Amazon KDP Select Ads: The Comprehensive Guide

After helping a friend of mine self-publish a book on Amazon, I was excited to investigate Amazon’s KDP Select program. One of this program’s primary benefits is access to the KDP advertising platform. I’ve had the chance to test out this platform over the past few weeks, and it hasn’t disappointed.

Amazon’s KDP advertising platform has its fair share of limitations—including a major question mark surrounding campaign scalability—but we’ve been able to use it to 10x our advertising spend. At this point, I don’t see why this can’t be a part of every self-publisher’s ebook marketing strategy, should they choose to enroll in KDP Select.

Let’s take a look at Amazon’s KDP ads, starting with a major overview of its pros and cons. We’ll also go over how to set up your own campaign and look at the results of my early experiment with this platform.

What is Amazon KDP Select—and what’s this advertising platform it grants access to?

Amazon’s KDP Select program is an opt-in program for authors who choose to self-publish their books in the Kindle store. By opting into the program, authors get access to a handful of marketing tools they can use for their ebooks, along with a more favorable royalty rate in certain countries.

In exchange for these benefits, Amazon requires exclusive digital publishing rights of your book. That means no publishing your book on Smashwords, Barnes and Noble, your blog, or any other digital platform while you’re enrolled in the program.

Authors opt into KDP Select in 90-day periods, so it’s not a lifetime agreement. That means that you can try out some of the program’s benefits and decide whether or not they’re worth it to you before publishing elsewhere.

In this post, we’re focusing on a single benefit of KDP Select: Amazon’s KDP PPC advertising platform. When you enroll your book in KDP Select, you’re given access to this platform, which allows you to create Amazon ad campaigns for your book

Once you create an ad campaign, your product will start showing up on various Amazon.com locations, including the product pages of related products.

Show up on related product pages with Amazon kdp ads!

You can also use these campaigns to get your book to show up in Amazon search results, like this: 

Amazon KDP search ad placement

But before we get into the nitty gritty of Amazon KDP ads and my experiment with them, let’s go over a few of the high-level takeaways.

5 reasons to consider Amazon’s KDP Select advertising platform for your ebook marketing strategy

After spending a bit of time investigating the platform, I found several reasons you should consider KDP PPC ads when marketing your ebook on Amazon. Here they are:

  1. It’s often cheaper than other advertising platforms.  In my experiment, my CPC was less than $0.10, and sometimes lower than $0.02, depending on campaign type.
  2. Search on Amazon has high intent. Your KDP PPC ads are shown to people viewing products or making searches on Amazon.com—people already on a marketplace site and in a purchasing mindset. That leads to a higher conversion rate, and when paired with the low CPC, means that your ads can be profitable even with a low-cost product.
  3. It’s the only way to get accurate Amazon keyword data. Your advertising campaigns generate search data, which savvy marketers and authors can use to plan their next book and write informed book descriptions.
  4. It can boost organic sales. Books that successfully sell on Amazon sit atop at least one category. Guess what you need to get atop a category? Sales. It’s a loop that can be hard to break into. KDP advertising can provide a small, consistent boost to your book’s sales rank that helps you stay on top of a category and lead to more organic sales as your book climbs the charts.
  5. Why not try? It’s easy to test. Since the ad campaigns are done within Amazon, you don’t even have to go through a confusing account-creation process or get set up on a new site. The platform is rather limited, but that makes it straightforward and easy to quickly test whether or not this ad platform works for you. And it’s super simple: you don’t have to be an advertising expert to set up a KDP advertising campaign. None of the campaign types even require you to create any images or figure out how to design your ad.

5 limitations of Amazon’s KDP Select PPC advertising platform

While I’m a fan of the KDP ads for the reasons above, I also encountered a few major limitations with the system. Authors and marketers putting together an ebook marketing strategy need to keep these in mind.

  1. At this point in time, KDP Advertising doesn’t seem scaleable, especially for lower-priced books. Most authors will have a hard time finding enough people (through relevant searches and product views) to really scale their efforts. Even if you can use KDP ads to get a good return on your investment, you will likely soon tap out your relevant placements. This is especially true for lower priced books, where there’s less room to increase your CPC to compete for more placements.
  2. The platform is so simple that it’s primitive. Marketers and authors who are used to more advanced features, user management, and analytics from their advertising platform will soon feel the limitations of Amazon KDP ads. The system feels a bit like a black box: you have a limited number of inputs, and you can’t really see what’s going on—yet, sometimes, you’ll get a result. For example, you can’t change the dates in your reports, you’re limited to broad-match keywords, there’s no keyword research tool, there’s no audience profiling reports, and very little data is shown to the user. To top it all off, the documentation is less than reliable and often self-contradictory.
  3. Everything has a delay. On other platforms, it can take a bit of time for your campaign to undergo review before launching, but it’s usually done within minutes or hours. On Amazon, it took more than two days for our campaign to launch. That’s not to mention the delay on metrics: click and impression data can take up to 10 days to appear in your campaign, and sales data can take up to 14. You will be flying blind, especially at the start of the campaign.
  4. Things often break. Including reports. Expect days and even weeks without accurate or up-to-date data on your campaign. It’s a new system, and it seems to break frequently.
  5. You have little control over your ad. This can make it difficult to optimize your ad over time—it also makes it especially important to have a good cover, as that’s what will be featured in the ads.

Now that we’re on the same page regarding some of the major pros and cons of Amazon KDP advertising, let’s get into the details of setting up a campaign.

How to set up a KDP Select advertising campaign

First: requirements. To be eligible for the KDP advertising platform, you need to have a book on Amazon.com, and it has to be enrolled in KDP Select. There are a few other restrictions as well. The book has to meet Amazon’s creative guidelines and, currently, has to be written in English.

If you meet these requirements, you’re able to create a KDP advertising campaign.

The very first thing to do is visit your Amazon KDP Bookshelf.

From there, it’s just a few clicks to get to the advertising platform. Click the “Promote and advertise” button next to the book you’d like to feature in your advertising campaigns.

Amazon KDP PPC ads promote and advertise button

After clicking “Promote and advertise,” you’ll enter the promotion manager for your book. Here, you can manage your KDP Select enrollment and access the program’s marketing benefits. Go ahead and click “Create an ad campaign.”

Select the create an Amazon KDP advertising campaign option

Here’s where things start to get interesting. On this screen, we’re prompted to choose between two advertising campaign types: (1) Sponsored Products, and (2) Product Display Ads.

Here’s a quick rundown of each campaign type.

Sponsored Products campaigns

This campaign type is my favorite of the two, and the one I’ve had the most success with. If you’ve used Bing or Adwords, you’re familiar with the idea of advertising campaigns centered around search terms. That’s exactly what’s happening here.  

The Sponsored Products campaign type allows you to reach people searching for keywords of your choice. If you have the winning bid, your ad will appear in the search results when someone searches for one of your terms.

Product Display Ads campaigns

In a Product Display Ads campaign, your audience isn’t determined by search keywords. Instead, you can choose to advertise based on interests and related products.  Authors can use Product Display Ads to target people interested on the broad categories related in their book as well as specific products that might be viewed by people interested in their book.

In these campaigns, your ads are shown on other product pages. There’s also a chance for them to appear as advertisements within Kindle e-readers.

How to set up a KDP Select Sponsored Products campaign

Let’s start by going over how to set up a Sponsored Products campaign.

 

Amazon KDP ads sponsored products campaign

After selecting the Sponsored Products campaign type, it’s time to provide some basic details about our campaign.

You’ll set a campaign name, a daily budget, and start/end dates for your campaign. This step is pretty straightforward. Simply fill out the information as it relates to your book’s campaign.

One thing to keep in mind: even if you want to start your campaign right now, you may have to wait up to three days for Amazon to approve it.

Amazon KDP ads sponsored product campaign details

The next step in the process is to provide your keyword targeting information. Amazon generates some keyword suggestions, and there’s little harm in adding most of them here.

As a general rule of thumb, I’ve found that impressions and clicks can be hard to come by, so more keywords is better. You never know which keyword might turn out to be a surprise winner, and you can always pause under-performing keywords from your campaign once you have data.

By tabbing over, you can also add your own keywords to the campaign. This is where to add any keywords you’ve already researched or brainstormed to your campaign.

Don’t worry about nailing all your keywords down perfectly here. Once your campaign is live, you’ll be able to add more.

Struggling with this step? I put together a step-by-step guide to teach you how to quickly generate hundreds of relevant keywords for your campaign. Snag it below! 

Choosing max bids for your Sponsored Products campaign

One of the most important things you’ll do when setting up your ad campaign is set your max bid—the most you’re willing to pay for a click on your ad.

If this is your first Amazon KDP advertising campaign, you’re not going to know what kind of conversion rate and return you’ll get from people clicking on your ad. In other words, you’re flying a bit blind here.

The “right” max bid is going to change based on your situation, and you’ll probably want to adjust your bids as time goes on. With time, you’ll learn more about your conversion rate, typical return, and each keyword’s value to you—and that’s what will inform your max bid. More on that later.

For now, here’s a not-so-secret secret: I’ve found clicks to be extremely cheap. Right now, Amazon’s KDP advertising platform is young. It still has yet to widely catch on, and there isn’t much keyword competition. If you’re willing to put up with it’s quirks and try it out even though it’s new, you can be greatly rewarded.

That’s why I recommend starting with a meager $0.05 bid for most campaigns. If you’re not getting impressions (and if your book is on the higher end of price), you can bump it up, but what I found was that my CPC rarely exceeded $0.04, even for high-quality, fat-head keywords.

There’s one more thing I want to touch on that I found a bit confusing. While it looks like you should be able to select the keyword match type (e.g., “broad match,” “phrase match,” “exact match”), as of August 2016 we’re limited to broad-match keywords. I expect more match types and negative keywords to be included in future updates to the Amazon KDP ads platform.

Here’s what everything will look like once you’ve chosen your keywords and set your max bids.

Amazon KDP advertising recommended keyword bids

Next: creating your Amazon Sponsored Products ad

It’s time to actually create your ad! This is the last step before shipping your campaign off to Amazon for approval.

This step is a lot more simple than you might expect. Most of your ad comprises assets pulled from your product. Your title, book cover, and author name will all automatically show up here.

Because so much of the ad is automatically generated, your only input is a simple bit of text with an upper limit of 150 characters. Try using a major benefit or attention-grabbing sentence.

 

Sample Amazon KDP PPC adOnce you’ve created your ad, you’re all done with your Sponsored Product campaign. Give it a final once-over, then click “Submit campaign for review” to ship it off to Amazon. Don’t hold your breath; approval can take a couple of days.

Setting up a KDP Select Product Display ads campaign

Remember how we chose “Sponsored products” as our campaign type way back at the start? Well, let’s go through how to set up the other Amazon KDP PPC campaign type—Product Display ads.

Right away, you’re given two major choices: target by interest, or target by product.

Target by interest

Simply choose a category (or more) closely related to your book on the left, and move it to the right. Here’s what targeting the “Marketing and sales” interest looks like.

 

Interest targeting with Amazon's KDP advertising platform

Once that’s done, move onto the ad-campaign basics. This should still be familiar; it has a lot in common with the Sponsored Products campaign setup.

Amazon does provide some guidance for current CPC bids on this targeting. My advice? Ignore this. I’ve been able to get placements with a bid that seriously undercut the recommendation.

What’s more, you always try to focus on what a click is worth to you instead of what the market price is. You can always up your max bid later if you’re not getting any placements, but you’re not doing yourself any favors if you get a bad deal.

Most of the time, you don’t want to run your advertising at a loss.

You want to avoid overpaying for clicks and losing money on your ads. If you can’t get placements at a cost that leads to a positive ROI, there’s probably too much competition and you should look for other audiences or campaign types that have more opportunity—that’s why it’s important to set your max bid at a number that still works for you, even if it’s below the suggested bid.

You’ll notice that Amazon has a minimum budget of $100. Don’t worry, you can stop the campaign before it reaches that number.

Amazon target-by-interest advertising campaign basics

At this point, go ahead and fill out the start and end dates and select your pacing. If you’re worried about spending the whole budget, select a larger date range and the pacing option for evenly spread-out ads. That will ensure you have plenty of time to stop the campaign before it chews through the budget.

After filling out your campaign details, it’s time to create the ad itself. In the Product Display campaign type, you have two ad components you can control: a headline and a description. Your headline doesn’t have to be your product name. Choose something that will catch your audience’s attention or make your book’s value clear.

After coming up with a headline and description, voila! You’re done: now all that’s left is to submit the campaign for review.

Target by product

This targeting option allows you to show your ad to people based on products they’ve viewed on Amazon.

Much of this process will be familiar by now.

You can choose just about any product for your targeting. So, depending on your book, you might look at targeting something beyond similar books. Cookbook authors could consider targeting based on products like KitchenAids and measuring cups, for instance.

Targeting specific products with Amazon ads

Once you select the products you’d like to target—and again, be liberal here—you’ll go through the process of setting your campaign details and building your ads. Like the other Product Display targeting type, target by interest, you will have a chance to write both a headline and a description for your ad.

And that’s that! All-in-all, Amazon’s KDP advertising system is quite intuitive and easy to use—there’s not reason for authors enrolled in KDP Select to avoid testing a few campaigns to see if it will work for them.

Which brings me to the next part of this post: a recap on my experience using this system (and how I saw a 10x return on my ad spend).

My experience with Amazon KDP Select PPC advertising

A few weeks ago, I helped a friend (Jeffrey Kranz) launch his book on Amazon. The book—Before You Write Another Blog Postis a guide to corporate blogging based on Jeffrey’s experiences working with major blogs and building his own at OverviewBible.com.

We weren’t expecting too much from the book launch—in fact, Jeffrey had been sitting on the finished manuscript for months and we didn’t plan any major promotion around it. Publishing this book was more about learning the quirks of Amazon’s self-publishing process so we could help others than it was about becoming an internet sensation.

It was an especially good opportunity for us to test out some KDP Select features. We started with two Amazon KDP advertising campaigns: one based on search keywords, and one based on related products.

Sponsored Products (keyword targeted) campaign results

For the keyword-targeted ad campaign, we initially chose around 40 keywords closely related to the book’s main subject—terms like “how to blog,” “blogging for business,” and “content marketing.”

We didn’t know much of what to expect, so we set our max bid to $0.05.

What we found is that the keyword-targeted campaign clicks cost us much less than our max bid—in fact, we were averaging less than $0.02 per click!

Yet we were struggling to get enough clicks to make a difference. They were cheap, but we weren’t getting enough results.

There are two ways to combat this problem:

  1. Increase your conversion rate
  2. Simply increase the number of impressions

Since Amazon controls much of the ad creative and there’s no easy way to A/B test and optimize ads, I decided to focus on option #2: simply increase the number of impressions.

We spent some time manually adding keywords to the campaign before figuring out a way to add a whole bunch of relevant keywords all at once. Now, the Sponsored Products campaign includes over 900 keywords. And most of the new terms we’ve added are specific, long-tail keywords.

This has gotten us to a point where we’re now seeing a sale from our ads nearly every day. Not enough to quit the day job, but it’s a consistent boost in ebook sales and keeps his ebook relevant in a few Amazon categories.

And we are doing a lot better than breaking even. We’re getting a consistent return of 1000% on our advertising spend.

!!!

Besides just being a great result, this means we have some room for CPC to go up, even with our book priced at just $2.99.

Here are the actual results from our campaign:

 

Amazon KDP ads sponsored products results

Product Display (related products) campaign results

While the Sponsored Products campaign has done really well, I’ve struggled to get results from our related-products campaign.

When I put this ad campaign together, I simply searched for the main topics (content marketing and blogging) related to the product and chose 40 or 50 of the bestselling books. Like the Sponsored Products campaign, I started with a $0.05 bid.

There were no immediate fireworks. We got a few impressions but that’s it.

So, I increased the bid to $0.10. We started seeing more impressions, but it was far from enough.

Then I added a couple hundred more books to the campaign. Still nothing. It’s early, but it doesn’t look good: I doubt these new products will provide a meaningful boost.

My plan is to continue adding products and inching the bid upwards before making the ultimate call on whether or not this campaign is a dud. Right now, it definitely looks like the Sponsored Products campaign is the way to go for us.

Here’s where we’re at on the product-targeted campaign:

product targeted results

Bonus: how to use your early advertising results to figure out a smarter max bid for your Amazon KDP PPC campaigns

Since the book was priced at just $2.99, each sale meant about $2.00 in revenue. I knew from the start that I didn’t have much room to overpay for ads, which made it crucial to figure out what a click is worth in these campaigns and use that to set an appropriate max bid.

When I initially set up my campaign, I had no idea what my conversion rate would be. But once I had some sales and click data, I saw that the product page was holding steady at about an 8.5% conversion rate.

I was able to use that to find out the maximum amount I could spend on a click while still coming ahead. All it took was a bit of simple math.

Max bid = Return from a sale x conversion rate
Max bid = $2.00 x 8.5% 
$2.00 x 0.085 = $0.17

This number provides a really important guardrail for the campaigns and showed me that there was still room for me to look into expanding the scope of our advertising on this platform, even if the cost-per-click increased or the conversion rate decreased.

Future updates and optimizations to our Amazon KDP ads

There’s always more you can do! Since I’ve had seen positive results from an Amazon ad campaign, I’m going to keep tinkering with the system. Here are a few of the things I’m planning for moving forward.

  • I’m going to test what happens when I upload a *ton* of keywords to an Amazon KDP advertising campaign
  • I’m going to investigate whether or not I can increase the clickthrough rate with a book-cover refresh. The book cover is the main piece of ad creative and one of the few things in my control—so that’s where I’m going to start conversion optimization. I’ll judge the new cover’s success by comparing clickthrough rate post-update with the previous results from our campaign. It’s not the most rigorous test, but it will be something! This might just be what’s needed to start seeing positive results from the related-products campaign
  • I’m going to test an interest-targeted campaign, to see if it’s possible for ebook authors to get a positive ROI from this campaign type (this is currently in progress!)
  • I’ll start analyzing the keyword data generated by the Sponsored Products campaign and see how I can apply it to a future project

Do you have an idea for what else I should look at in regards to Amazon PPC ads? Leave it in the comments below!  

Major hack: how to quickly generate an awesome list of targeted keywords for your campaign

One of the most difficult parts about these Amazon KDP ads campaigns is finding enough keywords to make them a viable option. If you’re only getting a click or two per day, you could be waiting weeks or more before seeing your first sale.

Jeffrey and I were able to generate hundreds of good keywords related to the book in just a few minutes. Want to learn how we did it?

I put together a step-by-step guide to show the folks on my mailing list how to generate hundreds of relevant keywords for their Amazon ad campaigns in just minutes. Don’t miss this!

8 Comments

JD

Good piece and represents my (short) experience so far with Amazon marketing for an ebook I recently published on pitching travel articles. I don’t like how you can’t set a budget for Product Display ads less than $100, and also how you can’t edit a campaign (to make it run longer than you initially set, for example), but otherwise it’s a very simple process, and, as you say, comparatively cheap.

Reply
tyrel

JD,

Thanks for sharing your experience! Sounds quite similar to mine. The KDP ads platform has some serious limitations (ever tried filtering results by date? It took me _way_ too long to realize it just couldn’t be done), but I’ve had some great success with it.

A workaround for the minimum budget: you can set your end date far in the future, then choose constant spend for your campaign’s pacing.

You’ll spend only a small amount day and can stop your campaign before you reach $100. Of course, this means remembering to turn off the campaign in time. . .

Tyrel

Reply
Renato Pimpão

Hello Tyrel!

Your article is SO GOOD.

I was thinking about paying Bookstr $2500 to send a email blast to their 600k subscribers, but now i think I will use that budget to promote via amazon cpc. If I have the same AVG cpc, that would be about 40k-50k clicks, more than I would expect from Bookstr.

My goal is to have a boost on reviews with 1/4 of the budget and then use the remaining budget for a month or two.

With my budget, do you have any advice? How do you choose keywords for a fiction ebook? Have you tried keywords that are not related to your ebook (fiction of corse)? 🙂

I will follow you website from now on! See you and ty.

Reply
tyrel

Hi Renato!

Thanks for the kind words.

At that budget, you’ll experience the biggest downside to Amazon KDP ads: it is really hard (impossible?) to get enough placements to scale results. For the last six months, I’ve consistently gotten a 8—10x return, but I’ve basically maxed out my keyword options and some days I’m not even spending $0.75.

The product display ads offer more placements, but I was only able to break even on those. The book I was advertising was priced at $2.99, so there wasn’t much margin—if your book is more expensive or your ads convert better, you might have better luck.

I do think Amazon ads should be part of your marketing plan, but I think you could struggle to spend at that level and should look to other places as well. Perhaps delegate part of your budget to audience building for the author?

Unfortunately, I don’t have experience with Bookstr, so I can’t comment directly on that.

As far as reviews go, have you tried posting in /r/reviewcircle? The folks there are willing to give books honest reviews.

Stay in touch—I’d love to hear what you end up doing and how your campaign goes!

Reply
Amy Maroney

Hi Tyrel, thanks for this valuable case study of your AMS kindle ad campaign. As you know there is not much out there to guide us with this new advertising strategy, so I was really happy to find your article. I have been running sponsored product and targeted product ads for about 2 1/2 weeks. My sponsored product ads are doing way better than the targeted product ads (same as your results). But a new twist happened that surprised me: one of my keywords by far outperformed all the others and brought in most of my impressions, clicks, and sales. Then 2 days ago, the impressions slowed waaaay down for that keyword and so did sales. I bumped up the bid for that keyword, but the number of clicks hasn’t budged for 2 days and the impressions have shrunk way down in comparison to the next few best performing keywords. Weird! Since Amazon’s data reporting lags, I’ll have to watch this for a while to see if anything changes again. But I was wondering if this has happened to you, and if so, what you did about it. Thanks!

Reply
tyrel

Amy,

Thanks for stopping by! I’m glad you found the article helpful.

You’re definitely on the right track. A drop in keyword impressions most likely means you’ve been outbid. It’s also possible that the searches were seasonal / tied to an event, that Amazon determined other ads were more relevant, or that there are just regular fluctuations in this search. Of course, we also can’t rule out straight-up goofiness with Amazon’s system, either!

If I were you, I’d raise my bid, but make sure not to raise it past the max I was comfortable spending (you can use your historic conversion data to find your past break-even number). Then I’d wait for a couple of weeks to see if impressions returned.

I’d also encourage you to try a bunch of new, similar keywords. Perhaps you can start showing up for searches with similar intent—maybe some with fewer competitors or a higher calculated relevancy to your book, even if searches have essentially the same intent.

Let me know what happens!

Reply
Ralph

I thought your article was great! I have been experimenting with ads over the last 2 months. Have achieved some success. Still learning. I found that your article filled in many of my questions. One question…what is the harm in keeping those keywords that produce only a few impressions?

Reply
tyrel

Ralph,

Great to hear you’ve achieved some success with these ads!

There’s really no harm in keeping low-impression keywords active.

The keywords I’d look to pause would be ones with higher CPCs and low conversion rates—ones that cost me more than I’m comfortable with given the return.

One thing to be aware of: there’s a limit of 1,000 keywords per campaign, and right now, you can’t totally _remove_ a keyword from that campaign. We can pause keywords, but I believe they still count toward the 1,000 keyword limit. If you ever hit that limit, you can simply create another campaign.

Good luck!

Reply

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