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.

Posted in Guest Post, Marketing & Promotion.

Deanna Cabinian

Deanna Cabinian is the author of One Night and One Love. When she isn’t working or writing she enjoys traveling and spending time with her husband and their Havanese dog, Cuba. Connect with her online at www.deannacabinian.com.

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21 Comments on "Using Amazon Ads to Sell a YA Novel: A Detailed Analysis"

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Chris Syme

Good detailed analysis. I have found, similarly, that testing is the only way to find success with Amazon ads–and that doesn’t happen overnight. Thanks for sharing, Deanna.

Dotti

Thanks for the info. I’ve yet to find anyone who has had success with Amazon ads. The market is flooded, making it harder and harder to get noticed.

Pam Stucky
Thanks so much, Deanna, for sharing your experiences! After reading the previous article Jane posted, which you referenced (https://janefriedman.com/using-amazon-kdp-ads-sell-ebook-amazon/), I, too, starting running Amazon sponsored product ads. I’ve been running them since January … January 7? Well, sometime in January. I started with one book, and when I saw it was giving me a positive return on investment, I started running it on three other books. I have done some tweaking but not as much as you have. I think it’s time to tweak again as I’ve hit quite a dry spell. When you said you’ve tested your ads for… Read more »
Sarah
Hi! Thanks for providing this. I think your story sounds fun, but I almost feel like your cover might be at fault. I’m definitely not trying to be mean at all. It doesn’t really read YA, though, and it feels a bit dated. Your cover isn’t bad, but it just read too old, and it automatically didn’t make me want to pick it up. I always click Amazon ads if the cover is super grabbing. Again, not trying to harp or be rude or anything. It might get a stronger boost with a younger cover. That would definitely be an… Read more »
Ash

I have to admit I agree with this point. I’m also not a fan of self-published books with redundant subtitles.

Karen Cioffi

Deanna, thank you for the in depth analysis of using Amazon ads. I use Facebook ads and Google Adwords, but hadn’t thought of Amazon ads. I do have a question about your summary: If your ad expenses were $71.32 and your royalties were $39.63, did you have an overall profit or loss. Just curious to know if this is worth the investment.

Robert Wingfield

And the folks to make the profit? Amazon. I had a mate who used to get paid for clicking ads, so that the click-through rate would look better than it was.

John Van Stry
Have they fixed the part about dealing with Kindle Unlimited buys? That, as well as just how slow they are to update numbers (can be up to two days! I mean really Amazon?) has led to me being fairly skeptical of the usefulness of the ads. It’s more like you have to do a statistical analysis of your own ads to determine if they’re useful or not. I really wish they’d get better with their reporting (and heaven forbid if you have anything that might be at all ‘triggering’ on your cover, like say an FBI agent with a gun,… Read more »
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Brian D Meeks
I like it when people spend time analyzing their data. It was a fine effort. Unfortunately, it seems you may have focused on the wrong metrics, but I can’t be sure. Here are some of my observations, if you don’t mind some analysis of your analysis. It is offered to help. 🙂 1) CTR isn’t incredibly important. Is getting a good CTR nice, yes, but it isn’t worth spending time worrying about. 2) What was your bid? This is likely part of the problem. Overbidding leads to a negative ROI. It is NOT the major issue. 3) The big problem… Read more »
Jane Friedman

Much appreciate your insight, Brian. Thank you.

Brian D Meeks

I hope people find it helpful. 🙂

Michael Wisehart

Helpful as always, Brian. You have a tendancy to pop up all over the web. Sometimes, I think you must be running a secret bot that scoures the web for any mention of AMS. Either that or you employ an underground ring of over-caffeinated guinea pig techies who search it for you. Hmm?

Brian D Meeks

Actually, someone posted a link to this article in the lab. I do like helping when I’m able.