How to Advertise Your Self-Published Book on Amazon
Advice from the front lines
I freelanced in Amazon ad writing for authors for a year and I was shocked at the disconnect between what authors wanted and what generated clicks.
For instance, every author, and I mean every single one, wants to have the phrase (enter Newspaper Name) Bestseller attached to his or her name. It seems like a no-brainer, right? You’re a bestseller, that should be the first thing you mention.
What Authors Want
Bestseller lists only take numbers into account, not content. That means bestsellers tend to be masters of marketing, not great writers. Nowhere is this truer than for independent writers.
If your book has tons of reviews that mention your spelling mistakes, your flat characters, or the massive expositions in your text, readers will smell a rat. Your bestseller status doesn’t make sense if you can’t bother to spell-check. That conflict will keep shoppers from clicking the BUY button or generate a slew of angry reviews.
Here’s What I Did Instead
Rather than throw around the word bestseller, I’d find a positive review and quote it. A lot of authors do this in their blurbs, but not their ads. Why not? Remember, books sell by recommendation, not stats.
You want shoppers to feel like their best friend recommended this new romance or mystery. It’s so much fun to read! You’ll love it.
So, I’d use my standard 150 character ad, (that’s about a line and a third), to squeeze a partial quote from a positive review. This is a double win because my client, the author, loves the praise and readers respond positively to the ad. It looks like this:
Drath embarks on a magical journey to a hidden door. Click to find out why readers call it “Dark and disturbing in the best way possible.” (138 Characters)
Will Your Romance Sell?
Romances are interesting when it comes to advertising. Readers want the tension. Will they get together? Kiss? Spend the night under the copier in the office?
See all those question marks? They’re intentional. I don’t know why, but romance and question marks go together. If I’m writing about a bear shifter who falls for a Russian spy disguised as a ballet dancer, I don’t tell shoppers about the story, I ask them about it.
Can a bear shifter find love in a ballet class taught by the Russian spy of his dreams? (87 characters)
Readers love questions, but romance fans are crazy about them. Even if you write a super short ad, (70 characters or less), end it with a question mark.
What happens when a ballet dancer falls for a bear? (51 characters)
Something about the open-ended possibility makes the book irresistible.
This one bugged me. I got a list of four books and a massive, secondary list about how to advertise them outside of their genre. The four were straightforward stories about parents and kids who survive disasters together. Stories about families who go through tragedies together are easy sells — the parents are in love, the kids are plucky, and everyone’s about to die. An easy sell.
To take a solid novel and use dishonest tactics to sell an honest piece of work made my stomach turn. A lot of my friends read fantasy and I know they would be furious if they bought a book presented as a magical story only to find it was a different beast.
I did the assignment but I hated it. And I couldn’t help but notice that the concept of cross-genre ads disappeared after that first try. I never asked, but I can only imagine the backlash.
So, we tried something else — mentioning another, more established author in the content of the ad. It looks something like this:
Love Sierra Sunset? Check out Valentina Moonscape! Her romances are swoon-worthy and impossible to put down! (109 characters)
Like cross-genre ads, these capitalize on shoppers searching for someone else and stumbling on your book. We ran with these for a long time, but after a while authors started opting out of these two-author ads. They felt as gross as I did lying about genre and wanted to try something more honest.
Here’s what we did — we highlighted genre-centered search terms within the first three words. It looked like this:
Love historical romance? Grab Valentina Moonscape! Her romance has readers screaming for more. Click here! (106 characters)
This feels obvious, but a lot of people shop on Amazon not quite sure what they’re looking for until they see it. Also, Kindle organizes their digital books into genres and subgenres, so this helps your book pop up in different searches.
This next one sounds wrong. Really wrong. But bear with me.
Try a Typo
I know, I know. It feels like a crazy move. Who intentionally adds a mistake to an ad?
My team had an ad that went up and then after it was published, we noticed it had a common error. However, we kept it up. To our surprise, readers responded more to the ad with a mistake than the perfectly executed ones for the same book.
What’s going on?
I can’t prove this, but I have a theory. Book ads are about the length of a text message. And we all make mistakes when we text. We’re in a hurry, we’re talking to a close friend who doesn’t need a lot of explanation, or we don’t care. So, when we see short-form writing, it feels familiar to see a misplaced letter or punctuation mark.
Here’s What I Mean:
Take a deep breathe and get ready to go on the adventure of your life!
Up close, you see it right away. But this level of mistake might not jump out until the second or third time you saw it on Amazon. Or it could register as familiar and friendly on a subconscious level for your readers. It’s wrong, but it’s also worth a try.
Amazon ads are endlessly flexible. Try something, analyze the results and then try something different. Ads aren’t everything, but they help a lot of people find your book even when they aren’t looking for it.
Good luck and keep writing!