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)

Relevance: The Key to Advertising/Marketing



Many advertising and marketing concepts can be understood, and then applied, by considering this one word: relevance.

And what a difference relevance can make.

Yet, very often, the advertiser or marketer hasn’t given this concept due consideration.

In your wildest dreams, your audience is anyone who has a head.

But in reality, you throw your money away with such thinking.

Unless maybe you’re selling hairbrushes.

But even then, you’re wasting money showing your advertisement to people who are bald, strongly prefer combs, or don’t care about their appearance.

Let’s look at some specific examples of how the word relevance impacts advertising and marketing. (Many of the examples are specific to self-published books, but the same principle can be generalized to the sale of other kinds of products or services.)


Can you imagine walking into a covenant to sell a book about how to plan the perfect spring break vacation?

Well, it’s not much different when 80% of your audience glances at the cover of your sci-fi thriller and expects it to be a western.

(If you’re thinking about the movie Cowboys & Aliens right now, you’re totally missing the point!)

If it looks like a western, it probably is a western, so if you’re looking for sci-fi, why waste your time checking it out?

When there are other sci-fi books that actually look like science fiction.

The most important goal of book cover design is to create a cover that is relevant to your specific target audience.


There are two ways to approach the combination of writing and marketing that have good prospects for success.

If you can execute your approach well.

  • You can find an existing target audience* and write a book relevant for that audience. (Where you are interested in the topic and have the right experience to write it.)
  • Or you can write what interests you (and where you have the right experience), then find the audience relevant for what you’ve written and market to that audience.†

* You don’t have to write for the most popular audience. It can be a niche audience and still be quite successful.

† The latter carries more risk. The worst-case scenario is that the audience perfect for your book doesn’t even exist. It happens…


Billboard advertising doesn’t make sense for most books. Even though many people do read, only a fraction read any particular genre, and some of those readers are biased towards certain authors or subgenres, so that the majority of the people who see the billboard advertisement result in wasted impressions. On top of that, the sale of a single book usually results in a low royalty, so you can’t afford wasted impressions.

But if you sell automotive parts and advertise on a billboard overlooking a highway, nearly 100% of your audience drives a car, so even though many prefer to get their service done by a dealer or a mechanic, the advertisement is more effective because of the greatly improved relevance.

On top of that, most advertising largely involves branding, which requires repeated impressions over a long period of time. With advertising, the importance of relevance gets compounded through this repetition.

Where should you advertise your product (or service)? Think long and hard about where it would be highly relevant to show your product.

One reason to use Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) to advertise products that you sell on Amazon has to do with relevance:

  • Customers are already there browsing for similar products.
  • You’re not trying to persuade them to stop what they’re doing, leave one site, and visit another site.

To get the most out of AMS, focus on relevance.

For example, when advertising a KDP Select self-published Kindle e-book through AMS:

  • All else being equal, Amazon is more likely to show AMS ads that generate and maintain a high click-through rate. That’s a strong indication of relevance.
  • Precise targeting makes your ad more relevant to the customers who view it.
  • A cover that conveys the precise subgenre/subcategory and content at the tiny size shown in the ads is a big plus.
  • The short marketing pitch shown with the ad can also help to convey relevance.
  • Thus, relevance can help you generate impressions without raising your bid sky high.
  • Ultimately, the blurb, the rest of your product page, and the Look Inside must also be relevant to convert clicks into sales.


I use a free WordPress blog. I will soon pass 300,000 views (if I haven’t already), as I average 500 to 800 visitors per day finding my blog through search engines.

Yet I don’t employ any SEO “tactics.”

My goal has always been simple: Provide helpful content to anyone interested in self-publishing.

If the content is relevant to your audience, you have a strong organic marketing edge with much potential for long-term success.

Relevant content will naturally include the right keywords and keyphrases, lead to recommendations and referrals, generate followers, and encourage discussion.

You can blog successfully with short articles. What matters is that the content is relevant and helpful.

Trying to “fool” search engines into thinking that an article is relevant when it’s not won’t lead to long-term success.


To help close the sale, the blurb needs to implicitly convince the customer (with help from the Look Inside) that the content is relevant to the buyer.

It must reinforce the subgenre/subcategory and content conveyed by the cover, title, category, and keywords.

The style of writing and storytelling must also be relevant to the customer.

It needs to be the kind of story and characters that the customer wants to read.

Without giving the story away. Because once the customer knows the story, it’s no longer relevant.

Fiction blurbs need to be short, while nonfiction blurbs should highlight important points with bullets, since the customer doesn’t want to waste time—not yet sure if reading the blurb is relevant or not.

Write happy, be happy. 🙂

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2016

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)

Advertising: Amazon vs. Goodreads

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


Since KDP introduced Advertising Marketing Services (AMS) for KDP Select books earlier this year, I’ve placed 50 ads on a variety of nonfiction Kindle e-books.

I’ve also placed over a dozen ads with Goodreads. It’s interesting to compare the two options for advertising e-books.


There are two great things about advertising right on Amazon’s website or on a Kindle device (both are possible with AMS via KDP):

  • Many of the customers who see your ad are already shopping for other books, i.e. they are looking for books to read, they have their wallets out, and they are ready to spend money.
  • Since they are already on Amazon, your ad isn’t interrupting some other activity and trying to persuade customers to leave one site to visit another.

If you advertise at Goodreads with a link to your Amazon product page, you’re asking readers who were busy doing something else at Goodreads to stop what they were doing and visit another site all together.

You could instead advertise at Goodreads with a link to your book’s Goodreads page or a giveaway page, but if your ultimate goal is a sale, that’s an indirect way to go about it.

However, the way the self-service advertising options are presently setup, Goodreads ads seem to have an advantage with branding. We’ll return to this important point later.


The targeting options are considerably different with Amazon and Goodreads advertisements.

Amazon offers two kinds of targeting with AMS via KDP:

  • Interest targeting competes for ads based on category. Amazon has recently improved interest targeting by adding subcategories. Some books do fall nicely into one of those subcategories, but those subcategories are still too broad for other books, especially in nonfiction.
  • Product targeting lets you search for specific books or other products by keyword. Amazon has an advantage here, as Goodreads doesn’t offer keyword targeting, nor does Goodreads let you target specific books, nor does Goodreads let you target other products besides books (like movies).

Goodreads also offers two main kinds of targeting:

  • Goodreads also has categories to choose from, but these tend to be very broad.
  • I prefer not to select any categories, but to target by author instead. Visit Amazon and search for very popular books that your specific target audience is likely to read. Then enter those author names at Goodreads to target readers of those authors.

A great thing about Goodreads is that when you target specific authors, they will show your ad to Goodreads readers who have given those authors high ratings.

Imagine if you could target customers at Amazon who rated similar books 4 or 5 stars. You have to love Goodreads for this option.

I try to avoid other targeting options at Goodreads, such as gender, age, or country, since some accounts may not have selected an option.


Advertising with AMS via KDP requires a minimum $100 budget. You’re not required to spend your whole budget: You can pause or terminate your ad at any time. But if you bid high, you could blow through your budget quickly without knowing it because the ad report sometimes has significant delays.

I find that I can get very low-cost advertisements with effective results at Amazon. I have several ads with average CPC bids of a dime or less.

In comparison, I find that I must bid much higher at Goodreads.

My strategy with AMS is to bid very low in the beginning, and always wait at least 3 days before raising my bid, knowing that the ad report can be delayed. When I do raise my bid, I only raise it a little. I’m in no hurry, but after a few weeks, I finally start to generate impressions, clicks, and sales at a good rate, and my strategy minimizes my expenses (and lets me opt out before spending too much, if necessary).


Both services charge by the click. Impressions are free. Click-through rates (ctr) can be quite low (clicks divided by impressions): You might get 0.1% (1 click for every 1000 impressions), which is typical of much online advertising these days. But the ctr doesn’t really matter, since those impressions are free. Every impression helps with branding; you only pay for clicks.

While I often generate impressions at a good rate with AMS with average CPC bids of 10 cents or less, I often must spend 50 cents or more to generate impressions at a good rate at Goodreads.

AMS seems better for generating sales directly, while Goodreads seems better for branding, generating activity at Goodreads (followers at Goodreads, getting on to-read lists), and generating interest in a Goodreads giveaway. That branding issue is big.


Most companies who pay big money for advertisements don’t expect to generate immediate sales from it; they use advertisements to help with branding.

When you drive by a billboard, see a commercial on television, or hear an advertisement on the radio, do you stop what you were doing and race over to the store to buy a product that sounds great? Probably not.

But the next time you’re shopping for a product, see if you favor products you’ve heard of before. If so, branding has worked on you. And even if it didn’t work on you, it does work on the majority of consumers.

It’s not easy to break even in the short-term from advertising. The bigger goal is long-term, through branding.

That said, I do have some advertisements through AMS that have paid for themselves or brought a profit short-term, and I have benefited indirectly through more sales of paperbacks, similar books, and Kindle Unlimited pages read. This is partly because I apply a low bidding strategy, and partly because these ads aren’t asking customers to stop doing one thing to start doing another (they’re already shopping for books on Amazon).

But I also feel that I get better branding out of Goodreads, and this is an important long-term goal. However, you don’t want to lose too much short-term with branding hopes. Unlike AMS, it’s not as easy to gauge short-term ROI at Goodreads. You can see how much the ad is costing you, and you can see the clicks, but you don’t know how many of those clicks lead to sales.

If you use AMS, you can find out what your conversion rate is (sales divided by clicks). If it’s around 1% to 3%, that’s pretty low; if it’s 8% or higher, that’s pretty good. But if you spend too much on your clicks, or draw a low royalty, you can still lose out even with a nice conversion rate. You want to look at your royalties earned compared to money invested, but also want to consider possible indirect benefits like Kindle Unlimited borrows, print sales, sales of similar books, and potential for future sales through branding.


Both AMS and Goodreads let you enter a short tag line. This is text that will appear alongside your ad to help generate interest. Goodreads lets you enter a longer tag line.

Put some time and thought into how to use this valuable advertising space. It can make a big difference.


Advertising isn’t for all books. It probably won’t be the cure for a book that isn’t selling.

Here are some factors that can impact the effectiveness of an advertisement:

  • content has a significant audience
  • wise targeting choices
  • wise bidding strategy
  • tiny thumbnail of cover attracts target audience
  • how likely blurb, Look Inside, price, reviews, etc. help in closing the deal
  • how much royalty you will earn for each sale
  • effectiveness of your tag line


There are many places to advertise on the internet.

Ideally, you want to be able to target readers, namely your specific target audience. You want to generate impressions and clicks at a good rate, but with little cost.

Some services, like Bookbub, E-reader News Today, and a host of similar sites, can help to advertise short-term promotional prices. In this case, the short-term promotion can help create a compelling impulse to buy now. But you need an external promotional service that can help your book reach its specific target audience to get the most out of this strategy.

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 Amazon.com 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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Why Was Your AMS Ad Stopped?



Advertisements for KDP Select books placed through Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) can now be stopped by Amazon.

Why are some KDP ad campaigns stopping?

Due to low relevance.

Low relevance can mean more than one thing.

The most common explanation is that the click-to-views ratio is very small, probably small compared to 1 in 1000 (or 0.1%). If you’re getting 4000 views per click, for example, your AMS ad is likely to be stopped due to low relevance.

That’s not the only possible explanation, but the click-to-views ratio is the simplest way for Amazon to measure the relevance of your ad. If only 1 out of 4000 people who see your ad clicks on it, your ad evidently isn’t very relevant to the people who see it. In contrast, if 1 out of 300 people who see an ad click on it, that ad is more relevant to the people who see it.

There are other ways to determine relevance, such as comparing the list of targeted products to the categories and keywords of the book.

Most of the factors that affect relevance also impact the click-to-views ratio, so this probably is a very good indicator.

Why does Amazon care?

  • Authors only pay for clicks, not views. So Amazon is losing money on ads with very low click-to-view ratios.
  • The advertisements will lose their effectiveness if many ads have low relevance, as people will start ignoring them out of habit. (Don’t worry: Amazon is preventing this by stopping ads that show low relevance.)
  • A few authors have indubitably abused the system by intentionally targeting products with low relevance. (Yes, I can think of examples, but I won’t share them. Let’s not add to the abuse.)


If your AMS ad was stopped due to low relevance, you can start a new KDP ad campaign for the same book.

You’ll want to improve the relevance for your ad so that your next ad doesn’t get stopped.

Here are ways to improve your ad’s relevance:

  • If you originally targeted by interest, switch to product targeting instead.
  • If you originally targeted by product, select a shorter list of more relevant products. Spend more time researching a product list.
  • If your cover may not instantly reveal the book’s genre or content, a cover that better attracts your target audience may impact your relevance.

Better targeting is usually the cure to improved relevance.

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

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

How Your KDP Ad on Amazon Might Be Better than You Think



I love that Amazon now lets indie authors advertise with Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) through KDP Select.

Think about this: Traditionally published authors can’t find a self-service, low-cost advertising option on Amazon.

But if you’re enrolled in KDP Select, you can.

How cool is that?

Anyway… If you try one of these ads, you might just get 1 click for every 1000 impressions or so, and you might get a few sales for every 100 clicks.

If you also bid high to get more impressions, you might see a small short-term return on investment (ROI).

However, things may be better than they seem—i.e. better than the sales column in your AMS ad report might suggest.

Here are 14 ways that your Amazon ad might be more effective than it seems:

  1. Non-clicked sales. Clicking on your ad isn’t the only way to reach your product page. If a customer sees your name or the title of your book, the customer might search for it later. Or the customer might see the ad on his/her pc or laptop, but get out a Kindle to search for your book (instead of clicking on your ad). Thus, you might get a couple of sales that don’t show up on your ad report.
  2. Kindle Unlimited. Customers who click on your ad might download your book through Kindle Unlimited. These won’t show on the sales column of your ad report.
  3. Audio sales. Customers who click on your ad might see your audio book linked to your Kindle product page. A few customers may prefer the audio format.
  4. Print sales. Customers who click on your ad might see your print book linked to your Kindle product page. Some customers prefer print. (I tend to sell more print books than Kindle books, so this is significant for me.)
  5. Add to cart. The customer was busy buying something else when he/she saw your ad. So after clicking on your ad, if the customer likes your book, the customer might simply add your book to his/her shopping cart and revisit your book several weeks later. If the purchase isn’t made within 14 days, the sale won’t show on your ad report.
  6. Delays. Sales reporting on the ad report can be delayed. First, there can be a payment processing delay of a few days. The ad report itself says that sales reporting may be delayed by 2-3 days. The customer might not buy the book immediately after clicking the ad, too. The ad report will allow a customer 14 days from the click date to make the purchase, and still report the sale on the ad report.
  7. Series. If your ad succeeds in selling the first book of a series, some customers will also purchase the second book, third book, etc. Each sale can potentially be several sales.
  8. Similar books. A customer who clicks on your ad might check out your other books, too. In fact, the customer might buy one of your other books instead of the one you advertised. Or the customer might purchase multiple books.
  9. Multiple books. Authors of multiple similar books have a distinct advantage. One ad might result in multiple sales. But you only see sales of the advertised product in your ad report.
  10. Future sales. A customer who reads your book today might buy more books from you in the future. Including books you haven’t even published yet. When you release your next book, each fan you add today may impact your new release.
  11. Sales rank boost. If your ad succeeds in generating any sales or Kindle Unlimited downloads, this sales rank boost has the potential to generate additional sales.
  12. Branding. Anyone who sees your ad or reads the title has learned that your book exists. The next time they see your book, this improves the chances that they will buy it. Branding has good long-term potential. Even though the thumbnails are small and the ads only show a few words, people are clicking on the ads occasionally, so there is some branding effect in play.
  13. Recommendations. Any customers who buy your book as a result of the ad and who enjoy your book may recommend it to others. This can be a very long-term effect, but if you can get recommendations, they can have a big impact on sales many months down the road.
  14. Feedback. If nothing else, the ad report gives you some data that may be useful. For example, if your sales-to-click ratio is around 1% or less, it’s a good sign that you can improve (A) the marketability of your product page, (B) the targeting of your ad, or (C) your thumbnail or title so that they better attract your target audience through the ad.

Here are a few advertising tips that I’ve learned from my preliminary data from my KDP ad campaigns:

  • Product targeting appears to be much more effective than interest targeting.
  • Try to get into the mind of your target audience. Think of the people most likely to purchase, read, and appreciate your book. Which other books and products are they very likely to be shopping for now?
  • About 50 to 150 highly relevant products can work well, if you select them wisely.
  • It’s not just the popularity of the other product, but also how receptive those readers may be to your book.
  • It may be okay to add a highly relevant movie (on DVD or Prime, for example). This might help you break free of competition for ad placement.
  • It’s presently hard to make impressions with lower bids, say around 10 cents or less. Wise product targeting can help to make impressions.
  • Bid competitiveness is showing a few signs of possibly coming down in some categories. Patience may get your better return on your investment.
  • Here’s a new KDP Select tool that appears to reward higher-priced books. With a $100 budget and pay-per-click, earning a 34-cent royalty on a 99-cent book will have a really tiny short-term ROI. That doesn’t mean this can’t be useful to advertise a lower-priced book, just that doing so carries greater risk and requires much better long-term results to be worth it.

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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Sensible Advertising

Images from Shutterstock


Authors can now advertise their Kindle Select books on Amazon.com.

But is it worth it?

The minimum KDP ad campaign budget is $100 and the minimum bid is 2 cents.

You can also advertise on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

Or you can advertise a promotion with BookBub, E-reader News Today, and a host of similar sites.

Will this be money well spent?

Or would it be better sitting in your pocket?


  1. Temptations
  2. Advertising Goals
  3. Advertising Budget
  4. Short-term ROI Expectations
  5. Other Considerations


If you try an ad with bidding options, you may find yourself tempted to make potentially foolish decisions.

Here’s what might happen. You might place an ad with a 2-cent bid, but when you check your reports, you might see very little activity.

So you might raise your bid to 5 cents. You might see a little more activity, but still very little.

Then you might try 10 cents.

You want to see something happen, right? This is the age of instant gratification, after all.

So the natural tendency is to keep raising the bid until something happens.

And when it finally does, you might suddenly get thousands of impressions and hundreds of clicks.

And before you realize it, your $100 is all gone.

With little to show for it.

Amazon Marketing Services is new to KDP, so thousands of KDP Select authors are playing with it. Many are bidding higher and higher just to see some activity in their reports.

Also, there may be delays, stalls, or bugs in the reporting. It may not be instant feedback.

Before you make a rash decision, you want to think this through. Try to make a wise and informed decision, with specific goals in mind.

Be patient. Especially with Amazon Marketing Services, since it’s new, if you just wait days or weeks, eventually things will settle down and a lower bid will get you more impressions for your money.

Thus, waiting may get you more bang for your buck. Remember, Amazon recommends a CPC (cost-per-click) bid of 5 cents, so in the long run, lower bids are likely to make many more impressions than they appear to be making right now.


The first step is to identify and rank your advertising goals.

Unfortunately, most advertisements do not pay good short-term returns when it comes to books.

So if your primary goal is to make a quick buck, advertising probably isn’t the tool you’re looking for.

You might take a sizable short-term loss when you advertise.

That’s the risk you take, with the hope that other benefits will outweigh the short-term loss.

But the short-term return is also worth figuring when weighing benefits against risks. Look later in this article for help figuring this.

Here are examples of goals that you might have with your ad campaign:

  • branding your book
  • exposure for a new book, series, or author
  • help promote a short-term discount
  • landing on a hot new release or bestseller list
  • initial sales
  • improved sales rank
  • long-term sales, recommendations, reviews
  • establishing a reader base

The hope is that if you take a short-term loss with paid advertising, there will eventually be long-term gains to make up for it.

If paid advertising always returned your initial investment, everyone would do it.

Here are some of the possible long-term benefits:


The ad itself is likely to create impressions. These impressions help with branding.

People who see your book multiple times over a long period are more likely to recognize it. People are more likely to buy products they feel familiar with.

Branding can lead to long-term sales, sometimes several months down the line.


Advertising tends to bring very many impressions, some clicks, and few sales.

The short-term sales may seem dismal. If so, you hope that branding makes up the difference several months later.

If you have a hot promotion going on, an ad may be somewhat more successful. But then you earn less royalty on the short-term sales.

Some authors actually pay for ads to promote freebies, often hoping to help build buzz for a new book and to generate word-of-mouth recommendations and reviews from early readers.

If your ad is successful at generating sales, long-term if not short-term, eventually those sales can add to your reader base, post reviews (only a tiny percentage though), recommend your book to others, buy more books you’ve written, follow you online and buy your next book, etc.

Every follower you add may potentially buy several of your books (but your book has to really merit this).


How much can you afford to invest in advertising?

You’re obviously limited by the finances you have on-hand.

But even if you have money to invest, you should also ask yourself:

How much do you currently net in monthly royalties?

It’s a lot easier for an author earning $1000 or more per month on royalties to invest 10% of that in advertising than it is for an author earning $50 per month to part with $100.

Spending a fraction of your royalties on advertising is a reasonable investment. You have something substantial to show at the end of the month even if it’s a bust.

Spending more than your monthly royalties on advertising is risky. You might face a net loss, for all your hard work to write the book.

But you’re hoping to advance from low monthly royalties to medium or high monthly royalties, right? You’re hoping that the investment will help you move on up.

So consider my next question.

Do you have compelling reason to expect significant growth in your royalties (aside from the possible benefits of advertising)?

Will you be writing more similar books? If so, are you getting some consistent sales (even if it’s a very low frequency) with your current book?

Are you presently seeing an overall trend of growth in sales over a long period of time?

Ideally, you’d like some sort of evidence to suggest that your future royalties will help cover a possible investment today.

If not, it might be worth starting out with free marketing and publishing more books, to help build consistent sales.

Once you see evidence that future royalties may be enough to warrant your advertising expense, then you’re in a better position to try it.

But there are a few authors who really do their research (comparing similar books in the beginning), who have some marketing experience, etc., and who launch their books with a bang and have the confidence that it’s going to work out. Advertising is a risk, but if you have done your homework and you have such confidence, you must decide if you an afford this risk. The worst-case scenario is that it’s a bust. Can you afford that?

What are your book expenses?

Some authors invest a large sum of money on editing, cover design, formatting, and other publishing expenses.

(Maybe I should have written a post on $en$ible publishing expenses before writing this one…)

It’s tempting to think, “I’ve already spent several hundred dollars, so what’s another $100 on top of that?”

Well, if your book will make a $2 royalty, for example, that’s an extra 50 books that you have to sell to recover your expenses.

Especially, if it’s your first book, knowing that many stand-alone books don’t sell too many copies, that’s making an already big risk even bigger.

If you have more modest expenses, you still must factor them in when setting your advertising budget.

Your goals may factor into this, too.

Some authors invest a lot of money into their books and honestly don’t care about royalties.

A few authors actually donate their royalties to charity. A few don’t need the money, write merely as a hobby, and just want the readers, however they may come.

Most authors want or need those royalties for one reason or another, and so the financial aspect is significant to them.

But if you have unique goals, that can change your perspective on setting an advertising budget. (But at least consider things like living expenses, income, retirement, etc., i.e. make sure that you can afford to invest in advertising.)

Investing a fraction of your net monthly royalty income on advertising is reasonable.

The more consistent your monthly royalties have been and the more compelling reasons you have to expect growth, the better you can afford to invest a higher percentage of your monthly royalties.


Short-term return-on-investment (ROI) can sometimes be quite low for book advertising.

For this reason, it really helps if you have other strong goals besides quick sales. You might not get any extra sales from your ad, and if you do, they might be fewer than you’re hoping.

Here are two typical numbers to be aware of:

  • 0.1% ctr (click-through rate). You may average 1000 impressions per click. Some ads do better, some worse, but this is fairly common.
  • 1% closing rate. You may average 100 clicks per sale. This figure can vary quite a bit, but 1% is respectable.

So if you run an ad and it creates 100,000 impressions, for example, you might get 100 clicks and 1 sale (on average).

Ideally, if you’re investing $100 or more, you’d like to create several hundred thousand impressions so that you might receive hundreds of clicks and hopefully a few sales.

The impressions and clicks help you with branding and exposure, so the hope is that these numbers will help in the long run, even if the short-term ROI is quite low.

Or, for authors running hot promotions, trying to climb onto hot new release or bestseller lists, those few extra sales, if they can get them, may make the difference.

With KDP’s ad campaign through Amazon Marketing Services, you only pay for clicks.

In this case, if you aim for a 1% closing rate (sales divided by clicks), with a $100 budget, here is how your short-term ROI relates to your average CPC (cost-per-click) bid:

  • An average 2-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 50 times your royalty.
  • An average 3-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 33 times your royalty.
  • An average 4-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 25 times your royalty.
  • An average 5-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 20 times your royalty.
  • An average 10-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 10 times your royalty.
  • An average 20-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 5 times your royalty.
  • An average 50-cent bid gives an estimated ROI of 2 times your royalty.

So if your book royalty is $2, if you can achieve a 1% closing rate, you could actually break even. Not all books will achieve a 1% closing rate though.

Amazon’s recommended CPC bid is 5 cents. If your average bid is 5 cents, you earn a royalty of $2, and you achieve a 1% closing rate, your estimated short-term ROI would be about $40. That’s a $60 short-term loss, with potential long-term gains. If your ad runs its full course and you get all 2000 clicks, you might make a couple hundred thousand impressions, which may help with branding.

If you earn a higher royalty, like $3 or $4 per book, this allows you to bid somewhat higher, or you can go with the recommended bid with higher hopes for returns.

Especially, if your book normally sells on its own. If not, you’re probably less likely to see that 1% closing rate. Advertising probably isn’t the answer to, “Why isn’t my book selling?”

If you can achieve a higher closing rate, like 3% to 5%, this nets you a higher short-term ROI, or you can afford to bid more. But you won’t know what your average closing rate is until you’ve run ads and have received several hundred clicks. If you get a lower closing rate, like 0.1% to 0.5%, this will give you a much lower short-term ROI.

Bidding higher will probably help your ad make impressions faster and get clicks faster, which means that your ad will be over sooner. You also get fewer clicks overall with higher bids, which means a much lower short-term ROI.

If you have a hot short-term promotion to advertise, it might be worth bidding high enough to make all of your impressions while your book is on sale. But remember, you get fewer clicks and a much lower short-term ROI by doing so. More of your hope is on long-term dividends.

If you earn a small royalty, like 34 or 70 cents, your ROI is much less. Your ad is much more likely to have a dismal short-term ROI. But if you succeed in getting many extra sales, albeit at lower royalties, there could be some long-term benefit. Your lower price won’t necessarily net you significantly more sales, though. You really need to supplement freebies and Countdown Deals by free marketing (e.g. relevant bloggers helping to spread the word) or other directed paid marketing (like BookBub and E-reader News Today) to get the most out of a free or sale price. In this case, a KDP ad campaign should just be one of your promotional strategies.

High bids, like 20 cents and up, are very risky. These eat up your clicks faster and pay much smaller ROI’s. You really need a compelling reason to take this large short-term loss. Maybe if you have a large following, the next book in your series has good prospects of hitting the hot new release or bestseller lists, and you want to go all out for every last sale in case it makes the difference.


There are many factors involved in advertising, including:

  • more books: The more similar books you have, the more potential benefit there is. Customers might buy more than one book.
  • current sales: Books that sell on their own are more likely to benefit from advertising. Spending money on ads isn’t likely the magic cure.
  • reviews: Do you have enough to attract readers and to minimize the risk from one bad review?
  • targeting: Advertising tends to be more effective when you reach your specific target audience. On the other hand, if your targeting is too narrow, you might not make a significant number of impressions. It pays to do some research.
  • cover: A cover that clearly signifies the genre and attracts your specific target audience (even in the tiny ad thumbnail) has a distinct advantage.
  • product page: The better your blurb and Look Inside, the better impact these will have on your closing rate.

Monitor your ad. You can pause your ad if things aren’t progressing as desired. You can even terminate your ad, if necessary. If you’re not happy with the results, try editing your ad (though not every option may be editable).

Keep an eye on your product page and on your ad stats. You might see the money vanishing rapidly without results to show for it, for example. If you catch this early on, you can at least try changing your ad up or pausing it, rather than just let your entire budget run its course.


I’ve been fascinated with this new option to advertise KDP Select books with Amazon Marketing Services, and so I’ve now written several articles on the subject.

You’re probably sick of reading about it on my blog.

Well, don’t worry.

I have some different topics coming up. 🙂

Though eventually when I have a good statistical sample of data, I’ll probably report it. It will be a while before that day comes, however.

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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How Do You Target an Ad with Amazon Marketing Services?

Images combined from Shutterstock.

Images combined from Shutterstock.


KDP Select authors can place an ad on Amazon.com with a minimum ad campaign budget of $100 and cost-per-click bid of 2 cents.

The ad is placed through Kindle Direct Publishing via Amazon Marketing Services.

Placing an ad on Amazon won’t likely provide an easy fast-track to success.

Advertising isn’t likely the magic answer to your marketing woes.

But paid advertising can be used effectively.

  • If your ad makes thousands of impressions to your specific target audience, it helps with branding. (The branding is not as good as one could hope for, as the thumbnail and author name are tiny, but there is still a branding impact.)
  • If your ad generates hundreds of clicks to your specific target audience, this helps with branding much more. On your product page, they see a larger image of your cover, may read your description, and may peak inside.
  • If your ad results in a few sales to your specific target audience, and if they really enjoy the read, you might get some valuable recommendations. Plus, this may improve your sales rank, which can have benefits of its own.

The key words here are specific target audience. You want to show your ad to people who are most likely to want to read your book. They are more likely to buy your book, now or months down the line, and they are more likely to recommend the book if it’s really, really good.

Note that authors with multiple similar books have a distinct advantages with long-term branding, and authors who supplement their paid marketing with free marketing strategies also have a distinct advantage.


KDP lets you target an ad campaign with Amazon Marketing Services.

Wise choices help you best reach your specific target audience.

Visit your KDP bookshelf. Under the KDP Select column, click the Promote and Advertise link to get started.

There are two ways to target an audience:

  • target by interest
  • target by product

It’s a choice; you can’t do both with the same ad. You won’t be able to switch later (except by terminating the ad and starting a new one).

Either click to target by interest or click to target by product, and then you will be able to select your options.


You must choose between interest targeting and product targeting. You can’t have both (not with one ad).

You also can’t edit this later. (You can edit your bid, budget, or the duration, and for product targeting only, you can edit the list of products.)

  • Interest targeting lets you choose broad categories, like Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (but you can’t narrow interest targeting down, like just Mystery).
  • Product targeting lets you select specific products at Amazon to target.

Each has its advantages:

  • Interest targeting is generally wider, and you have the same targeting list as any other author who selects the same category.
  • Product targeting allows for more directed targeting, but takes time and research to use effectively.

Is targeting necessary? We don’t pay for unclicked impressions, only for clicks. So if readers outside of your subgenre see your ad and ignore it, you really haven’t lost anything.

But if people outside of your subgenre see your ad, click on it expecting one thing, but then find another thing on your product page, that wasted click will cost you.

The more effectively your tiny thumbnail and first few words of your title clarify your precise subgenre—not to your specific audience, familiar with the subgenre, but to other shoppers who aren’t familiar with it—the less you need to worry about precise targeting. Extra impressions that aren’t clicked don’t cost you money.

On the other hand, you don’t want your targeting to be too broad no matter how effective your ad sends its message about the content. If you want to find your readers, you need to apply some targeting.

A niche audience may be reached better through specific product targeting.


If any of the categories are a pretty good fit for your book, interest targeting may work well.

Update: I’m getting better results, presently, through product targeting. I suggest targeting at least 50 books (with product targeting, not interest targeting) where readers who enjoy those books are likely to appreciate your book. You really need to think about your specific audience.

Here are some fiction categories that are likely to work well for books that fit into them:

  • Romance
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
  • Comics & Graphic Novels

But if you have a subgenre where people outside that subgenre aren’t likely to be receptive to your book, you may want more directed targeting that product targeting offers.

The Teen & Young Adult category is interesting. If you have a novel for this audience, you may actually want to select two target audiences, if one of the above categories is also a good fit.

The Literature & Fiction category is kind of like the “not listed above” category. It can work well for some books, but will be too broad for others. Product targeting is the alternative.

In hot genres, there are likely to be many competing ads going in those categories. Product targeting may not help evade that competition though.

Here are some nonfiction categories that are likely to be good fits for many books:

  • Parenting & Relationships
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Cookbooks, Food & Wine
  • Health, Fitness & Dieting
  • History
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Science & Math
  • Travel
  • Sports & Outdoors

The following nonfiction categories seem much broader:

  • Nonfiction
  • Humor & Entertainment
  • Education & Reference
  • Professional & Technical
  • Arts & Photography
  • Business & Investing
  • Computers & Technology
  • Crafts, Hobbies & Home

But remember, in some cases, it’s okay if the category is somewhat broad. It really depends on how people outside the audience may interpret the ad (you don’t want wasted clicks from people who didn’t realize what they were getting). It helps to know how well your cover signifies the content.


You can achieve more directed targeting with product targeting.

However, it may take a very large list of hundreds of books to get many impressions.

Update: I’m getting better results, presently, through product targeting. I suggest targeting at least 50 books (with product targeting, not interest targeting) where readers who enjoy those books are likely to appreciate your book. You really need to think about your specific audience. It’s okay to select other products, like movies, that are likely to be a great fit for your book.

If you spend too much time assembling your list, your page could time out. If so, you’ll have to start over.

Alternatively, you can add several books now, then edit your list after your ad is approved. When you proceed to edit your ad, look for the Target Products Management tab.

Check the box at the bottom of the list (once it appears) to expand your targeting to closely related products if you’d like to increase how many impressions your ad makes.

Or uncheck that box to better focus your targeting. This box automatically checks itself every time you load a new page of keyword results, so if you really want this unchecked, you’ll have to frequently uncheck it.

Choose wisely: That checkbox won’t be an option after you submit your ad. (But you will have the option to edit your list of products targeted.)

You enter keywords (or titles or ASIN’s) and Amazon will show you the top 146 matches.

If you’re seeing many other products in your list (some aren’t even books), you could try adding the word “Kindle” to the keyword, as in “gothic Kindle” instead of just “gothic.” But the more you restrict your targeting, the fewer impressions you make.

It might be okay to target non-book products. Those customers may have related interest (like golf products for a book related to golf). You can always cross your fingers that they won’t actually click on your ad unless they actually own a Kindle (which seems logical, so it might just work).

Click the link “Add all on this page” to select up to 30 products at once. You might need several hundred similar products to create many impressions.

I select all of the first page, and sometimes all 146 matches. When I get to the next page, I decide how many of those matches are relevant. If most are, I take the whole page and check the next.

Think of all the relevant keywords:

  • Start with the subgenre, like “paranormal” or “space opera.”
  • Think of places where you book is set, like “Egypt” or “Paris.”
  • Think of subjects that relate to your book, like “chess” or “mythology.”
  • For historical books, include the period, like “Victorian,” “Hundred Years War,” or “ancient Rome.”
  • Think of similar keywords. For example, if your sci-fi book involves alien abductions, keywords like “aliens,” “alien abductions,” “extra terrestrials,” “ufo’s,” “ufology,” “ancient aliens,” “ancient astronauts,” “spaceships, “starships,” or “Martians” may be relevant. At some point, if the keyword isn’t finding any books that you haven’t already added, it’s time to think along other lines.
  • Think of the interests of your specific audience, such as “feminism,” “video games,” “jewelry,” or “knitting.” It helps to know your audience well. But also think of interests in your book.
  • Search the bestseller lists at Amazon. You may find that you’ve already grabbed many of these in your keyword searches. But if not, you could always copy/paste ASIN’s.
  • Check out your customers-also-bought lists. If you know your subgenre well, you’ll already know highly similar books. Be sure to target these, too.
  • You can also enter the names of popular authors or series. You can’t do that for the 7 keywords when you publish, but in advertising, you are trying to identify similar products. But realize that popular books are likely to be targeted by many other ads, so it will be competitive. (If it’s not a very similar book, you’re just wasting your time and money.)
  • There are probably many other kinds of relevant words for your book and audience, like “short reads,” “tenth grade,” “tween,” “Christian,” “literary,” etc. But you’re not entering keywords, you’re selecting the products. What matters is if the products that show on the list are likely to attract the same readers as your book because they share similar interests.

Go onto your blog and ask people to list all of the words they can think of that relate to your book. People are generally helpful, and this might turn into a fun game. Then you can use some of the results for your product targeting.

Remember, you can always edit your product targeting later (but if you instead select interest targeting, you can’t edit that nor can you switch to product targeting; and if you select product targeting, although you can edit the list, you can’t switch to interest targeting), so it’s okay to test things out or think of better ideas later.


Advertising costs money, so it carries risk.

Results aren’t guaranteed.

Advertising isn’t an easy fast-track for success.

It’s not the simple solution to your marketing woes if your book isn’t selling on its own.

It’s not a substitute for learning how to market. But it can supplement effective free marketing strategies.

It doesn’t always provide a good short-term return on investment. But it can provide long-term benefits. And it can give added exposure for a hot promotion.

There are effective ways to advertise. And it partly depends on your goals, like branding or exposure rather than immediate sales.

You might only get 1 click for every 1,000 impressions, and you might only get 1 sale for every 100 clicks. You might not even get that. It’s a risk.

The more you bid, you’re more likely to lose money short-term, perhaps a lot of money. The more you bid, the fewer clicks you get (since you pay per click) and the faster your money runs out. But if you have a hot promotion going on, it may be worth it for that.

The less you bid, the smaller your short-term risks, but the fewer impressions, clicks, and early sales you’re likely to get.

Advertising tends to be more about branding than immediate sales. Or for short-term promotions, it’s more about exposure.

The more similar books you have, the better. The more your cover and product page appeal to your specific target audience, the better.

Thousands of other authors are trying this new advertising tool out. Thus, in the beginning, many authors are raising their bids impatiently, just wanting to see something happen. So it will be harder to get good numbers early on. Patience may have some merit.

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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Tracking Views at Amazon—Finally..?

Image from ShutterStock.

Image from ShutterStock.


Don’t you wish that you could see how many people are viewing your book’s product page at Amazon?

Then you’d be able to see how good your blurb and Look Inside are at closing the deal, or how well a promotion is working.

Well, now you can get tracking data at Amazon.

Amazon marketing services is now available for books enrolled in KDP Select.

For as little as a $100 budget and bids of 2 cents, you can advertise your book on Amazon.

Visit your Bookshelf and click the link under the KDP Select column called Promote and Advertise.

When I did created an advertisement this morning, I received an approval email that said:

  • “Please allow 1 day for clicks/impressions to appear…”
  • “…and 2-3 days for detail page views to appear.”


This will show how many impressions are made all together. That’s the number of times that your ad is shown to potential customers.

You don’t pay for impressions that don’t result in clicks. You only pay when someone clicks on your ad.

But every impression helps with branding and discovery.


Divide your budget by your bid. That’s the minimum number of clicks that you’ll get if your entire budget is used up. (If it’s not used up and you’d like it to be next time, either increase the duration or try a higher bid.)

For example, a $100 budget and 2-cent bid will give you 5000 clicks if the entire budget is used up. (First convert 2 cents to $0.02. Then divide.)

But you’ll get even more impressions. You might get tens of thousands of impressions or more for your $100.


Compare your clicks to impressions to compute your click-through rate. That is, what percentage of the time do people who see your ad click on it to view your product page?

click-through rate = ( clicks / impressions ) x 100%

The smaller your click-through rate, the less effective your cover is at attracting the audience who is seeing your ad. The problem is either that the cover doesn’t appeal to your audience, or you’re not targeting your ad to your specific audience effectively.


Amazon will evidently also show how many people are viewing your detail page. This is valuable info that many authors have requested in the past, but never had access to. Now there is a way to get this data.

Compare your sales to views to compute your closing rate. This shows how good your blurb and Look Inside are at sealing the deal once traffic arrives at your product page.

closing rate = ( sales / views ) x 100%

The smaller your closing rate, the less effective your blurb and Look Inside are at selling your book.


Amazon Marketing Services offers two ways to target traffic:

  • target by product
  • target by interest

When you choose interest, select the category that’s the best fit for your book. The choices are fairly broad, so unfortunately you’ll also catch some people in the category who aren’t in your subcategory, but the targeting does help to deliver your ad to a narrower audience.

When you choose product, you can find similar books (or relevant products) and target your ad to customers who view those products (or perhaps who have used those products in the past). You can choose multiple products.


KDP Select authors can place an advertisement and, in addition to any benefits of the ad itself, receive valuable sales information regarding their books.

It may be helpful for planning your next book.

It might help establish whether something you’ve changed recently is helping or hurting.

It might help you see how well a promotion is doing.

It’s valuable data that we didn’t have before.

Once you run more than one ad at different times, you have some basis for comparison.

However, this tool may be more effective in the beginning, while it’s still new to customers and other authors.


Advertising isn’t a band-aid for a book that doesn’t sell on its own.

Advertising isn’t a substitute for learning how to market a book effectively.

Advertising is more helpful for authors who have multiple books out and already have some positive marketing experience.

Advertising is better when you supplement it with free marketing strategies.

Advertising is more effective when it’s targeted well.

Advertising is more effective when your cover is visually attractive to your specific target audience, and when it reveals the genre or subject very clearly.

Advertising may riskier when you have few reviews.

Advertising directly on Amazon.com is potentially much more effective than marketing on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads. Instead of asking people to stop whatever they’re doing with their social media and hop on over to Amazon, now you’re showing your ad to people who are already shopping at Amazon.

Advertising can help you brand a name.

Advertising does carry a risk. Weigh the benefits and risks carefully. The worst-case scenario is that you’re out $100 with little to show for it. Can you afford that risk? What are you doing to supplement the advertising to help minimize this risk?

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

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