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 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.


Click here to jump to the comments section:


Your Blog Traffic Includes Three Audiences


Target Audience

It’s important to identify your target audience and prepare content for that audience.

It’s also important to realize that your blog has three different audiences:

  • Active bloggers who frequently read your posts and contribute to the comments section.
  • Fans who stop by to check out your blog, who may find helpful content and continue to visit.
  • Potential customers who discover your blog through search engines, links to your website, etc.

Each audience is important in its own way:

  • Fellow bloggers who frequently like your posts and interact in the comments section give your blog life and personality. This activity makes you feel better and creates a great vibe when your other audiences discover your posts. Much of your following consists of other WordPress bloggers, Facebook followers, and Twitter followers.
  • Fans of your current books may discover your blog from the About the Author section of your books. They may be hoping to learn more about you, find additional content on your website, or receive updates about your works in progress.
  • People in your target audience who discover your blog through search engines are prospective customers. They didn’t already know about your book before discovering your blog. If the search terms they used are highly relevant for both the content on your website and in your books, your blog is working to help customers find you (rather than you trying to find customers).

Blog Traffic

It’s easy to get caught up in views, likes, follows, and immediate sales.

When you start out, these numbers can seem quite frustrating, since blogging tends to be very slow in the beginning.

Most of your likes, follows, and initial views are coming from other WordPress bloggers. Most of these bloggers aren’t in your target audience.

Fellow bloggers can provide amazing support, offer helpful advice, help to spread the word about you in the social media world, add to your following, and make your posts look engaging. You can also find wonderful friends among other bloggers.

But remember, most of these—totally awesome—bloggers aren’t in your target audience. Yes, some of your blog pals will support you with sales and word-of-mouth recommendations. But most of your potential customers aren’t to be found in your likes, follows, and initial views.

Your following will consist of some fans once you begin to attract readers. However, fans may represent a very thin slice of your total following. Much of your following may consist of ghosts, i.e. people who clicked the Follow button, but will almost never read your posts. But if you have readers and you direct them to your blog, some of them will show up as fans.

Tip: Don’t just include a link to your blog. Also add a reason to visit your blog. What will they find there that will make the trip worthwhile?

When you do a cover reveal, your fans will help you build buzz for the new release. When you release a new book, fans will help you with early sales and reviews. The larger your fan base, the better the potential of your next book launch.

Fans are people in your target audience who already know about your book. Bloggers mostly already know about your book, but aren’t likely to be in your target audience.

(Exceptions are fantastic, but they are still exceptions. Most of the books I’m reading now were written by WordPress authors that I met here. There are many WordPress bloggers who read books by fellow bloggers. This is all wonderful, but remember that most bloggers are outside of your target audience.)

Your website will be most successful in generating sales when it reaches people in your target audience who don’t already know about your book.

(Sales may not be the best measure of success, nor the best motivation for having a blog. Blog and write to share your passion. But in the interest of helping to share your passion through sales, the question of how to generate more sales may have some importance to you.)

That’s where the search engine can be a valuable tool. Prepare content that is likely to attract people in your target audience to your blog. The material has to be highly relevant both to your audience and to your books. Even if you write fiction, you can make some nonfiction posts that relate to the content of your books.

Test out keywords on Google. The keyword should be relevant to your post, relevant to your audience, searched for with some frequency, but not so popular that your post will be drowned out by many other articles.

When you see views of old posts every day, when your WordPress stats show that you have a large percentage of search engine traffic, and when the keywords searched for are highly relevant for your books, then you know that you’re doing some things right to attract people through a content-rich website.

This can start out very slow. If you write a post hoping to attract people through search engines, you might see dismal results in the beginning. It takes quality content and even then you must persevere through a long slow period.

After six months, if you have dozens of views every day coming from search engines, your blog traffic consists of hundreds of people per month who didn’t previously know about your books. There is incredible potential here, well worth the effort and the patience required to see it through.


On the one hand, you’re trying to establish your own brand, and this comes about from consistency and unity.

But on the other hand, variety helps to attract different parts of your target audience because even people who share some common interests do think much differently. Variety also gives you some flavor for your blogging.

It is possible to show variety while also being unified toward the same brand.

You want to prepare material for all three audiences, and to mix it up. This helps you engage everybody, such that when people stop by, on any given day one of your recent posts is likely to appeal to them.

  • Engage your fellow bloggers and interact with them.
  • Have content that will interest your fans and encourage them to visit your blog periodically.
  • Post content that will attract your target audience through search engines.

Publishing Resources

I started this blog to provide free help with writing, publishing, and marketing. You can find many free articles on publishing and marketing by clicking one of the following links:

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

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

Target Your Audience

Target Pic

Yeah, I know. As a consumer, the feeling that businesses may be targeting you may not be the most wonderful feeling; and the picture probably doesn’t help with this. Yet the phrase is useful to anyone who is selling a product or service, to remind them of the importance of marketing the product or service to the people who are most likely to want it.

Think of it this way: Businesses are trying to help people discover products and services which may be a good fit for their individual preferences. This is accomplished by marketing toward a specific target audience – perhaps not the friendliest phrase for a specific group of people who share common interests, like dirt bike riders or Trekkies.

Imagine standing outside of a football stadium trying to sell used golf balls to fans who are buying tickets. Sure, some of the football players will be golfers. But don’t you think you’d have better luck selling golf balls at a golf course? Even if you meet a football fan who plays golf, his mind will surely be on football, and he will probably be irritated to have you try to switch his mindset so he can discuss golf business with you right before the big game.

Even if the marketing is free, it still costs time and effort. And there are many more things that one can do to market a product than any human being can do in a single day. So you must choose wisely.

Marketing is much more likely to be effective when it’s geared toward a specific target audience, which is a good fit for the product.

Recall the football fan who might be irritated to discuss golf when his mind is on football. This point is important for customer satisfaction.

Suppose you succeed in selling a product to many people who fall outside of the target audience. These customers are less likely to be pleased with the product, which can affect reviews, referrals, and recommendations – i.e. it can lead to a little negative marketing. These customers don’t understand the nature of the product as well as the target audience, and therefore may not have realistic expectations for what the product should actually do.

As an example, this is often the case with free e-books. Readers outside the genre are tempted to buy the book because it looks like a good deal. Since the e-book is free, they may not feel the need to invest time and effort reading the blurb or checking out the Look Inside. These readers are less likely to know what is typical of the genre. They might also be trying the genre out, only to discover that they really don’t like it. Therefore, these readers from outside the genre are more likely to be disappointed with the book, which could lead to bad reviews.

When the author invests in the time or money to promote the freebie to the specific target audience, then many of the free e-books also go to members of the target audience, which helps to balance the freebies downloaded by other readers.

So if you just market a product to a general audience, thinking that the audience is so large that even a tiny percentage is significant, there may be possible negative effects to take into consideration.

Whenever possible, market the product toward the specific target audience. This can have a big impact on the cost-benefit analysis.

The first step is to identify the specific target audience. Think about who is most likely to use the product. Is there a gender preference? Which age group? What common interests will they share?

The common interests are especially important. Be as specific as possible – e.g. baseball is more specific than sports, and contemporary romance is more precise than romance which isn’t as vague as fiction.

Avoid being hypothetical like, “Chess players might be interested in graphic arts.” They might be, but you’re more likely to reach chess players through their interest in chess, since many won’t be in the market for graphic arts.

The goal isn’t to widen the audience as much as possible. Targeting an audience that is far wider than the people who are most likely to use the product makes marketing less efficient. Many companies, such as small book publishers, achieve success with a narrow audience – such as niche marketing. A very narrow audience can lead to good results if you succeed in reaching a large percentage of the audience. Marketing efficiency is very important, especially if you don’t have a huge supply of money to invest – like many indie authors and musicians.

Sometimes, you can widen the audience. For example, suppose that you wrote a mystery that strongly relates to basketball. In this case, you can target mystery readers and basketball players, as both may have a strong interest in the book.

In contrast, if a book is partly mystery and partly fantasy, trying to reach both mystery and fantasy readers may backfire: The mystery readers might not like the fantasy, and vice-versa. It’s better to market the book one way or the other, focus on the primary component, and try not to sell the secondary component. Some genres do mix well, like romantic suspense, which is already an established category.

Once you establish who the target audience consists of, the challenge is to reach them. Base this on the commonalities that they share.

  • Where are they likely to shop – both physical stores and online? Which departments?
  • Where will their common interests take them? Hobbies, sports, activities, entertainment, vacations, clubs, organizations, etc.
  • What do they read? What do they do online? Magazines, newspapers, websites, etc.

The more you know about the specific target audience, the better your chances of marketing success.

Start out by thinking about it and discussing your ideas with others. Focus groups can help, and so can customer surveys (but be careful what you ask, and show tact). Meeting and interacting with customers gives you firsthand information.

As you consider various marketing strategies, think about how each strategy may or may not be able to reach the specific target audience effectively. Following are some examples. You just have to think long and hard about this, as every situation is unique.

  • If you’re selling something instructive (how-to guide, software, nonfiction, learning resources, etc.), you could write and publish helpful articles, develop a blog, provide help in an online forum, give a workshop or seminar, etc. But focus on attracting the specific target audience.
  • Common interests among the target audience can help you meet them at clubs, organizations, presentations, etc.
  • Send a press release kit to local papers, radio stations, and television networks that have sections or shows which are a good fit for your target audience. Look for magazines and websites that match your target audience and try to get visibility there.
  • Research how to use social media to target a specific audience. For example, on Twitter, use relevant hashtags.
  • Develop a website (or blog, or both) with content that is likely to attract the target audience.
  • Build relationships with potentially useful contacts, with your target audience in mind.

Remember that most people don’t like advertisements. Advertising works better for companies with much money to invest, which can sell a large number of products, and where there aren’t too many competitors. Free marketing tends to be much more effective for smaller businesses or individuals, and this is even more important when there are thousands of competitors – which is the case for authors, for example. Low-cost advertising in products that may actually be used by the target audience – like pens or bookmarks – can benefit those with fewer resources.

In the latter case, provide helpful content that attracts the specific target audience, try to be visible yet unobtrusive, and make it easy for the audience to discover your product without looking like an advertisement.

An important aspect of marketing is branding – getting the target audience to recognize the name of the product or business, and perhaps associate it with some quality (like luxury, creativity, or inexpensive). Advertising that does work does so through the branding effect. But marketing that isn’t advertising can also be highly successful at branding – perhaps even more so, since it doesn’t intrude like an advertisement.

Individuals and small businesses can benefit by interacting with the target audience in person – online, too, but in person can be highly effective. It can be a treat to meet the owner, author, or inventor, for example, in person. This is a valuable resource available to the “small guy.” Start locally and work your way outward. Take advantage of the fact that local newspapers, radio stations, and television networks are looking for local stories.

Chris McMullen, author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers, Vol. 1 (formatting/publishing) and Vol. 2 (packaging/marketing)