If you’re a seasoned indie author, there’s a chance that you’ve already used Amazon to create ads to help sell more eBooks. However, if you’re new to the writing and self-publishing game, the world of Amazon ads for authors might be totally unfamiliar to you. As the largest platform in the world for purchasing and publishing eBooks, Amazon holds a huge amount of power. Through your Kindle Direct Publishing account, you’re able to harness that power for your own benefit. (Curious how to start selling books through KDP? Check out our article on self-publishing with Amazon here).
As a self-publisher on KDP, something you may have asked yourself is, What is the best way to promote a Kindle book? We think one of the best ways to start bringing in book sales is through advertisements, and Amazon offers some powerful ad tools. Of course, Amazon’s advertising and marketing services need a fair bit of explanation and understanding before they should be used. Becoming adept in AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) can be greatly beneficial to the future of your book sales.
Helpful tip – Before we continue, we want to explain something about Amazon’s ad platform. As Amazon Marketing Services underwent a rebranding in September 2018, the entire site was renamed “Amazon Advertising”. However, AMS and Amazon Advertising are the same site. With rebranding, though, comes change. As explained on Jane Friedman’s website (with a helpful guest post written by Dave Chesson), these recent changes resulted in new ad types and updates to the advertising dashboard. In case you were a former user of Amazon Marketing Services who has just recently returned to the site, be sure to keep this in mind.
We want to be transparent with you – getting familiar with AMS will take time and practice, and authors get mixed results. Looking for an in-depth video course on this specific subject? We recommend Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula. Mark offers a course that’s specifically focused on how to set up and optimize Amazon ads for authors, which you can access here.
For a written guide on Amazon ads for authors, we encourage you to keep reading for Written Word Media’s very own how-to post. Not only will this blog post explain what AMS is, but it will also give you tips on successful strategies for this ad platform and provide you with a detailed walkthrough of the website. Since Written Word Media runs Amazon ads of our own, we’ve been able to compile information on what’s been successful for us. We hope that our results will prove to be helpful to you, too. So sit down, get comfy, and prepare yourself for the world of Amazon Marketing Services! If you’d like to skip ahead to a particular topic, check out our sections below:
- What is Amazon marketing?
- What are the types of Amazon ads?
- How to create an Amazon ad campaign
- How to manage Amazon ads
- How much do ads cost on Amazon?
- Amazon keywords
- How do I optimize keywords on Amazon?
- Tips for Amazon success
- How effective is Amazon Marketing Service?
What is Amazon marketing?
Launched in 2012, Amazon Marketing Services enables sellers all over the world to advertise their products – sellers can create ads for any product, from books to clothes, to food and more. Separate from Amazon.com, Amazon Marketing Services can be accessed by searching http://www.advertising.amazon.com (remember what we were saying about the rebranding? You can see that in the new site name). You’ll either need to log in using an existing Kindle Direct Publishing account or register for one in order to access Amazon Advertising. Note that at the login stage of this process, existing users will be given three options for access to the site: 1) “Seller Central”, 2) “Advertising Console (formerly Amazon Marketing Services)”, or 3) “Amazon DSP Console (formerly Amazon Advertising Platform)”. For existing accounts linked through the Kindle Direct Publishing platform, you’ll need to select “Advertising Console (formerly Amazon Marketing Services)”.
Once you log into your account on the Amazon Advertising website, you’ll be greeted with this view:
Since our Written Word Media account is currently running ads on AMS, our view is different from that of a new user. As you can tell, the home page of the Amazon Advertising site gives an overall glimpse into existing advertising campaigns. The Amazon Advertising dashboard will provide you with an easy-to-read overview of your campaigns, showing relevant date information, your budget, spend, related sales and orders from your ad, and ACoS.
Helpful tip – What does ACoS mean? How do they affect your ads and sales? ACoS, or advertising cost of sales, measures the percent of attributed sales spent on advertising in the last 14 days. You can calculate this yourself by dividing total spend by attributed sales.
At some point in this process, you’re sure to encounter impressions, too. You can find the total number of impressions for all ads on your home page, and you can see impressions for each ad when you click within a campaign. So what are they, actually? Impressions count the number of times that your ads have been displayed on Amazon.com. This will affect how many people actually click your ads.
While you’re on the main page of your dashboard – if you currently have ads running – check out “Advertising reports” next to “Campaigns” and “Drafts”. Amazon is able to export a report for any and all of your book ads for any date range. This is a great way to easily compare your ad campaigns against each other and see your income in dollars. For example, when I pull an advertising report from some Written Word Media ads, I can see that one of our ads served 439 impressions in a two month period, while another ad (for the same book) served only 21 impressions in the same period of time. Now I know it might be worth it to stop the ad with fewer impressions as it’s clearly less successful. The success of ads can come down to specific keywords used, the Cost Per Click bid, and more. We’ll get to these tidbits later on in our article, but just know there’s a lot at play when running an AMS ad!
Helpful tip – get familiar with CPC (Cost Per Click), sometimes referred to as “Pay Per Click”. This is a bid that you set when you create an ad campaign. It represents the highest amount of money that you will spend per click on your ad. For example, if you set your CPC bid to $0.30, and one person clicked on your ad, you spent $0.30 when that click happened. While there are limitless guides and strategies for what the right CPC is, creating multiple ads with low costs per click is a good way to find out what works for you. Remember, there’s no exact formula for getting it right with AMS ads. The trial and error method is going to be the best way for you to find out what works for your personal campaign needs.
From the Amazon Advertising home page, you can also access financial records and information through billing and payment methods. This is where you update both how Amazon pays you for sales and how you pay Amazon for the cost of ads. Amazon will send you monthly invoices for the cost of sales. Similar to the home page for Kindle Direct Publishing, your user dashboard will give you a better understanding of what you’re paying for and allows for user management of your account.
Overall, the Amazon Advertising site is easy to use and simple to follow. Perhaps the hardest part of this process will simply be understanding how to run better ads. And though it can be challenging (as we’re already starting to see), familiarizing yourself with AMS is worth it. As an author, these ads open your books up to entirely new potential customers. As we’ve mentioned, Amazon is the largest online retailer in the world that is used by half of all online shoppers (a number that continues to grow). If you are someone who is interested in selling more books, you are someone who would benefit from learning how to use this site.
What are the types of Amazon ads?
Prior to their rebranding, you may have heard about two types of ads in the world of AMS: sponsored product ads and product display ads. While sponsored product ads are very much still in existence, and will be crucial to your success in this platform, you should note that product display ads have been nixed. In their place, Amazon has debuted lockscreen ads. Both sponsored products and lockscreen ads are invaluable because they have the ability to hone in on very specific audiences to make sure the right people are seeing your products. A more specific audience means more people who are likely to buy your stuff!
Here’s a graphic from Amazon Advertising’s website that shows the visual differences between sponsored products and lockscreen ads:
So what is the difference between Sponsored Products and Lockscreen Ads? According to Amazon,
- Sponsored Products “[p]romote products to shoppers actively searching with related keywords or viewing similar products on Amazon.” Keywords are a huge part of ads on Amazon. Don’t worry, we’ll get into this more later on in our post.
- Lockscreen Ads, on the other hand, “are based on shoppers’ interests and are shown when they ‘unlock’ their Kindle E-readers or Fire Tablets to begin reading or shopping for books.”
While there’s much to learn about how to best use both of these types of ads, including how to properly utilize keywords, let’s start out by taking a look at real examples of Sponsored Products and Lockscreen Ads in their natural habitat:
Here we can see three examples of sponsored products ads on Amazon. We got to this page by searching “cozy mystery” on the site. At the very top of our page, you can see an ad containing four books by author Leslie Wolfe. Next to the image of The Watson Girl, note the brief copy to grab the reader’s attention and give them a sample of what Wolfe’s books include: “Like Patterson and Baldacci? You’ll love this.”
Helpful tip – What is copy? It’s the main text of an advertisement. It’s always best to create copy that is short and simple, giving the readers just what they need without getting too wordy. In Amazon’s case, you can use up to 150 characters for this.
While cozy mystery books (our search topic) do differ from the books that are in our sponsored ads slots, there’s overlap in these audiences. Thanks to keywords included during the ad-building process, these sponsored products reach that overlap and better access their intended audiences.
Helpful tip – While ad placement for sponsored products varies, these types of ads can appear anywhere from at the top (by the search bar) of your page, to the middle of your screen, or even at the bottom of product pages. Placement can vary largely based on keywords, bids, and relevancy.
How to create an Amazon ad campaign
In order to create an Amazon ad campaign, you’ll need to select the yellow “create campaign” button on your home page. After pressing this, you’re given the option of selecting whether you want to create a Sponsored Products or Lockscreen ad.
Keep reading for a walkthrough of what the Sponsored Products ad creation process looks like:
Creating a sponsored products ad will require you to work through four steps: settings, ad format, products, and bidding. While all of these are relatively straight forward, Amazon is great at assisting you through this process. If you have questions while you’re creating an ad, click on the small grey and white “i” button next to the various parts of the campaign creation process, and Amazon gives you an explanation for each step of what you’re doing.
“Ad format” is the part of the campaign process where your creativity can really shine. You can select a “custom text ad” to include your own copy, or select a “standard ad” for no custom text. While some people may opt out of incorporating text into their ads, we think this is a great way to give potential readers a hint of what’s to come in your book! Remember, keep your text short and sweet. You want to pique buyers’ interests without being overly wordy or giving away a major storyline from your book.
Helpful tip – when you put ads out through Amazon you’re going to run into something called “dynamic bids”. You’ll encounter these only when you create a sponsored products campaign. After you’ve named your campaign, set a run date, a budget, and added your creative, bidding is the last step in this process before you submit your campaign for approval. Amazon will give you three options for bidding: dynamic bids – down only, dynamic bids – up and down, and fixed bids. Fixed bids are easy – you select the amount you want to spend on an ad. Dynamic bids, though, get a little more complicated. Dynamic bids require Amazon deciding in real time whether or not your ad will result in a sale. For dynamic bids – down only, Amazon is lowering your bid price when you are less likely to make a sale. For dynamic bids – up and down, Amazon can raise your bids when you are more likely to make a sale and lower them when you are less likely. What does this mean for you? Selecting dynamic bids can lower your cost per click and increase your conversion rates… More sales!
How to manage Amazon ads
Have you created Amazon ads that you now need to turn off? Easy! Once you log into the Amazon advertising website and have access to your dashboard, you’ll be able to see which of your ads are live (underneath “active”, live ads will have a blue button) or which ones have been paused (these ads have a grey button). To turn off a live ad, you’ll just click on the blue button and – voila – it will no longer be actively running on Amazon!
Here you can see examples of what an active and inactive ad look like on the Written Word Media ads page. Remember, active ads will show in blue, whereas paused ads are grey. You can also see which of your ads are currently running underneath the “Status” section of your ad page. Amazon ads will fit under one of nine statuses:
- Delivering (currently running on the Amazon website with no issues)
- Scheduled (your ad is set to run in the future)
- Incomplete (you’ll need to add at least one keyword or a product to advertise – basically, there’s more information needed before this can run)
- Out of budget (your campaign has exceeded its daily budget and will not run again until midnight when the ad budget is reset)
- Paused (this is done by the AMS user)
- Payment failure (update your payment method so that Amazon can properly charge you for your ads)
- Suspended (this is done by Amazon when an ad does not meet their requirements)
- Ended (meaning you selected an end date for your ad campaign and that date has been met)
- Archived (your campaign can no longer be turned back on)
How much do ads cost on Amazon?
As we just mentioned, you’ll create a daily budget for sponsored product ads (Amazon recommends daily budgets be set at $5.00 or more to have a competitive edge) and a lifetime budget for lockscreen ads (the minimum budget for this is $100). $100 may seem much more expensive initially, but remember that once you set a lifetime budget that’s it! That money is all that will be spent over the course of that ad’s lifetime. With a daily budget, though, your money continues to be spent every single day that an ad runs. In this way, sponsored product ads can become quite expensive. It’s very important to set weekly, if not daily, reminders to monitor your ad costs so there are no surprises for your bank account.
The amount you spend on an ad is entirely up to you. Remember what we mentioned about CPC (Cost Per Click) earlier in our article? You pay Amazon for your ad when the ad gets a click. Even if one million people see your ad on Amazon, but no one clicks on it, you won’t be charged. But if one million people click on your ad? You’ll be paying a lot – but hopefully making a lot of sales, too! Try to remember that when you set a budget for your ads, it doesn’t mean that Amazon will be spending all of it every single day. As I’m typing this, Written Word’s AMS account has one ad running with a $10.00 daily budget. The actual amount Amazon has spent from that budget so far today? $0.43. Yep, forty three cents based solely off of how many people have clicked the ad today.
When you set a budget for your ads, think about if you want to run these with an end date. If you decide to set a certain end date, your ad will stop running on the day of your choosing. However, if you do not set an end date, the ad will continue to run until you manually stop it. Remember what we said about frequently checking your ad cost! High daily budget, along with no end date, can create costly ad campaigns.
The more you spend on Amazon ads, the more likely they are to run and to appear in more primo locations on the website. A key example of this is Leslie Wolfe’s sponsored product ad that appeared directly underneath the search bar:
Chances are she had high bids to earn that ad spot. When you click on an individual ad campaign on the homepage of the AMS site, you’ll be able to access your “Campaign Settings”. This is where you can crank up your bid numbers or adjust bids by placement.
Want to earn a Lisa Wolfe top-of-the-search-bar slot for your ad? You’ll need to adjust your bid so that a higher percentage is being spent to get you in that spot. Similarly, you can adjust your ad spend to have a higher percentage going towards putting your ad on product pages. For example, if you were selling a cookbook, you might want to spend practically all of your bids on product pages relating to food or cooking. We’ll get into targeting – and the worlds of keywords and related products – next.
Now that we’ve got you up to speed on the types of Amazon ads authors can run, let’s get into keywords.
Why are Amazon keywords so important? Bottom line, they can make or break your ad campaign.
If you want to run ads on Amazon, you need to make sure you know what types of keywords exist and which ones can benefit or harm your potential sales. While some authors prefer not to use keywords for their ads, they can assist in narrowing down the audience of who will see your ads.
First things first – let’s talk about automatic versus manual targeting. Targeting hones in on specific audiences that are more likely to purchase your product. Deciding whether or not you want this done automatically, or manually, can be a big decision. When you create an ad campaign on Amazon Advertising, you get the option of which type of targeting you want. While both automatic and manual have the exact same cost, Amazon recommends automatic targeting for users who are just getting started with advertising. If you select automatic targeting, that’s it. You’ll make your selection and move on to the next part of the campaign creation process. Amazon’s algorithm will make its own decisions about what type of user needs to see your product. Manual targeting, though, puts the power in your hands.
Don’t know what keywords to use? Unsure of whether or not you even want to deal with finding keywords for your ads? Then just go with automatic targeting. Amazon will pick keywords for you by choosing products similar to what you’re selling. However, keep in mind that this is at Amazon’s discretion. You don’t have the autonomy of running the exact campaign you want with automatic targeting. Manual targeting, on the other hand, allows you to handpick keywords that will be tied to your ad.
If you do want to target keywords manually, you’ll be able to include up to 1,000 of these within your ad campaign. Amazon allows you to use the following types of keywords:
- Broad (this provides the greatest reach)
- Phrase (this requires a specific word sequence)
- Exact (this is the most restrictive keyword type)
- Negative phrase (this excludes specific search terms)
- Negative exact (just like negative phrases, but with exact words)
Let’s take a real-life look at what keywords you might use, with a fictional cozy mystery book as our example…
Imagine your book is called Cookies and Crime: A Cozy Mystery. Right off the bat, you know that your keywords will need to cater to anyone interested in cozy mysteries, especially ones about baking or food. We want our keywords to cast a wide net, grabbing hold of any searches that can send readers our way. Here are suggestions for making the most of your keyword possibilities:
- Cookies, cozies, food cozy, detectives, sleuths, baking cozy, murder, crime, bakers, dessert – see a theme here? These phrases all connect to what our book is about. Since we know that cozy mysteries typically have female protagonists who are sleuths attempting to solve a crime (normally murder), we can generate long lists of related themes. And with our book title specifically mentioning a baked good, we can generate ideas off of that. Get creative and try to think of every combo possible.
- Search for related book titles or authors. Know of a cozy mystery author who’s famous for their books about baking? Include that author and their book names in your keyword list. We recommend combing through similar authors, titles, or series names in order to jack up your keyword possibilities.
- Include misspellings. This might not be something you’d think of off the bat, but common misspellings are frequently used when searching on Amazon (we all know how easy it is to throw in a typo or two while furiously typing away). David Gaughran suggests including common misspellings of authors’ names or book titles, too.
- After you’ve gathered your keywords, utilize the Keyword Multiplier Tool to easily and quickly create a list of your keywords and their every variation. You’ll type in every variation imaginable and then the KMT will work its magic, generating even more keyword options!
As for negative keywords, we’ll want to stay away from anything that isn’t “on genre”. Unrelated authors, book titles, series names, or words don’t need to be included. If you’re coming up with keywords for a cozy mystery, no need to include anything related to a General Nonfiction book or Romance (unless you book contains any related themes!)
How do I optimize keywords on Amazon?
Ah, the golden question. If there were a perfect answer to this, self-publishers’ lives would be much simpler! Unfortunately, there’s just no exact answer of what will be the perfect keywords for you. While the amount of keywords you can add is huge (1,000 to be exact) and overwhelming, we recommend using early ads as tests. Find out what works for you and don’t be afraid to update your included keywords once you realize something isn’t working for you. You can remove or add keywords at any time from your AMS ads dashboard.
Tips for Amazon success
While we’re on the topic of testing, we want to go back to David Gaughran and reference some of his advice on Amazon ads for authors. The writer and self-publishing expert has recommended creating Discovery and Performance ads to test out what keywords will work for your product. To differentiate the two, a Discovery campaign has the sole purpose of testing keywords. Performance campaigns, however, are the accumulation of successful keywords that were tested and proven by a Discovery campaign. Gaughran recommends putting more money into Performance ads since these are tested and true, most likely to achieve positive results. Overall, our greatest advice for new users of AMS ads is to stick to David’s advice and keep testing. You won’t know what works – or doesn’t – until you try it!
How effective is Amazon Marketing Service?
Here we go. Let’s get to the bottom line of what AMS means for self-publishers. Does Amazon book advertising work? Well, it depends. There are some interesting pros and cons for authors using Amazon ads
- PRO – Amazon only continues to grow, which means it’s adding in more and more consumers who might buy your book.
- PRO – Amazon users are in a buying frame of mind when they see your ad. They go to Amazon to shop and they want to make purchases. When they see your product in an ad, they’re more likely to purchase it than someone who is not in this buying frame of mind.
- PRO – Stumped on the creative side of ads? Great news – you won’t need to create graphics for your ads. Instead, your book cover is used to create the ad image that buyers will see. However, you will still need to add in copy of your very own (remember, copy is the text that persuades potential buyers to click on your ad).
- CON – Unfortunately, Lockscreen ads can lead to a high number of accidental clicks. Think of how many times you’ve accidentally tapped on something on your tablet – it’s so easy to do. What this means for advertisers is that you can get an inaccurate representation of how many clicks you’re actually getting when it comes to Lockscreen ads. Be aware of this as a potential problem and work that estimation of accidental clicks into your overall number.
- CON – Amazon ads require patience. You won’t see quick results and numbers from this ad platform. Unfortunately, it will probably take months of careful observation to find out which of your ads are succeeding and why.
- CON – You’ve got a lot to learn. Using Amazon advertising isn’t solely intuitive. There are plenty of phrases (CPC, ACoS, etc.) that you’re going to have to get familiar with. However…
Do the pros outweigh the cons for Amazon ads? It depends on you and your books. For some authors, Amazon Ads have been great, for others, not so much. If you are tech savvy and see authors like you running Amazon ads, it may be worth it to give it a try. Once again, if you are looking for in-depth instruction on Amazon ads, Mark Dawson’s Self-Publishing Formula is the best around.
So, there you have it. Welcome to the world of Amazon ads for authors! We’ve given you an introduction to the site and walked you through all the nitty-gritty. Is there anything you’ve tried that’s worked for you? Got any tips for success? Please share below!