After much testing myself, I have become a big fan of Amazon ads for nonfiction books. When done correctly, these ads can have high conversion rates and can significantly increase your book sales numbers and revenue.
If you’re not yet familiar with Amazon ads, these are created through your KDP account so you must have at least one edition of your book set up through Amazon KDP (Kindle or print book). From there you can click on the “Promote and Advertise” link to be taken to Amazon Advertising.
There are two types of ads:
- Sponsored Products – These are pay-per-click ads that put your book into search results and in the “Sponsored Products” section on product pages, and these are the focus of this article. With pay-per-click ads, you only pay when someone clicks on the ad, not when it’s displayed. Your ad could potentially receive thousands of impressions (views) before it’s clicked, so there is an added benefit of increasing visibility and recognition for your book with those free impressions.
- Lock Screen Ads – These are ads on the lock screen for Kindle users. As a Kindle reader, I find them mildly annoying.
And there are two targeting options:
- Manual Targeting – This allows you to choose the keyword phrases for your ad, and then set bid rates for each keyword.
- Automatic Targeting – In this case, you let Amazon put its algorithms to work and serve up your ads for you.
I recommend setting up two ads for your book: One manual and one automatic. Read on for essential steps to make sure your ads convert to book sales.
- Know Your Audience
No amount of advertising can work properly if you haven’t clearly identified your ideal readers. Get as specific as possible. Who are they? What books do they read? What do they care about? No book on the planet is a fit for everyone. Who is your book ideal for?
This isn’t a decision to pull out of the sky, because that won’t work either. You have to identify who is most likely to read your book. Here are some examples:
- Memoir about your uncle’s World War II experience? You’ll want to target war buffs (there are many of them!), history lovers, veterans, and possibly military families. Even if you believe in your soul that everyone can learn from the stories in your book, not everyone will be inclined to read it unless it’s in their personal wheelhouse.
- Guide to saving money at tax time? This is a broad subject that you may think will appeal to many, but some of us (like me) prefer to outsource these decisions to professionals. You’ll need to focus on readers who are do-it-yourselfers, frugal, and perhaps have a background in accounting.
- Narrative nonfiction book profiling powerful women in history? I wish I could tell you all women will want to read it, but they won’t. The reality is that not all women are inspired by these stories; too many are just trying to get through the day! We each have our personal interests and causes, so only a percentage of the female population will share your passion. You’ll need to find readers interested in empowerment, career growth, advocacy, and political issues.
- Memoir about your life? You’ve got to find some hooks in there, especially if you don’t have your own reality show. The majority of memoirs are purchased because the author is famous. The other reason is that the reader identifies with something in the story. You’ve got to mine for the gold in your story. Does it discuss alcoholism in your family? There are many readers who seek out books on addiction. Did you triumph over an illness, accident, or trauma? These are all relatable stories that others are interested in. Is it set in a big city? Readers who live in that city may be more inclined to read it simply based on recognition. Find the hooks in your book!
- Optimize Your Book Page
Once an Amazon shopper clicks on your ad, the job of your book page is to convert visitors into buyers. Keys to a great book page:
- Attractive, professionally-designed book cover image. (Please, please, please hire a professional book cover designer.)
- Compelling sales copy that makes readers want to buy. This alone can be an art.
- Author bio and photo that shows why you’re the person to write this book. (This comes from your Author Central account.)
- As many reviews as possible. I know this isn’t easy, but generating positive reviews for your book should be an ongoing effort. Book reviews lead to sales on Amazon for a variety of reasons.
- Research Plenty of Keywords
When setting up keyword-based ads, also known as “manual targeting,” your primary goal should be to identify as many relevant keyword phrases as possible. The idea here is to get inside the minds of your readers and ask yourself the following questions:
- What keyword phrases would readers type in to search for a book like yours? For example, if you’ve authored a memoir about your journey with Diabetes, your phrases might include: “diabetes memoir,” “how to live with diabetes,” “diabetes type 1,” “diabetes type 2,” “tips for diabetes,” etc.
- What books are similar to yours? Search for titles in your genre and build a list. It’s essential to drill down and dig into Amazon search results to find as many titles as possible. Scroll through categories, look in the “customers also liked” section, and in the “sponsored products” section.
- What books appeal to your target readers? Are there books that aren’t direct competitors to yours that would also be a good match? Using the Diabetes example, perhaps guide books about Diabetes health management would be a good match, or cookbooks for sugar-free baking.
- Who are the authors who compete with you? Write down each author name for all the book titles that you identify.
Dedicate time to doing this research. This is not something that should be done in ten minutes. Carve out focused time to search Amazon for similar books and authors and build a substantial list of keyword phrases. The goal here is to make sure ads for your book appear when shoppers view the books, authors, and keyword phrases you’ve chosen. Aim for a minimum of 50 relevant keyword phrases, though more can be even better.
- Avoid Keywords that Don’t Align with Your Audience
It may be tempting to add book titles, authors, or keyword phrases that are outside of your genre. You might think, I love Annie Author so I want my book to show up by her titles, too! This strategy is like throwing uncooked spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. It’s highly unlikely it will work unless you identify books and authors that appeal to the same audience as yours.
- Let Amazon Do its Job
After creating an ad based on at least 50 keywords you’ve identified, create a second ad for “Automatic Targeting.” This means that you’ll allow Amazon to put its algorithms to work and promote your book for you. You’ll still pay based on clicks, and you’ll have no control over when, how, or where those ads appear, but chances are good that Amazon will find a way to convert your ads over time.
Think about this way: Amazon wants your ads to work! They’re earning money from your ads on both sides—both in the price you pay for clicks and in the revenue generated for each sale. It’s in Amazon’s best interest to make sure your ads convert to sales so that you’ll keep advertising and you’ll both keep selling books.
- Understand ROI
The primary goal with any paid advertising is to earn back a Return on Investment (ROI). This means that for every dollar you spend, you should earn back at least $1.05 (a whopping $.05 profit). Ideally, you should earn much more than that, but realistically, earning anything over what you’ve invested in advertising is technically a win.
The ultimate goal is to keep improving the conversion rate to maximize ROI. For example, if you spend $300 on Amazon ads and earn back $350, you’re ahead (not counting expenses, time, etc.). But what if you earned back $600, $800, or $1,000 or more from that $300 investment? I can tell you from experience these earnings are absolutely possible with Amazon ads, and these higher returns should be your ultimate goal with ads.
- Use an Effective Bid Strategy
When setting up your ads, Amazon will show you a suggested bid rate for each keyword, based on current demand. You can bid lower than the suggested rate, but if you that, you risk your ads getting knocked down behind the competition, or not served up at all.
If you want to go all-in on your ads, start by using the maximum bid rate recommended by Amazon. It may sound like a lot to bid $.45 or even $1.00 on a single click, but focus on the bigger picture and overall goal. You only pay Amazon once someone clicks on your ad, and a user only clicks if they are interested in your book. If your book page is optimized to convert visitors into buyers, you should earn back that $.45 or $1.00 many times over.
- Set the Right Budget
You will set a daily budget with Amazon, and once that budget is exhausted, your ads are turned off for the day. It’s important to give your ads a fair chance to succeed which is why I recommend authors begin with a daily budget of at least $10. This will add up to about $300 per month.
For most authors, you won’t even be able to exhaust a daily budget of $10 or $20 because Amazon can’t serve up ads fast enough. (I wish they could.) But conversely, if you set a daily budget of just $2 or $3, and your average bids cost $.75, your ads will likely disappear before lunchtime. This means you’ll miss out on a large chunk of advertising time each day.
If you can afford it, set your daily budget even higher. My ads are set to $50 per day, though my daily budget has never been fully utilized, despite the fact that those ads are performing well. The challenge is that Amazon can only serve up your ads so many times in a day, unless you’re targeting thousands of keywords. Most niche books like mine don’t match up with enough searches and clicks to spend $50 per day. But I don’t ever want to risk missing an opportunity on ads that convert well so my daily budget is set high.
- Give Ads Time to Perform
All advertising involves testing because what works for one product may not work for the next. This is true for books as well. Setting up ads and running them for a few days will not give you a fair assessment of how your ads are performing. I strongly recommend letting your ads run for at least 30 days. This gives your ads time to gain some momentum and history.
- Evaluate and Tune Your Ads
You can login to you Amazon Ads dashboard at any time and review your ad performance. For manual ads, you can view performance by keywords. After 30 days have passed, you may discover that some of your broader keyword phrases aren’t converting too well or are losing money. At that point, you can decide if you want to disable those keywords. You can still leave your top performing keywords running. You can also add keywords at any time, so always be on the lookout for new book titles and authors you want to add to your keyword list.
Remember, the goal is to earn more than you spend on ads (ROI). You might spend $300 on ads in that first month of testing your $10 per day budget, but chances are good that you’ll earn much of that back if you’ve optimized your ads according to the tips listed here. Ideally, you’ll earn all of it back plus several hundred dollars more. And if your ads are converting well, then increase your budget to be sure your ads never turn off.
What to Do if Your Amazon Ads Aren’t Performing Well
Follow the suggestions above to make sure you’ve optimized your book sales page, identified the right keywords, assigned a large enough budget for testing, and allowed your ads to run for several weeks to build some momentum. If all of this is in order and your ads still aren’t converting, there may be other problems.
- The sales copy for your book isn’t working. Perhaps it needs to be more compelling. You can enlist the help of an experienced copywriter.
- Not enough book reviews or negative reviews. Work on generating more positive reviews. (Download our free report: 50 Ways to Generate Book Reviews.)
- Targeting the wrong audience. Are you clear about who your target readers are? Perhaps you need to reassess this?
Amazon Ads have the potential to generate a tremendous return on investment and boost your book sales significantly. I firmly believe all nonfiction authors should test these ads for at least 30 days. While ads won’t likely propel your book into another stratosphere (we must be realistic here), they can absolutely help increase sales and reach more readers. And the more eyeballs we get on our books, the better chance we have of building word-of-mouth buzz, generating reviews, and cultivating a loyal tribe of readers.
Give these strategies a try and let us know how they work for you!
By the way, if you’re not yet familiar with Amazon Ads, we walk you through the steps to set them up here: Download our free Amazon Ads for book sales report.