Book Ads - A Simple Guide to Sell More Copies on Amazon
Are you a self-published author looking to sell a lot of copies of a book you're about to release on Amazon? Or maybe you're hoping to boost the sales of a book you already published on Amazon weeks, months, or even years ago. Whatever the case, you can significantly increase the sales of any book on Amazon if you run online book ads. This simple guide shows you how to get started with the three main types of book ads: Amazon AMS, Facebook, and BookBub display.
When should I run book ads?
Do you have a book you're about to release on Amazon? If it performs well while a new release, Amazon's recommendation algorithm may take notice and start automatically recommending your book to many target readers for free. Thus, heavily advertising your book as soon as it comes out is a great strategy.
Are you about to run a limited-time price promotion for a book, like a Kindle Countdown Deal? Ads can skyrocket the exposure of your deal in a short amount of time, helping you propel up the Amazon bestseller charts.
Do you have a book already released that isn't selling as many copies as you'd hope? Ads can bring a surge of readers to your book who may love it, yet just haven't heard about it.
If you're an author who happens to fall into any of these three categories, read on to learn about the three different types of online book ads available to you and how to effectively use each...
Amazon book ads
Once you publish your book on Amazon, you can start running ads for it directly on the Amazon platform. Here's an example of ads for books on the site:
Kinds of Amazon book ads
Amazon offers two major types of ads for books: Sponsored Product and Product Display.
Sponsored Product ads are targeted by keyword. When someone enters a term relevant to your book in the Amazon search bar, an ad for your book could show up.
For instance, let’s say your book is a detective thriller. You could create an ad with “detective thrillers” as a keyword. You can include up to 1,000 keywords for an ad.
I’d suggest adding a lot of them, as long as they’re relevant. To quickly compile a large list of relevant keywords, use the Publisher Rocket tool.
With Product Display ads, you can target ads to the categories your book is in or even specify individual books similar to yours, and have ads show up for Amazon users who are browsing any book in a targeted category, or an individually selected title.
For example, for a detective thriller book, you may want to target your ad to all books within the “crime fiction” category, or narrow your targeting to just book X, book Y, book Z, etc.
Try different Amazon AMS ads
With ads, experimenting is key. I suggest you create a variety of Sponsored Product and Product Display ads with various targeting methods, keeping your budgets low at first per ad (ex, $5/day). After the ads run for a few days, see how they’re performing in terms of sales.
If an ad does poorly, turn it off. If an ad does well, duplicate it with a higher budget and create other similar ads to test. If any of the similar ads do well, duplicate them with higher budgets and create other similar ads to test, etc.
Luckily, Amazon makes this process easy because you can see exactly how much sales volume each ad is generating right inside your reporting dashboard...
Measuring the success of an Amazon book ad
One of the best features of Amazon’s ads is the closed-loop reporting. In your advertising dashboard, you’ll be able to see exactly how much you’re spending on each ad, plus exactly how much sales volume each ad is generating.
Amazon is of course able to provide this information because it’s not only running your ad, but processing the payments of each sale.
Ideally, an ad would be profitable, ie your Sales would be more than your Spend.
An easy way to check for profitability of an ad is to look at the ACOS column in your reporting dashboard, which stands for Advertising Cost of Sales - the percentage of your sales dollars that your ad cost comprises.
An ACOS under 100% means an ad is profitable. The lower an ad's ACOS, the higher its profitability.
Even if an ad isn’t profitable directly, it can still be beneficial.
If you can generate a good amount of early sales of your book (ie, during week 1 of launch), Amazon may start recommending your book to readers – these recommendations cost you nothing.
Theoretically, you can run an ad for your book during week 1 that is not profitable, however, generates enough sales to convince the Amazon algorithm to recommend your book. The additional sales you bring in from these recommendations can, over time, carry you into profitability.
With ads, experimenting is key. Test various ad types, targeting, and text. Try to get your ads as profitable as possible. For ads that are performing well, consider adding more budget to them. For ads performing poorly, turn them off.
Even if you can’t get any ad to be profitable, consider keeping on your ad that’s closest to profitable (as long as it’s leading to sales). As mentioned, these sales can activate the recommendation algorithm.
Multi-book ad profitability strategy
People who buy one of your books have a much higher likelihood than someone else to buy your next book.
Thus, you may spend money advertising book 1 without making a profit. However, when book 2 comes out, various readers of book 1 may buy book 2 without you needing to spend on any new ads. These sales of book 2 can lift your book 1 ad spending into profitability.
This effect is more pronounced if you happen to write in a series, where readers of one installment often eagerly anticipate the next.
If you write in a series, a strategy to consider is to heavily advertise book 1 (even if at a fairly large loss), while not spending any money on ads for additional books, hoping many of book 1’s readers go on to buy 2, 3, etc.
The more installments a series has, the more profitable this strategy can be over time, even if the initial loss is quite big.
This same strategy applies to the two other advertising platforms as well, Facebook and BookBub - you can run ads at a short-term loss, only to see a significant profit later on as you release more books.
Optimize your Amazon product page for ad profitability
Amazon ads - and all book ads for that matter - can drive traffic to your book's product page on Amazon. Once a user is on that page, its content needs to convince the user to make a purchase.
Thus, you want to be sure your cover, blurb, and more are as enticing as possible. The more optimized your product page is for purchases, the higher the likelihood your ad's will leads to sales and thus be profitable.
Example of an Amazon product page:
Get help with Amazon AMS book ads
A lot of indie authors want to dedicate an advertising budget to their books, however, do not want to set up and monitor ads. If that's you, no problem...a lot of qualified freelancers are out there who will do all the work for you. I recommend the ones on Fiverr:
Facebook ads for books
Facebook has a massive audience, many of its members book lovers. A Facebook ad is a great way to reach a market segment that’s large and highly targeted. An example of a Facebook ad that was run for one of my books:
To run Facebook ads for your book, you need to first create an ad account on Facebook.
Once you do that, you then need to create a new campaign, and within that campaign create an ad group, and then the ad itself.
The purpose of this section is to give you an overview of ad options, not an in-depth tour of the software platforms. To learn more about Facebook’s advertising system, check out their free resources.
That being said, within this guide, I’ll provide some basic tips for getting started with Facebook ads for a book:
Reporting and experimenting with Facebook book ads
Like Amazon ads, experimenting is key. Test various combinations of photos, videos, targeting, text, and countries. While doing so, you want to measure your results to see what’s working and what isn’t.
A key metric that you can view within your Facebook ad account is “CPC,” or “cost per click.” This states how much Facebook is charging you for each click of your ad. Lower is of course better. Not only does a low CPC mean you’re getting more for your money, but that your ad is resonating with your target audience.
If Facebook’s algorithm determines that people like your ad, it will charge you less per click.
Since Facebook can’t tell if someone who clicked your ad went on to buy your book on Amazon, you won’t have access to sales-volume information for Facebook ads, unfortunately. Thus, determining how well a Facebook ad is performing isn’t straightforward.
Often, authors run Facebook ads on the belief that the additional traffic must be leading to some sales, even if they can’t exactly measure the numbers.
If you’re not okay with this open-ended approach, and would rather have exact data on profitability, you should stick with Amazon ads exclusively for your book.
Get help with Facebook book ads
Like with Amazon ads, a lot of indie authors want to run Facebook ads without doing the work. Again, that's totally fine. Fiverr has a bunch of Facebook ads specialists who can help:
BookBub display ads
In case you’re not aware, BookBub is a very popular website for book deals. Readers sign up to receive daily emails with links to books that are temporarily discounted.
BookBub is very selective about the discounted books it features in the “editorial” section of these emails, ie the top section. A lot of the titles are written by world-famous authors.
However, at the bottom of these emails, you can include an ad to your book, ie a BookBub display ad. Your book does not have to get past BookBub’s highly competitive vetting process to show up in the ad section at the bottom of the emails.
Just because your book appears in the ad area, does not exclude it for selection in the editorial area.
Here is an example of a BookBub ad I ran for one of my books:
Your book does not need to be discounted to appear in the ad section, however, since the viewers of these emails tend to be looking for deals, as a general principle, you should only advertise your book here if it’s priced at $2.99 or lower.
To create a BookBub ad, create a partner account on BookBub and do the following:
Like Facebook ads, you’ll be able to see what your CPC value is for each ad, but not the sales volume. If you’re not okay with this, then stick with Amazon ads exclusively.
Unlike Facebook ads, which perform better with large, targeted audiences, BookBub ads tend to perform better when targeted narrowly, ie to authors who may not have massive followings, but whose readership closely matches yours.
Here’s how to find these authors:
At first, each ad you run should be targeted to (1) your genre and (2) one author. You are still testing at this stage. Keep your budget low, say just $10.
Reporting and experimenting with BookBub display ads
Once the ad goes live, log into BookBub’s dashboard to check out the click count and CPC value. Make a note of the ads that are generating a lot of clicks at low cost.
Ideally, try testing out ads targeted to at least 10 different authors. You can then see which authors perform best for you (ie, plenty of clicks with a low CPC). Next, you can create a new ad targeted to (1) your genre and (2) the authors who performed best for you in your test, even if multiple.
Since this ad is based on proven performance, you can be more flexible with your budget. Based on your financial situation and goals, you may want to run this ad at a $100 budget, maybe $300, maybe more.
Once you have your group of proven author targets, you can further experiment with new ads, with variations in your image (colors, ad copy, etc), to see if you can get your CPC value even lower.
Get help with BookBub ads
Like the other two advertising platforms, if you want to run ads without doing the work yourself, find help on Fiverr:
Advertising discounted books
Ads on Amazon and Facebook can help you sell copies of your book at any price. As stated, BookBub ads should be for the $2.99 price point and below.
A proven strategy for reaching a bestseller chart - and climbing high on the chart - is to heavily discount your book, ie down to $0.99, and put an advertising campaign behind it for a condensed period.
Amazon, Facebook, and BookBub can be a solid part of this strategy. The reach of your discounted book can be expanded with other advertising methods too. To learn more, check out my article on advertising discounted books.
The importance of ads for self-published authors
Traditionally published authors don't need to run advertising campaigns for their books, since publishing firms tend to handle that for them. Self-published writers, however, are responsible for making sure their books get proper promotional campaigns.
If you're a self-published author, you have the option to work with an end-to-end service firm to run ads for your book. However, if you don't partner with a self-publishing company, you need to either learn how to run ads yourself, or bring on freelancers to run them for you.
Whether you're a traditionally published, or self-published, author, you shouldn't just rely on ads to get the word out about your books. Here are some other tips...
More book marketing tips