Amazon Kindle Advertising: Beginner's Guide for Self-Publishers

Having a tough time trying to figure out Amazon ads on your own? Start here!

Amazon Kindle Advertising: Beginner's Guide for Self-Publishers
Table of contents

After working with thousands of students over the years, we know that ads can be a point of stress. We’re here to help you simplify the process and get started even as a total beginner. The main concepts you’ll need to know are ACOS, campaign types, and bidding, and hopefully, by the end of this blog article, these things won’t sound like alphabet soup anymore. 

Are video walkthroughs more your speed? We partnered with an Amazon ads specialist and created an entire module in our AIA publishing academy that demonstrates every single step from A-Z.

Amazon Advertising Basics

Most of the students in our community come to us with absolutely zero background in writing, publishing, or even tech, so if that sounds like you, there's nothing to worry about. You're in the right place! Let’s start with the basics. 

Amazon Advertising Vocabulary

First things first, you might hear a few different terms in the Amazon ads space, but they're all talking about the same thing.

  • AA ads
  • AMS ads
  • Amazon ads
  • Amazon Marketing Services

How Does Amazon Advertising Work?

Amazon advertising works by letting authors and publishers bid on certain keywords to get their books in front of relevant audiences. But let's take a step back...

When you first publish a book on Amazon, it will show up as a "New Release," which can naturally bring your book more attention from curious readers. But oftentimes, new releases end up on page 5 or even page 10 of the search results. And this probably won't be all that shocking, but if people can't find your book, they won't buy your book. That's where Amazon ads come in.

Lesson #1: You can pay to rank your book at the top of the Amazon search results.

These advertisements show up as "sponsored" posts, so anytime you see that little "sponsored" icon on a book listing, you know that the author or publisher paid Amazon to boost their book's visibility.

Amazon's ad algorithm is top secret, but after helping thousands of students collectively generate over $50 million dollars in book royalties from KDP, we do know a thing or two about how it works. That brings us to the next lesson...

Lesson #2: Good advertising won't sell a bad book, but bad advertising CAN sell a great book.

Ads aren't magic. If your book is plagiarized, formatted oddly, or filled with spelling and grammar mistakes, odds are readers aren't going to be happy, and that's going to reflect in both your book reviews and an book sales. On the other hand, a great book cover and solid information can boost Amazon book sales as well as might make up for a mediocre ad. 

In other words, quality at every step is the only way to give your books a fighting chance in a crowded market!

Benefits of Using Sponsored Ads for Kindle

Book marketing is all about getting more eyeballs on your books and getting people actually to follow through with their purchases. Good advertising equates to making more money from Kindle for three reasons:

  • Increased Visibility: Your books appear prominently where readers are browsing, instantly improving visibility.
  • Cost-Effectiveness: Sponsored Ads operate on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis, meaning you only pay when a potential reader clicks on your ad.
  • Targeted Reach: Ads can be tailored to a target audience, so you can concentrate on the readers most likely to purchase your book.

In short, Kindle Sponsored Ads are an worthwhile tool for publishers.

Pro Tip: Amazon suggests running ads once your book has 15 reviews (but you'll want to aim for 100 for steady long-term growth). Every positive book review is like “free” advertising that helps your book’s quality speak for itself. 

How Can You Run Book Ad Campaigns?

Amazon built the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) platform to let indie authors and publishers publish books and market them directly from one central hub. Depending on which Amazon programs you enroll your books in (like KDP Select), you can even access bonus features.

We teach our students to focus on advertising their paperback books because they tend to bring in more royalties than eBooks while also being priced cheaper than hardcovers. You can choose to run ads in 8 different countries, but we focus on the US, UK, and Canada as they tend to be more profitable.

Pro Tip: We'll share the steps to create your own book campaigns in the next section, but our publishing mastery course does a much more thorough job with live video walkthroughs!

Setting Up Your Ad Campaign

Here's what you'll need to do to start running your very first Amazon ads. 

Log In to Your KDP Bookshelf or Author Central Account

  • Optional: Choose whether to enroll in Kindle Unlimited
  • Pick the book you want to advertise
  • Click "Promote and Advertise"
  • Select the country you want to advertise in
  • Click "Create an Ad Campaign"
  • Make sure your Billing and Payment settings are updated
  • Choose your "Campaign Type" from your Amazon Ads Dashboard

Decide on Campaign Types

Amazon Kindle Advertising offers two main campaign types:

  1. Sponsored Products
  2. Sponsored Brands
  3. Lockscreen Ads

We focus on sponsored product ads because we've found them to be the most profitable and worthwhile. Within sponsored ads, there are two subcategories of targeting: Manual and Auto Targeting.

What's the Difference? Manual vs. Automatic Targeting

Manual targeting gives you control over selecting the specific keywords or products you want to target. This approach is ideal for advertisers who have a strong understanding of their market and know which keywords are most likely to convert.

  1. Keywords: Choose words or phrases closely related to your book to target readers searching for similar content.
  2. Products: Target similar books (Hint: Competitors) or complementary products to place your ads in front of a relevant audience.

On the other hand, automatic targeting allows Amazon's algorithms to target your ads for you based on your book's information and related keywords.

Sponsored Product Ads: With automatic targeting, Amazon targets your Sponsored Product ads to all relevant customer searches, which can help you discover new keywords and connect with new audiences. 

Pro Tip: Our students learn the magic formula for setting up a mixture of both types of targeted ads, which includes four starter ad campaigns and two scaling campaigns with a fool-proof, beginner-friendly 5-step formula.

Cost of Amazon Kindle Ads

The beauty of KDP's advertising is that YOU get to control your budget. You don't need to shell out thousands of dollars per week to promote your books, especially when you really nail down your audience and know exactly which readers you want to reach.

Lesson #3: The more precise you can get with your targeting, the more profitable your ads will be!

You can get started for as little as $10/day, and we’ll even show you how to calculate whether your ads are making or losing you money later on in this article. 

Janet got started publishing after experiencing an unthinkable family tragedy with the passing of her husband. She talks about all the challenges she overcame and how she made thousands from her very first book down below.

Developing Your Advertising Strategy

Bringing it back to lesson #2 for a second, you've already learned about the importance of quality publishing and quality ads. But what makes an ad "good"? Let's take a look!

Keyword Research and Selection

The words you target will determine whether the right people see your ads (and click on them). 

Keywords are the exact terms and phrases your target audience uses when they go on Amazon looking for a book to answer their questions or solve their problems. There are three main types of keywords that publishers and advertisers target:

  • Broad keywords
  • Phrase keywords
  • Exact keywords

You'll choose the best keywords for Kindle publishing based on performance, relevance, and competition.

Setting a Budget and Bidding Strategy

Here are some quick reminders for crafting a bidding strategy that works for you:

  • Amazon bills on the 2nd of each month or when you reach $500 of ad spend and pays royalties 60 days after a book sale is made.
  • You can always start with a modest budget to test the waters and adjust your Amazon ads based on performance data.
  • Amazon is going to suggest a bunch of keywords at ridiculous bid prices.
  • By figuring out how much you're bringing in with your royalties each month, you can calculate your ad budget.
  • It's your responsibility to keep track of your numbers, bids, and campaigns.

Measuring Success and ROI

Tracking the right metrics helps you make informed decisions to optimize your campaigns and increase your profits. The number one metric you'll be tracking is ACOS.

Evaluating Advertising Cost of Sales (ACOS)

ACOS measures how cost-effective your Amazon advertising campaigns are. It's calculated by dividing the total value of ad spend by the total sales generated from ads. Here's a simple way to look at it:

  • Low ACOS: Indicates that your ad spend is a small percentage of your sales revenue, which is often desirable.
  • High ACOS: Signals that your ad spend is high relative to the sales revenue, which could mean your advertising is not as effective (and might even be losing you money).

This gets more complicated as you scale your publishing business because a high ACOS isn’t always bad.

Pro Tip: You can use our Royalties Calculator to estimate your ACOS for free here to play around with the numbers and calculate how much you need to make from your future book to break even!

Troubleshooting Common Kindle Ad Issues

These are some of the most common difficulties publishers run into with Amazon ads and what to do if you find yourself in one of these situations.

Resolving Payment and Credit Card Problems

When your ads aren't running, first check for payment issues. Make sure your credit card information is up to date in the Amazon Advertising console. If your card has expired or reached its limit, Amazon will automatically halt your campaigns. To update your card:

  1. Go to the Payment Settings on your Amazon Advertising console.
  2. Click Edit next to your payment method.
  3. Update your credit card details and save the changes.

Addressing Low Click-Through Rates (CTR)

Low CTR indicates that users are not engaging with or clicking on your ads. Here's what you can try:

  • Images: Sometimes, simply swapping out your book cover can instantly bring in thousands of more book sales.
  • Keywords: The things people are searching for change! Review and adjust your keywords for relevance and competitiveness.

Improving Poor Conversions

When you're getting clicks, but the clicks aren't leading to sales, it’s time to take a look at the campaigns you have running.

  • Book Page: What is your book description like? Do you have enough book reviews?
  • Pricing Strategy: Compare your book price within the genre. Overpricing can deter potential sales, but underpricing your work can have the same effect!
  • Ad Placement: Use Amazon Advertising’s reports to see where your ad appears and consider if the placement is reaching the right readers.

Learn from Advertising Experts and Boost Your Book Sales

Our AIA publishing academy simplifies the publishing process from finding profitable ideas hiding in plain sight on Amazon to crafting the perfect book launch. We even dedicated an entire module to book advertising after hearing that our student community wanted a little extra support.

If you want to learn how to advertise your book to potentially millions of readers, Brian Chang is your guy. Just shortly after joining the AIA community, Brian totally mastered the art of Amazon ads.

Here’s a sneak peek at one of the slides from our ads module: 

AI Publishing Academy students automatically get access to a community of self-publishers for support and accountability, and we can guarantee you won't find anything like it anywhere else in the industry. Take it from these three students who might not come from the same background but whose lives have completely changed since starting their publishing business.

Meet Amber!

Meet Jeffrey!

Meet Derek!

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