How to advertise a book on Amazon

Amazon is the world’s largest global bookseller – meaning that while it could well be the proudest moment of your life to see your book sitting on the shelf at Waterstones or WHSmith, your chances of hitting the bestseller list or developing any kind of following are incredibly low if you aren’t also easily found online.

Why Amazon?

Way back in 2010, Amazon was reported to control around 19% of the book market worldwide. By July of that year, its own figures showed that it had sold 354,603,000 books and it also confirmed that sales of its e-books had outperformed hardcover sales by a rate of two to one.

By 2014, Forbes reported that Amazon held a 65% share of the e-book market and sold around $5.25 billion worth of books per year. The same Forbes piece also noted that physical, independent bookstores had declined by around 50% over the course of the prior two decades.

If, like most authors, you dream of being able to add ‘best seller’ to your cover, one marketing expert says you’ll need to sell around 3,500 and 5,000 copies of your book in 24 hours to reach number 1 on the Amazon charts. That’s no mean feat and, unless you are a celebrity author, practically impossible to achieve with free marketing alone.

The reality is that in order to sell books and make money from all of the months, if not hours of effort that you poured into writing and publishing your work, you need to be extremely visible on Amazon.

Marketing your book is a multi-faceted approach of course, but with around 11 million other titles all competing for Amazon’s shopper eyeballs, it’s time to accept that you’re going to have to pay to play. You can also get some initial reviews for your book which will help it to become more visible organically in the future.

Luckily, Amazon has a couple of advertising options specifically for book sellers so, it’s quite a straightforward process to set up an advertising campaign – albeit daunting if you have never done this before. In this post, we’re going to guide you through the process and outline exactly what you need to do and which steps to take to advertise your book on Amazon.

First things first, what can you expect to achieve with Amazon Ads?

One of the hardest things for any author, especially those self-publishing on the Kindle platform to do is to generate a fan base. There are simply too many books and too few readers out there and, traditional word-of-mouth marketing, while incredibly valuable, could take a lifetime to come to fruition.

Amazon has specific ways to circumvent that process, and while you absolutely should still incorporate other marketing efforts (such as social media posts, book launches, book signings once you have a fan base etc), using Amazon Ads means you can: ·        

  • Instantly get your book in front of a relevant audience by promoting your title alongside books that are similar to your own or by authors with a similar style. If for example your book follows the trials and tribulations of a brilliant girl witch at school, you could theoretically use Amazon Ads to promote your title alongside Harry Potter – instantly positioning it in front of a targeted, relevant audience likely to be interested in reading your masterpiece.
  • Advertising with Amazon works on an auction-based system, meaning you can turn it on and off at will. This gives instant visibility for important dates such as launch day or national holidays that coincide with your book’s main theme. If you’ve written a Fifty Shades of Gray-style book, you can use ads to drive sales on publication day which may be in September, but then use them again to raise your profile around Valentine’s Day, when interest in the subject matter will be naturally high.

Amazon itself says that you can also use its ads to “run backlist campaigns to attract new readers and target readers by related genres, titles and authors.” This makes Amazon Ads hugely convenient and very powerful when you are looking for ways to advertise your book; not only are you in full control of timings and budget, you can also position your title alongside similar books by successful authors to gain traction and target readers very specifically to increase your chances of making a sale.

Picking an ad format

You have two choices when it comes to ad formats:

  • Sponsored product ads: These are keyword-targeted ads that will give your book search visibility on both the search results page and on detailed pages.
  • Product display ads: These ads give your book more visibility but are tied to reader interests and may appear as relevant related titles on Kindles and detail pages.

Using sponsored product ads

Amazon describes sponsored product ads as the easiest way to get started with your book advertising: “Sponsored Products (eBook and paperback) promote individual titles to readers as they search for books. Sponsored Products are targeted by keywords, appearing within search results and on product detail pages across desktop and mobile. With a simple campaign creation process, Sponsored Products is the recommended way to get started advertising.”

Sponsored product ads drive product discovery – meaning you can use them to help readers find your book by appearing in relevant search results and on product pages. These ads give you a presence on Amazon pages that you may not naturally get to appear on, especially as a new author.

Ads are displayed on product pages and on the first page of search results, so they are highly visible and can help you grow your book sales or downloads by putting your title in front of Amazon shoppers searching for similar products.

This method of advertising is based on a cost-per-click model so you remain in control of costs and can change your budget and keyword bids at any time.

To set up sponsored product ads:

  1. Check that your book is eligible and meets the requirements set out in the creative acceptance policy and the Amazon Book Ads Creative Acceptance Policies.
  2. Set up an engaging, informative and professional detail page. This is the page users are taken to find out more about your book. A well thought out page that really draws in the reader can help you to make a sale. Your book’s product page should have an accurate title, strong imagery and a relevant, powerful description.
  3. You now need to create an advertiser account so from the KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) interface, navigate to bookshelf and then select the book you wish to advertise.
  4. Locate the ‘Actions’ tab and click promote and advertise then create ad campaign. Selected sponsored product ads and then insert a campaign name when promoted. This isn’t shown publically but you’ll want to give a descriptive title so it’s easier to manage for example, “Christmas campaign 2018”.
  5. Now, select how long you want your ads to run for. Amazon recommends a minimum of two weeks. Although you don’t need to set an end date, it’s better to put one in that you are comfortable with to ensure your budget doesn’t run away with you by leaving the ads running longer than you intended.
  6. You now need to decide on your budget. This is split into daily amounts so you’ll have to consider what you’re happy to spend. This budget will then be used each time someone clicks on your ad, with the amount debited dependent on the keyword they used and how much you have bid for that particular keyword.
  7. Targeting comes next and you have two options here. If you’re a beginner, the automated option is hands off and Amazon will take care of ad targeting. This means the marketplace will decide when to show your ad, based on what it knows of your book.

If you decide to go for manual targeting, you’ll be required to enter keywords. These are phrased based on your book, its genre, topics covered and similar authors. You can use the keyword builder tool here to help.

  • Next, you’ll be asked to input some ad content (custom ads) or given the option to use standard text.
  • Finally, set your bid and wait for the readers to hit your product page.

Using product display ads

If you go for product display ads to sell your books on Amazon, your advert will appear on the product detail page rather than in search results. This means the ad will show to readers as they browse specific titles or favourite genres. This type of advert can be targeted so that it is triggered by individual products, categories or genres.

The process for setting up product display ads is fairly similar to that of sponsored product ads.

  1. Follow steps one to three as above.
  2. Select product display ads from the campaign dashboard.
  3. Decide if you want to target your advert by interest (so it appears to readers of certain genres for example) or by product (products or categories that you select related to your book).
  4. Input a meaningful campaign name
  5. Now, you need to tell Amazon what your cost-per-click bid is. This is the amount you are willing to pay each time your ad is clicked on. This is the maximum amount you’ll pay each time.
  6. Set a total budget for your campaign when prompted
  7. Tell Amazon how long you want your adverts to run for. For product display ads, Amazon recommends a minimum of four weeks.
  8. Choose the pacing level. Your options are quick, which means Amazon will deliver ad impressions as quickly as possible or smoothly, which means your impressions will be spread more equally across the life of the campaign.

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