Amazon Ads: Turning "METAL" into Gold
August 28, 2023

Hey, my fellow aspiring authors! Today, I want to take you on a journey through my experience with advertising my apocalyptic ebook, METAL, on Amazon Ads. It's been a ride filled with challenges, learning curves, failures, and a few successes. So, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, settle in, and let's dive into this adventure together.

There's a ton to cover here, so hold on tight.


One thing I knew from the outset was that I needed to tread carefully with my budget. I chose a modest budget of $3 per day, $21 for a week, and $80-ish for a month. I didn’t renew my yearly subscription to some strictly unnecessary software to cover most of the budget. At less than a cappuccino a day, I was comfortable with the spend even if it didn’t pan out. This approach allowed me to test the waters without taking a massive financial plunge.


The first question you’re asked is where you want to advertise. I chose the US ( as the region I wanted to focus on. I have a decent readership in the UK too, but with a limited budget, I stuck with one marketplace.


Amazon’s three types of ads for books are “Sponsored Brand”, “Sponsored Product” and “Locked Screen”.

Sponsored Product Ads show your book when a keyword/term is searched, and you pay every time someone clicks on the link to your book’s page. This was intuitive to me.

Sponsored Brand Ads send shoppers your author page with all of your books listed. These are more useful if readers are aware of you and you have a bunch of books to choose from. This doesn’t describe me.  

Locked Screen Ads appear on the Kindle screens when they are locked (i.e. before/after you start reading). It engages a group of avid readers where they read. This seemed more complicated, so I veered away from it.

As a greenhorn in the world of advertising, I decided to go with Sponsored Products because it gave me the control to target specific keywords, gauge their impact, and adapt.


With my budget set, I began my campaign with automatic search text ads rather than customizing the searches with my own. This initial phase was invaluable. It let Amazon's algorithm take the wheel, showing my ad to readers when they thought it would lead to a sale. This maximized exposure with the same cost and let me see which search terms succeeded or and which failed. I could watch which keywords led to clicks and which conversions resulted in sales or pages read on Kindle Unlimited.

Some search terms led to lots of clicks (which costs money) but no sales. Others led to fewer clicks (which cost less) but more sales.


Once I'd gathered enough information and had a clearer understanding of what was working, I transitioned to custom keyword search ads. This was a pivotal moment. Armed with terms that worked. the knowledge from the automatic campaigns, I carefully selected specific keywords that had proven successful. This shift allowed me to optimize my ad spending towards what really mattered.


Amazon’s advertising makes it easy to keep track of Average Cost of Sale (ACOS), meaning how much you spend to make a sale. A lower ACOS means you spend less to make a sale, which was the goal. This is a great measure, but it doesn’t account for what kind of sale, and eBooks may earn more than paperbacks, or vise versa. So, it’s flawed.

When I started, I spent about $8 per sale, which is awful.


I prefer to measure Profit, which Amazon doesn’t help you track. Profit measures the amount you earn compared to the amount you spend. In my first month, I earned about $3 per eBook sale (after Amazon’s cut). In other words, Losing $5 of every $8 I spent was painful.


When I included royalties from Kindle Unlimited pages read (KENP), I earned another $3 in royalties, bringing my total earnings to about $6 for every $8 spent. While not good, my profit wasn’t as bad as I thought.


When I switched from automatic key words to custom key words, I earned $7 for every $8 spent, then after tweeking my key words I got to $8, then $8.50. So, with a lot of effort, I finally started making money off of advertising. While it's only a little profit, I count it as a huge win.


Here's the twist. When I estimate the number of audiobook sales coming from advertising, my profit to loss goes way up. The problem is that it takes a lot of guesswork because royalties are counted on Audible/ACX, not through Amazon Ads. Audible sales earn way more than eBooks. With Audibls included, I now earn about $11 per $8 spent. As far as I’m concerned, that’s better than I could have expected.


I tried Amazon Ads for my other books with atrocious outcomes, so I quickly abandoned them. My genres, ratings, number of reviews, and book descriptions might make my other books big losers on Ads. I suspect that METAL has a better hook than my other books, so it naturally performs better. Some genres are more competitive, meaning you have to spend more to even show up on an ad, which was definitely a problem for me.


I charge about $4 per eBook, earning about $3 per eBook after Amazon’s cut. If you sell your eBook for $.99, you earn less per book. You might sell 10 times as many books, which sounds great, but might not be. The problem is that Amazon Ads charges by the click, so if a click costs $1.02, you can never make a profit. The big questions are: What are your KENP earnings? And do you have Audible earnings?


I didn’t advertise my books until I had 10 ratings with a 4 star average. Readers are less likely to buy books without good reviews. There is nothing magical about 10 ratings or 4 stars. I picked them out of thin air. You can choose different numbers.


I read somewhere that advertising costs go up over the holidays, which means I might have to spend more to advertise METAL, meaning less profit. The questions I don't have answers to are

  • How much will ad prices go up?
  • Can I find successful key words that don't get more expensive?
  • Will sales numbers decline due to increased competition?
  • Will sales go up during holiday season as readers buy more gifts?

I wish I could tell you how to make money with Amazon Ads, but I don’t think there is a silver bullet. It takes experimentation, data analysis, and refining campaigns, and who knows what else? Whether you find a winning path through advertising or not, remember to enjoy yourself while writing.  Happy writing, and may your Amazon Ads journey be as thrilling as mine!

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J.F. Lawrence | Jesse Lawrence
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