I have heard and read selling an anthology is tough. Despite our current trend of reading shorter and shorter works, we seem to still prefer the novella over the short story. I am not sure why that is.
Part of the journey in putting together the Tales of Ruma anthology is learning how to market the book. How to find readers and reviewers and just plain get the word out that the book exists.
The first method used to make the anthology known was a Kickstarter campaign (it’s over, but the campaign page is here if you’re curious).
The second method was to utilize Amazon Marketing Services (or AMS).
AMS Ads 101
If you’re not sure what AMS ads are, please continue. If you’re well versed in AMS ads, please feel free to skip this paragraph. AMS ads are CPC (Cost Per Click) ads placed on Amazon’s website for specific search results. Basically, as an advertiser, you bid for certain keywords applicable to your book, and your ad is placed based upon this bid and some other criteria, such as how closely your book applies to that keyword (I’m not too certain about this second part, but have been told it matters). Amazon displays your ad accordingly and you pay an amount up to, but often less, than your bid amount when someone actually clicks on your ad.
The Tales of Ruma AMS Campaign
After listening to the above course, I planned an experiment. Two weeks of AMS ads for Tales of Ruma.
I gathered a decent list of about 65 keywords and launched the Sponsored Ad campaign on 18 May 2018. The default bid for keywords is $0.25, but I decided to change that to $0.40 since I had read clicks typically don’t cost your full bid amount. I also set the budget per day for the campaign to $5. I had also read it is rare for a campaign to reach its budget.
The first few days were a little slow. Just a few impressions (the number of times Amazon displays the ad), but few clicks. I started adding more keywords, searching for authors of books with similar themes and concepts, as well as titles. By the end of the campaign I had 181 keywords.
The overall results of the campaign were mixed. After two weeks, my ad was shown 20,284 times, and viewers click on it 25 times (0.12% click through). Those clicks resulted in 1 sale (on the 18th click), but the cost of the clicks ($6.03) was more than the selling price for the anthology ($4.99). Not to mention Amazon takes a little over 30% of that price in fees.
Since the anthology is also on Kindle Unlimited, free page reads are another return on the ads. I have read these are sometimes difficult to measure due to delays in reporting. While the AMS portal does show which keyword results in a sale, it doesn’t show any correlation between an ad and Kindle Unlimited page reads. For Tales of Ruma, there were a whopping 2 page reads during the campaign. Not sure if those were the result of the ad though.
For my one sale, the keyword was the very broad “fantasy anthology.” The sale was lucky. I only received 140 impressions on that keyword and a single click at my max bid. After some experiments in searches on Amazon using that keyword, I found Tales of Ruma showing 5th in the resulting carousel (1st ad on the second page of results), but my ad quickly fell to page 14 as other advertisers adjusted their bids. “Fantasy anthology” is a pretty broad and competitive keyword, yet I was able to sell one book via one click on that keyword, hence why I consider that sale lucky.
AMS ads can be tricky and I think they are very worthwhile for novels/novellas, especially for series. My experiment with Tales of Ruma was a little disappointing since it wasn’t profitable. Will I run AMS ads again? Yes. But not after some further tinkering with keywords and the ad itself.
Anyway, I hope you found something useful in this article. Do you like this kind of information? What were your experiences with AMS Ads?