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

Images from Shutterstock

Images from Shutterstock


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

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

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

But there are so many places to advertise:

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


Wouldn’t you love to know?

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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

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

You can find more questions here:

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

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

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

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


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