’t get too competitive—You wrote a thriller novel? Great! “Thriller novel” should not be your keyword. That keyword will be ridiculously expensive to get, and it’s way too broad.
- Avoid nonsense keywords—The great thing about AMS is you can add whatever keyword you want; that doesn’t mean you should. Don’t waste your time with keywords that are so specific only one or two people will search for them.
Finding the Right Keywords
Now that you know how to find the wrong keywords, how do you find the right one? The first thing you should do is search for it on Amazon. When you type something on Amazon, it’s predictive, so if you type in “mystery,” it will start giving you suggestions based on what other people search for. Those are good ones to start with. Like Amazon, Google also has predictive searching, which is also a good place to start your keyword search.
A more sophisticated way to figure out the most searched keywords on Amazon and Google is by using Publisher Rocket. If you don’t want to purchase this but want the best keywords for your ads, you could hire Susan Neal, the Director of Christian Indie Publishing Association, to determine your keywords for you here. She is a pro at Publisher Rocket.
It is against KDP terms to use keywords for competing books. That’s not the case on AMS. You can use book titles for books that are similar. Similar books should definitely be on your keyword list. How do you find similar books? The first place to start is the “Customers who viewed this item also viewed” on your book’s Amazon page. Finally, don’t forget about typos! If a person is searching for “library,” for example, you’d hope they’d spell it “library,” but a lot of people will make mistakes and spell it “ibrary,” “liberry,” or “l8brary.” Typos are usually pretty cheap to get.
Learn How to Read Reports
Perhaps the biggest mistake people make is they fail to learn how to read the AMS reports. They rely on what they see in their dashboard when they log in. However, reports will tell you exactly what keywords people are clicking on before buying your book, which helps you decide if there are some keywords you should remove. Keywords are just the starting place; however, it’s worth taking the time to understand all the information you can pull from these reports after your campaigns have run for a few weeks.
AMS is not a one-and-done project; it takes weeks to really understand and start seeing results. But it is worth the investment if you are willing to put in the time.
About the Author
Scott La Counte has worked in publishing for over 15 years and has helped indie publishers and authors sell over 2,000,0000 books. His most recent publication is Bethlehem, the Year Jesus Was Born (writing as Scott Douglas). Publishers, indie authors, and marketers interested in a free consultation about improving their AMS strategy and/or book sales can reach out at www.scottdouglas.org/consultation