I asked an author friend, Scott Butcher, to write a guest post for my blog. He kindly agreed. I hope you enjoy his article titled, Some Insights into Amazon Advertising. I certainly did. If you like his article, be sure to check out his books on Amazon. He is doing a give away on Amazon for the first Dark Witch on the 23rd and 24th of December to celebrate Yule.
Some Insights into Amazon Advertising
By Scott Butcher
Susan asked me to provide some insight into Amazon book advertising. I’m not an Amazon expert, but is anyone? I do have some books that I’ve been experimenting with in regards advertising, and for two of those I actually make a bit of money, so I guess that indicates some level of insight.
The thing to note right now is that it’s the silly season for Amazon advertising. People go crazy at Christmas, including book advertisers. I know of several authors who stop advertising now because sky rocketing prices make it uneconomic. We’ll come back to that, but most of this discussion relates to the quieter periods from January to October.
So what’s the secret to making money with Amazon book advertising?
Well, there is no ‘one’ magic ingredient, there are many. To be successful at advertising your book, you have to get everything right, and that begins with the cover. It must be eye catching and professional looking. I find that younger authors have this down pat, they understand that a cover sells, not so much older authors, but the truth is that we do judge a book by its cover, especially if it’s a book by an unknown author. You may have a great literary masterpiece, but no one is going to give it a second glance if you don’t attract them with the cover first.
Beyond the cover, the next most important thing is the blurb. I have several self-published ebooks on Amazon, I don’t do paperbacks, because with ebooks you can change things like the blurb really quickly. If something isn’t selling you can modify the cover or the blurb, or even the book itself to give it a better chance. Case in point, this is the evolution of the covers for one of my books:
The image on the left sold no books at all, I changed the blurb, the author name, the cover image, and sales resulted using the second cover from the left. The third from the left was really catching people’s eyes, but people were critical of it looking amateurish, and rightly so, people equate bad cover, and bad blurb to bad book. Still, my own efforts did okay up to a point, going to a professional image I’m hoping will be a step up, we’ll see.
Right: cover, blurb, book. The book itself is really important, edit, edit, edit and then get other people to read it and edit for you. Then edit again yourself. The above book has been through at least a dozen full edits. People who pay money for books, for the most part, are intolerant of bad grammar, poor sentence structure, typos, etc. They’re paying good money, so they want a professional product. Edit, edit and edit again. Easy to do with an ebook. When you start advertising on Amazon you may get little rushes of sales that seem unrelated to the advertising. That could be one of your readers telling their friends about your book, but they’re not going to do that if it’s a crap book. So do an uncrap book.
Okay, we’ve got our product. Now, if you want sales on Amazon, without making a loss, ‘I think’ you need to have written that product for a substantial audience. I know of some highly technical text books that have only sold a couple of hundred copies, and are regarded as Bible’s for their field, and that’s okay, that’s successful, but probably not in a monetary sense. Small markets aren’t worthwhile advertising to on Amazon unless you’re okay with making a loss. I write in Fantasy, so that’s a pretty large genre. I also write Children’s books and that’s much smaller. It’s also much harder to do well with Children’s books on Amazon as a relatively unknown author. Social media and other venues are probably better for those.
Now, let’s talk the advertising itself. I setup my advertising through Kindle Direct Publishing. There are two ways of advertising through that: “Sponsored Products” and “Product Display”. For both types you provide a ‘bid’. If you bid higher your book will appear more often, however, you only pay if someone clicks your book, so the art of advertising is to maximise sales to clicks. If you over bid you’re going to make a loss, if you don’t bid enough you won’t sell any books. It’s a hard balance to get right, and really you have to experiment to get it right for you. As your book becomes more popular, you can probably raise the bid because there should be more sales per click.
I don’t find ‘Sponsored Products’ as useful for my books as ‘Product Display’, though in saying that, it might be the better route for books with smaller audiences. I still do Sponsored Products because it sells books, but only very slowly. I bid about the average of $0.17 for all the advertising I do. If you bid more you might see better results, but you might also be losing money. For a new author be prepared to lose a bit of money in advertising at the start anyway, but I’d only go for an average bid so that you can get a sense of what your book can do. Advertising is a learning process, like anything, you’ll do better with experience.
For the ‘Product Display’ don’t worry about the minimum campaign budget being $100, using average bids I have never been anywhere near that. I do know of authors who bid very high, I’ve heard of up to $5.00 per click, and one author who spends $5000 a month on advertising. Crazy stuff, hardly any book would sell well enough to cover that cost. Still, if you have the money to burn… but then you’re definitely in the ‘vanity’ publishing category.
Now we come to Christmas, vanity sellers are pushing the average bid up to uneconomic values. Sure, there are more people out there buying ahead of Christmas, but the market is overbidding crazily for that market share. It makes no sense in terms of making money. This is my first experience of the Christmas period with Amazon advertising, and I have raised my bid for my best campaign, but I’m pretty close to writing this period off. Go away vanity sellers. Go away. For new advertisers, now is not the time to start if you want to get a real feel for what advertising can do for you. Wait until things calm down in the New Year.
For ‘Product Display’ in the normal advertising period, what I recommend is to only have one targeted interest per campaign, there are stats you can track to see how things are going. Run a number of campaigns for the different targeted interests you think have an audience for your book. Just be aware that there are curiosity clickers. If you’re advertising in an interest range not closely related to your book, curiosity clickers will cost you a lot of money with hardly any sales for that area. Be prepared to cancel those campaigns that don’t have sales for a large number of clicks. By trial and error I’ve found the best interest groups for my books. I only advertise to those.
Oh, I have my books listed in KDP Select. I only have ebooks, and I don’t over price them. Some people are very down on KDP Select, but at the pricing I have, $2.99 per novel, it works very well. About 3/5 of my sales are from KDP Select. Now here’s the thing, for Amazon advertising, they can’t track KDP Select in the estimated total sales. They can’t because KDP select is based on pages read not books sold. So some of my advertising campaigns that look like they might be making a slight loss, actually aren’t. I multiply all my estimated sales in advertising stats by 5/2 to take into account my KDP Select sales.
Okay, that’s all that’s coming to mind at the moment. One final word, as a self-published author you need to polish your craft to a degree that traditionally published authors rely on editors for. You are your editor. Edit, edit, edit, improve, improve, improve. But that’s not enough, to be successful, you have to learn marketing as well. I hope this helps, happy writing, and good luck.
Scott Butcher has been published traditionally by Morning Rain Publishing, and is self-published as well. Books under his own name can be viewed at www.scottiesbooks.com . His more successful fantasy books are sold under the pen-name Tabitha Scott, and the first of his ‘Dark Witch’ series is available at https://www.amazon.com/Dark-Witch-Time-Evil-Doing-ebook/dp/B01N53KQP5/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8