How to Sell a Book Using Amazon Advertising (AMS)

Well, folks, Andrés Cruciani of Toho Publishing here once again, and this morning was interesting.

If you've been following along, you know that marketing is a big part of publishing (and to be the best at publishing, you have to be the best at marketing!). So just two days ago, we put up our first Amazon ads, and last night, we had our first sale from the ads!

Now, since most of you won't know, I'll break down running ads on AMS (Amazon Marketing Service).

  1. First, you decide between putting a Sponsored or a Product Display ad. Sponsored ads appear to shoppers actively looking for keywords related to what you're selling (THE FATHER, in our case). Product Display are more of a sidebar on the web page, and, imo, they look more like ads. Frankly, the sponsored ads give more of an illusion of the content being what you're actually searching for. So, based on our research, we went with sponsored ads.

  2. Then, you need to set a budget. Now, apparently it's much harder to spend a bunch of money on Amazon advertising than it is to spend on Facebook ads, so you can put a daily budget of even, say, $20, and not worry about spending that daily (at least, this is the case with books—maybe if you're advertising, um, socks you'd be advertising a lot more). That said, our pockets aren't too deep yet, so we put a very conservative $2/day.

  3. Next, you choose the text for your ad. We wrote the following. Which we chose based on some lessons learned. Striving for greatness, a man kidnaps his own child.—"Beautiful, like [Cormac McCarthy's] The Road."

  4. Fourth, we set our keyword bid. Meaning, we chose (up to) how much we'd be willing to spend per ad. We set our bid at $.20, and our CPC (cost-per-click) of our ad is currently coming in at exactly that. We also chose the Bid+ which allows Amazon to increase our bid price by up to 50% when our ad has a chance of showing up first in the sponsored ads if we raise our bid.

  5. Finally, we chose our keywords. Now, this is the most involved and complicated part, so, if there's interest—just leave us a comment! (and, yes, we know: if you're seeing this on our Wix blog, it's rather annoying that you have to set up an account just to leave a comment, but, c'est la vie—then we can write a blog entry just about that. Needless to say, choosing 200 keywords is a process.

Then, we just hit launch campaign and it was up and running!

Now, last night, I was starting to get a bit disheartened because as I was doing my Amazon research, I saw the kind of numbers this other guy was hitting on the Amazon ad for his book. And, if I remember correctly, his ad was getting .1% clicks. That means that to just get 10 clicks on his ad, he needed Amazon to show his ad (impressions) TEN THOUSAND TIMES! And that's just for clicks. Somebody just clicking on your ad of course doesn't guarantee a sale. So his conversion rate was actually even lower. So, I went to sleep in a rather bad mood.

BUT! Today, I woke up, and this is what I saw:

So, it's wonderful! Our first Amazon ad sale! HOWEVER, there is some tremendous fine print, which is basically the following. Though we spent $.60 to make an $11.95 sale, we do not get all of that $11.95. In fact, I'll write more about how much Amazon takes from a book sale another time, but the general breakdown (as we have THE FATHER paperback set up) is this:

60% * [$11.95 (sales price) - $3.50 (printing fee)]

If you do the math, you should get $5.07. I.e., we should be making $5.07 on every paperback sale. HOWEVER (again), Amazon only gives us $3.67 (why? I DON'T KNOW). That means that despite this:

we haven't actually earned $11.95. We've only actually made $3.67 minus the cost of the ad, which is to say, about $3. I mean, great! We made a profit. But the math on this is going to get tricky as sales increase. For example, Amazon is not calculating ACoS (Average Cost of Sale found by doing ad cost ÷ total sales) based on your actual income. It's doing it based on their income. So, according to the stats they give, spending $3.67 total on ads for a single sale makes sense because you "earned" $11.95. FALSE! $3.67 was our total profit on a single book sale, so if we spent that much on advertising, we just broke even.

Anyway, I'm not trying to look a gift horse in the mouth. But, I AM trying to make this business profitable, and that involves really understanding the numbers and how best to spend our advertising budget. Also, if you're anything like me when I was younger (well, even a few years younger), you're kind of a romantic about all thi