Keith Dixon, the two-time winner of the Chanticleer Reviews CLUE First in Category award for Private Eye/Noir novel and Author of the Sam Dyke Investigations series used Amazon Ads to drive 13000 downloads of his free Book – ‘One Punch‘ and push the sales and reviews of all his other books. Writing since he was thirteen years old in a number of different genres: thriller, espionage, science fiction, literary, In addition to the seven books in the Sam Dyke Investigations series he has also written two other non-crime works, as well as his new series of Paul Storey Thrillers. In this article he packs a punch giving a step by step guide to using Amazon Ads to your advantage, based on his on experience.
Self-published authors – and commercial publishers, too – are always on the lookout for new and better ways to advertise their books. I’ve been self-publishing since 2006 and have tried every technique under the sun, none of which, in the end, has turned into the silver bullet for sales. There have been many sites that promised thousands of downloads, if you only plunk down your $10, $20 or $50 for a mere day’s exposure. King of the hill currently is BookBub – but as you probably know, this is highly expensive and selective, and while the results are said to be good, it’s not easy – or cheap – to participate. Another contender has been Facebook Advertising, and there have been many courses and books and Facebook posts about the success to be had with their advertising system. The best results, though, seem to be the outcome of a kind of forensic analysis that can take weeks to achieve, all the while costing you money.
However, the latest technique to garner interest seems to work better than most, so I’m going to write a little about Amazon Ads, which are promoted through their AMS (Amazon Marketing Services) function. I’m not a marketing expert and I haven’t spent time forensically analyzing my marketing results, though I have done a couple of online courses and picked up some useful tips that I now incorporate into my own adverts. All I can say is that what I’m going to describe below has worked for me in doubling my revenue in the last couple of months by driving 13000 downloads of a free book, at an advertising cost way lower than BookBub. Those downloads have led to more reviews and more sales of my existing books.
So, how do you begin? You join up by navigating to https://ams.amazon.com/ and clicking ‘Start advertising’.
As an author, you have to be selling through Amazon’s KDP service (not necessarily KDP Select), and you choose that option on the next page.
When you arrive at the point where you can Start a New Campaign, the best option according to most authors is to choose Sponsored Products. You’ll then be asked which of your books you’d like to choose to promote, and once you’ve chosen it you arrive at a page where you can start to make some decisions and write your copy. You can’t change the image used in the advert – it’s the cover of the book you’ve chosen.
PLANNING YOUR BUDGET STRATEGY
Now you’ll be asked to name your campaign – the book title and date/time of the advert are suggested automatically. The next box is for you to name your average daily budget, and this is the first test. There’s a temptation to start low, and suggest $2, or $4 or something similar. The thing is, on Amazon ads you only pay for your advert per click, and it’s likely that early in the process you won’t get many clicks – so you won’t use up your daily budget. However, if you go low with your budget here, it suggests to Amazon that you’re not serious about the advert and it might not be served to many people anyway. So instead go high – start with at least $10 for your daily budget and monitor it carefully. If you reach that limit – hey, that’s good because lots of people are clicking your advert. So then check whether they’re buying your book and that you’re making your money back.
TIME PERIOD OF THE ADVERT
Next, you choose whether to let the advert run continuously or to have a date range. That’s entirely up to you as you can stop or pause the advert whenever you like. I suppose if you let it run continuously there’s a danger you forget about it and constantly drain money (if the advert isn’t doing well).
CHOOSING YOUR TARGET AUDIENCE
The stage after this is to choose whether to let AMS target for you, based on your product information, or for you to target your audience manually. The general consensus is that manual targeting is best, and when you click this option the ‘Add keywords’ option becomes available to you.
These are not the same keywords as you use when uploading your book to KDP – the 7 words or phrases that you choose to entice searchers to find your book. Here you can use up to 1000 keywords or phrases, and the best advice is to get as close to those 1000 as you can. Amazon suggests 200 is a good number, but the practitioners have found that the more you have, the more distribution you’ll get. You can use author names and book titles as keywords, and apparently one of the best performing keywords is simply ‘book’! You can use Goodreads’ Listopia to find lists of books in particular genres and of course there are dozens if not hundreds of other lists available online. The system will tell you if you’re duplicating any and then wait for you to go through the list and weed them out – it tells you which ones are being duplicated so it’s not hard to find them.
COST PER CLICK
You’ll also see a box to nominate the Cost-per-Click (CPC) bid that you’re willing to make for each keyword. Amazon Ads runs like most advertising on the internet in that you’re in competition with other advertisers for space, and what wins you that space is how high you’re willing to bid for it. The default setting is 25 cents, but you should start at least at 31 cents, with the understanding that others might raise their bids from 25 to 30 cents, so a bid of 31 cents will still outbid them. If your advert doesn’t get many impressions, it may be that your bid isn’t high enough, so watch out for the number of impressions you accumulate.
Finally, you get to the juicy bit, where you can write your advertising copy. This is heavily policed by Amazon – you can’t use star ratings, reviewer quotes or comparisons to other authors. You can’t even state what sales rank your book has reached (they argue that this shifts so might not be accurate when someone sees the advert.) So go for something short and punchy. And did I mention you only have 150 characters to play with? That’s like a slightly extended tweet, so there’s not much room for fancy writin’. Get into the characters, or the conflict, and don’t worry overmuch about describing the story or plot.
The advert text that earned me the highest number of clicks read:
Paul Storey is an ex-cop looking for a job. Bran Doyle was a boxer but now he needs a driver. Seems a perfect fit – until the first body turns up …
This describes the main characters but only hints at the plot, with a teaser for the sort of book it is—i.e. a crime novel. So work on your text until it’s pithy and acts like a real hook for people who are only seeing your advert in passing.
Once you’ve written your text and checked it five thousand times for grammar and spelling and punctuation, you can hit the Launch Campaign button and it will go to Amazon’s review panel—i.e. some guy or gal in Mumbai who’ll check it for any of the no-no’s I mentioned above. And in anywhere from 15 minutes to 36 hours (I’ve had both) it will be approved and start gaining impressions. From the dashboard you’ll see the number of impressions the advert is earning, the number of clicks it’s getting, the average bid cost, how much you’re spending and how much the book is earning – which is a summary of sales, not your earnings from those sales. One thing to note about the dashboard is that it’s very flaky. Amazon says that your sales results will show up within 3 days. So you’ll see impressions and clicks but apparently no sales from those until 3 days later. However, they’ve also admitted in private emails that it can take 14 days for the real figures to materialize – so the lesson is not to take the dashboard seriously. The advantages I saw early on came from sales of other books, more than from the one I was advertising. So keep track of the average sales of your other books (if you have them).
KNOW WHEN TO PULL THE PLUG
If the advert doesn’t start to rack up impressions in the first 12-24 hours, consider canning it and trying another. If an advert is going to work, it often hits the ground running and starts accumulating impressions quickly. If it’s not hitting 2-3000 impressions in the first day, watch it closely and stop it if it doesn’t improve. Then try again.
No one said this stuff was easy.
Learn more about Keith at
Website: Keith Dixon‘s Novels
Blog: Crime Writing Confidential