This blog post, originally written in March 2019, delves into the subject of book marketing and the challenges faced by self-published authors, especially in promoting their work.
As the online market space becomes more crowded, writers are increasingly seeking ways to get noticed. One possible solution is paid advertising, such as Amazon Ads, Facebook, BookBub, or Goodreads. In this post, we’ll focus on Amazon Ads and explore whether they are the best option for authors to promote their books.
Back in 2019, we believed paid ads, like Amazon Ads, were the best way to ensure that your books were noticed in a crowded online market space. With so many titles available, it can be difficult to stand out and capture the attention of potential readers.
We even recorded this video, explaining how paid advertising was the only way forward.
While the original focus of the original blog post was to clarify how an author could use Amazon Ads, and how they compare to other paid advertising opportunities like Facebook, BookBub, or Goodreads, this is close to a complete rewrite.
We will still touch upon the pros and cons of advertising on Amazon as an author, but at the end, we will also share our own reflections and conclusions on this topic.
What You'll Learn
What Are Amazon Ads?
Before we dive into the question of whether Amazon Ads are a good choice for book promotion, let’s start with a brief overview of what these ads are.
Amazon Ads are a form of online advertising that allows you to promote your products, including books, to Amazon customers.
Amazon Ads used to be called Amazon Marketing Services, or AMS as some refer to it, and it also used to be that these ads were only available for those who were selling physical devices or components.
Nowadays, everyone can, fortunately, run Amazon Ads. Everyone is therefore on a level playing field: traditional publishers, and indie authors alike. This also means that you should know what you are doing if you want to see any results.
These ads can appear in a variety of places on the Amazon website, including search results, product detail pages, and even in email campaigns. Amazon Ads are a pay-per-click (PPC) advertising model, which means that you only pay when a customer clicks on your ad. The cost of the ad is determined by the bid you place on specific keywords or placements. Fear not, though, because we’re going to give you a complete overview in this post, and a good place to start is why you should even care about Amazon Ads.
Why Amazon Ads?
Well… the thing is that these ads are served on the Amazon website and when people browse there, they do so because they’re looking to buy something. This is the opposite of Facebook ads, for example, where people are busy interacting with friends and family, checking out a group they belong to, or something like that. People are not on Facebook because they want to buy something.
A Facebook ad has to catch the person’s attention, then it has to get them to click the ad. It then takes people off of social media and onto a store like Amazon, hoping that they will then make a purchase. That’s quite a journey with multiple clicks and the risk of losing the person along the way.
And by the way, Facebook ads are not nearly as effective as they used to be, but that is a topic for another day…
With Amazon Ads, the people seeing the ad already have the intention to buy something and they can do that within 2 clicks. One-click on the ad, and then the buy click. That’s it!
With Amazon, you’ve got three types of ads at your disposal. The first is the Sponsored Product ad, Lockscreen Ad and Sponsored Brands Ads.
Some years ago, Lockscreen Ads replaced the previous Product Display Ads.
The Lockscreen Ad will show up when people unlock their Kindle e-reader, so right there on the home screen before they start reading they can be shown an ad for your book.
You would think that these ads should work really well. After all, they show up right there on people’s Kindles where they are going to be reading, but overall and in our experience—we can only speak from personal experience—they are not as effective as the Sponsored Product Ads. In fact, very far from it.
Perhaps the fact that it is shown to potential readers right when they are lying or sitting down to read is what makes them less effective. At least for me, that’s not the time I’m thinking about buying a new book. I believe that at that moment, it’s much harder to convince someone to buy a new book.
Sponsored Product Ads
Back in 2019, we turned quite a profit on these types of ads.
Where does the Sponsored Product ad appear?
Well, if a reader goes to Amazon and types in, say, fantasy book, into the search bar of the Kindle Store, then the results will be displayed. However, if you as an author have created a Sponsored Product ad with the keyword, “fantasy book” then your ad will compete with all other ads for that specific keyword.
The one with the highest bid will win the auction and be displayed as one of the search results.
To be honest, as long as your book is relevant to the keywords you’re bidding on, I don’t think readers care one bit about it saying “Sponsored” or not. If they’re looking for a fantasy book and that’s what appears at the top of the search result, they’ll click it.
If you’ve then done a good job with the cover, the book description, and you have some reviews to serve as social proof, then there is no reason why they wouldn’t make the purchase.
When you create these ads, you’re asked by Amazon to determine how much you want to bid per keyword. Essentially, every time someone clicks your ad, Amazon will charge you up to the amount you’re bidding. Not necessarily the full amount, it all depends on the competition for that particular keyword, but to be on the safe side you better expect it to be the full amount.
In terms of the Keywords, keep in mind that you’re only actually paying for the ones that get clicked. Therefore, the only logical course of action is to load in as many keywords as you can to get maximum exposure. Each ad will accept 1000 keywords and I always recommend including as many as you can. Most of my ads have 1000 keywords in each.
You might be thinking: “A thousand keywords! There is no way, I can come up with 1000 keywords.”
No, we can’t either. That’s why we released this video explaining how to automate the process using the Publisher Rocket (formerly known as KDP Rocket) software.
With the help of this software, we used to advertise close to 20,000 keywords, but let us get into the pros and cons, so you can learn why we no longer see the same benefits of using Amazon Ads as an author.
First, though, there is one additional type of ad available to you when advertising on Amazon as an author.
Sponsored Brands Ads
Sponsored Brands ads on Amazon are a type of advertising format that allows brands to showcase their products and promote their brand in a prominent and visually appealing way.
These ads appear at the top of search results pages on Amazon and are designed to drive traffic and sales to a brand’s products.
Sponsored Brands ads typically feature a brand’s logo, a custom headline, and up to three featured products. These ads can be targeted to specific keywords, product categories, or even individual products.
When a customer clicks on a Sponsored Brands ad, they are taken to a landing page that features the brand’s products and messaging.
One of the benefits of Sponsored Brands ads is that they allow brands to increase their visibility on Amazon and stand out from the competition.
They also help to drive brand recognition and awareness by featuring the brand’s logo and messaging in a prominent location. Additionally, because Sponsored Brands ads are targeted to specific keywords or products, they can be an effective way to reach customers who are actively searching for a particular type of product or solution.
However, it is important to note that Sponsored Brands ads can be expensive, especially for highly competitive keywords or product categories.
As an indie author, it’s even worse and you can expect to struggle with turning a profit on your ad spend.
Should You Use Amazon Ads as an Author? The pros.
One of the biggest benefits of Amazon Ads is the ability to target your ads to specific audiences. You can target based on factors like keywords, categories, and even specific books or authors. This can be a powerful tool for authors who want to reach readers who are likely to be interested in their book.
Compared to other advertising options, Amazon Ads can be ‘relatively’ affordable.
You can set a budget and only pay when someone clicks on your ad. This makes it easier for authors to experiment with advertising and see what works without breaking the bank.
Large Potential Audience
With millions of people using Amazon to search for and buy books, the potential audience for your ads is enormous. This means you can reach readers who may not have discovered your book otherwise.
The ultimate goal of any book promotion strategy is obviously to increase sales, and Amazon Ads can be a way to do just that.
By driving more traffic to your book’s product page on Amazon, you can increase the chances that someone will make a purchase.
Easy to use
Amazon Ads for new authors aren’t too complicated.
You will likely find Amazon Ads to be straightforward and easy to use. The ad creation process is intuitive, and there are a variety of resources available to help you get started.
Amazon Ads provides detailed analytics that can help you track the performance of your ads and optimize your advertising strategy over time.
Amazon marketing for authors? The cons.
Limited Targeting Options
While Amazon Ads do offer precise targeting based on a variety of factors, there are some limitations to what you can do.
For example, you cannot target ads based on factors like age or gender. This can be a drawback for authors who are looking to reach a specific audience that falls outside of the standard targeting options.
Depending on your book’s genre and audience, the competition for Amazon Ads can be fierce.
If many other books are targeting the same keywords and audiences as your book, it may be difficult to stand out and see a good ROI on your advertising spend.
This leads nicely to the next point… ad management.
With so many ads appearing on Amazon, and so many advertisers, this means you need to invest time in ad and keyword optimization. There is no guarantee that your ads will lead to sales, so you’ll need to monitor your conversion rates closely and make adjustments as needed.
Simply put, the days are over where you could upload a bunch of keywords and leave it at that.
Furthermore, while Amazon Ads are generally affordable, the cost can add up if you are not careful. You will need to set a budget and carefully monitor your ad spend to make sure you are getting a good return on investment.
Dependence on Amazon
Finally, it’s worth considering the fact that by using Amazon Ads, you’re tying yourself to Amazon’s platform.
This means that if Amazon were to change its policies or pricing, you could be impacted negatively.
Additionally, because Amazon is such a dominant force in the book industry, there is a risk that you could become overly reliant on Amazon for sales, which could limit your options in the long run.
Conclusion and Our Reflections
Ultimately, the decision to use Amazon Ads as an author will depend on your individual goals and circumstances.
It becomes important to weigh the potential downsides before investing your time and money. And ad management will consume a considerable amount of your time if you are to turn a profit.
We have laid out the pros and cons of self-publishing on Amazon with ads in this blog post.
You will need to make up your own mind about what route to take with your book marketing, but in our view, paid advertising is no longer a viable option.
We will rather spend our time writing and generating content than managing ads and paying Amazon to compete for keywords.
This is why we are employing a content marketing strategy instead.
It is true that content marketing also takes time. However, the difference is that every piece of new content we create will continue to serve us in the long run.
Furthermore, we are not building our author platform using someone else’s (in this case Amazon) real estate. We own and control all the content we produce for our own website.
Plus, apart from the time spent, it does not cost us anything.
We will be posting a lot about how to use content marketing to sell books as we move forward, but you should also know that we have created a completely free online course.
You can check all the details and sign up for the waitlist here: Sign me up for the FREE Skill Booster