An Idiots Guide to Advertising with Amazon Ads for Indie Authors

So you want to try Amazon Adverts and don’t know where to start. Or you do know where to start, but are so confused you need yet another blog post explaining it to get some objective clarity. You’ve come to (another) right place.

I’m going to walk you through how to set up your first ad and some of the main options to improve targeting.

The first section of this post will go through Automatic Targeting, the second section will go through Keyword Targeting, and the third section will go through Category Targeting.

However, first: Why Amazon Ads?

  • Because they are cheap. Bidding starts at $0.02c (average bids for my genre are around 0.20c)
  • Exposure is free. Yes free! You don’t pay if someone just sees your ad.
  • And you only pay the lowest bid price for the ad if someone clicks on your ad. If someone clicks, then you’ve got a high chance of getting a purchase!


How the bidding system works

You set a daily limit for your budget per ad. eg: $2 per day.

You choose keywords (which your readers may type into Amazon to find your book) and set a bid price per keyword (if you choose automatic targeting, you don’t need to worry about this). eg: I will start my keyword bid price at the lowest $0.02c each.

If you’re in a competitive genre, you’ll need to raise your bid price, otherwise, you’ll be outbid by everyone else.

Amazon will adjust the Cost Per Click based upon who else is bidding on that keyword in that category at that time. If fewer people are bidding on a keyword in your category when a reader is searching you’ll pay less. If more people are bidding at that time, you’ll pay more. For this reason, you’ll see some odd/uneven ‘spend’ in your Ads Dashboard, despite rounding up all your bid prices. Anyways, you don’t have to fully understand how it works, just trust that the system is set fairly and you won’t spend more than you need.

If no-one clicks on your ad, you’ll have problems getting Amazon to spend your money! Skip to the end of this blog post under the Results title to see what to do about that.


Note: I’m going to be picking very low bids for my niche market and still win results. In most cases, your genre/categories will be aimed at a much wider audience (Thriller / Sci-Fi, Romance etc), so you might want to accept Amazon’s advisory bid price (or at least pick the lower/lowest end of their suggested bid) to get results.

Let’s get going!


You can’t just sign up to and expect to place ads. No. I’ve tried and failed, and even Amazon support told me, No, not yet. Maybe in future. Ho-hum. So where? …


As a KDP author, you can run ads through the KDP dashboard. Just find your title, and click the button called ‘Promote and Advertise‘.


Then click to ‘Create an ad Campaign‘.


Choose Sponsored Products and click ‘Continue‘.


Create a campaign with a Title (campaign name). Make it unique and understandable, because in time you’ll have forgotten why you created this ad and what’s different about it compared to all the others. Also note, that currently, you can’t remove an ad once it’s created. You can only archive it*, but it will stay on your dashboard. You might also want to make a note if your ad is a Product, Category, or a Keyword targeted one. As you might not be able to remember, and Amazon will only show you which are Auto targeted or Manual targeted. My campaign title is BK1BLKS2019 or Book 1 (the) Blocks 2019

*You can also Pause an ad, however, this doesn’t immediately stop Amazons spend. Why? Not sure. I think it’s to do with time-zones (if the pausing is Time subjective – New Zealand is 12 hrs ahead of me) and/or whether someone is connected to the Internet at the time of clicking. Eg: If you serve an ad to me, then you pause the ad, and I then go offline or lose connectivity for a while, when I next connect and click that ad, you will still be charged, because, for me, the ad will still be active. Confused? Me too. Moving on…


Leave the Date set as is. You won’t need to set an end date. Unless you’re being reckless with your budget in a competitive genre and if so I’m sure you’ll be checking on the ads progress regularly.


For Budget, I’ve set $2, but Amazon says $5. It’s your choice here, but you can always change this later.


For Targeting, I like Manual, because I know my target market better than Amazon does. If you’re writing in a broad genre, I’m certain Automatic will get you off to a good start. The screenshot below shows Manual targeting, but the rest of section 1 is for Automatic targeting.


Ad Format: Unless you’re completely brain-dead when it comes to writing any form of Marketing copy to encourage people to pick your book, select ‘Custom text ad‘. Picking ‘Standard’ is a lazy approach which probably won’t yield you anywhere near as good a result.


Next: under the Products section, the book you picked from your KDP dashboard should be selected. If not, change it here. Just make sure you’re picking the right format: eBook or paperback. I’m choosing paperback (based on what my target market is likely to purchase). Don’t run ads to more than one book at a time, because you won’t be able to analyse the results accurately. See the Results section at the end of this post.

Moving on…


Under Bidding, I have picked (ignore my screenshot price) the minimum recommended for my genre/category: $0.02c. You can change this later if needed. I’m a fan of setting low and increasing as required, rather than starting higher, then not knowing how far I can reduce. It’s your choice.


Finally, you need to compose some copy under the ‘Creative‘ section. Here is where you need to hook your readers. Remember, people are in a hurry and you’ve got a couple of seconds to catch someone’s eye. Start big, bold, and with short sentences. Oh, and you’ve only got 150 characters to make an impact!

I chose: ‘Skateboard fiction, which won’t patronise you. Written for Skateboarders by a skateboarder. Get your copy now and find out what you’re missing…‘ (148 characters). Save this copy somewhere so you don’t have to retype it, or search for it later. Once you’re done.


Launch your campaign and don’t overthink it. You can pretty much edit everything else later. You’ll then be presented with a ‘Congratulations’.


Click the yellow button to go to your Campaign Manager

Next, you’ll see your Ad will be in review. The ‘Pending review’ state will change to ‘Delivering’ when it’s live. Once it is live, check back routinely and see what happens, but change nothing in your settings unless you have to. You might be burning cash for example!

Amazon needs to position the ad, serve it, and collect enough data for a while so you can make an informed decision whether your ad is working or not. Leave it a couple of months. Seriously. Don’t change anything for 60 days. Longer if possible.

If your book is getting no impressions (after 60 days) with Automatic Targeting, something major is broken. Amazon can’t get this thing in front of people. Try a keyword-targeted ad instead…

Setting up a Keyword Targeted Ad


Create a new ad or Copy an existing one by clicking ‘Copy‘ in the Actions Column,


Give it a new Campaign name with the same date, bid, and ad copy as the previous ‘automatic’ one. Create a complete duplicate.

Update: I hadn’t realised that I could ‘Copy’ an existing ad. Just go to the Actions column and click ‘Copy’. I couldn’t see it because I’d already customised my dashboard columns and pushed that Actions column so far to the right it was out of view! *phew* Glad I found it again!


Don’t forget to add the book you want to sell. I’m adding the paperback version.


Then scroll back to the targeting section and select ‘Manual‘. You’ll be given two choices: Keyword and Product.


Select Keyword Targeting.


Under the ‘Keywords & Bids‘ section, I’ve set my ‘Default keyword bid’ to $0.02 (as low as it will go) because I will monitor the ad and increase my price later if I need to. You might want to set it higher if you’re in a more competitive category, and you probably won’t know what to set it to until you have enough data – so hold off (I recommend).


For my ad the ‘Suggested‘ keywords are terrible. I believe this to be an indicator of what Amazon feels my book is aligned with, without sufficient data. I suggest you click ‘Enter Keywords‘ and add your own, so do that and…


Select your ‘Match Type‘. Hover your cursor over the little info icon next to the title to see what the choices mean.

I’ve found ‘exact’ to be useful because I have a very focused niche interest book. You probably won’t, so go for it and add as many as you can for your genre/category/theme and don’t forget any other details of your story which readers might be searching for. You literally can’t have enough in here, and the limit is 1000 keywords per ad. Signing up to Dave Chesson’s Publisher Rocket software will generate thousands of keyword results you can use based on your genre/categories and competitors books. Check it out!


Click the ‘Add Keywords‘ button in the bottom right to add them to your advert. Don’t just launch the campaign without adding them, otherwise, you’ll have wasted a whole heap of time/effort. Also, I recommend saving off that list into a spreadsheet or something in case you ever need them again. A spreadsheet is best because they need to be comma-separated to load them back in again.


Launch the campaign once you’re done.

Remember to monitor the ad regularly, but to leave it a couple of months before tweaking things. At least 60 days and longer if possible.

Below is a guide to Product Targeting


Create/Copy a new ad again and complete all the basic info in my first example, and don’t forget to add the book you want to sell. I’m adding the paperback version.

Remember: if you don’t pick ‘Manual’ targeting at the top of the page (as opposed to ‘automatic’ targeting) you won’t be able to pick Keyword or Product targeting later!


Product targeting is in Beta right now, but it should be obvious. You’ll need to know of an existing product/competitor or the categories which you want to target.


I’ve selected two categories for my book. Don’t bother trying to ‘Refine‘ the ad until you know how they perform first.


For the Custom copy in the ‘Creative‘ section, I placed the same copy: ‘Skateboard fiction, which won’t patronise you. Written for Skateboarders by a skateboarder. Get your copy now and find out what you’re missing…’


Then I ‘Launched‘ the campaign.

Remember to monitor the ad regularly, but to leave it a couple of months before tweaking things. At least 60 days and longer if possible.

The Results are in!

Once you have ads running (after 60 days), you’ll have some data to play with.

If your book is getting impressions, but no clicks (you’ll know this because you won’t be spending money!)… your cover could be the problem. However, first, change your ‘custom’ ad copy. It’s simple to do in the campaign manager. Just set up another ad and write better copy. Launch the ad again and wait for results.

Or, if your custom copy is stellar… Redo the cover!

Seriously. Redo the cover. Change nothing else about the ad. People are seeing your ad but not clicking. So it doesn’t matter how much you love your cover, potential readers aren’t for some reason. Change it.

If you’re getting clicks (spending money), but not getting any sales, your book description/blurb is most likely the problem. Rewrite it! Simple. Do that in your KDP dashboard now. Then let your ads run some more (a month at least) and assess the results.

If you’re getting impressions, clicks, and sales, but no read through or reviews. Look at your back matter (the stuff at the very end of the book). You could be promoting your next title, asking for reviews, inviting people to join your mailing list. Do something! At least with the mailing list capture, you can ask them if/why they didn’t read through to the next book, or perhaps offer them a free short story to read.

Ok, that’s it. I’m done. I hope this helps someone figure out Amazon Ads for Authors, and if you have any thoughts or questions let me know.


Bonus tip: Did you know that commenting on a blog post is one of the fastest ways to gain organic traffic for your site or blog? It’s called ‘inbound’ traffic, and you control it by planting your website address into my comment form and hitting submit (with a nice message). Your comment will stay with this post forever, and guide any people who find your words interesting back to your site! Powerful stuff. So leave a comment today. Also, if you’re the first you’ll stay at the top!


  1. Great help! Going to try and implement this asap! With my 1st novel in The cursed series.


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