Using Amazon Marketing Services for Advertising Kindle Ebooks: What I've Learned
Frustrated with trying to promote your Kindle eBook on your website, blog, and social media? Good news! You can advertise your Kindle eBook directly on Amazon—where people are already buying eBooks!—with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS).
The AMS program for Kindle eBooks is Pay Per Click (PPC) advertising which works very similarly to Google AdWords: You bid on the cost you want to pay when people click on your ads, and you only pay when they click.
To use this service, you will be required to set up an account on Amazon Marketing Services. Though it is free to set up, you will need to associate the account with a credit card so that advertising fees can be charged as incurred. To get started, click the "Promote and Advertise" button next your published Kindle title on Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), then select "Create an ad campaign" on the following screen. Then to check the status and progress of your campaigns in the future, you can go to your Reports in KDP and click the Ad Campaigns tab which has a link to your AMS advertising dashboard.
Note that sales made from your AMS ads do not include reads from Kindle Unlimited (KU) or the Kindle Online Lending Library (KOLL). This helps you get a more accurate picture of your ad campaign performance. But your ads could generate some additional KU/KOLL reads and royalties, too, if you participate in Amazon's KDP Select program.
After setting up your AMS account, you can now choose what type of ads you'd like to run. There are two main ad types: Sponsored Products and Product Display.
Sponsored Products Ads
Sponsored Products ads will appear on Amazon’s website on desktop, mobile, and the Amazon app. Depending on where your ad gets placed, a 50 to 150 character description (that you create) may appear along with the Kindle eBook product info. When, where, and how your ad exactly appears will depend on the keywords you choose, how your PPC bid compares with competing advertisers, and Amazon's algorithm for ad placement.
You have two choices when it comes to choosing keywords: Auto and manual. Auto targeting lets Amazon’s algorithms choose what keywords are relevant to your book. Manual targeting lets you choose the target keywords, although Amazon will make some suggestions for your consideration. Going with manual targeting for Sponsored Products ads gives you a lot of flexibility in managing your AMS campaigns since you can turn keywords on and off, add keywords, and change bids for each keyword as you wish over time.
Be aware that if there are other advertisers who bid $0.25 (or more) per click and your bid is something small such as $0.05, chances are your ad will be placed lower and/or fewer times than those of your higher bidding competitors, even if your keywords are a relevant match. Your ad might not appear at all if there are many other higher bidders. But don't play a fool's game by making ridiculously high bids to beat out your competition! The ratio of actual purchases to clicks can be low and you may waste your money.
How Much Does It Cost?
Sponsored Products AMS ad campaigns can be set up with a budget for as little as $1 per day, with bids per click as low as $0.02 (as of this writing). You also have the choice of running the ad continuously (recommended for evergreen topic titles) or running for a specified period. Since a large portion of my backlist titles are evergreen, I leave ads for them run continuously.
Monitor your ads' performance regularly, at least monthly, and make needed changes to preserve your budget and boost ad performance. You may also choose to pause or terminate a campaign.
Product Display Ads
Product Display Ads can appear on the Amazon website for desktop underneath the “Buy/Add to Cart” button area on a product display page. It could also appear on Kindle e-readers.
As with Sponsored Products, a short, 150-character description may appear with the advertised eBook, plus your ad will include a 50-character headline.
When and how often it appears depends on the targeting. However, the targeting for Product Display ads is different than for Sponsored Products.
You can choose to have your ad appear on product detail pages for Related Products, which are products that are similar or would easily be associated with your eBook’s topic or genre. For example, if your eBook is a space science fiction novel, you might want your target your ad to appear on pages selling Star Trek books, DVDs, or merchandise.
Or you can choose to have your ads appear on product detail pages from Interest categories that would include your topic or genre. For example, if you write historical fiction, you could choose to have your eBook appear on pages selling historical novels. Note that for ads that appear on Kindle e-readers, Interest targeting is the only targeting option available.
How Much Does It Cost?
This is where many authors flinch! The budget for Product Display ads has to be set for at least $100. So you must be willing to spend up to $100 during the ad campaign period. Note that depending on your ad campaign parameters, you may or may not spend that entire $100. For example, I ran several Product Display campaigns and only spent a few bucks. The reason for this was that my Related Products, Interests, and/or bids may have limited the actual amount of times my ads appeared and were clicked during the campaign period.
Unlike Sponsored Products, Product Display campaigns are time bound, meaning that you must specify a time period for them to run. I've observed that the system only allows a campaign period of 6 months. You can also choose to have them run quickly, meaning that they are run as many times as possible, or smoothly, meaning that the ad placements will be spread out more evenly throughout the entire campaign period. Your choice will depend on your budget and goals.
As with Sponsored Products, monitoring Product Display ad performance is a must-do. You can make adjustments to bid, budget, and duration of a campaign.
What I've Learned From Advertising My Kindle eBooks on Amazon Marketing Services
I Got Great ROI. The ROI on my AMS advertising investments has been crazy good, on the order of a return of up to seven times my investment! But like other PPC advertising, it can be difficult to scale. Increasing your PPC bid per click will not always result in a proportional increase in sales. There will come a point of diminishing returns. This requires regular monitoring of your investment versus your sales, and continually making necessary course corrections.
Don't Expect Fast ROI. Because your AMS ads may not be shown often, this is not a get rich quick strategy. If, like me, you concentrate on low bids (usually less than $0.05), it can be even longer. As with all advertising and marketing, patience is required.
Lack of Detailed Analytics. One of the most frustrating things about the AMS system (as of this writing) is that it only offers analytics on an all-time basis. For example, you cannot figure out how an increase in PPC bids for this quarter resulted in new sales this quarter. Because the amount of work to extract more detailed insight from these reports would be difficult to impossible, it’s probably best to just be satisfied with the cumulative figures until the AMS reporting improves (we hope!). And at least you get an idea of your grand total investment versus your grand total of sales resulting from the ads.
Sponsored Products and Manual Targeting Trumped Product Display and Auto Targeting (For Me). With one exception, I’ve found that Sponsored Products ads where I manually targeted keywords have performed much better than Product Display ads or any auto-targeting choices. In fact, as of this writing, I haven't made even one sale from Product Display ads after 6 months of running them. However, another author I know has reported good results with Product Display ads. It truly depends on your eBook’s topic and market. So experimentation is required to find the right mix of Sponsored Products, Product Display, manual and automatic targeting for your eBook ads.
As with all Amazon and KDP programs, see their website for current policies, procedures, and opportunities.
Disclaimer: Both the publisher and author have used their best efforts in preparation of this information. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and both parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice and strategies presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional advisor where and when appropriate. Neither the publisher nor author shall be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential or punitive, arising from or relating to your reliance on this information.
© 2017 Heidi Thorne