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Discussion Starter #1
I played around with Amazon Advertising a little bit back in 2017 and 2018 (when it was called AMS), but never spent much time on it and didn't have any outrageous success (my Advertising dashboard says I spent about $6, got 40K impressions, and made about $18.95).  After that my short-attention span was exhausted and I stopped my ads and got distracted by other things.  Now, several years later, I'm trying to get back into writing/self-publishing.  I've started a new ad campaign and have been tweaking it, but I get the feeling things have changed some.  I figured I'd share info about my current efforts in hopes that others will share some basic info about their efforts.  I'm trying to get a handle on the state of Amazon Advertising now, in early 2021, and what I can expect.

My current campaign is focused on one stand-alone Murder Mystery in the Amateur Sleuth subgenre, with a tropical setting and a somewhat-grim tone (not a cozy mystery).  The book is in KU with a list price of $3.99.  I know that common knowledge says it's best to focus promotions on series, but I'm trying this standalone anyway because I think the book is a decent read that never found an audience.  I've only had the campaign running for about 10 days.  I've got it set to bid-down only, and I've set the bid rate at 79 cents.  I've got about 200 keywords, and I've got the boxes checked to run them on "broad," "phrase," and "exact," which means those 200 words show as more than 600 on my list.  I chose my keywords by using descriptive terms and phrases related to the genre/story, and also by picking names of authors and titles of books that I think would appeal to a similar audience (making an effort to focus on mid-list authors and books showing up in the "Hot Release" lists).  I've got my daily limit set to $5.

So far (in 10 days) the campaign has spent 9 cents, total.  It's made about 1,500 impressions.

I'm not sure if these numbers are common, or if I'm not doing the right things.  Any one else willing to share their current experiences?
 

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That few impressions suggests you're either targeting in the wrong direction or - more likely - you're being outbid.  I would try, at least temporarily, boosting the bid amounts significantly.

Once you see a big jump in impressions, the next step is clicks.  For that, you need a compelling cover (at thumbnail size) and an intriguing ad blurb.

Once you start seeing clicks, the classic stuff that always gets talked about is what matters - cover, blurb, Read Inside, and reviews.

 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the response, Jeff.  You touched on one of my biggest questions: how much should a person expect to bid?  I've currently set all my keywords to 79 cents.  Are people generally bidding higher than that?
 

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How much to bid is never an easy question to answer, because it varies so widely between genres and who (and how many) other authors you're bidding against.  But because Amazon will only charge you just above the next bid under yours, up to your max, it's fairly straightforward to figure out if you're willing to bid high, even if only temporarily.

The first key is to get impressions, and to get them where you want them.  You can verify that by browsing and searching just like any prospective reader might, preferably using a different browser (or one in which all history and cookies have been cleared).  At some price point you should see your ad.  You're going to have to pay more to be rendered on the first page, versus further down the carousel... but experimenting with elevated bid and daily maximums for a few hours should give you an idea of what bids are required to get impressions.  Then it's a matter of striking a balance between spending enough on your ads to get good impressions, without spending so much that it kills your net profit from sales.

 

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It's going to be nigh-impossible to make money on a stand-alone with a .79 bid, let alone bidding higher. If you don't convert better than one in three clicks you're losing money and converting one in three is a pipe dream in my experience.

It sounds like your targets are being bid up out of your range by series authors who can afford to lose money advertising a book because of read through to later books in the series.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Thank you Jeff Hughes and J. Tanner for the feedback.

As J. Tanner mentioned, with a standalone it's unlikely to earn back the cost of bids if I'm paying more than a minimal amount for them, and that's why I've been reluctant to bid very high.

I'm still interested in finding a way to use Amazon Advertising to try to get at least some movement for this book. I believe the cover thumbnail, blurb, and look-inside are effective enough to provoke at least some purchases if I can drive traffic toward the book's page.

I'm trying to come up with strategies to gain that exposure without requiring expensive bids. My main idea right now is to add more search terms trying to find tighter interest niches. I've currently got a little more than 200 keywords, and I want to add at least 100 more. But even with the 200, so far even the keywords I've chosen that seem 'niche' to me are not selling bids at 79 cents, and not racking up many impressions. I can't tell if this is because no one's searching for the keywords at all, or if people are searching but not scrolling past the first page of sponsored ads.

If anyone has any suggestions for me, or is willing to share details of their recent experiences with Amazon Advertising, I'd be grateful for the information.

To update from my initial post, in the past 24 hours the campaign is showing about 300 additional impressions, one additional bid (for 79 cents, on a specific mid-list author name), and 55 KENP pages read. (The KENP pages are gratifying. This book hadn't had any movement in over a year, and was ranked at something like 1,700,000 in the store. Because of those 55 pages the book's rank has jumped to about 200K.)
 

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I bid 10 cents for my standalone. It sells a book now and then. About 1 in 9 clicks converts to a sale. It runs at a slight profit even if I slip in .99 cent sale or a freebie day here and there. (My theory is put it to "set it and forget it mode". My limited time is spent writing and I check it for 5 minutes every couple weeks. There will be time to spend on marketing when I have more books.)

A single sale always move the book up to 150K or so, then the book drops down to 1M+ until the next sale. This is the normal pattern for sub 1 copy/day books. 150K and 2M basically mean the same thing.

Run an Auto ad side by side with your keyword ad. Always possible Amazon is smarter than you.

Get more keywords on your keyword ad. Use a free keyword tool if you don't have ideas. Or just keep adding authors/ASINs.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Thanks for the info, J. Tanner, especially the details of the 10 cents bid limit and the 1 in 9 converting to a sale.

Your set-it-and-forget-it approach is about what I'm shooting for with my book, with the additional detail of me not wanting to bother changing the book's sales price. I've got it set to $3.99, which means a royalty of around $2.80 for each sale. Right now I'm pretty much willing to have most of that royalty go into paying for ad costs, and I'm trying to figure out what my cost to click to sale ratios are.

I like your idea of setting up an auto ad side by side, to see how it compares to my keyword ad. I might try that.

I've been slowly working through the videos in the free Kindlepreneur Amazon Advertising course (https://kindlepreneur.com/ams-book-advertising-course/), trying to choose more keywords.
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Update: (A detailed look at some piddly numbers. Probably not of interest to most people, but I'll track it here for my own benefit.)

Last night I set the "Adjust Bids By Placement" percentages to 50% for the "top of search (first page)" and "Product pages" options, meaning my max bid for those is $1.19. Today my impressions number jumped to 3600+, which is roughly double what the impressions had been yesterday. No impressions got clicked, so I didn't spend any money; my total for this campaign so far is still 88 cents all together, split between two previous clicks. Not surprisingly, no new clicks means no new sales, but the click from yesterday is now showing a result of 114 KENP, meaning that that person has read an additional 59 pages since last night. 114 KENP should mean a total earnings of about 50 cents if KENP rates remain in line with last month's--I'm still 29 cents below what the click cost me. The book's rank has dropped to about 427K.
 

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Discussion Starter #10
Last night I went through the Kindle Best Sellers Amateur Sleuth list.  I looked for books that might appeal to someone who might also like my book (basically I omitted all of the Cozy Mysteries) and added the author names, book titles, and series titles to my keywords list.  That brought my total number of keywords to 232.

Today I checked my account and saw that the total impressions for the campaign had jumped to 11,490, which is about four times the number I had two days ago.  My total spend has increased to $4.50, with six different clicks (4 more than the last time I checked).  None of those clicks resulted in a sale, but one shows a few KENP pages resulting.  Here's hoping that person keeps reading the book.

The older click (which I mentioned in a previous post) that resulted in KENP now shows a KENP number equal to the total for the book, meaning the clicker went on to read the whole book in three days.  I'm estimating the pay for those pages should roughly double the cost of the ad, which is good news.

Not so good news is that one of the new clicks cost me $1.44, and didn't result in a sale.  I've since gone through the bids for my keywords and lowered them all so that the default starting point is 47 cents and none of them go higher than 90 cents.

The book's current rank is 342K in the store.

My main goal now is to add more keywords.  I might try to go through another relevant best seller list to see if I can generate more keywords that way.  If anyone else has any thoughts or advice, or is interested in sharing details from their experiences with Amazon Advertising, I'd be eager to hear whatever they're willing to share.  Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Current impressions: 27K
Current clicks: 13, for a total cost of $7.53
Current money earned (estimated): <$1.50, all from page reads. (297 from the first reader I mentioned above, who read the whole book in three days, and 5 pages from the other person I mentioned above, who hasn't read anymore than those 5 pages.)

Last night I tried to add some keywords focusing on Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. Amazon provided me with recommended bids, but when I tried to save the terms I got a message saying the keywords hadn't been added.

Does anyone know anything about this? Are there certain keywords--certain author names, for example--that Amazon won't let you add?
 

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I ducked out of AA as soon as the bids got out of hand, and I needed to concentrate on writing rather than maintaining ads and keywords, but wish I hadn't ducked out, so take what I say with a pinch of salt but here are my observations. Anyway for 2021, I'm diving back in now my writing projects coming to an end. Note I have not done any of the courses available, so this won't be as thorough as it is only based on my experience.

Here goes: Please disagree if you have a different experience.

Impressions are important, because without them you won't get clicks.

Impressions are only generated on a sales page when someone arrives on that page and your book is somewhere in the sponsored ad carousel.

Impressions to clicks is an important ratio to assess keywords performance. CTR = CLICK THROUGH RATE. Less than 0,5% is poor. (If you have a different experience please say so.)

You need at least two weeks to start assessing impressions for individual keywords. If they are not producing, the first thing to look at is your cover and ad copy. Assuming you are satisfied, only then go to the sales page of the book chosen title as a keyword. If it's not selling, no impressions can be expected, then pause it as there is no point trying to maintain it and look for a replacement keyword. Only when a keyword is producing impressions, but no clicks, is it worth looking at bids. See where you are on the carousel and gradually increase bids until you are in a prominent position.

Keywords
Keywords are important to direct them to specific targets that would be of interest to those who would read your book.

Using their suggested keywords or letting them choose them never worked. for me

Only manual targeting worked for me.

Originally with AMS, I tried for 1,000 exact match titles as keywords. However, I never got beyond 600 with any book, even sticking to genre because of the diversity within a genre to get matches to my own work that would be of interest to readers. You also end with books as keywords that just don't sell, so you get very few if any impressions. I no longer intend to use this scattergun approach. Not using exact match can end up with impRessions on books out of genre, and whie they might produce impressions, clicks will be unlikely and therefore give a wrong impression the keyword is working.

I now intend to use 100 keywords as I had success with this in the past. Reason being with 6 books and three more to come next month, they are easier to maintain.

The importance of maintenance of keywords for performance is not only for yourself to give you chance of selling books, but at some stage early on, Amazon also assess your performance which seems to affect placement as much as bids. That's why I would never simply set up an ad and leave it to its own devices.

Bids
A lot of this has to do with your intentions and budget. Someone with a series or a new release might not look at that ad making a profit, but instead rely on the sales down the line of the series to provide profit, or for a new release to garner a category rank which will propel sales outside of the cocoon of Amazon ads. Others will put reliance on page reads to bring the ad into profit, on so on.

This time around, before going live, I'll be doing a 99c promotion to bring my non-selling books into rank. I'm hoping this will add to the customers reasoning to buy on clicking.

Any other experiences or suggestions welcome.

 

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Discussion Starter #13
Decon, thank you for your post. I've only got a few weeks of recent experience with Amazon Advertising, so I don't have any strong opinions about it. I appreciate your perspective--the more I hear about this topic the more informed I feel.

An update for my original campaign: It's been running for just over two weeks now, and has generated just under 37K impressions. There have been 16 clicks on my keywords, with a total spend of $8.71. So far the only money generated has been the 302 KENP read, which I mentioned before--nothing new in the past week or so.

I realized that 4 of the clicks I've had related to keywords for one specific author, and none of them resulted in a sale or in any KENP pages read. I noticed the author's first novel's title has one of the same words as my book's title. I looked at the book and didn't think it shared much with the theme or feel of my book, and so I decided to pause all my keywords referencing that author. Probably this is premature, but whatever--I'm erring on the side of being conservative with my money, for now.

Other news: I've started another campaign for another standalone novel of mine (which is published under a different pen name). This one is a Fantasy novel, and I just pulled it out of wide distribution through D2D in order to enroll it in Kindle Select. It's performed better than the Crime Novel I've been focusing on with my first Amazon Advertising campaign--both have good reviews, but the Fantasy novel has about 3X the total reviews and sales--and it's about twice as long, so I'm setting it's Kindle price to $4.99. My campaign has about 140 keywords so far (which triple to 420 since I've got the broad, phrase, and exact boxes clicked). About 40 of those keywords are for topical searches, and about 100 are specific to author names and book titles pulled from current best seller lists for Epic Fantasy, Sword and Sorcery, Coming of Age Fantasy, and Dark Fantasy. I've got the default bid price set to 57 cents, with placement adjusts of 85% for Top of Search and Product Pages.

I'm interested to see if this second campaign fares differently from the first. So far I've been a bit underwhelmed with the campaign I've got running for my Crime novel. I'm not giving up yet, though. This still seems like the best way to potentially generate at least some visibility for the novels without having to drop prices and run 3rd party promotions (which, in my experience, can be great for boosting ranking when a book is first launched, but aren't likely to earn back their cost for older titles).
 

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Discussion Starter #14
Starting my second campaign, for the Fantasy novel, has led to some interesting results. The first campaign, for a Crime novel, took about two weeks to reach 35K impressions. The Fantasy novel campaign reached that number of impressions in 24 hours, and reached 47K by the end of day 2. It also overspent my daily budget on both the first and second days. No sales or page reads to speak of.

I adjusted the campaign to reduce my placement adjustment premiums to 75% (from 85%), and I paused one keyword (exact match for "litrpg", which produced 8 clicks and most of my costs in those first two days). In the past 24 hours since doing that, my new impressions dropped to about 9K and I didn't end up spending any money on clicks. Still no sales or page reads.

The main thought I'm left with is that a whole lot of people are searching for "litrpg" on Amazon. A secondary thought is that the cost of bids seems to be notably lower for Fantasy fiction than it is for Crime (which includes mainstream best seller genres like Thriller and Murder Mystery).

Meanwhile, the Crime novel campaign has reached 46K impressions, 24 clicks, $15.23 spent, 693 KENP pages read (from 4 separate clicks), and no sales. The book's ranking is currently about 400K in the dot com store.

So, between the two campaigns I've spent $26.65 in order to earn about $2.85. Not exactly a great start, but at least there is some evidence that Amazon Advertising can produce at least a certain level of visibility for a book. My plan from here is to try to add more tightly-focused keywords, and to try to trim my bid costs. I'm thinking I'll give it another two weeks or so, and then I'll decide if it seems likely I'll be able to make the cost-to-earnings ratio work in my favor. If not, I'll probably put a halt on Amazon Advertising for now.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
After about a month I shut down both campaigns. My total bill was for around $50, and my estimated earnings (all from page reads) was about $5.

I've set up another campaign, once again for the murder mystery. This time I'm trying manual targeting of sponsored products, entering the ASINs (the last two campaigns were by keyword). I chose about 50 books that I think would appeal to people who might enjoy my book. I went significantly more conservative with my bids, setting the default at 39 cents and then dropping it in every individual case where that was larger than the bid range predicted by Amazon. Interestingly, I was able to add books by Raymond Chandler, which hadn't been accepted when I'd tried to add his name as a keyword. Also interesting: choosing products by ASIN resulted in many of the bids being a lot lower than they'd been with my previous keyword campaign.

I anticipate that this campaign will have significantly fewer impressions than my previous campaigns, maybe only a few hundred a day. My goal is to go small and try to have potential earnings outweigh costs, even if it means there's hardly any action.

The only other thing worth mentioning is that with my previous campaign for this book, I tried switching from "dynamic bids - down only" to "fixed bids" for one day because I learned that dynamic bids will shift the bid predicted on Amazon's prediction of the likelihood of a sale. In other words, if they don't think it's likely your book will sell to the person doing that particular search, they will lower your bid rate and make it less likely that you'll win the bid. I tried switching it to "fixed bids" and indeed, my campaign overspent its $5 daily budget for the first time. Didn't result any any extra page reads, so I switched back to "dynamic - down" because I figured Amazon's predictions are likely a lot more informed than my own.
 
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