by Stephanie Chandler, CEO, Nonfiction Authors Association
While advertising can seem like a risky expense, it should pay for itself multiple times over if done right. Not surprisingly, online ads account for a major portion of modern advertising these days, with digital ads alone already accounting for 54% of ad spending in 2021, according to Statista.com. The goal is to convert clicks by browsers into sales of your book. Make sure you build an advertising budget into your author-business.
Leading the pack in online ads is Amazon’s Sponsored Product Ads program, which consists of campaigns that advertise your book in relevant areas across Amazon’s site. These produce great results for many nonfiction authors. There are two types of ads:
• Keyword-based ads where you choose words and phrases you want to target for your ads.
• Automatic ads that allow Amazon’s algorithms to manage the targeting of your ads.
I’ll be focusing on automatic targeted (pay-per-click) ads in this post.
How to Set Up Automatic Targeted Amazon Pay-Per-Click Ads
1. Log in to KDP. Start by going to your Kindle publisher account and logging in: https://kdp.amazon.com.
2. Click on “Promote and Advertise” next to your book title, then choose Amazon.com. You can also create ads on Amazon in other countries, though you should begin with ads in your resident country.
3. Choose campaign type—Sponsored Products and click “Continue.”
4. Give your campaign a name. Or, if you like, or keep the default name with the current date.
5. Choose a portfolio or skip this field. A portfolio is a way for you to bundle ads together under one budget. You can always add this later if you like.
6. Set a duration for your campaign. You can choose a date range or let your ads run indefinitely. Note that you can log in and cancel, pause, or adjust ads whenever you like. For best results, I suggest running ads for at least 60 days. You want to give Amazon’s algorithms time to kick into high gear so that you can fairly analyze if they are producing good results.
7. Set a daily budget. You can invest as little as $1 per day, and once your budget is reached with clicks, Amazon will disable your ads for that day. For best results, I recommend setting a budget of at least $5 to $10 per day. Keep in mind that if your ads convert well, you should earn that back in book sales many times over. You can also turn your ads off any time if they aren’t performing as expected. Note that you are only charged your daily maximum if your ads generate enough clicks. Some Amazon ads campaigns don’t exhaust their maximum daily budget.
8. Choose your targeting. Select automatic targeting so that Amazon puts its algorithms to work. For best results, I recommend coming back and setting up at least two ads: one for manual targeting using your own keywords AND a second ad using Automatic Targeting.
9. Choose a campaign bidding strategy. You can choose from three options:
• Dynamic bids – down only will adjust your bid strategy down when Amazon deems an ad less likely to convert.
• Dynamic bids – up and down will adjust your bid strategy according to whether Amazon thinks it should be higher or lower. This is the recommended choice since it allows Amazon to auto-tune your ads for best performance.
• Fixed bids will only use the bid price you set.
10. Select your ad format. You can choose from:
• Custom text ad allows you to write your own ad copy. This is recommended since it provides an opportunity to attract reader attention with a smart headline.
• Standard ad means no copy will be shown with your ad.
11. Select your product. Add your book to the right-side column. I don’t recommend adding multiple books since your custom text might not work for each, plus you want to monitor ad performance by book. You can create separate ads within a portfolio if you want to promote more than one book.
12. Set a budget for clicks. You can leave the default bid value as-is (whatever Amazon populates on your screen, which is the average cost of clicks for ads in your book’s genre) or set it lower or higher if you like. *Keep in mind that setting it lower means that your book may not display in top results if there is a lot of competition.
Remember, you’re paying Amazon only when someone clicks your ad, not when someone views your ad, so if your book’s sales page converts browsers into buyers, then paying a higher bid makes sense because that money you spend should result in a Return on Investment of several dollars per click based on book sales.
Also, be aware that just because you set a default bid price, it doesn’t mean that’s what you’ll pay for clicks. Depending on how much competition is in your category, your bids could be lower or higher, depending on your previously chosen dynamic bidding strategy.
You can also opt to set bids by targeting the group. If you choose this option, you give Amazon the freedom to display your ad based on factors like “loose matches,” which can potentially reach more buyers. These options are worth testing since they allow Amazon’s algorithms to test various strategies and determine what works best for your unique book.
13. Optional – Negative keyword targeting allows you to prevent your ads from displaying when a shopper uses keywords you list here. For example, if you authored a cookbook for diabetics, but it’s not appropriate for readers on the keto diet, your negative keywords should be “keto” and “keto diet” so that your ad isn’t displayed to these shoppers.
14. Optional: Negative product targeting allows you to list specific Amazon books or products with which you do NOT want your book to be displayed. Using the diabetic cookbook example, you might look up certain Keto books and exclude your book from displaying next to them.
15. Optional: Creative – Here, you can type in ad copy to display your book. Take full advantage of this opportunity by highlighting some of the top reasons readers would enjoy your book.
16. Launch your ad. Once satisfied, submit your ad for review. It typically takes a day or two for your ad to be approved and then a couple more days for your ad to start showing up in search results.
You will want to monitor your ad’s performance by logging into the advertising dashboard once a week or so. Here you will see the amount spent on ads and the amount earned in sales, represented in percentage format as the ACOS (average cost of sales). The lower this percentage, the more you are earning on your ads. Ideally, you should aim for an ACOS rate of 70% or lower.
Stephanie Chandler is the author of several books, including The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan and The Nonfiction Book Marketing Plan. She is also CEO of the Nonfiction Authors Association, a vibrant community for writers, and the Nonfiction Writers Conference, twice-yearly events conducted entirely online since 2010. A frequent speaker at business events and on the radio, she has been featured in Entrepreneur, BusinessWeek, The Writer, Writer’s Digest, and Wired magazine.