In the last few months, I've been playing with Amazon Ads and they are a great way to get traffic to your books, resulting in more sales to targeted audiences.
But they can be used for more than just sales, as Alexandra Amor describes in today's article.
As an independent author, you probably know that building your newsletter list is of primary importance.
A list of subscribers who have read and liked your books can be one of the most powerful tools in your book marketing tool box.
When you launch a new book, these are the people who will likely buy your book and leave a review about it. Two very important goals for any author!
As Joanna has mentioned several times here on The Creative Penn, when we don't have an email subscriber list, we're leaving too much of our author business in the hands of vendor sites over which we have no control. Without a newsletter subscriber list, if suddenly tomorrow all the sites selling our books went out of business or shuttered their doors, we'd have no way of reaching our customers.
However, if we have spent time and effort building a subscriber list of those who are interested in our books, we have a way to reach those people no matter what happens to the online bookstores.
There are a lot of great ideas floating around about how to add names and addresses to our newsletter lists. We can use giveaway contests or Facebook Ads or any number of other strategies.
Today I want to share some thoughts about doing this with Amazon ads and why I think Amazon ads are a great way to find new readers and new subscribers.
Over Christmas 2016, I read Chris Fox's book The Six Figure Author, after hearing him talk about using data science to sell more books on The Creative Penn podcast. The book is about Amazon algorithms and emphasises that one marketing strategy authors can use is to find the right readers for our books, rather than just any reader.
When we consciously teach the Amazon algorithms what kind of reader might like our books, by being selective about who we promote it to, Amazon then has more data to use when it's promoting the book for us. (That's a really simple overview. I recommend the book if you want to learn more.)
That led me to think that the type of person who might like to read my next book is someone who's read a previous book in the series. So here's how I began using Amazon Ads to drive traffic to my newsletter opt-in page, thereby creating an email list of people who are 1) already interested in my books and 2) are therefore more likely to buy the upcoming books in the series.
Step 1: Landing Page
I already had a landing page for my reader magnet, but I'll do a quick overview now in case you're not aware of what they are and why they matter. (If you're familiar with landing pages you can skip to Step 2.)
On your author website, it's effective to have what's often called a landing page dedicated to getting readers to sign up for your reader magnet. (A reader magnet is something you offer for free in exchange for someone's email address. It could be a short novel, some sample chapters, a behind-the-scenes story about you, etc.) Landing pages often have no other information on them except for an image of your reader magnet, an enticing description of the magnet, and the sign-up box where people enter their email address in exchange for getting the book. By keeping this page clean and simple, with no distractions, the philosophy is that readers will be more likely to sign up for your offer.
Above you can see an image of my landing page. See how there are no menu items and no side bar? That's all done intentionally to so that the visitor has no distractions and just one task when they get to this page: sign up for my newsletter. (You can click on the image to go to the live version.)
Step 2: Call to Action
I changed the back matter in my permafree book on Amazon so that the offer for my reader magnet – a free prequel to my series that is only available at my website – is on the same page as the last sentence of the book. This offer links to the landing page I mention above.
I had heard that this was more effective than putting this link after the last page. Some readers might not bother turning to the page after the last page of the book, so placing a link to my reader magnet immediately below the last sentence of the book seemed to make sense.
This offer is very short and to the point. e.g., Would you like to read the prequel to this book? Click here to get that book for free.
Step 3: Learning How To Set Up Amazon Ads
I read an instructional post from Jane Freidman's site that Joanna had mentioned about how to do Amazon ads. You can read that post here. The post was written by Robert Kroese (who has also written for The Creative Penn) and he walks you step-by-step through what the two types of Amazon ads are and how to set them up. Super helpful!
For the purposes of this article, I'm going to be talking about a Sponsored Ad where I used manual keywords (not auto keywords that Amazon chooses).
Step 4: Setting Up My Ad
One key ingredient Robert's instructional post mentions is to use LOTS of keywords. This surprised me because I'm used to thinking of keywords as a limited option. We get 5 to 7 keywords to use when we publish a book, depending on the vendor. So thinking in terms of hundreds of keywords was a bit counterintuitive for me, but once I got over that hurdle I was ready to go.
I spent close to two hours going through Amazon for book names and authors in my genre. (In addition to obvious keywords that apply to the genre I write in, like ‘mystery', ‘cozy mystery' etc.)
I made a spreadsheet with nearly 200 keywords and I used those for the ad. You can see an image of the ad above at right.
Bonus Tip for Finding Keywords
I went to my own author page on Amazon, and used the Also Bought suggestions on the left side of the page (see image at left) to do some of this title and author keyword research. (You can find this list just below your author bio.)
I clicked on each of the names on that list to see if the authors were in my genre. If they were, then I applied another tip from Robert, which was to only choose authors who write exclusively in my genre. If an author wrote books in several genres, I didn't use their name. This is because I'm trying to teach the Amazon algorithms that I am a cozy mystery author and that readers who like cozy mysteries might like my books. If, in addition to writing mysteries, an author also writes science fiction or cookbooks, and I choose that author's name or book title as a keyword, this would only likely confuse the algos.
I set up the ad with a budget of $5 a day. You can set it lower or higher than this if you like. I made sure the copy for the ad and the blurb for the book were really compelling.
Beginning to See Results
As soon as the ad was approved, within 24 hours on my KDP dashboard I could see that downloads of my permafree were increasing. They went from an average of less than 10 a day (before the ad) to closer to 30 a day.
And now, the best part – and the fulfilment of what I thought would happen – is that I've gone from 1 or 2 newsletter sign-ups a week (or less) to 1 or 2 a day.
These are not astronomical numbers by any means. BUT, my hunch is that these are quality subscribers. Here are some more thoughts on that:
- Each subscriber is more likely to be a superfan. They've read my entire permafree book and made it through to the end, so they obviously liked it enough to make it that far.
- I'm weeding out those readers who might just be grabbing anything that's free (digital hoarders) and drilling down to those who actually read the book, which supports the point above.
- And even at some cost per subscriber (more on this below), if the person buys just one book in the future, they've paid for themselves. And that purchase is much more likely since they've read the whole first book.
- Plus, these are people who are already on Amazon looking for stuff to read. To me, that makes them much more attractive and valuable subscribers than someone who enters a contest or sees an ad on a platform that is not related to reading.
For those who are numbers inclined here are some stats:
- The ads have been running for 6 days.
- Total ad spend so far: US$20.95 (Amazon doesn't necessarily spend the full $5 budget every day.)
- My average cost per click is $0.17
- I've totalled 123 clicks through to the ad so far, and have accumulated 13 subscribers.
- That's a cost of $1.60 per subscriber, which I'm very happy with.
This is my first foray into advertising. A few things appealed to me about Amazon ads more than Facebook ads:
- When people are on Amazon their mindset is already prepared to shop. They have their proverbial credit card out.
- All the ads by other authors look the same as mine (other than the cover) so that seemed like a really level playing field.
- Plus it was EASY to set up the ads. No image required, you're just using the cover of your book and a wee bit of enticing ad copy.
Another Bonus Tip: More About Data
Now we're going to dive a bit deeper and I'll talk about another reason I think this system of using Amazon ads to drive traffic to my website landing page is a good idea.
When you sign up for a Facebook Ads account, you are assigned a bit of code called a pixel. You can install this on your website (in the back end – visitors can't see it) and what it does is gather information and data about the type of visitor to your website. (Yes, this is a bit Big Brother-y, but it's advantageous for those like us who have a product to sell.)
You can then use this data that Facebook is gathering via your pixel to choose a specifically targetted audience when you create a Facebook ad. Every one of us who is online these days has a data profile. When a reader comes to my site from the link at the back of my book, the Facebook pixel will make a note of that person's data profile. This is a fairly targetted audience, because I've focused my Amazon ad on those who read in my specific genre (mystery) and sub-genres (cozy and historical).
Where this gets interesting is that now if I want to create a Facebook ad, I can use the data the pixel has collected. When we create Facebook ads, we have to tell Facebook who to send the ad to. (Facebook calls it ‘serving the ad'.) In this case, I would say to Facebook, “Serve this ad to an audience that looks like the people who have visited my site.” This is called a Look Alike audience, for obvious reasons. So it takes some of the guesswork out of choosing who to serve my Facebook ads to.
In other words, what I'm doing with this plan is using Amazon data to teach Facebook about my ideal reader.
It remains to be seen how responsive these subscribers that I'm accumulating from my Amazon ads are. I'm realizing now as I write this article that maybe I should have segmented my mailing list so that I could monitor that. I may do that going forward.
But in the meantime, I'm really pleased to have found a way to grow my email subscriber list – one of my most important business assets – in a way that seems to make sense and isn't a scattergun approach, grabbing subscribers in volume just so I could say my list is huge. I'm aiming for quality rather than quantity subscribers. I'll be sure to let you know after my next book launch how this strategy worked.
Have you tried Amazon ads? What's your experience been like? Please leave your thoughts below and join the conversation.
Alexandra Amor is the award-winning author of the Town Called Horse mysteries, the Juliet Island romantic mysteries, a series of animal adventure novels for middle-grade readers, and a memoir about ten years she spent in a cult in the 1990s. She is the host of the reader-focused It's a Mystery Podcast, where she interviews mystery authors, including JF Penn, about their books. You can find out more about Alexandra and her books at AlexandraAmor.com and connect with her on Twitter @ArtConnectsUs