Amazon Ads: A discussion

A love a good round table talk about things that are working in the indie community. Be it a new marketing tactic or a new way of doing things, I’m all in. I may not take any action–mostly because I know I’m not already doing what I could using tried and true methods, like building a newsletter. But I really enjoy reading discussions about something I’ve tried and can compare what their opinions and expreiences, especially when heavy-hitters in the industry weigh in with what is working for them–and what isn’t.

Trust me, if something isn’t working for them–you’re not going to get it to work for you.

And as always, we have to think of what our definition of success is. When it comes to selling books, that may mean one stranger buying your book. That may mean your first review from someone you don’t know. When you get to the people who are trying to make a living, usually their version of success is making money to live on, quitting their day jobs, maybe using their royalties to have a more comfortable retirement. Indies just starting out think small. A book here, a book there, clicks and tons of impressions are all that is needed to spur them on. I get annoyed, mostly because if you think small, you’ll be happy with peanuts. Someday I would like to quit my day job. I doubt that will never happen, but if I don’t at least aim for it, it won’t, for sure.

So I was pleasantly surprised when I stubbled upon a discussion in the Self Publishing Formula Facebook group headed by Mark Dawson. Mark runs an ads course and is a very successful indie in his own right. Other big names who were chiming in included AG Riddle and Russell Blake. I really want to copy and paste parts of the discussion, but it’s a private group and I don’t want to get kicked out. If you’re an indie and want to join, the link is here: SPF Community.

AG posted a poll: Do Amazon Ads work? In later comments he amended his question to, Do Amazon Ads work right now? And I feel that while some people are still getting their ads to work, the consensus was actually, no they don’t.

At least, not in the way we hope they will.

Lots of things come into play here, and the one that I’m reminded of most is that while Amazon Ads won’t let your book sink down the rankings into obscurity, what you want the ads to do is help your book get sticky enough that Amazon helps you sell it. Email blasts, recommending your book, hitting the popularity list being chosen for a Kindle Daily Deal. Ads alone aren’t going to help you do this. This is what I gleaned from the conversation, and you can tell me if you agree.

Do Amazon Ads work?

*Yes. If you have a series. Someone commented and said that ads don’t truly work if you’re counting on read through to cover the cost of the click. This is a good point and why the number one piece of advice is to write in a series. But the ad is still putting book one in front of readers. It’s up to the strength of the book (is it well-written) and if the other books are available if the ad spend is going to be worth it.

Let’s look at the cost of a click for a standalone book at .99. You don’t get .99 off that sale–your max royalty amount is 35%, so about .35 cents. If you bid .35 on a click, you’re breaking even, right? That’s what I’m doing right now on my first in series. I put it on sale for .99 until the end of the year because it’s a holiday romance. My other books in that series are 2.99. With dynamic bids down, my clicks won’t always cost the exact amount I bid, and I may make .10-.15 on that first book. My others are priced at 2.99, in which I get my 70% royalty, or 2.09.

*Yes. If your book sells well at full price or is in KU. I’ll make more off a .99 cent book in KU than I will selling it for that price. I can spend .35 a click because a full KU read of book one will earn me 1.35. Which is a dollar in royalties.

*Yes. If you have all your categories and targeting situated. There’s nothing Amazon hates more than showing your book to people who won’t buy it. It’s a waste of time for them and for their customer. Customer satisfaction is all Amazon wants and if you’re trying to show your book to as many people as possible and you lose relevancy, Amazon will stop showing it. That’s tough for authors who genre-mash, write without thinking and have no idea what their genre is, or have poor product pages. I didn’t consider why an ad would stop working until I read Robert J Ryan’s book, Amazon Ads Unleashed.

*Yes. If your book is a good product and has the reviews to prove it. There’s not much to say here, and I’ll quote two of the comments:

Ads can only give extra visibility to what you’ve got – they can’t make it sell better. The product does the selling, not the ads.

Robert J Ryan

A very long time ago I got a degree in advertising. One of the bits of wisdom I remember is that good advertising will kill a bad product quicker.

Jennifer L Anderson

*Yes. If you know how to use them. Figuring out how the platform works takes a bit of time, and even though you may not spend much, if you want to see traction, you have to be able to afford some spending money for clicks. As I write this, I’m 19 dollars ahead for the month, but I wouldn’t be there if I couldn’t afford the 10 dollars I’ve already spent on clicks.

The problem is, Amazon ads will help you, but by a very thin margin. Using ads won’t make you a millionaire over night. I break even every month, sometimes make a little–a cup of coffee little. I have ten books out, I’m writing more (or trying to. My life has been a bit trying lately), and my covers, at least, I think, are on point even if I’ve done them myself. It took a long time for me to realize I wasn’t writing what was selling, and lots of authors do that. Maybe they’re writing fantasy, but they aren’t hitting the tropes. Maybe they’re planning a series, but only have book one released.

It’s obvious the better product you have, the more successful you’ll be. Mark Dawson has professional covers, and he writes in a couple popular series. Plus, he’s a good writer. I think all the big indies who have “made it” can safely assume their writing is good and resonates with readers. If you’re pushing water up hill as Robert J. Ryan likes to say in his book, then you need to take a look at the product, not blame the ads.

I enjoyed the discussion very much, and I hope you look it up if you haven’t. I think one of the key takeaways from the discussion is that everyone agreed they used to work better than they do right now. The market is super saturated, and by some very talented authors. We have to work with what we’ve got, and using other platforms in conjunction with Amazon ads may be the better way to go. All the big indies who joined in the discussion have large email lists and they use ads to bring new readers in, not keep readers from disappearing. That’s an important observation, and one I have taken note of.

Have you found a secret ingredient to make Amazon ads work for you? Let me know!


Amazon Also-Boughts. Just a quick word about why they’re important.

Not many first-time authors know how important their also-boughts are on Amazon sales page.

I didn’t either.

When you’re a new author, and your friends are published authors, your also-boughts probably reflect that because you’ll buy each other’s books. Chances are your friends write in different genres so your also-boughts are full of steampunk, urban fantasy, and fantasy when you write romance. We laugh and take screenshots because Amazon has linked us to our Twitter friends.

That’s less than ideal because this is Amazon telling you they don’t know where your book goes on the virtual bookshelf. This is bad.

If Amazon doesn’t know what your book is, they can’t recommend it to readers in the correct genre.

This is why when someone on Twitter says they have birthday money and want to buy a couple of indie books, I get mad at all the people who try to entice them into buying their books. When it comes to Amazon, the biggest book retailer in the United States, a sale isn’t just a sale. I stopped advertising my books on writer Twitter a long time ago.

 

Why do you care what the also-boughts are on your books product page? Because when Amazon knows what genre your book is, Amazon will put your book in other authors also-boughts. This is really powerful. This is like free advertising. Amazon recommending your book on another books’ sales pages? Yes, please.

This is why you don’t want just anyone buying your books. You want readers in your genre buying your books.

This also goes for the first wave of sales that go to your family and your friends. Don’t ask them to buy if that’s not what they read and buy from Amazon on a regular basis. I know it’s hard, but training Amazon to know what you’re selling is beneficial in other ways. Mainly, ads.

Did you know Amazon won’t show your ad, no matter how much you bid, if the algorithms say no one is buying it? Amazon wants to make money. If they can’t make money selling your book, they’ll bury it.

But, you might say, they’re getting my money from ads with cost per click, right?

Yes, but that’s only 50% of what they can make if people are clicking and not buying. Amazon wants their 30% of your book royalties, too, and they go with the sure thing.

Training Amazon to know what genre you publish in is half the battle. That’s why you hear from established authors that say you shouldn’t genre-hop until you have an established audience.

Loading your book into Yasiv if to see if your book is connected to others in your genre is a good start. If it’s not, buy some promos. Your first order of business is getting readers of your genre to buy your book.

The second is to write more books.

The 3rd is to stop asking just anybody to buy it. If you’re hoping for reviews, give your book away.

You want Amazon to show your book to people who read in your genre. They’ll even email readers suggestions of books they might enjoy. We all get those emails. It takes a little work, but in the end it can be worth it.

What are my also-boughts like?

all of nothing also boughts

All of Nothing‘s also-boughts are solid. It’s my biggest seller (which isn’t saying much) but I’ve done the most ads for it.

The Years Between Us needs some work, apparently, and I’ll be doing a promo for it for my birthday coming up. I still need to change out the blurb though. This isn’t good, and I’ll be taking my own advice.

also boughts for the years between us


Want to learn more about also-boughts? Read Chris Fox’s Six Figure Author. He goes in depth with also-boughts and the Amazon algorithms.

What to hear more about how Amazon sells your book? Listen to an interview with author Russell Blake and Michael Beverly who runs AMS Ad Werks, an Amazon Ad management company. Listen to Joanna’s podcast here (or read the transcript).

Michael was also on the Self-Publishing Show with Mark Dawson and James Blatch. You can listen to the podcast, or watch them on YouTube.

 

That’s all I have for today! With the holidays coming, I can’t guarantee I’ll stay on a consistent schedule, but I’ll try.

I hope you all have a splendid week ahead!


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Another try with Amazon Ads. Am I finally selling some books?

amazon advertising logo

If you don’t follow Bryan Cohen then you should. Follow him on Instagram, Facebook, and listen to the podcast he hosts with Jim Kukral.

This guy knows what he’s talking about with Amazon ads, and a lot of the stuff he puts out into social media is free. Don’t get me wrong, some of what he puts out there is a hook to get you to buy some of his courses, but he’s a businessman, and well, that’s what they do. But following him on social media for the free tidbits is totally worth it if you’re starting at zero.

I was starting at zero, and even though I had read Brian Meeks’ book on the subject, trying what he suggested didn’t move the needle. But to be fair, that was a while back and I didn’t have as many books published as I do now. They didn’t have the good covers they do now, and I didn’t know how to find keywords.

Bryan Cohen has a different approach, and I totally encourage you to try different things. We all publish different kinds of books, and lots of people get frustrated when something kills it for someone but then they try it and it does nothing, or even worse, it wastes money.

I took a free 5 day ad challenge Bryan hosted a couple weeks ago on Facebook. Of course, it was to sell an ad course that I didn’t buy because I couldn’t afford it (did you know scraping a cat’s bladder for stones cost 2,600 dollars? Yeah, Harley is fine now.), but during the five days I did his challenge, I learned a lot about ads, and more specifically, where to find keywords.

Keywords will make or break your ads. And I know you’re going to call me a cop-out writing this blog post and not telling you where to find them. But in a show of integrity and out of respect for Bryan, I’ll point you in his direction and let him tell you how (or you can use Publisher Rocket, or try Alex’s K-lytics and read his blog). After all, I wouldn’t know what I know without his help, and I’m all about attribution. I will feel comfortable saying this though: all my keywords are titles of bestselling books in my genre that are in KU. How you go about assembling this list will be up to you, but using a list comprised of titles that sell that are similar to yours works.

I started the challenge on September 20th, 2019. He told us to focus on one book, so I chose All of Nothing. That still proves to be my strongest book, and it’s made me the most money with the challenge. After the 5 day challenge was over, I did ads for my other two standalone books, and All of Nothing still blows it out of the water.

Since September 20th, on my three standalones I’ve had 110,709 impressions (impressions are free), 226 clicks, and $50.29 worth of ad spend. That might seem like a little bit of money to you, but remember that you’re hopefully earning most, if not all and beyond, that money back. Those stats are based on 42 ads. All of Nothing has the most, which may be why I’m selling more of that book, at 27 ads running right now. Some are from the challenge and some are ones I did on my own. Wherever He Goes has 7, and The Years Between Us has 8. I focused on keyword ads and I wrote a couple lines of my own ad copy for each ad. Bryan said to bid low, and while that’s up to you, I’m getting clicks and impressions with bids under 40 cents, which is really good considering my genre is contemporary romance, and that is a highly competitive genre. Keep in mind you don’t necessarily pay 40 cents just because you bid it. My cost per click average is .22 cents.

Now, I’ll tell you how much I’ve made since September 20, 2019, and learning ads is going to be a slow process. If you break even when you first start out, you should consider that a success.

To accurately know how much you’ve made, I suggest you use BookReport. It’s free until

bryan ad on instagram

These tips are a great reason to follow Bryan Cohen Blurbs on IG!

your monthly earnings exceed 1,000 dollars. That will tell you how much you’ve made with sales and KU READS. Your ads dashboard does not include KU reads, so if you’re in KU and you see you’ve spent 50 dollars on ads, but only made 13 dollars in sales, those are Kindle/paperback sales, and not KU reads. Bryan was very adamant about making sure we knew that. You could turn off a profitable ad not figuring in your KU page reads, so make sure you take those into consideration. After all, those are the main reason we’re in KU–so don’t forget to include them in your sales data.

I check my ad spend and sales every morning before I go into the writing, and today my ad spend is since I started the challenge, like I said, is $50.29.

What I’ve made so far since I started the challenge is 55.06. I’ve made 5 bucks. That might not seem like a lot, and it’s not. Not in the grand scheme of things. But I’m in it for more than the cash right now, so let’s look at what else we can glean from this data:

book report for ad challenge for blog

book report for ad challenge for blog 2

BookReport shows me that I’m getting sales as well as page reads. This is super since I wasn’t barely getting anything before the challenge, never mind when I was wide and trying to get traction spending money on promos.

All of Nothing has had 10 sales, and 7,894 page reads. All of Nothing is 420 KENPC, so if you divide 7894 by 420, you get the equivalent of 18.79 (almost 19) books read. For me, that’s pretty good for sales.

The Years Between Us is less at 420, so without doing the math, 603 is the equivalent of about 2 books read. Wherever He Goes, I can say just one book in KU page reads was read.

At this stage of the game, I’m happy with breaking even. Why?

  • Readers are seeing my ads. With a low bid, this is a big deal. Lots of people think they need to bid high to be seen, and clearly, that’s not the case. Bryan did not tell us to go after the big-named trad authors in our genre. He told us to target authors that are in KU in our genre that are doing well. Should I target Lauren Landish or Nora Roberts? Which obviously would be cheaper? Lauren is in KU and number one at the time of writing.
  • I’m getting clicks. This is also a big deal. Why? Because it tells me my covers are good and my ad copy is pulling readers in to click my ad and take a look at my product page.
  • I’m getting sales, though small ones. Part of ad maintenance is making sure your clicks convert to sales. If they aren’t, then something is wrong with your sales page. Maybe your blurb is bad, or your look inside doesn’t sound good. You’re losing readers between the click and the sale. Maybe your cover doesn’t hit the mark after all (or maybe you’re not in KU and readers were hoping you would be). Maybe based on your cover they thought it would be about one thing, but then they read your blurb and thought it was about something else. It could be anything, so make sure you keep up with clicks and if they are turning into sales.
  • Hopefully some of these sales and KU reads will turn into more reviews. I need reviews and if people enjoy my books, maybe down the road they’ll leave a review.

Ads aren’t always about making money. When you’re starting out you don’t want to lose money, but you’re also paying for exposure and hopefully reviews.

What am I going to do moving forward?

  • Keep an eye on my ads. Obviously a five dollar return can quickly go from plus to minus, so I will need to make sure I’m always earning or at least breaking even.
  • Work on my ad copy. Find a hook and reel in your readers.
  • Do more ads for All of Nothing. If that book is going to be my biggest earner, I need to exploit that.
  • Explore ads for my trilogy. Someone read Chasing You, so my trilogy has read-through potential. I always forget that they are decent books and people are reading all three of them. In my head I’ve kind of written them off as average, but maybe if I throw some ads at Don’t Run Away, the trilogy will make me some money. (I’ll need to rewrite the blurbs for those books and put in better keywords in my KDP dashboard before I try ads with those.)
  • Look for more keywords. New books pop up on the bestseller list all the time.  Keep adding titles to your keyword list.
  • Have patience. It’s easy to want to bid high, but Bryan has taught me that I can get impressions and clicks and not go broke. I’m going to follow his advice and keep my bids low.

I feel like that 5 day challenge was successful. His ad course digs a lot deeper into other things but I’ll take what I can for now. Learning ad copy and not being afraid to create more ads is what I’ll be focusing on for the next little while.

What do you need to do before you do ads?

  • Know your genre. If you don’t know your genre you don’t know what authors to target.
  • Make sure your cover is genre-appropriate. If you don’t run ads with ad copy, all your potential readers will see is your book cover. A picture is worth a thousand words, and it really is if that’s all your using to draw readers in.

    ads without ad copy

    The ad without ad copy sticks out, huh? But she’s got a hot cover, so it’s not so bad. 🙂

  • Make sure your blurb sounds good on your product page. Make it look good too with bold and spaces between paragraphs.
  • Make sure your price is genre-appropriate. Before the challenge, I lowered my prices from 4.99 to 2.99. Without testing I won’t know for sure if the lower price is helping people buy. That’s marketing strategy, and you’ll have to decide for yourself.
  • Fix the keywords in your KDP dashboard. I did a blog post about how to find real ones for your books. You can also search blurbs of books that are similar to yours and if the same words keep popping up (like action-packed) then include those too. You’re not limited to 7 just because there are seven spaces.

I’m not an expert at any of this. All I can tell you is what is working for me. Slow or otherwise. In the past 21 days I feel like I’ve finally found something that might work to get my books in front of readers. Hopefully it will help you too!

Thanks if you’ve made it this far. I’ll keep plugging away and I’ll start giving you guys monthly updates! Have a great weekend!

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