Many authors wonder if using Amazon advertising to sell books increases sales and is worth the cost. I recently did a trial run of Amazon ads for my travel memoir, Confessions of a Middle-Aged Runaway. So, are were Amazon ads worth it?
Looking at the above screen capture of my print and eBook sales beginning a few days before the ad campaign started through a few days after it ended, it looks like there was an increase in sales. There was, but it’s not quite that simple. Read on.
I have attended webinars and viewed videos of various authors who say that Amazon ads definitely work for them. I have also seen discussions on author forums where others complain the ads don’t work. Since there are lots of options and variables that can be selected and adjusted, it’s no wonder there are conflicting opinions and experiences. It might take some time to get everything dialed in just right, so your experience may be totally different than mine.
Types of Amazon Ads
For those that haven’t tried them yet, there are two types of ads on Amazon:
- Lock screen
I did sponsored ads. There are also two choices for sponsored ads:
- Product targeting
- Keyword targeting
I did keyword targeting. For keyword targeting, you can choose between auto targeting, where Amazon selects the keywords, or manual targeting, where you select the keywords. At first I tried both, but after disappointing results with the auto targeting ads, I decided on only manual keyword targeting ads going forward.
How Amazon Ads Work
Manual keyword ads appear in searches based on the keywords you enter in the ad campaign. A bid price is set for each keyword, which can be changed at any time. A higher bid price than the competition means your ad places higher in the search results. In addition to selecting bids for each keyword, you also set a daily budget for the ad campaign. You are only charged when someone clicks on your ad. If you have a print book and an eBook, you may want to set up an ad campaign for each. That’s what I did.
The ads appear in three locations on each page of the search results when someone searches for books on Amazon using keywords: the top two positions, the middle two positions, and the bottom two positions.
My Amazon Ad Campaign Experiment
My plan was to run the ads for a month to take advantage of the holiday shopping. I decided on a total ad budget of $300 to $400. I started the trial on November 10th, but I stopped the ads on December 5th because I was approaching my budget limit. I began with a $5 daily limit for each ad campaign, but quickly ran out of budget.
When an ad campaign is out of budget, Amazon stops displaying the ads and notifies you that you are about to, or have reached, your daily limit. The ads won’t display again until the next day unless you raise your daily limit. They recommend raising your daily limit in a specific dollar amount. Sometimes I raised the limit and sometimes I didn’t. Sometimes I raised it, but not to the amount they suggested. I also adjusted my keyword bids down as my ad costs started racking up.
During the 25 days of my ad campaigns, there were 556 ad clicks and I sold 31 books directly attributed to the ads. But that’s not the entire story. During those 25 days my total books sales were 53, which means 22 books were sold that were not from clicking on an ad. However, customers could have clicked on an ad, but not bought the book right away. If they later bought the book without clicking on an ad, the sale would not be included in the ad campaign numbers. So it’s difficult to determine how many sales actually came from the ads.
Amazon Sales Without Ads
It’s also difficult to know how many books would have sold without Amazon ads. In the previous month of October, I sold 50 books on Amazon without any ads. I have sold 25 to 60 books on Amazon each month since the book was published in May. I am not including book sales through bookstores and other sources in these numbers.
Although my total ad sales were about $70 more than my ad spend, Amazon doesn’t subtract their share of the profits from the total ad sales. After factoring that in, I lost money.
Why Amazon Ads Work for Some and Not Others
So why do Amazon ads work for some authors and not for others? There could be any number of factors affecting ad sales, including:
- Authors with multiple books
- Larger ad budgets and bids
- Book covers
- Book descriptions
- Author name recognition
- Keyword selection
- Popular subject matter
- Reduced book pricing during the ad campaign
As mentioned above, Amazon ad campaigns can be complicated with lots of tweaking required. Entire courses are offered on how to navigate them. My experiment with Amazon ads was a great learning experiment and I may try them again in the future but, for now, this author is putting Amazon ads on the shelf.
If you have any experience with Amazon ads, I would love to hear about it.