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Using Amazon Marketing Services for Advertising Kindle Ebooks: What I've Learned

Heidi Thorne is a self-publishing advocate. Author of nonfiction books, eBooks, and audiobooks. Former trade newspaper editor.

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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 Lockscreen Ads.

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—weekly recommended!—and make needed changes to preserve your budget and boost ad performance. You may also choose to pause or terminate a campaign.

Lockscreen Ads

New in 2019, AMS now offers authors a lockscreen ad opportunity. These ads appears on the lockscreens of Kindle e-reader and Fire tablet devices. They feature a graphic of the book cover, plus a short description underneath.

The advantage of these ads is that they are appearing on the devices on which readers are reading books.

How Much Does It Cost?

The one drawback may be the cost. You must be willing to set a budget of at least $100 to run these ads. As I experienced with the previous Product Display ads—which are no longer available, but operating in a similar way—I rarely spent the entire budgeted amount since it is pay per click. But you have to be willing to spend that much over the time the ad will run.

From what I can tell, you can set these ads to run for a few days up to a few months. The budget would be spent within that specified time, and when your budget limit is reached, the ads stop showing. You can choose to run the ads quickly or spread out over the entire ad period. Running them quickly could get quick results, but spreading them over time can conserve your budget. Your goals and objectives for the ad will dictate what's best.

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 several 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, and there will come a point of diminishing returns. And, as I'll discuss later, competition and cost for this ad space is increasing. 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.

Resist the Temptation to Go with Suggested Bids

I experimented with the suggested bids shown with chosen keywords and—ouch!—my ROI on one title went from positive to negative! Don't play the winning ad bid game.

Lockscreen Ads Can Be Difficult to Control

I tried a Lockscreen Ad campaign in 2019 when the program was introduced. While I realized I might spend up to $100 in ads, I monitored how the campaign was going weekly. The ad spend quickly ate up about $20 of the campaign and I got one $0.99 sale. Yikes! Horrible ROI. So I suspended the campaign and now just concentrate on Sponsored Products ads. If you experiment with Lockscreen Ads, monitor your results closely.

Competition for Amazon Ad Space is Increasing

We think of Amazon as a retail site. But really it's an advertising platform, just as Google is. With all those eyeballs on it, and being a site where people go to buy things, it might even be better than Google in some cases!

Like Google AdWords advertising, Amazon started out by offering advertising to smaller advertisers at reasonable cost. Then bigger advertisers started to advertise there, too. Even ads for non-Amazon products and services such as vehicles, auto insurance, and home loans started to show up there. So Amazon ad space is getting more and more competitive in terms of placement and price. As I emphasized before, don't try to win ad bids and lose your money! Constantly monitor your ad spend and results, adjusting your campaigns as needed.

As with all Amazon and KDP programs, see their website for current policies, procedures, and opportunities.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: How did you manage to get your bids to win at two cents? I've never won a bid for less than forty-seven cents. When I set the amount to anything lower, I get nothing.

Answer: I did make bids as low as $0.02 or $0.03. And it depends on what you define as "won." I'm going for the long haul and just want some representation in the AMS ad space. But, like with Google AdWords, I'm not looking to "win" bids. Played that game and it cost me dearly with no results.

Admittedly, it is difficult to find the sweet spot where your ad investments, on AMS or elsewhere, bring the optimal ROI. It does require some experimentation.

What's even more difficult with AMS is that your ad could generate some Kindle Unlimited or Kindle Online Lending Library (KU/KOLL) reads, but those don't show up in your AMS ad sales results. And you have to be enrolled in KDP Select to get those KU/KOLL royalties.

Question: Regarding using Amazon Marketing services for advertising kindle ebooks: How did you get a lock screen ad? When I click "Create an ad campaign" I get a choice between "sponsored products" and "product display ads" with the latter unclickable. I have placed several "sponsored products" ads but am unable to find any mention of lock screen ads outside the help pages. Also, I can't find any mention of an overall budget such as the $100 minimum you mention. I am only asked for the daily budget.

Answer: My only guess is that the Lockscreen ad option is still on rollout status since it just launched January 7, 2019. So not all advertisers or markets may have that option yet. Be aware that the Product Display ads have been discontinued. You should see that option as grayed out.

Here's a link to a brochure on all the changes to the AMS ad platform that are new:

https://m.media-amazon.com/images/G/01/ams/vertica...

If you are still having difficulty, contact KDP support through your KDP account (there should be a Contact Us link at the bottom of the page). I've found them to be very responsive when I've had issues.

Hope that helps. Good luck with your campaigns!

© 2017 Heidi Thorne

Comments

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on January 28, 2018:

Hi Lawrence!

Glad you had the sense to think about the impact of your advertising decision before diving in.

Isn't that interesting that your print book sales are bigger than your eBook sales. Depending on the month, it is often that way for me, too. As well, I usually make more money from my print books than eBooks.

When you're ready, do look at AMS again. I think it's pretty cost effective. But you do have to be conservative with your bidding and continuously monitor your ad spend to make sure it doesn't run out of control. You can do some bid changing, or terminate a campaign if needed. See the AMS documentation for what to do.

Thanks, as always, for stopping by and sharing your experience with us! Have a great weekend!

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 27, 2018:

Heidi

I looked at this form of advertising a while back, and it seemed good, but my budget wouldn't stretch that far, and I didn't want to have to explain why the credit card was being charged for things that weren't appearing in the mailbox!

At the moment, sales of 'hardcopy' are outstripping eBook sales, but I've got a few plans I'm working on.

I'll certainly keep my eye on Amazon Marketing Service for the future.

Lawrence

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 12, 2017:

Hi Linda! AMS ads were new to me, too, until about a year ago. When Amazon started integrating it into the KDP system, it made it easier to do. If you use it for any Kindle eBooks you launch, let us know how it goes. Thanks for stopping by and have a beautiful day!

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on December 11, 2017:

This is new information for me and is something that I will have to consider carefully. Thank you very much for sharing all the facts, Heidi. I appreciate the education that I'm getting by reading your articles!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 11, 2017:

Hey, Nikki! If you ever write a book that you decide to advertise with Amazon's AMS, let us know how it goes. Happy Monday!

Nikki Khan from London on December 11, 2017:

Great information Heidi Thorne,, can be useful in future,,haven’t used amazon for any advertising purposes though.

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on December 11, 2017:

You're so right, Heidi. The "early days of self-publishing" are gone. I'm writing a nonfiction book entitled The Novel - A Writer's Guide - Discover the Joy of Writing Fiction. In it, I discuss the statistics showing how book publishing is positively exploding. Not just a crowded market, but a glutted one. Keep up the good work, Heidi.

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 11, 2017:

Russ, wow! A $2,000 payment from Amazon is impressive. Kudos on that, even though your recent attempts haven't had similar success. I think part of the issue is that those types of results were possible in the early days of self publishing. But it's become so overcrowded and competitive that it's much more challenging. If you do try AMS, I'd love to hear how it goes for you. Thanks for sharing your experience with us and have a great day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 11, 2017:

Bill, stubborn is good in order to preserve your budget. But if you give it a try one day, I'd love to hear about your experience. Thanks for chiming in and have a great week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 11, 2017:

Dale, I wasn't aware of it for a while either. And I understand it's not been available for too long. So I'm sure this program will continue to evolve and offer opportunities for writers like us. So stay tuned. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 11, 2017:

Flourish, I'd like to think I'm savvy. But I think it's more than I've "learned from experience." ;) Thanks for the kind words and have a lovely week!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 11, 2017:

Robin, glad you agree! Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

Heidi Thorne (author) from Chicago Area on December 11, 2017:

Richard, you got that right! Marketing is way tougher than writing. Let us know how your Sponsored Products ads go. Give it time, though, to start seeing results. Thanks for chiming in and good luck with your NaNoWriMo novel publishing!

Russ Moran - The Write Stuff from Long Island, New York on December 11, 2017:

Thank you so much for your advice on this aspect of selling books online. I've self-published 12 novels since 2013. My first became a number one Amazon bestseller and won five awards. My first payment from Amazon was over $2,000. I thought I had found a great business. Not so. My books since then, which improved with experience, only make a few bucks. I'm going to check out AMS as you suggest. Thanks again for helping us Indies.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on December 11, 2017:

I'm a bit too stubborn to pay Amazon anything, but thanks for the information. Have a superior Monday my friend.

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on December 11, 2017:

Great article, Heidi. I was completely unaware that Amazon had such a service but then, that's the great thing about Hubpages, people like you spread the word about such things. Going to read some more of your work right now.

FlourishAnyway from USA on December 10, 2017:

There is so much to learn from someone as savvy with marketing as you. Excellent!

Robin Carretti from Hightstown on December 10, 2017:

Very nice Amazon is great so many of my ebooks and regular ones and poem are on there too good luck all the best to you

Richard Bivins from Charleston, SC on December 10, 2017:

Once I'm ready to publish the novel I worked on for NaNoWriMo, I intend to use sponsored product ads. The novel is the 3rd in my series and expect it to do as well or better than the previous titles, though I'm not getting my hopes up. Writing is the easy part... Marketing is for the birds...