Using Amazon Ads to Sell a YA Novel: A Detailed Analysis

Today’s guest post is by author Deanna Cabinian (@DeannaCabinian).

When I started a sponsored products ad campaign with Amazon, I was skeptical—just another hot new tool that might work for some authors but not everyone. But I figured if I can get my novel in front of customers while they’re in buying mode, it was worth a try.

While Amazon sponsored ads haven’t been a marketing miracle, I also haven’t lost that much money—and copies of my YA novel, One Night, have sold at a steady pace. My strategy was to try several ads and analyze them over the course of a month. If an ad didn’t sell any books in five days or so, I stopped running the ad. If the next ad I tried performed better in terms of click-thru and conversions than the current ad I was running, I stopped the lower performing ad. My goal was to break even or not lose that much money. I set a budget of $100 for the test.

To write the ads, I looked at my reviews and tried to use words that came up often (“sweet,” “charming,” “lighthearted”). I also tried to mention comparable authors and titles. At first I struggled to come up with 100 keywords, but as time went on, I built up the list to over 600 keywords by looking at keywords that led to sales and also-boughts of those keywords. (For more on this process, check out Amazon advertising advice from Robert Kroese.)

The results of my test are below. Here’s a quick explanation of what the terms mean:

  • Click-thru rate: the percentage of people who clicked on the ad after seeing it
  • Sales: the number of books sold as a result of the ad
  • Conversion: the percentage of people who made a book purchase after clicking the ad
  • Royalties: what I earned from book sales connected to the ad (gross)
  • Net profit: what I earned from sales after deducting advertising expenses (net)
  • Keywords that led to purchase: what the user was searching for on Amazon when they clicked and purchased

Amazon ad #1

I decided to mention Paper Towns, a comp title that readers have mentioned to me.

amazon ad 1

  • Click-thru rate: .073% CTR
  • Sales: 3 (2 print, 1 digital)
  • Conversion: 1.81%
  • Royalties: $9.33
  • Net profit: -$13.06

Keywords that led to purchase:

  • books for teen girls
  • jenn bennett

Amazon ad #2

I decided to speak to a specific type of reader—those who love lighthearted romance.

amazon ad 2

  • Click-thru rate: .072% CTR
  • Sales: 5 (3 print, 2 digital)
  • Conversion: 3.22%
  • Royalties: $15.39
  • Net profit: -$7.83

Keywords that led to purchase:

  • 13 reasons why
  • ashley poston
  • we are the ants
  • sarah dessen
  • the importance of getting revenge

Amazon ad #3

I tried comp authors with this one.

amazon ad 3

  • Click-thru rate: .11%
  • Sales: 2 (1 print, 1 digital)
  • Conversion: 2.56%
  • Royalties: $6.06
  • Net profit: -$5.67

Keywords that led to purchase:

  • adam silvera
  • the thing about jellyfish

Amazon ad #4

I decided to get creative with this one. I thought mentioning “quirky” characters would be good since it comes up in reviews, but based on the numbers I don’t think it worked. I guess in this case quirky was a bad thing.

amazon ad 4

  • Click-thru rate: .055%
  • Sales: 0
  • Royalties: $0
  • Net profit: -$1.94

Amazon ad #5

I’ve seen a lot of ads that pose a question so that was the tactic I tried here. It didn’t work.

amazon ad 5

  • Click-thru rate: .047%
  • Sales: 0
  • Royalties: $0
  • Net profit: -$2.91

Amazon ad #6

I was trying to speak to Elvis fans on this one since my novel has a strong Elvis element to it. My gut told me this wouldn’t work and I was right.

amazon ad 6

  • Click-thru rate: 0%
  • Sales: 0
  • Royalties: $0
  • Net profit: $0

Amazon ad #7

I tried to combine elements of ads 2 and 3, the best performing ads. This ad has been running for one week and it has already become the top performer.

amazon ad 7

  • Click-thru rate: .10%
  • Sales: 3 (1 print, 2 digital)
  • Conversion: 5.36%
  • Royalties: $8.85
  • Net profit: -$0.28

Keywords that led to purchase (so far):

  • jenna evans welch
  • the hate u give
  • upside of unrequited

Overall results from Amazon sponsored product ads

  • Total sales: 13
  • Print sales: 7
  • Ebook sales: 6
  • Royalties: $39.63
  • Ad spend: $71.32
  • Net Profit: -$31.69

All in all, I’m pleased with the results. Just having the data on what authors and titles lead to sales is valuable in itself. I will continue to optimize and test ads and add keywords to the campaign with the ultimate goal of turning a profit.

Have you run an Amazon sponsored products campaign? Share your experience in the comments.

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