Amazon Ads Before-After snip

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
  • Sponsored

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.

8 thoughts on “Do Amazon Ads Work for Books?

  1. What an experience! I’m sure this particular blog will be very helpful to those trying to sell their books through Amazon Ads – and I hope you get some feedback from others who have used it. As if writing and publishing a book isn’t enough work – promoting and selling it is a huge undertaking. Keep up the good work, Heidi. You’re selling books, and I hope you sell a whole lot more!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have several books for sale at Amazon and I haven’t ever used the ads, so I found this fascinating reading. I’ve also considered using BookBub for a 99¢ promo, but haven’t been able to sort out whether it would pay off. (I’d love to read about your experience there if you decide to ever try that!) Great article, thanks!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ardenrembertbrink, thanks so much for your comment, and congratulations on publishing several books! I’m glad you found the article helpful and I really appreciate the feedback. I haven’t tried BookBub yet, but if I do, I will definitely write a blog post about it. If you like, you can follow my blog to get future updates. Happy Holidays!


      1. Hi, Heidi — Yep, I’ve followed your blog for a while; I enjoyed your book — at this point I’m an “armchair traveler” since we returned from living in Costa Rica to live in Utah and help care for our grandchildren. We love being with them, so no complaints, but I still fantasize about some RV traveling. As a fellow writer, I’ve found your posts about writing and publishing interesting too! Happy holidays to you!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, Heidi — Yes, two of my books are about living in Costa Rica. One, Unraveling the Mysteries of Moving to Costa Rica is part personal story of our own move (with my two parents, in their 80s, two dogs, and two cats) and part “practical advice” about the actual logistics of the move itself (whether or not to ship, how to ship, etc.). Then the second, Reality Check, acknowledges that we absolutely loved our years in Costa Rica, truly immersed ourselves in the experience, but even so, moved back to the States at some point as do most people who move there. It is written NOT to be discouraging of the move at all — I genuinely think it’s something that makes an unbelievable life adventure that many folks will find wonderful and even life-changing — but to *encourage* looking at the whole thing with a more clear-eyed view, most notably of the “fact” that it’s very likely not to be forever, and being more aware and realistic about that *might* help you make better decisions. We saw so many friends get really trapped there, sometimes for years, waiting to sell properties that were so unique to their own needs (that they’d built assuming they’d be there forever) and similar issues. The third book is totally different, The Power of Acceptance, and is co-authored with a life coach where I wrote the sort-of “woo-woo” fictional first half of the book and she wrote the nuts-and-bolts second half. Got a couple more in the works now, but I’m a ridiculously slow writer (haha, love to read too much, plus spend a good bit of time taking care of my grand-kids plus still have a business in Costa Rica) so who knows when they’ll be out. 😉


      Liked by 1 person

      1. Arden, I think your books must be incredibly valuable to anyone considering a move to Costa Rica–or any other country. I found it so interesting that you said most people end up moving back to the U.S. I hadn’t considered that, but the one person I know of who moved to South America ended up moving back for his end of life. Thanks so much for your comments! I will add your books to my reading list.

        Liked by 1 person

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