Advertising on Amazon: An Indie Author’s Perspective

4238080094_9d8e672849_oAbout four months ago Amazon started pitching a new advertising service to authors and publishers who distributed ebooks through KDP Select. Indies can pay anywhere from 2 cents to a buck CPC to get their book advertised on Amazon's website. With a minimum ad buy budget of $100 and the option to suspend an ad campaign at any time, Amazon's AMS program (Amazon Marketing Services) is within the reach of the average indie.

So how well does it work?

It's hard to say. Aside from some early reports on KBoard, no first-hand accounts crossed my radar for nearly four months (did I miss something?), but then last week a new post crossed my desk.

Chris McMullen is an indie author, and he published an in-depth report on his experiences in advertising through Amazon. You may have noticed that I included Chris's post in a morning coffee post last week. I was too busy at the time to call it out with the attention it deserved, so today I pulled it out of the pile and reread Chris's post.

It's a great primer on the topic. Chris lays out the benefits:

  • Prime real estate. Your ad shows directly on Amazon product pages, where customers are already shopping for books. You’re not trying to make people leave one site to visit another.

Challenges:

  • Stoppage. Your AMS can actually be stopped due to low relevance by Amazon. Low relevance is either a sign of poor targeting, or a product page that has room for improvement (cover, blurb, Look Inside, even the book idea comes into play here). Your ad is likely to be stopped due to low relevance if your CTR is well under 0.1%. If only 1 out of 3000 people who see your ad click on it, there is a good chance that your ad will be stopped. If your ad is stopped, you can create a new ad, but be sure to strive for more relevant targeting.

And unexpected side effects:

Another thing that I’ve seen are indirect benefits. Many other authors have seen similar indirect benefits. Several authors have seen an increase in borrows. A couple authors reported an increase in borrows, then a decrease in both sales and borrows when the ad stopped, and a return when a new ad was run. A few series authors have reported improvement in other books in the series. But not all authors have seen such improvements; indirect benefits are not guaranteed.

If you're an indie author and haven't read Chris's report, you should. He's basically written the book on AMS, and if not that then he's written a new chapter of a book on how indie authors can use advertising to promote sales.

That's not a new topic, I know. Authors and publishers have been using email blasts like BookBub to promote their books with some success, it's just that indies now have a new option.

Chris McMullen

~~~

So tell me, have you used AMS yet? What did you think? Did it work for you?

image by woodleywonderworks

About Nate Hoffelder (11579 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader:"I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

11 Comments on Advertising on Amazon: An Indie Author’s Perspective

  1. If you have AdBlock installed, these ads may not appear and, if they do, one click removes them all. Authors may not be receiving the full benefit for the money spent.

    • The ad payment terms are cost-per-click, so AdBlock won’t cost indies anything other than an opportunity.

      • It does force them to be exclusive to Amazon, however. That’s a larger cost than I’m willing to pay. I had seen his report and he did a great job analyzing things. It sounds like it can be expensive to figure out how to break even on the deal, but that’s fairly typical of most advertising.

      • McMullen says that your ad may be stopped for low relevance. If no one sees your ad (because it’s blocked), then the CTR will be too low and Amazon will kill the ad. The author may not lose money but he won’t know whether the ads were effective or not.

        • As I understand it, the ad-blocking plugins keep the advert code from running, so it doesn’t call home and ask for an ad to display.

          There’s nothing for Amazon to count.

          • I believe some modules do call Google or Adobe for the ads. Others don’t. And if you use custom filtering, the ads are removed by your computer. If you look quick enough you see the ads for a nanosecond but they disappear before the page fully loads. This, I believe, is how Amazon’s ads work. I don’t see a third party server request.

          • This is true for add-ons/extensions in some browsers, but not all of them. For instance, none of the Chrome extensions that I’m aware of block ads from running; they merely hide them from displaying. Adblock Edge in Firefox, however, does prevent the ad code from running. Of course, some people block ads at their firewall… that definitely prevents them from running.

          • The Adblock Plus app on Adnroid uses a proxy, so it probably also prevents the code from being called.

            Thanks for the confirmation. This is more complicated than I expected.

  2. You say: “With a minimum ad buy of $100…”

    Not so. There is no “minimum” ad buy. The $100 is the minimum total budget, but you can stop running the ad at any time, like after spending a total of 50 cents–or nothing. It’s possible to get thousands of impressions for pennies. There is too much confusion about Amazon KDP cost/click ads, much of the confusion due to the way Amazon has presented the program. The $100 “minimum” budget is to protect Amazon against crazies who bid $1 or even $10 a click for no reason except insanity or ignorance. The Amazon recommended bid is 5 cents/click, but you can bid as low as 2 cents/click, have your ad shown thousands of times (with no clicks) and walk away without spending a cent. Many authors do just that, looking for branding rather than for clicks.

  3. Thanks for sharing your guides on advertising.

    We’re Books Butterfly and we do $0.99 book and free book promotions to our email lists of 125,000+ email subscribers. We have 128,888+ daily active readers across all our sites and blogs and lists.
    We’d really appreciate it if you’d add our site to your lists of useful resources.

    Our Page for Paid Book Promotions
    http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order/paidbookslots/?tag=op250_lists_4_digital-reader

    Our Page for Free Book Promotions http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order/?tag=op250_free_lists_4_digital-reader

    Where we promote: http://www.booksbutterfly.com/order/wherepromote/?tag=op250_digital-reader

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