Wednesday, 9 January 2019

My experience with Amazon adverts, so far

I began to advertise my books on Amazon in October 2017, and after fifteen months, it’s time to take a look at how that’s fared. There were two kinds of advertising options available when I began, sponsored products and product display ads. I have tried both.

I don’t have a large advertising budget—I don’t have any budget for itso I began small. Only one sponsored products ad, with a two dollar daily budget and the smallest possible per click cost that was suggested by a blog post that I read in preparation, 15 cents (though it suggested a much higher budget). Theres a tight word limit for the ads, and it took some tweaking to get the ad approved; for example, em-dashes and other special characters cause the advert to be rejected. The ad didn’t bankrupt me, mainly because people weren’t clicking it, so I tried another ad, and another. Within a month, I was advertising most of my books, the assumption being that more visibility brought more sales.

The results were mixed. I gained more visibility, and people began to click my ads, but there was barely any follow-through, especially with the ads for later books in a series. Only one ad performed well, that for The Wolf’s Call, the first book in my Two-Natured London series, but since the book is free, I was basically paying for the readers to download it.

I tried product display ads too, but those didn’t perform at all. I had read that it could take a month for those to go through the process and start showing on readers’ devices, but even though I let them be active for months, they didn’t start showing at all. The only exception was the ad for Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I., which had 3,500 impressions during a six month run. In comparison, the sponsored product ad for the same book has had 58,000 impressions during the same time. It got only 16 clicks, and ended up costing me three dollars of the two hundred I had reserved for it. Perhaps I should have set a much larger budget, and then terminated the ad when it went over what I was willing to pay for it, but I didn’t have the courage to try. I have given up on product display ads, and so has Amazon, because from February, they will be switched to lockscreen ads—whatever that means. I’ll maybe try one of those when the time comes.

An old product display ad of Tracy Hayes, Apprentice P.I.

During the fifteen months that I’ve been advertising, the ads have become more expensive and less visible due to heavy competition. The 15 cents per click that I started with have changed to 60 cents per click, and that’s being frugal. With my 2-3 dollar daily budgets, I get 3-5 clicks a day where I got 13-20 before. But since I only get 70 cents per book for Apprentice P.I., which doesn’t sell enough to cover the daily costs, and nothing for The Wolf’s Call, I’m not willing to go higher than that, or amp my budget. I have tried running simultaneous ads for the same book with different taglines, but the results werent promising, so Ive given that up for now.

Instead, I culled the number of ads I was running to only three, The Wolf’s Call and Apprentice P.I., both because they are the first books in the series, and The Assassin, because that’s the only ad that has actually performed well, bringing me money instead of costing it. The Wolf’s Call is still my best performing ad, and it’s constantly out of its daily two dollar budget. I believe I could raise the budged quite a lot, and it would still all be used, but I don’t find that a sensible course of action for a free book. It would be a different matter entirely, if the book generated sales for the other books in the series, but that hasn’t happened so far—at least not in numbers that would compensate the cost of the ad. I’m fairly sure people who download free books on Amazon don’t really read them, but thanks to the downloads, my book hasn’t disappeared into obscurity on Amazon ranks, and occasionally performs very well. The same is true with the other books: the ads keep them visible, and thats a good enough reason to keep them going.

As I prepared to write this post, Amazon helpfully unveiled a new feature on the ads page, a graph that allows me to see with one look how my ads have performed since the beginning. According to it, I’ve spent $1,175 in fifteen months, which has gained me 2,347,413 impressions, and $394 in sales, which doesn’t seem very cost effective. If I was relying only on Amazon sales, I would soon be bankrupted, but luckily those numbers aren’t the whole truth, even if I ended up in red last year. I have tried other advertising too, with Facebook proving time and again to be a waste of money, and BookBub being not as good as I’d hoped, though I’m going to give it another try. And this year I’ll concentrate on those three books alone, with a couple of exceptions when I advertise a new release. That should cut my costs and bring at least the same results, if not better. I’ll let you know what happens.

Graph of how much I've spent on my ads and how much I've made.

Have you tried Amazon ads? What’s your experience been? Should I spend more to make more, or is prudence wise? Let me know.

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