Why do you want to advertise your book?
The answer seems obvious. You want to sell more copies.
But selling books might not be what you really care about. In fact, most non-fiction books exist to support some other, more important objective.
If writing isn’t your main career—if you’re an accountant, a marketing professional, a venture capitalist, or anything else—then you didn’t write your book to make a living as an Author.
Instead, you wrote it to make a better living as an accountant, a marketing professional, or what have you.
If that’s your goal, then you need to advertise your book in a way that serves that goal.
Unfortunately, most of the information you’ll find online about Amazon advertising is aimed at people who are trying to make a living as full-time writers.
In fact, it assumes you’re trying to become a full-time writer. But if that’s not what you’re trying to do, then that information is going to lead you down a bad path.
For you, advertising your book comes with a different set of goals.
That’s why this post is different from most of the other posts you’ll find on Amazon PPC.
It covers the usual things, like what Amazon PPC is and how it works, but it will also help you think about and structure your Amazon PPC ads as an integrated part of a broader marketing strategy.
What Is Amazon PPC?
Amazon PPC is a system for advertising your book on Amazon. It stands for Amazon Pay Per Click, which means you only pay Amazon for your ad when someone clicks on it (as opposed to paying for that ad anytime someone sees it).
You’ll also see it called pay-per-click advertising or PPC advertising.
When you’re searching for books on Amazon, you’ll often see a few books marked “Sponsored” at the top of your search results page.
Those ads are tied to the search term you typed in. If you typed “books on search engine optimization,” the advertised books at the top will be related to that topic.
That’s one of the most powerful things about Amazon PPC ads—the people who see them are actively shopping, looking for books just like yours.
And, since you only pay for the ad when someone clicks on it, you’re really only paying when someone is:
- actively shopping (or at least browsing)
- searching for books like yours
- interested enough in your book to look at your book page
That’s an ideal advertising situation if you know how to take advantage of it.
Amazon PPC Campaigns for Nonfiction Authors
Step 1. Choose Your Strategy
When it comes to advertising strategy, most advertising has one of 2 goals:
- Building brand awareness (getting more people to know about you)
- Generating sales (getting more people to buy your book)
But before you decide to focus on sales, think about the benefits that flow from people knowing about you, whether or not they buy your book:
- Media professionals could reach out to you as an expert
- Industry leaders looking for top talent could reach out with opportunities
- Potential clients looking for help could reach out to hire you
For most self-published, non-fiction Authors, a book’s real job is to generate leads.
In other words, it’s not an end in itself. It’s a means to an end—a way to build your reputation and establish you as an expert in your field.
That makes advertising your book a bit unusual because you’re not advertising your book to sell it. You’re advertising your book to sell YOU—and the products or services you offer.
If that’s your main goal, then your best strategy is often building awareness rather than focusing on sales—especially if the value of one new client runs into the thousands.
Step 2. Decide on Your Ad Spend
I highly recommend starting your ad with a daily budget of $10. Out of the hundreds of books we publish, I’ve only seen 2 ever go beyond that.
If you’re familiar with Facebook cost-per-click (or CPC) advertising, that might surprise you.
Facebook will always spend your entire budget, no matter what that budget is (and no matter how successful your campaign is—or isn’t).
That’s not how it works on Amazon.
If you set them up well, Amazon campaigns have a natural cap that’s usually around $10 per day. If you manage to spend the entire $10, you can try increasing the ad spend, but don’t expect it to be anything like Facebook.
How much are you going to make for that $10 per day? That depends. Marketers usually measure an ad’s success in terms of its ROI, which stands for return on investment.
For example, if you spent $80 on advertising and made $100 on book sales, your ROI would be 25%. You spent $80 to make an extra $20, and 20/80 is 25%.
If you’re trying to make a living as a full-time writer, you need to make more money on book sales than you spend on advertising. That’s obvious.
But if you’re trying to use your book to generate leads for your consulting business and landing 1 new client is worth $25,000, then your real ROI has nothing to do with book sales.
Think about it this way. If you spent $300 on advertising and only made $50 on book sales, but you got a new $25,000 contract thanks to that ad, that’s one heck of an ROI.
On Amazon, your advertising return is called ACOS, or advertising cost of sale.
Specifically, an ACOS of more than 100% means you’re spending more on advertising than you’re making by selling books. Posts aimed at professional writers will tell you that’s bad.
But if you’re a change management specialist making thousands of dollars on every new contract you generate, your Amazon ACOS doesn’t mean anything. All that matters is whether your book advertising is generating contracts.
Amazon won’t measure that for you.
That’s why you always have to think about your main goal, measuring success on your own terms—not the number of books you sell, but what you’re really getting out of it.
Step 3. Create an AMS Account
To create ads for your book, you’ll need an Amazon Advertising account (formerly AMS or Amazon Marketing Services).
Your advertising account needs to be tied to your Amazon KDP account, so make sure you sign up with your KDP account address.
Once you have an account, you’ll gain access to your Amazon advertising console and campaign manager.
Step 4. Choose Sponsored Product Ads
Amazon offers MANY ad types, from sponsored brands to video ads, and they’re adding new ones all the time.
The best one for books is an Amazon sponsored products campaign.
With sponsored products, Amazon sellers can advertise their book in Amazon searches—even searches for other, related books and Authors.
It’s a good Amazon PPC strategy because it reaches people who are actively looking for books like yours.
And, whether or not they buy your book, those people are good leads for your overall marketing strategy (assuming your book is positioned to serve those goals).
Step 5. Choose Your Keywords
Sponsored products appear to Amazon users based on the keywords they type into the Amazon search bar.
If someone’s looking for picture books for their kid, they don’t want a book on accounting practices—and they’re not the person you want to advertise to.
That’s why the keywords you choose really matter.
Amazon offers both manual campaigns and automatic campaigns for sponsored products. In automatic campaigns, Amazon chooses the keywords for you.
In manual campaigns, you choose the keywords yourself. I recommend starting here.
There was a time when keyword research was critical to a worthwhile campaign, but that’s less and less true. Amazon’s algorithm has been changing lately and what works can be unpredictable.
Where we used to include 100 keywords in our manual campaigns, we now start with 300-400, making them as generic as possible.
Single words tend to perform better, but include phrases too because you can never be sure what’s going to work. For the first 2-3 weeks, try any words you can think of that are related to the book, including other relevant book titles and author names.
Don’t limit yourself to the keywords you think will work. Try anything that’s even remotely related to the book, and then trust the data. The things that work best could be really weird.
Let them all run for 2-3 weeks and then see what’s working best.
Step 6. Set Your Default Bid
Ads on Amazon compete with each other for views and clicks, so the ad with the highest bid will be shown most often. But that ad will also pay the highest amount for each shopper click it gets.
Set your default bid at $0.75 for those first 2-3 weeks, with dynamic bids “down only.” Your default bid price tells the Amazon algorithm where to start your bidding.
Setting dynamic bids up or down tells Amazon whether to start at your default bid and then raise it, or to start at your default bid and then lower it if it could win more cheaply.
In other words, setting dynamic bids “down only” makes your default bid your maximum price per click.
After your initial 2-3 week test period, you can adjust your default bid if you feel like you should.
Step 7. Start the Ad (Ideally for Launch Week)
You can always start Amazon ads at any time, no matter how long your book has been out. But ideally, it’s best to start advertising the day your book is released.
If you’re following our book launch checklist, the price of your book will only be $0.99 that week. You won’t see a positive return on your investment at such a low book price, but your ad spend is only $10 per day, max.
Besides, this is one of those places where your actual ROI is extremely hard to calculate. Not only are you putting your book in front of potential new clients and opportunities, but you’re also priming Amazon’s algorithm to push your book to more people.
That quick start to your sales is worth FAR more than $70 because that algorithm will keep working for you long after the launch.
Step 8. Re-evaluate Your Keywords
After your ad has been running for 2-3 weeks, it’s time to check back in and narrow down your keywords to the ones that are working.
Look at that ACOS (advertising cost of sale) to make sure your keywords are performing. Any keyword with an ACOS that’s under 100% is great. It means that keyword is turning a profit.
On the other hand, a keyword with an ACOS of 500% means you’re spending 5 times more than you’re making. Make sure you cut those from your list.
Here’s where those higher marketing goals come into play. If you’re getting new customers and clients who found you on Amazon, then that ad is probably worth it no matter what Amazon says the ACOS is.
You’ll also want to pay attention to the number of impressions your ad is getting. If certain keywords are generating large numbers of impressions (lots of people seeing your ad)—not just tens of thousands but hundreds of thousands—it might be worth keeping those keywords even if their ACOS is high.
But if that high ACOS isn’t worth it to you or doesn’t fit your budget—and if you don’t have a list of keywords with a positive profit margin—consider standard ads instead of manual ones.
Step 9. Consider Standard Ads
In standard (or automatic) ads, Amazon chooses relevant keywords for you. The system is designed to keep your average cost of conversion and target ACOS low and your profitability in the black.
Standard ads also optimize your keyword match types, choosing an exact match, broad match, or phrase match to give you a higher click-through rate (CTR) and conversion rate.
In other words, the system does whatever it can to make that advertising profitable on book sales alone.
Unfortunately, these campaigns tend to be low on impressions, generating a few thousand views of your new product listing instead of a few hundred thousand.
Still, if you have a limited budget and need an immediate return on investment in your first campaign, letting Amazon handle your SEO might be the better choice.