A number of my writer friends have expressed an interest in Amazon's new pay-per-click promotional tool so I thought I would summarise my experiences here.
Many are put off by the potential cost. Amazon require that you set a minimum budget of $100 per promotion, a figure most indie authors would baulk at. In fact, the reality is, you only need to spend a fraction of that budget, and if you feel at all uncomfortable with the amounts, you can terminate the promotion at any time. Compared to fixed rate ads, where you pay your $x or £x upfront, with no clue as to whether it has been effective or not, it's an option that I feel a lot more comfortable with.
My current promotion has cost me barely anything so far - in fact less than a dollar. Although you have to set a budget minimum of $100, you don't pay any money up front at all and nothing for the ads unless people actually click on them, which the vast majority don't. That's not a reflection on our work, after all, what percentage of ads that you encounter on a daily basis on the internet do you click on? Less than 1% I would imagine, and in many cases, none.
Unlike ads where you pay to go on someone's website, or promote via Facebook, these ads are placed on actual book pages on Amazon. So you are halfway there already when it comes to targeting. Your ads are appearing to people who are actively browsing Kindle books on Amazon - as opposed to, for example, cluttering up the news feeds of people on Facebook who have no interest in buying Kindle books whatsoever, and even if they do, may not be into your genre.
The real beauty of the scheme is that you can specifically target which books you want to advertise against. So, in the case of The Time Bubble, I carried out searches for keywords like "Time Travel", bringing up several competing books, as well as specifically adding the Top 10 books in each of my categories. You can run a campaign more generically as well if you like. I also tried this, just based on Science Fiction, but that was less successful in getting impressions, presumably as there were too many others doing the same. Specific targeting is without a doubt the way to go.
Once you have selected your target books and set the ad running, you sit back and let Amazon do the work. You have to set a maximum price per click (in my case I went for $0.06), and that is what you will pay ONLY if someone clicks on your ad. Otherwise it is free. Your ad then competes in thousands of automatic mini auctions running in split-second every time someone clicks on one of your targeted books. If your bid is the highest at that time, you get an impression - which means your ad appears. They come up in a little box above the "Buy it now" section.
I should point out that at present this is only running in the US, and if you are in the UK, you won't actually be able to actually see your ads because of the territory you are in. But rest assured, they are there. Hopefully this will be rolled out to the UK next, as most initiatives Amazon come up with are.
The beauty of it is, unless someone actually clicks your ad, you don't pay a cent. But what it helps to do is to create brand awareness. Just seeing the ad registers in the customer's brain so at some point in the future, they may see your book again and think "Oh yes, I've heard of that", even if they can't remember where.
Unlike traditional advertising, you also get statistics from Amazon, detailing how your ad is running. So, I set my ad to run for one month. It is about 3 weeks in. According to the stats, I have had 4,815 impressions which have resulted in just 11 clicks and no direct sales from those clicks. So, at first glance, based on these bare numbers you might conclude that my campaign has not been that successful, however, since I set my maximum bid per click to $0.06 (it can be less), it has cost me the grand total of 47 cents.
Far more important are those 4,815 impressions that I had had for free. That means 4,815 people have potentially seen an ad for my book. And so far, during February, I have had more than double the sales I have ever had in America before. Maybe it is just a co-incidence, but I'm happy and it's worth a hell of a lot more than all those £15, $20 ads etc I've placed in the past which I don't think have had any effect whatsoever. So I'm very sold on the concept. As for Facebook ads and promotion, my personal (and possibly controversial) belief is that it is worthless. The market is saturated and the news feed is awash with everyone trying to sell to everyone else. It's why I do so little promotion on there these days. Far, far better to place your ads directly on competing books on Amazon, where you are getting straight to people who are a) kindle readers and b) like to read your sort of books.
This doesn't mean I think all activity on Facebook is a waste of time, the amount of time I have spent in author groups and forums sharing information with other writers has been absolutely invaluable to me. I think that's the best use of the social media tool, rather than pissing off your friends with endless "buy my book" links. I've got a new one coming out in less than two weeks, and will of course be putting a link up to it on launch, but I won't be shoving it down people's throats constantly after that. What's better - marketing to your 300+ friends, many of whom are probably sick and tired of hearing about your book but too polite to say so, or having ads running to potentially millions of people worldwide who are already browsing books like yours? It's a complete no-brainer for me.
Whilst my ad has been running with Amazon doing all the work for me, I've been able to get on and finish my new novel, which is now with the proofreader. I have no disrespect for anyone that wants to spend a huge amount of time on marketing, but the best piece of advice I have ever been given is that if you want to sell more books, concentrate on writing more books. The more you have out there, the more potential you have to sell, and one of the great things about new readers discovering you is that if they really like what they've bought, they may well go and check out your back catalogue as well.
So, it's Amazon all the way for me, for now. I'll be running a promotion on the new book when that comes out too, which should be even more helpful than this one. When my new book is launched it will have no reviews, no sales rank, and no "people who bought this also bought" section. Creating awareness from the off through these ads can only help.
Good luck if you decide to give it a try.
Jason Ayres is the author of six books, including his brand new novel, My Tomorrow, Your Yesterday, available here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B00UDHAD0M