AMS Advertising: Now in the UK and Germany

Background image from ShutterStock.


Amazon KDP has its expanded its AMS advertising option to books that are available at Amazon’s UK (United Kingdom) and DE (Germany) stores.

On the one hand, if you are among the first to test this out, you might get ahead of the competition. On the other hand, if a big swarm of authors shows up all at once to test this out, some people may vastly overbid and hog all of the clicks (at an expensive cost) just to test out how it works. So if you’re not getting much activity for several days, my suggestion is to be patient, don’t raise your bid insanely, wait for people to spend more money than they can afford and for the bids to drop down to reasonable values (and then maybe even start a new ad later, which is sometimes better than continuing an unproductive ad).

Note that UK bids are in GBD, not US dollars. You might want to Google a currency calculation to see how much you’re really bidding if you’re used to US currency.

If you already have an AMS account setup for the US, you have to be careful about how to test this out.

Note that existing or even new ads placed in the US will NOT display in the UK or DE. You have to setup new ads using the AMS site specifically for the UK or DE.

Don’t go to Reports. (Because if you reach the UK or DE site that way, it might seem like you have to setup an account from scratch. So try my suggestion first.)

Don’t go to AMS for the US.

Go to your KDP Bookshelf.

Find a book that is live in Amazon UK (or DE).

Hover your cursor over the gray ellipsis (…) button to the right of the title on your KDP Bookshelf.

Click the Promote and Advertise option.

Now select your marketplace.

If you already have an Amazon Author Page setup in the UK, you probably already have an Amazon account setup for the UK. However…

You might need to update a credit card or add billing info for it (even if it is currently working for your US advertising with no problem).

The reason is that Amazon AMS has different sites for advertising in the US, UK, and DE stores. So you might need to do a little work to get your billing info setup.

If you advertise in both the US and the UK, for example, you’ll need to monitor your reports separately at the US and UK sites for Amazon AMS.

For authors who live in the UK or DE, or whose work is highly relevant for these countries, you are probably eager to test this out.

Otherwise, first ask yourself if you have any books that may be a good fit for this audience. If they expect one thing, but get something else entirely because your book is a much better fit for the United States, the ad probably won’t work out.

If you have regular sales in the UK and also some good reviews in the UK, then you have some reason to believe that your book may be a decent fit for the UK audience.

Search for AMS on the search bar on my blog. I have several articles on advertising with AMS (including one specifically about changes in 2019).

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

More Changes to AMS Advertising—Up and Down Bidding



The amount of your bid may now change.

This includes ad campaigns that were running prior to April 22, 2019.

There are now three campaign bidding strategies:

  1. Dynamic bids—down only. Your bid is automatically lowered when Amazon predicts that your ad would be less likely to convert to a sale.
  2. Dynamic bids—up and down. Your bid is automatically raised as much as 100% when Amazon predicts that your ad would be more likely to convert to a sale, and lowers your bid when it would be less likely to convert to a sale.
  3. Fixed bids. Your bid is fixed, unless you check one of two boxes that allow Amazon to adjust your bid.

In addition to the bidding strategies, there are now two bid adjust options (which replace the old Bid+):

  1. You may choose to increase your bid by up to 900% to land your ad at the top of search results (first page).
  2. You may choose to increase your bid by up to 900% to land your ad on a product page.


If you launched an ad campaign with AMS prior to April 22, 2019, the bidding strategy was automatically changed to Dynamic bids—down only.

If your ad previously had Bid+ set to on, it now includes a 50% bid adjust for top of search (first page).


The main idea behind AMS advertising is relevance. When the most relevant ads show to customers, this benefits customers, it benefits Amazon, and it benefits the product being advertised.

AMS has always benefited authors and companies whose advertisements rate high in terms of relevance.

In fact, by rating high in terms of relevance, an ad campaign can actually generate more impressions at a more modest bid.

If an ad creates 2000 impressions and has no sales, from Amazon’s perspective the ad doesn’t seem very relevant to the customers seeing the ad.

If an results in a sale once on average for every 500 impressions, this ad is far more relevant than an ad that creates one sale for every 2000 impressions.

What I’ve said so far has been true for years.

The recent change of introducing bidding dynamics helps to reflect relevance in the amount of the bid itself.

In circumstances where an ad has a history of seeming less relevant, a dynamic bid would lower the bid for less relevant ads.

In circumstances where an ad has a history of seeming more relevant, a dynamic up-and-down bid would raise the bid for more relevant ads.


Amazon makes it easy for authors to bid too high.

It’s very common for authors to bid more than they can afford to bid.

If you bid too high, your ad is more likely to result in a short-term loss, and you’re more likely to think that AMS isn’t for you.

First of all, it helps to realize that AMS isn’t just for books. There are many businesses using AMS to advertise many other products.

When you’re selling a product that retails for $100 or more, and where your profit is $10 or more, you can afford to bid $1 or more and you can afford to include a large bid adjust option.

When you’re an author selling a book for $5 with a royalty of $3, you can’t afford to bid $1 or close to it (there may be exceptional circumstances, but very rarely).

If you mostly sell Kindle eBooks, and if your average royalty is close to 70% (if your books include many pictures, your effective royalty is probably much less due to the delivery fee), then you want your ACOS (average cost of sale) to be 70% or less so that you’re not losing money on your ad.

If you mostly sell paperback books, and if your average royalty is close to 30%, then you want your ACOS to be less than 30%. The list price should be higher for a paperback, which helps to offset this lower percentage.

Figure out what your average royalty is, then keep a close eye on your ACOS and strive to keep it below your royalty percentage.

For comparison, my ads (some for books under pen names) generate millions of impressions (combined) in a single month with an ACOS usually around 25%. So it is possible to generate many impressions at a modest ACOS.

My ad campaigns use dynamic bidding—down only. I don’t currently raise my bids. The main reason is that this happened automatically on April 22. But after about a month of data, I don’t yet see a convincing reason to change to up-and-down bidding. I might try it with a future ad and see how it does, but the big downside is that ads will cost more.

I didn’t use Bid+, so I don’t bid extra for placement in search results or on product pages. For a nonfiction book, I would prefer to show high in search results than on a product page. But I also prefer not to pay extra for this.

It’s tempting to bid higher and bid extra. But it costs more. If you can get successful ads at a lower cost, you can run your ads for a much longer period.

The main key to success is relevance. You can actually generate good impressions at a modest bid if your targeting results in high relevance.

Part of relevance is a compelling cover, effective description, helpful Look Inside, amazing content that leads to good reviews, etc. This helps you sell more books for each 1000 impressions, which helps to rate high in terms of relevance.

Part of relevance is effective targeting. I have a knack for researching keywords and keyphrases. I spend time on Amazon typing in keywords and seeing what it suggests (yes, I know this isn’t perfect, but as it turns out, it really helps with brainstorming). I jot down keyword ideas whenever they occur to me. Use your brainstorming techniques. Now I don’t use every keyword (or better, group of related keywords) that comes to mind, but I do have a very long and varied list to begin with.

I suggest trying to bid below a half-dollar, maybe in the 30 to 40 cents range. This may not be enough with a popular broad keyword like “mystery” or with a product page for a popular book. But if you are clever enough to find combinations of keywords that do get searched several times per day, but which aren’t insanely popular, or similar popularity for product page targeting, you can get lower bids to be effective.

But you really want the targeting to be relevant for your book. That’s the most important thing. If the wrong audience is looking at your ad, you will rate poorly in terms of relevance.

If your ad isn’t performing well and it’s been a couple of weeks, you can pause or terminate your ad and start a new one. Try different targeting.

Raising the bid isn’t likely the solution to an ad that isn’t performing well because it doesn’t rate well in terms of relevance. But new targeting may help you land more impressions at a modest bid. If you can rate better in terms of relevance, you can land many more impressions.

Write Happy, Be Happy

Chris McMullen

Author of the Improve Your Math Fluency series of math workbooks and self-publishing guides

What I Love about Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) via KDP



My post will include both the benefits and challenges of using Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to advertise Kindle e-books.

I don’t intend for my title to imply that it will give instant success to all books. It won’t.

I will begin with what I like about AMS—for which there is much—and then I will address some of the challenges and offer tips for attempting to use it effectively.

A few years before AMS was introduced to KDP, I had discovered the Amazon Media Group. Many big vendors for a wide variety of products have used and continue to use the Amazon Media Group’s advertising services.

I had a conversation with the Amazon Media Group about their advertising services several years ago about possibly running an advertising campaign for one or more of my books.

This was before indie authors had the opportunity to advertise directly on Amazon using AMS via KDP Select.

The problem was that the minimum campaign budget was $10,000. If I recall correctly, an ad would generate 10,000,000 impressions over the course of a month.

If you achieved a typical click-through rate (ctr) of 0.1%, you would net 10,000 visitors to your product page. If you achieved a better than average closing rate of 10%, you would net 1000 sales.

But then you would need to earn $10 per sale just to break even.

And if your ctr was below average, or if your closing rate was 1% to 5%, which isn’t uncommon for e-books, and if your royalty was around $2 to $3 per book, you could easily lose thousands of dollars on the deal.

I didn’t place an ad back then because it was very high risk. I’ve since heard stories of a few authors who shelled out the big bucks for a campaign back in those days who lost big.

That’s one reason I love the AMS option for Kindle e-books.

A minimum campaign budget of $100 is tiny compared to $10,000. AMS made advertising accessible to KDP authors. (It used to be just for KDP Select, but now it’s for all Kindle e-books.)

It’s much lower risk now. It basically wasn’t an option before, as most authors didn’t know about it and those who did generally couldn’t afford it (even if they had the funds, the risk was high).

And you don’t even have to spend the $100 budget. You can pause or terminate your campaign at any time, keeping any losses to a minimum. (Though there are reporting delays, so even after you end a campaign, for several days it can continue to accrue costs. By not bidding too high, you minimize this risk.)

Every author naturally wonders if advertising will help. Now by publishing an e-book with KDP, you can find out, and it doesn’t cost too much to see the results (provided that you don’t get impatient and bid too high). Then you won’t have to wonder if advertising is the answer you’ve been searching for: You’ll know firsthand.

Here’s another thing I love about AMS.

You can advertise your Kindle e-book right on Amazon itself.

That’s prime real estate.

People who see your ad are already at Amazon, shopping for products, with their wallets out, ready to make a purchase.

When you advertise your book anywhere else, your ad is basically asking people to stop whatever they are presently doing, leave the website they’re currently at, and visit Amazon to shop for a book.

For several years, indie authors have pleaded for a reasonably priced advertising option at Amazon.

Well, here it is.

What AMS is and what it isn’t.

Advertising with AMS via KDP is an opportunity. It’s a tool.

Like the opportunity to self-publish on Amazon itself, and like all other marketing tools, some authors and some books will utilize it more effectively than others.

It will work well for some books, okay for some books, and poorly for others.

What AMS isn’t:

  • It’s not a magic genie.
  • It won’t yield instant success for each and every book. (But for some books it will help.)
  • It probably isn’t the solution for a book that hasn’t been selling on its own. (But you sure can find out.)
  • It’s not guaranteed to provide a positive return on investment (ROI).

If AMS were guaranteed to yield 100% ROI, every author would use it, and then we might as well wrap up every customer in the world with wallpaper packed with Amazon ads.

Using AMS effectively comes with some challenges.

AMS won’t bring instant, automatic success to most books.

But for many books, there exists some beneficial way to use it effectively.

Here are the challenges:

  • Landing a decent impression rate when many other authors are also running ads for similar books.
  • Not bidding more than you can afford to bid.
  • Getting a strong conversion rate.
  • Earning a positive return on investment (ROI).

Too many authors don’t use AMS as effectively as they could:

  • Blindly using KDP’s recommended bid, which is fairly high.
  • Impatiently raising the bid.
  • Not running enough controlled experiments to learn how to optimize the variables.
  • Not using enough creativity with targeting methods.
  • Bidding more than they can afford to bid.
  • Not being content with a low impression rate, if that’s all you can afford and manage to get out of it.

I see many authors make one or more of these mistakes, and then terminate their campaigns.

But you don’t need to terminate your campaign. Your last resort is to greatly reduce your bid and accept whatever impression rate you can afford, even if it’s meager. It may not be what you want, but if it doesn’t yield a negative ROI, even rare impressions are better than nothing, and you only pay for clicks.

On top of this, your ad is competing against authors who have a distinct advantage:

  • Series authors have the potential to generate multiple sales from a single click. They can afford to bid higher, banking on those future sales.
  • Authors with several similar books also have the potential for multiple sales. They can also afford to bid higher.
  • Successful authors know they will have ample royalties from regular sales even if the ad performs poorly. They are playing with the house’s money, so to speak.
  • Some authors use advertising for other purposes besides immediate profits. They might bid higher, not minding a short-term loss, with their sights set on branding or building an initial fan base.

And then your ad also competes against newbie authors who don’t have an advertising advantage, but who bid much higher than they should.

Here are suggestions for how to optimize AMS advertisements.

My first tips are:

  • Be very, very patient.
  • Bid very low to begin with.
  • Always wait a few days before raising your bid to allow for possible reporting delays. Even better, wait a week.
  • Only raise your bid very slightly. I’m talking pennies.
  • Don’t be in a hurry. Waiting diminishes your risk, and makes it easier to assess what may or may not be working.
  • Run multiple campaigns for the same book.* With one campaign, use narrow targeting where customers are very likely to be interested in your book. In an experimental campaign, try to be a little more creative with your targeting, thinking of other kinds of books or non-book products which are likely to appeal to your target audience.**
  • Your bid isn’t the only factor, or necessarily the most important factor, in landing impressions. Amazon measures ad performance. Good targeting and product page appeal can improve your ad performance. If you get a strong initial click rate, your ad can generate more impressions at a lower bid. This is one reason that raising the bid often isn’t the solution. Instead, you should strive to improve your targeting and improve your product page to help improve on ad performance metrics.

* Don’t worry: Your campaigns won’t bid against one another. Any campaigns on your KDP account won’t bid against any other campaigns on your same KDP account.

** Beware though that if the targeting isn’t relevant enough, if you get fewer than about 1 click per 2000 impressions, your campaign is likely to be stopped by Amazon. This doesn’t mean you can’t explore though.

Following are some more tips:

  • Don’t use ellipsis (…) or hyphens (-), for example, in your advertising phrase as these might be considered grammatical errors (!), preventing your ad from displaying on Kindle devices.
  • Read your ad approval email carefully, just in case there are any notes about your ad not being displayed on certain devices.
  • Experiment by running additional ad campaigns. Explore your targeting options. Analyze your data. Try to find the magic combination that will help you learn how to advertise more effectively.
  • If you’re getting fewer than 1 click per 2000 impressions, it probably means that either your targeting isn’t a good fit for your book or you cover isn’t attracting your target audience. Challenge yourself to improve your click-through rate. Although you don’t pay for impressions, this is a sign that your ad could perform better.
  • If you’re getting fewer than 1 sale per 20 clicks, it probably means that either your product page doesn’t match customers’ expectations based on your cover or advertising phrase, or that your product page isn’t closing the deal as effectively as it could. Maybe it’s the blurb or the Look Inside, for example. Challenge yourself to make your product page more effective.
  • If your impression rate is very slow for a couple of weeks, it could be a sign of poor scoring on ad performance metrics. If your initial click rate is low, try pausing the ad and running a new one in its place. But it could also mean that you should try to improve your targeting relevance or improve your cover or product page appeal or keywords or categories. You have so many variables to play with, it can take a while to learn how to optimize them.
  • You could have a higher ROI than you realize. The ad report currently doesn’t show Kindle Unlimited borrows or paperback sales. Customers may also buy other of your books in the future. If you can just break even, approximately, it will probably be worth it in the long run.
  • You don’t have to spend the whole $100 minimum budget. You can pause or terminate your ad at any time. If you’re losing money with your ad, don’t be afraid to stop it. But realize that due to reporting delays, you may continue to accrue clicks for several days after stopping your ad. The lower your bid, the less your risk. (If you bid very high, you can blow your whole budget long before it shows in your ad report. Another reason to bid low and exercise patience.)
  • Note that you can now copy an ad to preserve your original targeting when placing a new ad.
  • Avoid pausing or terminating an ad that’s performing well. An ad that’s generating good results has a high score on ad performance, and it’s hard to rebuild that ad performance. If things are going well, don’t touch your ad with a ten-foot pole. Well, you should edit the end date as needed so that the ad doesn’t expire.
  • Note that product targeting doesn’t actually target the products that you select. Rather, it targets customers who have browsed for similar products in the past. So if you target sci-fi books, your ad could show up on a romance page. If so, it means that the customer has viewed both romance and sci-fi books (at least once) in the past. Still, by targeting sci-fi books, your ad is being shown to customers who have viewed other sci-fi books in the past.

What do I know about advertising through AMS?

How do I know? Fair question:

  • I have placed over 100 ads through AMS via KDP over the past 14 months.
  • It took me a few dozen tries to get it to really work, but overall my last 70 ads have done well on average.
  • One ad has generated over 6,000,000 impressions and 3,000 clicks at an average cost of $0.28 per click.
  • I have several ads (more than 25) which each have accumulated over 1,000,000 impressions.
  • Overall, AMS has worked very well for me.

This doesn’t mean that you will have instant success with advertising. I’ve tried to share tips that I’ve learned from my experience, but you will likely need some experience of your own.

There is something to gain no matter what.

Even if your ad loses money:

  • You get information about what percentage of visitors to your product page actually make a purchase. This is valuable information. 10% is well above average. Strive for that. At around 5% or below, you know firsthand that your product page has room for improvement. Knowing that the best covers, blurbs, and Look Insides can close 10% of the time gives you a lofty target.
  • You discover that advertising wasn’t the magic answer you had been hoping for. At least you learned it’s something else. Is it your cover? blurb? Look Inside? Maybe the idea just isn’t marketable.
  • If you change your cover, blurb, or Look Inside, by running a new ad, you could invest a little money to get valuable data: You can find out whether or not the changes you made improve your closing rate (sales divided by clicks).
  • Although you should terminate an ad that’s losing money, you did get your cover and name out there, and you did get visitors to your product page. This is branding. You at least have hope for a few future sales. And if your ad drew in short-term sales, maybe a few of those customers will buy more of your books in the future, or even recommend your book to others. You gained some hope, if nothing else.

Advertising with AMS is relatively low risk, especially if you bid low and keep a close eye on your reports, prepared to exit early if need be.

Good luck!

Write happy, be happy. :-)

Chris McMullen

Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (now available)

Article on Advertising with AMS and other Publicity Services by Sally Jenkins

Advertising Research


Author Sally Jenkins published a great article on paid-for publicity services, including advertising on Amazon with AMS.

The article is called “Get Professional” and appears in the UK magazine called Writers’ Forum.

You can find Writers’ Forum online at Or if you reside in the UK, you can pick up a hard copy.

Sally Jenkins was kind enough to include a quote from my blog in her article, which covers:

  • advertising on Amazon with AMS
  • other paid publicity services, such as seeking personal assistance

Check out Sally Jenkins’ website here:

Here is her author page:

Follow her on Twitter: @sallyjenkinsuk.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

You Can Extend the Deadline for AMS ads via KDP

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


When you create an advertisement for KDP Select books via AMS, you must choose an end date.

The end date must be within the next 6 months.

But suppose you have a successful advertisement running, but when the deadline approaches, you don’t want to stop your AMS ad campaign.

Especially, if you spent several hours handpicking books to target, and your ad is doing well; you don’t want to have to do that research again, and you might not choose such a good list next time.

Fortunately, you can extend the deadline of your KDP ad.

Extend the deadline before the ad runs its course.

When the deadline is near, simply view your AMS ad report.

Click the Edit button next to your ad.

Revise the end date. It will let you choose a date up to six months from today.

Click save.

Return to your ad report, just to check that the end date has properly updated.

When the new deadline comes up, you can repeat the process, if you want.


The real trick is getting the AMS ad to work well enough that you actually want to extend the deadline when the time comes.

So here are a few tips:

  • Don’t overbid. Most authors can’t afford to spend 50 cents or more per click. Start out very low. Wait three days (or more) because ad report data can be significantly delayed (if it seems like nothing’s happening, wait 3 days to find out if indeed nothing is happening, or if you’ve already spent a lot of money that just hasn’t posted to your report yet because of delays). If nothing happens after a few days, raise your bid just a little. Then wait a few more days. This strategy gets you affordable clicks. It won’t drive a ton of daily traffic to your book, but it will help you generate some interest without overspending. Time is on your side. Take what you can afford to get, even if it comes very slowly. Too many authors bid much higher than they should, blowing their budgets before they realize it with little to show for it. I have several ads that perform well, with very low bids, even though it may take weeks for them to deliver significant results. Personally, I prefer to be patient and get a good return on my investment.
  • Test it out. I ran a few dozen tests in the first couple of months before I learned the most effective ways to make these ads work for my books. You’re not obligated to spend the entire $100 budget. You can pause or terminate your ad at any time. (But if you bid high, you can blow your budget without realizing it because there can be significant delays.) So you can try an ad over a short period, then cancel it and start a new ad. Maybe you try changing your targeting list, or maybe you try a different catch phrase. Some trial and error can help you learn more effective ways to use this advertising tool.
  • Close the deal. If your sales to clicks ratio is 3% or less, this suggests that you could improve (A) your targeting or (B) your product page. Is your product page closing the deal as well as it could? Does the cover properly suggest what to expect? Does it achieve this goal in the tiny ad thumbnail, too? Does the book description arouse interest and curiosity without giving away too much? Does the Look Inside grab the reader right away? Does everything look professional? The great thing about AMS is that you can test out the performance of your product page. You can get two weeks of data, then revise your book description, get another two weeks of data, and compare. Did changing the product page actually make a difference, for better or for worse? Your AMS ad report can be a tool to help you perfect your product page. A closing rate of around 5% is reasonable achieve; a closing rate of 10% or more is rare, but it can be done. A closing rate of 1% or less isn’t good, but it happens.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

Click here to view my Goodreads author page.

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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KDP’s AMS Advertising now offers Subcategories… Finally

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


Kindle books enrolled in KDP Select can be advertised on Amazon via AMS through KDP.

There have always been two targeting choices:

  • product targeting. Select specific products to target.
  • interest targeting. Select a category to target.

Until now, the category choices for interest targeting were very broad.

But now, after you select a category, you can select a subcategory.

Some of the subcategories are still themselves quite broad.

  • For example, for a math or science book, I must choose the category called Other.
  • Then the appropriate subcategory is Math and Science. But that includes very many different subjects.
  • It would be better if the subcategories were further divided. For example, I might choose astronomy, if available.

However, it is an improvement. Interest targeting is better now. It’s a nice step in the right direction.

If you want more precise targeting, the obvious solution is to choose product targeting instead.


  • I used to recommend product targeting. I still favor that, but I just tested out the refined interest targeting so that I can compare. It has some merit.
  • Set the end date as far in advance as possible. It lets you go about six months ahead.
  • Choose to display your ad as quickly as possible. Generally, it’s not easy to make impressions unless you overbid. This option helps if you bid reasonably.
  • Make a catchy headline that’s likely to help create interest in your book, and which is quite relevant for your content.
  • Bid low to begin with. It’s okay to underbid.
  • Wait 3 days before raising your bid. Sometimes reporting is significantly delayed. See how it’s going before you ‘fix’ it.
  • Try expanding your targeting before raising your bid to see if that helps make more impressions.
  • If you do raise your bid, just raise it a little. And wait 3 more days before raising it again.
  • You’re not obligated to invest the whole $100. You can pause or terminate your ad at any time.

With my strategy, I have several affordable bids. Sometimes, I’m able to generate 100,000 to 400,000 impressions in one month with less than $10 spent. I have multiple ads where I spent about $12 to generate $24 in sales (at 70% royalty).

I observe some nice indirect effects on similar books and on my print books. (I tend to sell more print books to begin with, so that makes sense for my books.)

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Advertising on Amazon with AMS via KDP: Research, Experience, & Tips

Advertising Research

Images from ShutterStock



KDP now lets indie authors advertise their KDP Select books directly on through AMS (Amazon Marketing Services).

I’ve now placed 36 different ads through AMS on over a dozen books in multiple author names, with different targeting and bids from 2 cents to $1.01 per click. So I have quite a bit of firsthand experience with this. Although I publish nonfiction, I’ve also discussed AMS with several fiction authors who have used it—including some who love it, some who hate it, and more with mixed feelings. Many of these authors have shared their AMS numbers.


Well, not ‘easy.’

Marketing books is never easy. But advertising books on Amazon through AMS, like other marketing tools, has potential; the trick is learning how to use the tool effectively, and whether or not this tool is a good fit for you and your books.


  • 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.
  • Optional product targeting. You can hand-pick specific books (and even movies and other products, if applicable) to target. This allows you to tailor your targeting to your unique book.
  • Budget-friendly. Although you must set an advertising budget of at least $100, you’re not committed to spend one penny. You can pause or terminate your AMS ad campaign at any time. (However, the ad report does not show in real-time, so when you pause your campaign, the expenses may be higher than you realize. If you bid low, this won’t be an issue, but if you bid very high, you can be out of budget before you realize it.)
  • Free impressions. You only pay for clicks. If 2,000 people see your ad, but nobody clicks on the ad, you don’t pay a penny.
  • Product page data. The AMS ad report shows impressions, clicks, detail page views, and sales generated through the ads. This lets you see what percentage of traffic to your product page actually buys your book. Even in the worst case that your ad is an utter failure, learning your sales-to-clicks ratio can help you assess the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of your book’s product page at selling your book to your target audience.
  • Improving. AMS at KDP is improving. For example, you can now enter a phrase designed to catch interest and at least one of the possible ad locations shows this as an orange headline directly above your ad.


  • Competition. Many other authors bid high (often, much higher than they should), which can make it challenging to get impressions with an affordable bid, especially in competitive genres. However, there are ways to deal with this (like wise targeting).
  • Tiny thumbnail. The ads show a tiny image of your cover thumbnail. The ads come in a few different sizes, but many book covers are difficult to make out in the ads. (Obviously, if you design a cover that stands out well and is easy to read at this tiny size—possible, as I’ve seen it done—you have a distinct advantage.) So although impressions are free (you only pay for clicks), possible branding benefits from those impressions are somewhat limited.
  • Click-throughs. The CTR (click-through rate) can vary considerably from one book to another, but often it’s in the ballpark of 0.1%. That is, for every 1000 times your ad displays, 1 person will click on your ad. This isn’t really a downside though, since you only pay for clicks; impressions where the customer ignored your ad don’t cost you a penny.
  • Closing rate. The closing rate and your average CPC show whether or not your ad is a success or failure. The closing rate is your sales-to-click ratio. The books with the most marketable product pages and wise targeting can achieve a closing rate of 10% or better, but some books achieve a much lower closing rate.
  • Not real time. The ads do not show in real time; there are often delays of several hours (or more). So you must be patient and wise. Too many authors conclude prematurely that nothing is happening, so what do they do? They raise their bids to make something happen. That’s a great way to lose money fast.
  • Targeting. Take time to target wisely. This is one thing you have much control over, but you have to take the time to do the research. And when things don’t seem to be working, this is one area you can try to improve. The more frequently your ad shows to customers who are likely to be interested in your book, the better your chances of achieving a better closing rate.
  • 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.


I placed my first ad through AMS on January 29, 2015, shortly after the program was launched at KDP. I have now placed 36 different ads through AMS on several different books under a few different author names.

In February and early March, I had bid too high (upwards of $1 per click). But my primary goal was to get valuable data, even if that meant cutting into my ROI.

Most of my early ads were making many impressions (as many as 461,673 impressions). I received as many as 661 clicks (on an ad with 108,689 impressions). Most of my CTR’s (click-through rates) were in the neighborhood of 0.1% (1 in 1000), though I had a few above 0.5%, but also a few below 0.05%. But the CTR really doesn’t matter, since you only pay for clicks. (Well, it does matter now: If your CTR is well below 0.1%, there is a good chance that your ad will be stopped for low relevance.) From my numbers and stats that other authors have shared, 0.05% (1 in 2000) to 0.5% (1 in 200) is typical; if your CTR is below this, you can probably improve it through targeting (well, your cover matters, too).

I had a few ads with a closing rate (sales to clicks) of 10% or more, but most of my ads had closing rates below 10%. I had some closing rates of just a few percent. This stat is very important, as it determines how much you can afford to bid and whether or not your short-term ROI (return on investment) is worthwhile. With a variety of books, success rates, and targeting strategies, I’ve learned some ways to help improve my closing rates (reflected in my more recent ads). I’ve met a few other authors who achieved closing rates above 10%, but many more authors with closing rates closer to 5% or less.

I’ve placed 12 new ads since April 19, 2015, with wiser bids and targeting, based on my prior experience. The new ads are much more successful in terms of short-term ROI. I now have more ads where the short-term royalties exceed the amount spent on the ad. I also have some slower-running ads that are getting very cheap exposure. For example, I have one ad that’s been running for 31 days, which has cost me a total of $2.16, but has generated 177,537 impressions, 73 clicks, and already returned over $4 in royalties. That’s not much in terms of sales for a whole month of advertising, but look, that’s not bad for having invested a whole two dollars. I have some ads generating activity with as little as 2-cent bids. A low bid may not make many impressions (though occasionally it does), but it’s also more likely to earn a short-term return rather than a loss (and if it earns a loss, imagine how much you would have lost bidding high).

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.

I sell about 9 paperbacks for every Kindle e-book, overall (I have a few books where it’s the other way around). When I ran my ads in February and early March, I saw a substantial increase in related paperback books. I toned down my advertising significantly in late March and early April (I had been bidding upwards of $1 per click; I stopped some of my ads, and lowered my bids in others). My paperback sales declined. Around April 19, I placed several new ads (remember, the ads are for Kindle e-books), but with lower bids, and I’ve seen sales of paperback books improve again.

I’ve tried a variety of targeting strategies. I only used category targeting for a couple of ads, and didn’t generate many impressions that way. The problem is that every other book with the same targeting category is competing for the exact same list of books. Product targeting seems to give you an edge, even when all of the books on your list seem to fit into the same broad category. But product targeting also lets you select specific books outside your genre or category, and even other kinds of products, like movies. I’ve tried compiling narrow lists of 50 books, long lists with 1000 books, books of very popular and very similar products, movies and other products likely to interest my target audience, and lists of books that aren’t too popular and which are more likely to appeal to an indie audience. There are a lot of possibilities when it comes to targeting.

If you select fewer than 50 products, it will be tough to make impressions (unless you pick some hugely popular products, even then, you have to outbid others). If you target movies or other products likely to interest your target audience, but they only interest a small fraction of your audience, this can greatly diminish your CTR, putting you in danger of low relevance (so your ad may be stopped), especially if those movies or other products are hot items. You really have to judge your target audience well to make the most of your targeting (you can go back and change product targeting; but if you select category targeting, the only way to change it is to pause your ad and start a new one). If you target books where the readers are more likely to actually purchase your book once they reach your product page, this can help your conversion rate. It pays to spend extra time contemplating the probable habits and interests of much of your target audience (and it may take some trial and error).

But you probably don’t care so much about my experience, as what I’ve learned from it. So let me move onto tips and suggestions, based on my experience with AMS.


  • Create a short catch-phrase likely to interest your target audience (and sound relevant to the subgenre, subcategory or content) to use for your headline. Don’t simply copy your title into the headline. This shows above your ad (when the headline displays).
  • Click the option to display your ad as quickly as possible (don’t let Amazon spread it out evenly). Unless you’re overbidding, it’s hard to make impressions, so get as many as you can.
  • Change the month of the end date. Set the end date as far into the future as the system will let you (several months). You can end it anytime manually.
  • Choose product targeting instead of interest targeting. Check the box to include similar products.
  • Devote some time to research books (and perhaps other products, like movies) to target. Think about whether the majority of the target audience for those books (or products) is likely to be interested in your book. Browse for similar books and products on Amazon before you start working on your ad campaign so that you have ideas ready. Select a minimum of 50 books, perhaps several hundred is better, but it really depends on your book and audience.
  • Some of the books you target need to be popular enough for your ad to show enough times to make impressions. Some need to be not too popular, otherwise you’ll be consistently outbid (or you’ll be overpaying). Select several less popular books too, as there may be less competition for those ads.
  • Enter specific keywords, even key-phrases, highly relevant to your book, in order to help find more books like yours. Try a variety of keywords and phrases, but remember that relevance is key.
  • Relevance matters when targeting, not only to get the most out of your ad (you want it to sell once you get traffic), but also to prevent your ad from being stopped.
  • Bid low to begin with. You can always raise your bid later. If you do, only raise it a little at a time.
  • Don’t raisee your bid more than once in a 48-hour period (better yet, wait at least 1 week). Stats don’t show in real time, but can actually be delayed by several hours (even more than a day). Don’t let your impatience squander your money.
  • Be patient. What’s the hurry? Why pay $1 to spend your money fast, possibly with little to show for it? Let your ad run for weeks, or even months, if necessary. The most common way to lose money with AMS is to bid too high too fast.
  • Remember that there are many other authors, and their bids and targeting change over time. So if you aren’t getting many impressions now, a few weeks from now when other ads run out, you might get more. Sometimes, simply waiting out higher bidders can help you generate impressions at a lower cost.
  • Remember that you can go back and change product targeting. Try to find wiser ways to target effectively before yielding to the temptation to raise your bid.
  • Keep an eye on your ad report. You can lose a lot of money fast if you’re not careful. Out of the blue, an ad that had been going slow can start getting several clicks. If you’re spending tens of dollars, but not generating sales, stop your ad before you lose more money. Try to improve your ad before running it again.
  • Look at your short-term ROI (return on investment). Compare your royalties (the report shows sales instead; you have to figure this out) to the money spent so far. If you’re losing money (more than you wish to risk), pause the ad. You can try changing your targeting. Try bidding less. Something isn’t working, so either stop the ad or try to improve it. (Or if it’s only a small loss, maybe indirect or long-term benefits will offset this; that’s a tough decision that you have to make.)
  • If your closing rate (# of sales divided by # of clicks) times your royalty exceeds your average CPC, your ad is making money; if not, your ad is losing money short-term. Example: 100 clicks, 8 sales, royalty $2.10, average CPC is 15 cents. Divide 8 sales by 100 clicks to get 0.08. Multiply 0.08 by $2.10 to get $0.168. This exceeds the average CPC of $0.15, so this ad is yielding a short-term ROI (so any indirect or long-term benefits will be gravy).
  • Bidding much less can improve your short-term ROI. If you’re losing significant money short-term, first try lowering your bid significantly. Your impressions, clicks, and sales rates may go down, too, but your short-term ROI is likely to be better. It’s better to make a small profit at a slow rate, than to lose money at a fast rate. Only bid what you can afford to bid.
  • The alternative to lowering your bid is improved targeting (or improving your product page and Look Inside). In some cases, it may take a combination of a lower bid and improved targeting. And we know that not every book can be saved, so the same is true with ads. Sometimes, it’s just not in the cards.
  • If your CTR (clicks divided by impressions) is less than 0.05% (1 in 2000), your ad is in greater danger of being stopped due to low relevance. Try changing your product targeting. (If it does get stopped, you can start a new ad, but again you’ll want to try to improve your product targeting.)
  • If you plan on using this in the future, when designing your next cover, strive for a layout and color scheme that will catch attention even at this tiny ad thumbnail size (and still look good as a regular thumbnail and also full-size).
  • You’re not obligated to spend your whole ad campaign budget. You can pause or terminate your ad at any time.
  • Imagine you’re at a casino. If you’re having bad luck, get out fast! Walking away when you’ve lost $15 is a lot better than losing $100.
  • Don’t place ads for multiple books simultaneously, unless you can do so with significantly different targeting.
  • If you have multiple books or plan to run multiple ads, change the name of your ad campaign to help you remember which book the ad is for. The default names aren’t helpful at all.
  • Create an ad with limited, focused targeting. After getting appreciable data, stop the ad. Start a new ad with different, but still limited, focused targeting. Compare your results. You can learn a lot with brief controlled experiments like this.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more
  • Kindle Formatting Magic (coming soon)

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Advertising Books with AMS, BookBub, ENT, GR, FB, Twitter & More

Images from Shutterstock

Images from Shutterstock


Millions of books are on the market, with a few thousand released each day.

Striving to get your book discovered, advertising is one option.

It may not be the best option for you. But if you’re thinking about placing an advertisement for your book, you want to advertise in the right place and you want to get the most out of it.

But there are so many places to advertise:

  • Right on Amazon with AMS (if your book is enrolled in KDP Select).
  • Through social media with Facebook, Twitter, etc.
  • On websites geared toward readers, such as Goodreads.
  • E-book promotion websites, like BookBub, Ereader News Today, Book Gorilla, and a host of others. See the end of this article for a more comprehensive list.
  • Websites related to the interests of your specific target audience.
  • Contacting bloggers, going on blog tours, social media groups, and so on.
  • Local newspapers, local radio stations, magazines, online magazines, etc.
  • Offline advertising with flyers, bookmarks, business cards, etc.
  • With contests or giveaways.
  • Running a blog or building a content-rich website.
  • & many more.


Wouldn’t you love to know?

Author Nicholas Rossis has taken the initiative to find out. How? By asking authors to complete a simple 3-question survey.

If you’ve ever placed an advertisement for a book, please visit the following page to share your book advertising experience:

Please help. We need more authors to complete the survey for the results to be meaningful.

It’s quick. It’s easy. And when you finish, please encourage other authors to take the survey, too.

Once there is enough participation, Nicholas Rossis will share the results with helpful analysis.

That will help us answer the important question, “Which advertising service should you use?”


Here is my advice for getting the most out of your book advertisements:

  • If you write a series, once you have multiple volumes out, you have a distinct advantage as one sale can lead to multiple sales. If you have multiple similar books, you have a similar advantage. If you only have one book out, advertising may help to build a small fan base and establish your brand, but might be more effective after you deliver more quality content to the market. In that case, you might invest more of your current time toward writing.
  • If you have a complete online author platform and if you use free marketing strategies, that will help supplement your advertising efforts and the combined traffic may be more effective than driving traffic from just one source.
  • Start out with free and very low cost book marketing and advertising strategies. Gain experience with paid advertising by beginning with affordable options. This minimizes your risk, helps you assess your prospects for advertising, and helps you learn how to advertise effectively before investing larger sums of money. Advertise wisely.
  • Interact with other authors. Learn what they have tried in the way of advertising, including what worked and what didn’t. Research your advertising options before trying them out. However, realize that every book and author is unique, so what’s true for others may not be true for you.
  • Long-term planning and thinking is far more likely to lead to success. Put your priorities on (1) writing quality content, (2) targeting a viable audience, and (3) packaging your book wisely in terms of cover design and blurb. Devote a little time toward (4) slowly developing a complete author platform, (5) learning new marketing strategies and trying them out, (6) interacting with other authors, and (7) slowly growing a fan base, but put most of your time into writing until you have a few similar books out.
  • Throwing money at advertising isn’t a substitute for learning how to market your book effectively and developing your brand as an author.
  • The more your cover attracts your specific target audience and the better it visually signifies the precise subgenre or subject, the more potential your advertising will have. The better your blurb and Look Inside sell your book, the more effective your advertising will be.
  • Advertising options with more specific targeting will be more effective, all other things being equal.
  • Driving traffic to your book’s product page isn’t your only advertising option. For example, at Goodreads you can place an advertisement to drive traffic to a giveaway or to help get your book added to more to-read lists. At Twitter or Facebook, you can place an advertisement to help grow a following or drive social media engagement. If you run an Amazon Giveaway for a print book, this can help you attract a following at Twitter. These other options may not be as good as driving traffic directly to your book’s product page, especially if your main focus is on immediate sales, but they may have some relevance depending on your goals.
  • Short-term discounts and freebies help you promote a sale price, rather than simply announcing your book. These tools can be effective if you promote the discount effectively; they also help to provide a sense of urgency to the customer. However, price by itself doesn’t sell books. To get the most out of a discount, you must research websites and blogs that can help you spread the word about your sale price to your target audience. This includes e-book promotion websites like BookBub, E-reader News Today, Book Gorilla, and more, as well as blogs and even other kinds of websites on topics that may interest your readers (like a sport that relates to your book).
  • Branding, marketing, and advertising take time and patience. People don’t run to the store after they see a commercial on television. Rather, months later when they’re shopping for a product, they tend to prefer a product they’ve heard of before. Similarly, many people who see your ad won’t run over and buy it immediately. Branding, through occasional repetition among your target audience over a period of months, can help readers recognize your book months down the line when shopping for a book like yours.


There are several e-book promotion websites that can help you spread the word about a temporary price reduction:

Tip: Type the names of a few of these sites together into a Google search to help pull up comprehensive lists.


If you haven’t already done so, please participate in a survey on how people read books. The more participation we get, the more meaningful the results will be.

Here is one question, for your convenience. (If you’ve already answered this before, please don’t answer it a second time.)

You can find more questions here:

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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Advertising on Amazon w/ AMS via KDP—Is it Worth it?

Images from Shutterstock

Images from Shutterstock


The new option for KDP Select authors to advertise their Kindle e-books with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) is intriguing.

I have now run 14 different ads through AMS. I’ve also studied the results that several other authors have posted.

Today, I’m sharing some of my preliminary results and offering my thoughts on this critical question:


I’ll also mention a couple of alternative uses of this tool.


  1. Initial Return on Investment
  2. Estimating Short-term ROI
  3. Your Safe CPC Bid
  4. Advertising Results
  5. Possible Side Benefits
  6. Long-term ROI
  7. Countdown Deals and Freebies
  8. Creative Uses of Book Advertisements


The short-term return on investment (ROI) depends on these factors:

  • your average cost-per-click (CPC) bid
  • the royalty you earn for each sale
  • your sales-per-click (SPC) conversion rate
  • possible side benefits, like selling similar books, like selling print copies, or like getting more Kindle Unlimited downloads

You already know your royalty when you place your ad.

You can cap your average CPC by setting a modest bid.

But you won’t know your SPC conversion rate until you’ve invested money in an ad.

From running 14 different ads, I see firsthand that it’s reasonable to attain an SPC conversion rate of 4 to 10%.

A few other authors, including one who shared a screenshot, have shown that it’s possible to achieve an SPC of 10 to 20%. My feeling is that 20% will be quite rare.

On the other side, I’ve seen data for SPC’s of 1% or less.

Your SPC conversion rate depends on:

  • how well your product page (cover, blurb, Look Inside, reviews) sells your book
  • how well you target your advertisement to your specific audience
  • how well what your ad conveys (visually in the tiny thumbnail, along with the first words of the title) matches what shoppers discover on your product page
  • whether or not there is an audience for your book

The third point can have a huge impact. If customers glance at your tiny thumbnail and expect one thing, but find something different on your product page, this will kill your SPC.

The second point you can control through a wise choice of product targeting (not necessarily books). What matters most for your SPC is how well the target audiences of the selected products fit your book. But you must weigh this with how frequently you wish to make impressions: If the targeting is too precise, your ad might struggle to get impressions.


There is a formula to calculate your short-term ROI:

(s.t ROI %) = (royalty) x (SPC %) / (ave. CPC)

EXAMPLE 1: Your book earns a royalty of $4.20. Your average CPC bid is 25 cents. Your SPC is 5%.

Your short-term ROI = $4.20 x 5% / $0.25 = 84%.

This example has a high royalty, a modest bid, and a decent SPC.

EXAMPLE 2: Your book earns a royalty of $2.10. Your average CPC bid is 25 cents. Your SPC is 5%.

Your short-term ROI = $2.10 x 5% / $0.25 = 42%.

If you earn a lower royalty, you either need to have a high SPC or bid lower to make up for it.

EXAMPLE 3: Your book earns a royalty of 34 cents. Your average CPC bid is 10 cents. Your SPC is 10%.

Your short-term ROI = $0.34 x 10% / $0.10 = 34%.

Here we have an excellent SPC and a lower bid, but that 34-cent royalty is the killer.

The lower your royalty or the lower your SPC, the lower you should bid.


Let’s spin this formula around and look at it from another angle:

(safe CPC bid) = (royalty) x (SPC %) / 100%

This tells you the maximum CPC bid you should place if you want your short-term ROI to break even. You need to have some prior experience to properly estimate your SPC %.

EXAMPLE 4: Your book earns a royalty of $2.10. Your SPC is 5%.

Your safe CPC bid = $2.10 x 5% / 100% = $0.105

In this example, a bid of 10 cents is safe (provided that your SPC turns out to be what you expect).

Not getting enough impressions? So what. With a safe CPC, you’re not losing anything (again, assuming your SPC is reliable; that’s a big IF, but you can monitor your ad and pause or terminate it at any time). This basically works out to free publicity, with possible long-term benefits.


I’m not going to bore you with complete data from all 14 of my ads. I’ll share what I believe may be helpful.

My original ads had click-through-rates (ctr) of about 0.1% to 0.2%. After becoming more experienced with product targeting, my most recent ads have ctr’s of 0.4% to 0.9%. My last two ads are 0.85% and 0.90%.

The ctr doesn’t matter directly, since you pay for clicks, not impressions. Your impressions are free. However, better targeting will make your ad more cost-effective, so your ability to improve your ctr is one step toward getting the most out of your ad. It’s not uncommon for online advertising to yield a ctr of 0.1%. Most of my ads have done much better than 0.1%. That’s a plus for AMS, though of course it will vary by genre and by book. Not all books will achieve a ctr higher than 0.1%. But the potential is clearly there.

Several of my ads have a sales-to-clicks (SPC) ratio of 4%. My highest is 11%. I’ve heard from a few other authors who’ve done better (upwards of 20%); one shared a screenshot. I’ve also heard from authors who’ve done worse (1% or lower). SPC conversion rate is highly sensitive to targeting and packaging. Some books won’t get 1%. But 4% to 10% (or more) is attainable.

One reason my SPC may be under 10% is that my books tend to sell more often in print than in Kindle, and my print sales actually improved during the ad. Thus my short-term ROI may be better than it seems.

My recent average CPC bids have ranged from 25 to 35 cents. A week or more ago, these were around 50 cents. I’ve heard from other authors who also see their average CPC’s coming down. The value does depend strongly on genre or subject, as well as targeting. But in general, it seems to be coming down. This is expected, as there was a bidding frenzy in the early weeks, and it’s probably fizzled out to some extent. The bids may continue to come down, a nice reward for those who have exercised patience.

Remember, Amazon’s recommended CPC bid is 5 cents. I predict a day will come when that 5-cent bid can generate a decent impression rate, or at least a 10-cent bid.

Here are the numbers for a couple of my most recent ads (for educational books; one is in a pen name, yet the CPC and SPC are very similar):

  • 21,365 impressions / 181 clicks / $0.28 average CPC bid / 7 sales / 0.85% ctr / 3.87% SPC
  • 47,499 impressions / 174 clicks / $0.35 average CPC bid / 7 sales / 0.37% ctr / 4.02% SPC

One of these books sells for $5.99, so the short-term ROI is around 60%. The other sells for $2.99, so the short-term ROI is around 30%.

But maybe I just bid too high. If my average CPC bid had been 15 cents, my ROI’s would have been much higher (assuming I could achieve similar results with a lower bid).

However, I observed some strong side benefits during the ad campaigns, which I discuss next. My short-term ROI would actually exceed 100% if these factors are attributed to the ads.


Print Sales

One of my books, which ordinarily sells better in print than Kindle, saw paperback sales double during the month of February. This wasn’t just double January, but double months from 2014, too.

When I first started running KDP ad campaigns, I saw a bump in print sales of a few of the advertised books. Only one saw print sales double, but a few saw them improve.

I don’t think it will be typical of advertised books to sell more in print. This clearly favors books that ordinarily sell more often in print.

Similar Books

Another thing that I noticed was that for several advertised books, similar books saw an increase in sales.

In the best case, I saw sales of a closely related title double in February compared to previous months. This was the most extreme case, but I saw significant improvement in many titles where a similar book had been advertised.

If these two factors are due to the ads, then my short-term ROI’s on these ads actually exceed 100%. I need more data to be sure, but it’s encouraging.


I don’t have a sequential series like many fiction authors have, but I have interacted with series authors who have seen sequential volumes sell much better after advertising the first in the series.

It helps to already have a measure of your progression ratios. For example, R2 = Vol. 2 sales / Vol. 1 sales, R3 = Vol. 3 sales / Vol. 2 sales, and so on.

Suppose R2 = 50%, R3 = 40%, and R4 = 25%. Then for every 100 copies of Volume 1 you sell, you should expect to sell 50 copies of Volume 2, 20 copies of Volume 3, and 5 copies of Volume 4. (For example, 100 x R2 x R3 x R4 tells you how many copies of Volume 4 you should sell, on average, for every 100 sales of Volume 1.)

If you have good measures of your R’s, you can actually calculate how much you can afford to lose advertising Volume 1 and still come out ahead overall. (If you’re thinking about making Volume 1 perma-free, there is a similar calculation that you’d like to apply.)

Kindle Unlimited

Another possible side benefit is that the ad might result in more Kindle Unlimited downloads. (Your book must be enrolled in KDP Select in order to be eligible for an AMS ad campaign.)

This helps your sales rank, and if they are read to 10%, they also show up as borrows.


Even if your short-term ROI is a loss, your book advertisement may still be profitable.

It’s harder to predict and measure long-term benefits. If you can break even short-term, or at least only suffer a small percentage loss, then you have good prospects for reaping long-term rewards. If you suffer a large short-term loss, then you’re putting pressure on those long-term benefits just to break even.

However, there may be situations where you have other goals, like just getting readers as a new author, branding an image, going all out for a hot promotion, supplementing other marketing, etc. In those cases, it may be worth a short-term loss for possible long-term gain.

Possible long-term benefits include:

  • creating brand recognition (this is how advertising really works: people tend to buy products they recognize; most people don’t run out to the store when they see an ad, but after enough repetition, months later they tend to favor a product they’ve heard of before)
  • future sales from readers who want to read more of your work
  • improved exposure through sales spurts, customers-also-bought list expansion, improved sales rank, etc.

If you’re taking a big short-term loss, this can get stressful. It’s hard to count on possible benefits. You hope to see actual sales.

It may be easier if you currently earn good monthly royalties. If you only invest a small percentage of your average monthly royalties on paid advertising, this lessens the impact of your advertising risk. When you’re a new author investing more than you’re initially making, the risk seems much more significant.


An interesting possibility is running an AMS advertisement to help promote a Countdown Deal or KDP Select free promo.

Two downsides of the freebie are that you don’t earn any royalties during the promo and “sales” won’t show on your KDP ad report, so you won’t know if any of your “sales” came from the ad or not.

However, it’s not uncommon for authors to pay for advertising to help promote their freebies. For example, this is common with BookBub. So for those who already do this, running a KDP ad for a freebie is just another possible way to bring exposure to freebies. Obviously, your immediate ROI will be 0%. This is a big risk, but a possible way to bring exposure.

Freebies and Countdown Deals are sort of hit or miss. I tried a couple of Countdown Deals coupled with advertisements. I didn’t do any external promotion. (That’s not recommended; I was just testing this out.)

Two of my advertised Countdown Deals turned out to be duds; just slight improvements to sales when advertised at regular price. But one of my advertised Countdown Deals was extraordinary, bringing 20 times as many sales during this week compared to advertising at regular price. In this case, the added sales easily made up for the lower royalty of the promotional price.

Why did two show a slight increase and the other explode? Great question! I think it helps to get lucky; a few initial sales help to get the ball rolling. Once sales rank takes off, if it does, things can really get rolling with an advertised hot promotion.

But if the ball doesn’t get rolling, your promotion just sits there and fizzles out before it starts.

So my recommendation is to market your promotion externally, and just use AMS as one of multiple means of bringing exposure to your promotion. Use BookBub, E-reader News Today, Book Gorilla, or other means of externally bringing attention to your promotion, and consider combining AMS with this. (Or advertise externally and then at regular price, just after the ad finished, perhaps AMS can help you capitalize on some added sales at regular price.)


Measure Your Book’s Marketability

I recommend running an ad just to measure your SPC conversion rate. Divide your sales by your clicks. If this is about 1% or less, it suggests that your product page (or targeting) have substantial room for improvement. It could be the cover, blurb, Look Inside, or book idea, for example. If your SPC is 10% or higher, it shows that your book has great potential for sales, and should motivate you to work hard at your marketing, knowing that you have good prospects for selling books if you can just drive (relevant) traffic to your product page. When only 1 out of 100 customers who reach your product page buys your book, it’s a lot harder to be motivated to market.

Test the Market

I saw another author run two short-term ads with very specific targeting in order to gauge the popularity of similar, but different products. The author was deciding between two book ideas. This was a creative way to use these ads.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more