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SPQ 058: Amazon Marketing Services: Does it Help Sell Books?

Written by Steve Scott on March 18, 2015. Listen to SPQ: iTunes | Stitcher | RSS Feed
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The Question

Jon Haws asks: I just noticed that Amazon is allowing authors to use Amazon Marketing Services. Have you had a chance to play around with it yet? I wanted to get your take on using AMS before I set up a promo.

Biggest Takeaway

Steve’s Answer

Jon Haws is another example of a person doing a great job building a business. Steve plans to meet up with Jon and his cousin Spencer at New Media Expo. He’ll share what he learns from Jon and Spencer on a future edition of this podcast.

We’re talking about Amazon Marketing Services today. Steve was one of the earliest beta testers of AMS, but he had to sign a nondisclosure agreement, so he wasn’t able to share his opinion until now.

Steve didn’t like AMS that much. He got some impressions, but his cost per click was around 22 cents, and he didn’t generate any sales. However, Amazon is testing a new version. Steve doesn’t have a lot of data to share yet since the new version just rolled out yesterday.

To find AMS, you have to go to your KDP account, click “Reports,” and then go to “Add Campaign.” This is on the left side of the Reports menu. You need to spend $100 to start an individual book campaign, so this service might be cost-prohibitive for some people.

Once you’re inside the campaign menu, you pick a book that you want to promote. The book you promote has to be in the KDP Select program. You can check out the AMS FAQ page to learn more, but here are seven steps to using the service.

  1. Target your ad. You can target by product or interest. Targeting by product allows you to really niche down and decide who you want to target. Search by keyword, product title, UPC, or ASIN.

When you target by interest, you need to find the right book category and market to people interested in that category. Steve believes marketing by interest is a little too broad.

  1. Create a campaign name. Steve recommends following a simple naming convention: Title_Keyword. He’s testing his “Mastering Evernote” book, so his campaign name is Master_Evernote_Key_Evernote.
  1. Set your cost per click (CPC). Most campaigns start at 5 cents per click, which is pretty low for most platforms.
  1. Set your budget. Amazon wants you to have a minimum budget of $100, so you want to find a book that sells pretty well and start with that book.
  1. Adjust your campaign settings. You can deliver your campaign as quickly as possible or allow Amazon to spread out your campaign smoothly. Steve likes to deliver his campaign as quickly as possible.
  1. Preview the ad. This shows you what your ad will look like in three sizes: 270 x 150, 300 x 250, and 217 x 128.
  1. Your ad is displayed on the right of the target page, below the buy and sampling buttons.

Steve likes the $100 minimum because it keeps a lot of people from crowding the platform and driving up click prices. If you’re invested in your book platform, then $100 isn’t that big of a cost.

He also likes that Amazon is providing a paid advertising platform. It’s not necessarily working right now, but they’re going in the right direction. Steve is willing to spend $1 to make $1.10 all day long. There is also a lot of potential with the platform because you can drill down to different products and books.

There are some drawbacks to AMS. One is that Steve hasn’t seen any book sales. He’s tried it a few times and generated a lot of page impressions, but he hasn’t made a single sale using AMS. He’s still testing it, so he’ll let listeners know if that changes.

Steve also feels AMS isn’t worth his time because it violates the 80/20 rule. You can spend hours creating campaigns and still not make any sales. Your time might be better spent writing your next book or using other paid platforms.

Leakage is also a problem. Because your ad is placed right below the sales button, a viewer might click away from your book and buy something else. This isn’t fair to authors. Jim Kukral has ranted about this several times. He thinks Amazon should put the advertisement on the “Thank You” page after someone makes a purchase. This type of upsell has been proven to work.

Thanks to Jon for the question. Right now, Steve doesn’t see a huge return on AMS, but he’s always testing new things.

Resources and Links

Nursing Education Websites: Visit Jon Haws’ nursing education website

John Haws on Amazon: View Jon’s author page on Amazon

Amazon Marketing Services FAQ: Frequently asked questions about the AMS program

Sell More Books Show: Jim Kukral’s podcast with Bryan Cohen

  • Ramakrishna Reddy

    Thanks for this info. Steve. Even I tried AMS for two of my books and did see any sales. I thought there was something wrong with the way I placed the ad. I feel better now 🙂

    • It’s a common experience. I haven’t heard too many people doing well with it. I’ve sold some books, but they are not exceeding the amount invested into the ads.

  • Interesting that Amazon would roll out this service before it was ready for prime time. I guess that empty chair at the meeting with Bezos was filled when AMS came up.

    • Yeah, it’s good concept…but not really happy with how it works. The problem is Amazon hoards their data, yet they want you to spend money on advertising. You can’t do both at the same time.