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Session: Amazon Ads: The Latest Tactics for Faster Book Sales

Amazon ads are changing. The competition is hotting up. Make sure you know the latest working tactics being used to generate consistent sales from Amazon ads. Laurence O’Bryan, the founder of the BooksGoSocial Amazon Ads Done For You service, has been managing Amazon ads for hundreds of clients, using the tactics that the biggest brands use to lower the average cost of sales for books. This session will help you get your monthly royalty payments up.

Format: Video Interview

Audience: All Levels

 This post is part of London Book Fair Self-Publishing Advice Conference (#SelfPubCon2019), an online author conference that showcases the best self-publishing advice and education for authors across the world — harnessing the global reach of the Alliance of Independent Authors’ network. Our self-publishing conference features well-known indie authors and advisors, for 24 sessions over 24-hours, in a one-day extravaganza of self-publishing expertise straight to your email inbox. We hope you enjoy this session. Let us know if you have any questions or input on this self-publishing topic. Visit our Facebook Group and join in the conversation there, or leave your questions and feedback in the comments section below.


Hello. You’re very welcome to this session. My name is Laurence O’Bryan. I am the founder of booksgosocial.com and also at the Dublin Writers conference. I’m also a hybrid author. I had three books published by Harpercollins. I followed that with two extra books, self published in that series and now have a new series. I’ve just started self publishing as well, so at booksgosocial and through my own work with my own books I’ve been doing Amazon ads for a number of years, about four years now. We expanded that to help some of the authors we’ve been promoting about a year ago and expanded considerably in the last six months, so we now have about 150 authors whose Amazon ads we are managing and as you can imagine, that forces us to learn as fast as possible and get it right. By the way, I’d been in marketing for over 30 years.

After 30 years, you start to cut down the number of years you’ve been doing something. I also did a masters in marketing and I found that that skill, what I picked up from working in marketing and sales technology sales for many years has helped me in this area to understand the concepts with Amazon ads and to manage the people involved. We now have a team here that works on Amazon ads. It would be impossible for one person to do and to optimize all the ads, the work that we do. So we have a team working on Amazon ads and we’re expanding that team. So this is about helping you with the tactics you need. If you’re doing your own Amazon ads the latest tactics, which are helping authors achieve faster book sales. And there are some authors doing very well with our Amazon ads, other authors aren’t doing as well. And a lot, of course, comes down to the book or the series of books that you have. It makes it a lot easier to get the ads right if you have a series of books or some exceptional book that’s very well presented.

So the first thing I’m going to talk about is that Amazon ads are the holy grail for me in terms of advertising, the holy grail because for many years when we did Twitter promotions or email promotions or other types of promotions, we didn’t see exactly what the sales were from each type of promotion. Now that we’re doing Amazon ads for all of our clients and also for myself and other clients that we can see exactly what’s happening in terms of the sales. We see the sales numbers, there’s no arguing with the reports, except they’re usually bigger when they come out of Amazon KDP dashboard. There’s no argument with the fact that we’ve actually achieved something and sold books. So for me, Amazon ads are the holy grail. They provide consistent sales on like email type advertising, which usually provides a spike, sometimes bigger spike than others, but then you don’t know when you’re going to get your next spike. I prefer to have Amazon ads so I can get a consistent return, a monthly, a bigger monthly royalty check from Amazon.

That’s what I like and I know that’s what our authors like. It’s not a single week of doing well because of a particular ad. It’s a consistent level of sales, but it’s not easily won. Achieving success on Amazon is not easily done. We’re going to go through some of the things now that can help you achieve that. Step one is preparation. Isn’t it always? And you probably heard this before many times, please get your book description right. That means both that it’s laid out well with single line blank lines between each paragraph, preferably a single line opening paragraph and short paragraphs. Please not one long paragraph, which is really difficult to read online. The online reading experience is different from reading in a magazine or in a printed form. It’s your eyes can get tireder and people, a percentage of people will just look away and move on if you just present one big paragraph.

Of course, reader reviews are hugely important. Whatever Amazon site you’re on they’re hugely important. If you don’t have three, five, seven, nine, hopefully 10, 20, 30 reader reviews, then it’s going to be very difficult to persuade people to buy your book. You’re just going to lose quite a big percentage of the people who you will pay for to look at your book on Amazon. Your cover, of course, is hugely important to please make sure it’s not homemade. Please employ a professional cover designer. Cover designs are reasonably priced now you can get them for $100 for an ebook between hundred and 200 for many types of services are available at that rate and it’s not just at booksgosocial, you can buy these. Just look online, there are premade covers and other types of covers available for reasonable prices and please make sure your bio is inserted correctly and looks well on the book.

So you want to make sure that your book looks good. When people go to you book page on Amazon, there is no way it’s going to work if you haven’t it presented well. You can, for instance, put in a html description if you need to. And we do that. We help people with html descriptions if you can’t get that single blank line space in your description. So there’s a big question now about subtitles and you might notice that some of the books you see some of the books doing particularly well right at the top of the charts have long subtitles. I counted one yesterday which has 14 words and that series is doing extremely well with 14 words in one of the books in the series and that’s what publishers are doing to make sure that their ads get more clicks and to explain to people what their type of book they’re getting when they click.

You want people only who are interested in that specific type of story to click because you’re going to pay with Amazon ads, you pay for every time someone clicks on your ad. So you know where the ads go. They go typically in the sponsored products area, which is a strip of books. You’d see them in most books on Amazon you see a strip of books, a horizontal strip of books called sponsored products. And then you can flip to the right and see more of them as a title, subtitle, price and in some cases that has some copy text as well. The good thing about the subtitle is it appears like the title in bold and it can attract people to use or to click on that ad. So we recommend at booksgosocial, having a descriptive subtitle. This does not change your book cover, your print book cover.

You cannot in fact change the subtitle on your print book once it’s published. If this is specifically for the ebook and that’s the book you should be promoting, you should be advertising on Amazon. If people want the print edition, they can then click over once they get to your book page and buy the print edition. But advertising the ebook allows us to simply insert a subtitle in the correct box in Amazon, in your KDP dashboard, and have a new subtitle. So we recommend an explicit subtitle, which explains what the book is about. Readthrough, do you get good read through? I know that sounds like a very personal question, but, it is actually, and what it means is do you get people to go from book one to book two to book three? If you have three books and Amazon ads get a lot easier if you have multiple titles because especially because you can bid higher and you can accept a higher a cost average cost of sales.

So, if you’re just selling one book and at the 70% rate, a 70% costs is what you’re aiming to get below. But if you can be confident that 50% or more of your readers are going to buy book two and possibly even book three, you could accept a 140%, just below 140% A costs and still be making a profit. The reporting, which we’ll get onto later also doesn’t show the Kindle Select or Prime reads, which can account for another 50%. And we see many of our authors making 50%, some make 40%, some make 60% of their royalties from KNP reads. So we are now promoting, if you’re doing Amazon ads, we suggest that you should be in select because of that opportunity to make significantly more in royalties than if you’re not in select. And I know this argument has been raging for years about whether to give Amazon the monopoly on your ebook.

Now remember, you can still put your print edition out into bookstores. It’s only the ebook you give Amazon a monopoly with on the select system. So we believe if you’re doing Amazon ads that the good choice to increase your royalties is to be in Select. That means that the over 100 million people in Prime in the United States are able to read your book for free, but you will get paid by Amazon, typically between $2 and $2.50 for a normal Pageland book, that you will still get paid when those people in Amazon Prime read it. So we recommend going into and getting a good read through by having multiple books in a series as well. It makes Amazon ads a lot easier to win if you’ve got a series and you’re in select fluid pricing where we’re not in the era anymore of fixed pricing. Fluid pricing means that you can change your pricing.

You can have a 99 cents deal to get people started. And particularly to get your book up the charts, then you can switch to $2.99 where you start making 70% and then you can go up to $3.99, $4.99. I have my latest book now on $5.99, that’s for the ebook and it doesn’t seem to have impacted the sales from between $4.99 and $5.99. So there is a fluid situation going on on pricing. We can price pulse, we can change our prices based on the time of the year, whether we want to provide an offer a based on whether we want to get the book up the charts. And if your book is higher up the charts, the Amazon ads are more likely to show because your relevancy score with the Amazon algorithm will be better. So what we recommend is to test various things and that’s part of the process here, will be testing.

So you can test your description, you can have a one line description and then change it in a month. Sorry, a one line first paragraph to your description and then change it in a month or you can change some other aspects such as your pricing or your subtitle and with the ability now on Amazon to change things as often as we want, this gives a real opportunity for authors to test different mixes of subtitle, pricing and description to find one that really works. We also had an author who changed their description, their sorry, their cover five times until they found a cover that really started selling, which I think shows the power of a good cover. So let’s move on to the next slide. The second step in our review of the best tactics is research keyword research. So at booksgosocial, we use and have subscriptions to a variety of keyword research tools.

That basic one for authors is KDP Rocket and I know Dave has that version two which is either just out now when you’re watching this or is likely to come out soon. We’ve been using version one and a variety of licenses for version one for a long time and it produces great results. But we also like to have other keywords tools. Sonar is free. It produces a limited number of keywords related to a particular book you put in. Helium 10 requires a paid subscription, which we have for Helium 10 and MerchantWords. We also have a paid subscription for MerchantWords. And what we do, and what I suggest you might do is to have phases of different types of ads. So you can start with broad match type, and then you can move to exact, as you uncover some of the keywords that are working.

And you can conduct a keyword searches starting with KDP Rocket or Sonar. And then moving on through Helium 10 and Merchant Words, depending on how many subscriptions you want to pay for. So we suggest that you check your keyword lists as they come out to make sure there isn’t anything strange in their but in many cases the keywords are correct and If you look up the keywords that look different to you, look, do a search on them in Amazon, you’ll often find that they are titles for books which could be similar to your author, to your books, the genre you’re doing the ads for. So this issue of who are your comparable authors is hugely important with keyword research. What do we like to do is to avoid the whales, which are the big authors, the James Patterson’s and the David Baldacci’s and the J K Rowling titles because everyone and their brother wants to advertise against those authors.

So there is a huge demand for the space that those sponsored products spaces below those books. And that means that you’re going to have to bid high, possibly even over a dollar a click to get somebody to click on the page for one of those big authors. We suggest not targeting the biggest authors and getting caught up in a mad bidding war against other people, everyone who wants to be there but going for the comparable authors who are a step below what we used to call the mid list authors who people will still be searching for, but the competition won’t be as high as the authors right at the top. So we suggest moving away from the authors at the top of the list. But creating for yourself a list of comparable authors. Interesting enough, one of our comparable authors was Homer for one of the books we have.

And I’m not sure if Homer is still writing or if he’s got anything else planned. But we could always do some advertising for him if he has. Anyways, exact versus broad. That was a joke by the way. I do know who Homer is. What exact versus broad is about the keyword types that you use. There is a third keyword type, which is phrase, but it’s so similar to broad that we believe that exact and many people are simply using exact and broad for their keyword types. It’s a recommended that you start off with broad. If you don’t have any keywords that are working, a list of keywords that are working in your starting your campaign, you could start with broad. Please make sure IN the advice at the end of this is to make sure, and I’ll say this now as well, to make sure that you always, always check your ads daily so that it’s not, Amazon is not running away with your money.

We do not want you to find yourself in a situation where your credit card is being maxed out and you haven’t got the sale. So please be careful, particularly if you’re starting with broad. The reason for doing growth is because the keyword type if you put in a keyword, which is the sea, then when it’s broad, it will put your book up in any words that are related to the sea, which could be a water, the Mediterranean and anything else that Amazon considers is a, is a broad word which relates to the sea. Whereas if you put in the match type as exact, and you say that the key word is exact, when you put in the sea, it will only show your book in sponsored product ads, which are for searches related to the sea, exact, that exact term.

So that’s a brief explanation of the different match types. There’s a lot more information on that online as well. Just look up different match types. So we recommend starting with broad and then building keyword lists, exact keyword lists based on the keywords that are working, that are selling. We call them golden keywords, the keywords that are actually generating book sales that can take some time. So the next question is how long should your keyword lists be? You have an ability to put in up to a thousand keywords on Amazon. And I know people who are generating and building lists of a thousand. We tend to build lists based on the KDP Rocket, Helium 10 and Merchant Words outputs, which can be typically from a hundred to 500 keywords long. And after check they might be 10 or 20 less than that. And inputting those and not trying to get, just get to a thousand that allows us to build ads which are specifically targeted towards other authors or approach towards more general issues.

And it allows us to build multiple ad campaigns. We now have authors, one of the authors we’re working with has over 600 campaigns and one of the tactics they use every time that they’re impressions go down is to create another 10 ads. And we help them with keyword research and other aspects to their promotions, some of the copy that they want and various other things that they need. So, that tactic is if your impressions are down and you’re doing reasonably well if you’re ads start to turn off because some ads, start late, they turn on late and some ads stop for no reason. If your impressions are going down, one of the tactics you can use is to create 10 new ads if you have the time for that, of course. Okay.

Step three, and we have seven steps to this, by the way. So please, I hope you’re sitting comfortably. Step three is the different ad types. We recommend avoiding the lock screen ads. You’ll see this as one of the new options in your Amazon Ads dashboard, lock screen ads. And those are the ads that appear in Kindle devices when the screen is locked, you’ll see an ad appearing. And some people when they open their screen, they turn on the Kindle device, they see that ad and they click on it. Well, one of the problems with lock screen ads is a, you get taken the reader, the potential reader gets taken to an intermediary page before they get to your book page. So that can cut down on the number of people who eventually end up cut down considerably, possibly 50% cut down and the number of people who after clicking on your ad after you pay for them to click on your ad, your full screen lock screen ad, they’re only 50%, actually get your Amazon book page, which is a bit disappointing.

And so the results from lock screen ads can be poor. So we recommend not doing lock screen ads, sticking with sponsored products ads, which are the ads that appear in that strip. On most Amazon book pages product display ads have gone or just about to go. And they were ads which we didn’t favor either and I can understand why they’ve gone. They appeared on another part of the Amazon page and were rarely ever clicked. We didn’t have much success with the product display ads, so we were happy to say goodbye to them. One of the things when you’re doing your Amazon ads, creating your Amazon ads is always create also targeted ads. And in fact, create a new auto targeted ad either every once every month or once every three months because Amazon can create different lists of keywords automatically for you, which will auto target for your book.

So please always have also targeted ads. We have them for all of our clients and we create new ones for them as well. Of course, there’s the keyword targeting, which is a washboard suggestion from our research. And there’s also now the new category targeting and they call this product category targeting and which gives us an option to place our books against either suggested categories of books which could be fiction, adventure, nonfiction, plumbing, whatever category your book is most appropriate for. Or to select those categories yourself and to make some adjustments on the bidding to category targeting can be good for building your impressions, particularly if you’re looking to get impressions and sales quickly and are willing to bid a little bit higher. But please be careful what you’re bidding that your series justifies the bidding and please be careful that you’re able to turn off any ads every day if it’s generating impressions and costing you money and not getting sales.

Chasing impressions is something that depends on your bidding strategy and you can decide, for instance, to bid a little bit higher and to be willing to buy sales if you have a series you’re going to sell or if you want to get a position in the rankings, which will support your organic sales. But I recommend turning that off. And once you start winning from your impressions that you slowly drop down the bids until such point as you’re making a profit. Because that’s what we want to do. That is the goal for all of our authors. And I suggest that as you go you should have as well to make a profit. You may do something in the short term to get your rankings up. And then the goal, long term goal is to make a profit from your Amazon ads.

And that means that your royalties every month exceeds the amount being charged on your credit card. There is a challenge for authors who are over a hundred thousand in the rankings, now the Amazon relevancy score, which is the reason they will display your ad places you at a lower position on the relevancy if your book is over 100,000 because the algorithm perceives your book as having less chance of being sold. So if you can at the start of your campaign do an email campaign, we do that for our authors and also a Twitter campaign. And we also do that for authors as well to help their rankings improve. So we suggest you do that to get your rankings up and then start your Amazon ads. So that’s one of the ways to overcome the challenge of being over 100,000 in your ranking. Step four is actually spending your budget.

And this is good. It’s not like Facebook, which will take your money if you say you have a $50 a day budget on Facebook. Mark Zuckerberg says, thank you very much and extracts that $50 from you almost every day. But on Amazon, one of the challenges can be to actually, if you put it in at a 50 dollar budget, sometimes Amazon only spends 50 cents, unless you put in the bid too high, you get that syndrome where you have fat finger where you put in your bid at $15 instead of 15 cents, in which case Amazon will happily take your money as quickly Mark Zuckerberg will. So please make sure, top tip, make sure when you’re putting in your 15 cents tip that don’t make it $15, because Amazon will extract the money from your wallet rapidly if you do. So understanding your target average cost of sale is important.

So I’ve spoke about trying to get it below 70% if you’ve got one book, and if you’ve got a series that can go as high as 140%, if you’re in select, you might even be able to be able to afford to go higher. So understanding the percentage of readers who buy your second or third book and how much you are making from your reads every month is hugely important. So let’s start at 70%. That’s a reasonable target. Adjusting your bids over time is important. And one of the new things that’s emerging is dynamic bidding. Dynamic bidding is a lot of people set their budgets to spend as quickly as possible. And that means that in the morning in the United States, a lot of people will have to bid higher to get their places and that by lunchtime or afternoon, a lot of people’s budget will have been spent so that you can bid lower in the afternoon across all of your keywords.

So dynamic bidding allows you to change that automatically and to set different bids automatically, which is a great way to get your bidding lower, to win the auction at a lower price and to make sure that those bids cost you as little as possible. So dynamic bidding is good if you can afford the software that goes with it. Changing your timeframe is one of the other interesting things that you can do. Changing your timeframe is if you have an ad with an unlimited time on it, you don’t know when it’s going to stop by, change the time frame to a stop at the end of the month or two stop in 10 days time. This can force the Amazon algorithm to look harder at your ad and to spend your budget quicker. So that’s one of the other levers you can pull to get your ads seen more and the impressions to go up.

Checking the suggested bids for each keyword, these change and if you check them in the afternoon, you can sometimes find that the bid suggested bids are lower and that means going through your keyword lists and you could have various ads, 10, 20, 30 checking those suggested bids for each of your ads and seeing if the bid is now lower and adjusting, applying all those adjustments to all the different keywords that you have. Dominating keywords is a strategy that some people who are at the top of their genre want to do, they want to win all of the bids. They want to be in the number one search position for that particular keyword. It’s an expensive tactic. It can cost you over a dollar and some cases significantly over a dollar per click. But some people have had very long series, 10, 12, 15 different books and they want to simply get readers into their funnel to start reading as many of those books as possible.

And you can imagine the return if you have 10, 12, or 15 books, you definitely want to dominate a keyword. In that case golden keywords is the idea of keywords that are generating multiple sales. So you could find that readers of another author are typically interested in your book and will buy it. So these become golden keywords, which then turns into a seam of golden keywords. If you can create a list of golden keywords and these will happen over time. So you start to see the type of readers who are particularly interested in also reading your book for some reason that the themes, not just a sub genre, but the themes and the plot and the characters, male, female, and some of the other things that are going on in the book. Maybe similar to that other author’s. So readers of that other author will be particularly interested.

And one of the tactics you can do then is to build exact campaigns and start bidding lower once you get sales with those exact campaigns. Those are you golden key word tactics. I’m going to show you there’s an alternative dashboard. You should be aware that there are two dashboards and we have both of those dashboards and there’s also a UK dashboard, but the main one that most authors get when they click on promote my book is the Author Dashboard. There is also something which you can access through advantage, which is the advantage dashboard. And one of the key benefits we get from that at booksgosocial is a search terms report. A search terms report gives the actual keywords used to search for the book, which gets the click, which has brought them to your book. So the search terms that were used that eventually people ended up at your title that you paid for.

So this is really useful because you can do research into the number of words in the keywords. This is called Engram analysis. So you can have some key words which you have one, some keywords have two words in them, the sea has two words. The Blue Sea is a three word keyword and you can have more. So understanding the types of keywords which can be useful for adding extra keywords to your list and whether people are, are searching for spelling errors to those keywords, commonly occurring spelling errors. But mainly the analysis is useful for the types of search terms that are used, the bidding that was used for those keywords. And we are building up a database of keyword searches which we’re finding useful. So there’s more in that if you can’t get the advantage dashboard, they are tightening up on the access to the advantage advertising dashboard. If you can’t get into that, you will just be able to use the author dashboard. One of the other things we can do on the advantage dashboard is make stores and we’re making stores, booksgosocial variety of stores for different genres which is like a website on Amazon, which is quite interesting. And the other thing that the advantage dashboard if you have it, is managing with portfolios, which is a great way we can set a cap to the budget for each author within a portfolio.

This is just to give you an example. This was an interesting 1%, little over 1% a cost. So this got 17 cents on this particular ad as part of this campaign. This is the comparable offer. This is not the author we’re working with. This is one of their comp authors. And for that they got 1695 in sales, which a 1% A cost is always interesting for us. And this campaign, this is in our advantage dashboard, this with a spend of $11.94 got $94 in sales and an A cost of 12%, 56 clicks. So this, from 53,000 to one of the things you should know is that you should expect to get one click per thousand impressions. So this is doing about average, a little bit better. 56 clicks for 53,000 impressions. One of the other interesting things I’m going to show you is some authors are happy with over a hundred percent a cost and very much a spiky sales pattern.

Average cost per click is 28 cents, which is good. And, so their spend is a little bit over their sales, but this person has I think 14 books now in their series. So they’re getting read through and this figure, sales figure does not report the reads in select. So all of this author’s titles are actually in Select and they’re getting significant extra income from being in Select. So they have two extra sources of income, which are not reported here, which are extra books that a reader will buy from that series, from the different series that author has and the Select income. So this author is happy with a hundred, over a hundred percent a cost and making good money. One of the other things in reporting I want to tell you about was this, which I noticed in somebody’s, this is the new KDP dashboard.

And this, the KDP dashboard reported 55 units sales and the dashboard and the Amazon ad only reported 48. So there is a lag on the Amazon ads dashboard. So as well as the KNP reads, as well as the series reads, you also have the reality that that can be a lag between the reporting in your dashboard and the reality that is reported in your KDP sales report. So please keep that in mind. Your sales figure could be higher both from the lag as well as the read through. Step seven, we’ve made it to step seven, that’s about daily management. And I really must warn you that if you’re planning on using these tactics to increase your impressions and increase your spend with Amazon ads, you must manage your ads every day. We do it seven days a week.

We have a team of people monitoring it seven days a week just to make sure that it doesn’t run away. As you can imagine, our budgets are quite big. We want to make sure it doesn’t, no particular ad starts to run away with money without getting sales. So check for anomalies. That’s big. Spending ads and keywords that are not generating sales. This can be done in five to 10 minutes. You can check on occasional days for underperforming ads and keywords generally underperforming that are, they’re not achieving what they should in terms of the cost. They may have got some sales but still at a poor a cost and you can think about tipping point bidding, which is checking in twice a day and changing your bidding based on the new suggested keyword, the new suggested bidding that you might see later in the day.

And one of the things that happens on a seasonal basis is that a lot of people, for instance, in December, can spend their budget and bid very high and there’s a certain level of bid where people, other authors will start disappearing. It’s reached a tipping point, the bid and the bid drops because the competition appears to be too high for that particular bid. So you can then take advantage at some point during the month, the tipping point has passed and the bidding people have abandoned bidding on that keyword and the bidding then becomes cheaper. So you can do that twice a day. You can do twice a month, whenever you want. So, the final suggestion is to keep learning. You really must, we have read all of the books and gone on all of the different courses that are available over the last few years.

And you really must keep learning or reading the blogs, listening to podcasts, learning constantly because the Amazon ads dashboard is changing and new tactics are emerging all the time to get the sales moving faster. So I hope you’ve enjoyed that session about the tactics to help your books sell faster. You can see booksgosocial.com for done for you Amazon ad services. We also free Facebook support groups. We have author training free of charge. We run the International Review of Books for editorial reviews and we run the Dublin Writers Conference on that’s on in June every year. It’s on this year the 21st to the 23rd of June, and you’re very welcome. I hope you’ve enjoyed this. Thank you very much for watching, and good luck with your Amazon ads.

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