105 How to Sell More Books with Amazon Ads

Three out of four ebook sales happen on Amazon. It’s the best place in the world to sell books. If 75% of ebooks sales occur on Amazon, how can you maximize your sales there?

We interviewed USA Today bestselling author Lacy Williams about how she uses Amazon Advertising to sell more books. Lacy Williams works in a hostile environment of four young children underfoot. Despite this, she has managed to be a hybrid author since 2011, publishing forty books and novellas. 

In her interview, she shared how her Amazon ad tactics worked for her and how they will work for you.

What are Amazon ads? (AMS)

Thomas: What are Amazon ads?

Lacy: As more books are published on Amazon, discoverability becomes an issue for indie authors. 

Amazon ads allow you to put your book in front of customers while they are in buying mode. Amazon probably already has their credit card information on file, so it will only require one click for an Amazon shopper to buy your ebook.

Two Kinds of Amazon Ads

Product Display Ads

Product display ads are shown when a reader is on their Kindle in the “Store” function. Ads also show on the product pages on Amazon.com. On a product page, you’ll see a book cover on the left, the book’s description in the middle of the page, and the price on the right. Product display ads are shown under the price on the left side of the page. 

Sponsored Product Ads

When you search for a title, genre, or author in Amazon’s search bar, sponsored product ads appear at the top of the search results. Sponsored product ads also appear at the bottom of the book product page under a heading that says, “Sponsored Products Related to This Item.”

Shoppers will see your ad in multiple places on Amazon’s website when they’re looking to buy a book.

Why buy Amazon ads?

Jim: Many authors reason that since most of their friends are on Facebook, Facebook is a better place to buy ads. Why do you use Amazon ads?

Lacy: Marketing gurus have taught us the importance of ad location, and in my experience, Amazon is a better location.

Facebook has changed, and so has the behavior of its users. People on Facebook are less likely than they used to be to click on an ad to purchase an ebook. The ads are becoming more expensive and less effective.

By contrast, when customers search for a product on Amazon, they are already looking to buy something specific. They’re not necessarily looking for free or discounted books. They are looking for a product like the one you’re advertising, and they are ready to spend money.

How do Amazon ads work?

Thomas: How can someone get started buying their own Amazon ads?

Lacy: There are many resources to help authors get started. One free resource is Dave Chesson’s Amazon Ads Course.

If you already have a KDP account, go to your dashboard bookshelf.

Click on Promote and Advertise. You can only advertise books you have listed through Amazon’s KDP platform. 

Amazon ads work on a cost-per-click basis, which means you only pay when people click on your ad. You may get thousands of “impressions,” which is the number of people Amazon shows your ad, and impressions are free. Advertisers only pay when a customer clicks on the ad.

When you create an Amazon ad, you input multiple keywords that you want your ad to show for. For example, if you’ve written a novel about dragons, one of your keywords might be “dragon rider book.” When an Amazon shopper types “dragon rider book” in the search bar, your ad might show. 

I say “might show” because Amazon ads work on an auction system where you bid against other authors using the same keywords. You get to choose how much you will bid for each keyword. You might bid $0.25 or $0.50 for a keyword, but your bid is the most you’ll pay when someone clicks on your ad. In my experience, I usually pay less than my bid. 

Thomas: Amazon ads are primarily a strategy for indie authors. If you’re making $3.00 per book sold, you can afford to spend $0.50 per click to get customers to your book page for a potential sale. On the other hand, if you’re only making $0.80 per book, it doesn’t make much sense to pay $0.50 to get someone to your book page for a possible sale.

How much should an author budget if they want to start buying ads?

Lacy: It’s best to run multiple ads with small daily budgets of $5-$10 per day. Each ad should have at least 500 keywords. The more keywords you use, the more likely you are to make a match when someone searches for a book like yours.

Thomas: The temptation is to use the keyword “romance,” but the bidding for broad keywords (also known as short tail keywords) will be high. You may have to pay $1.00 or more for every click because many people use “romance” as a keyword.

Use specific phrases (also known as long-tail keywords) as keywords. For example, you might use “exciting Amish romance” or “clean cowboy romance.” Using more specific keyword phrases will ensure that your ads are shown to the right people. Bids for such long-tail keywords will also be cheaper than the broad, short-tail keywords.

Use the Google keyword tool to identify long-tail keywords.

How can authors decide on the right keywords?

Lacy: Besides a list of descriptive genre words, your list of keywords can include the following:

Similar Author Names

Go to your own author page and look for Amazon’s list of similar authors on the left side of the page. You can also click on those individual authors and include the names of similar authors listed on their pages as well.

Goodreads also lists authors similar to you, and you include those author names as keywords.

Book or Series Titles

Go to your book’s product page and make a list of the titles and series listed under the “also boughts” section. Include those titles and series in your long list of keywords.

You may also want to visit traditional publisher websites or catalogs to mine for similar titles and series names.

Character Names

If another series in your genre has a popular character name, use that popular character’s name as one of your keywords. Some readers search for books based on characters they love.

Your Own Book Title, Author Name, and Character

Thomas: Be sure to include your own name, title, and characters in your list of keywords. 

How much should an author budget per month, and what is a typical ROI?

Lacy: Once an author has covered their publication costs, I recommend saving a percentage of the profits for a marketing budget. It’s good business practice because you need to market your books in order to sell them.

ROI on Amazon ads has been relatively good. If I pay $0.25 for the four people who clicked on my ad, and one of those people buys my book for $2.99, I will have covered the cost of the ad and earned money in addition.

I’ve tried to run ads for free books and $0.99 books, but ads for books priced at $2.99 or higher are the most effective.

Excellent ad copy (the text you use) targeted to your specific reader will be most effective. Hook your reader with your one compelling sentence in the ad copy.

Ads can also improve your ranking on Amazon and in the book’s specific category. The lower your rank number, the better your ranking. To improve your ranking, you need steady, increasing sales over a period of time. 

When you’re selling more books because of your Amazon ads, you’re also increasing your visibility in the rankings. 

Thomas: If your category ranking is high enough, you’ll get a “Best Seller” badge added to your book’s product page for as long as it’s ranking well. Books near the top get more purchases and, therefore, more reviews. A high number of reviews will help you make more sales.

How hard is it to learn to run Amazon ads?

Jim: There is a lot to learn, but is it as difficult as it sounds?

Lacy: Amazon tries to make it as easy as possible for authors. It’s easier than setting up a book in KDP. In KDP, you have three pages of information to fill out. The ads platform only has one page to fill out. 

The hardest part is crafting the right ad copy. The best course of action for deciding what will work best for your ad is testing each option. Run two ads that are identical except for the ad copy. See which ad gets more clicks, and then use the best-performing copy on your future ads. This method is called a split test

If your ad copy isn’t working, you can pause the ad, tweak the copy and make adjustments.

Thomas: You won’t make a sale simply by sending people to an Amazon page. Your book page on Amazon must be well-crafted and compelling in order to make a sale. Good advertising can’t fix bad marketing.

Authors who have non-compelling books or copy often believe that Amazon ads don’t work. In reality, the poorly written ad copy keeps the book from selling. 

Ineffective ads are usually a symptom of a deeper problem. Maybe the book isn’t a good fit for the market they’re trying to reach, or perhaps the author hasn’t explained why their book is a good fit for the market.

Jim: Amazon is motivated to help you sell more books because they make money when you do. They want to use the data they’ve collected to help you sell more books, so they design their ads to work. If you do your part in writing a great book and compelling ad copy, Amazon ads will do their part to help you sell books.

Learn more about Lacy and her novels at LacyWilliams.net

Authors can also find her series of Smart Indie books on Amazon.

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