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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Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion.

Deanna Cabinian is the author of One Night, One Love, and One Try (aka The Thompson Series). Her writing has appeared in Writer’s Digest, Writer Unboxed, and School Library Journal. She is a graduate of the Writing in the Margins mentorship program. When she isn’t writing she works as a consumer marketing director for a global media company. Find her online at deannacabinian.com.

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