As you know, I’ve cracked the code on Twitter Ads. I have developed a method that gets me a reliable stream of people who will buy my book. I don’t make any money because advertising costs about the same as my royalty, but the hope is that these readers will go on to buy my second book. Never one to rest on my laurels, I decided to give Amazon Ads a go. Amazon Ads are something that you can do if you opt in to KDP Select, which I happened to have done. It’s very easy to launch a campaign from your KDP dashboard.
Amazon Ads work exactly like Twitter Ads, in that you make a bid per click, and then some portion of those people who click will buy your book. However, that’s where the similarity ends. The first thing I ran into was the editorial review of the ads. Twitter has an editorial review process for ads, too. But theirs is simply based on word blacklists. Amazon is much more invasive.
Rejection #1: Including a review
As you may recall my “money maker” tweet that I use in Twitter Ads is this:
So I tried just using that as the text of my ad. That ran afoul of the censors:
Unfortunately, we are unable to approve your ad as it contains references to reviews or star ratings in custom text.
You aren’t allowed to include star emojis or reviews in ad copy. I conveniently broke two rules at once!
Rejection #2: My cover
This one is funny, and I’m not entirely sure they did it on purpose. (Update: yeah, they did.) Amazon ad censors have a reputation of rejecting ads for books based on their covers. A bare male chest, a gun, a bullet hole, a knife, a red splotch that evokes blood—those are just a few of the examples I found of covers that had been rejected. My ad was rejected:
Unfortunately, we are unable to approve your ad as your book cover violates one of our ad guideline policies.
In case you’ve forgotten, this is my cover:
Clearly this is not a violence issue. In addition to the violence stuff everyone else runs in to, the guidelines ban:
Provocative imagery such as blatantly sexual prurient poses or poses that may be suggestive of sexual behavior, including partial nudity, excessive cleavage, or models in lingerie, underwear, or swimwear
You notice that nowhere in there do they specify “human” sexuality. So my working theory was that they objected to the depiction of floral sex organs. I prepared this alternate version of my cover…
I also contacted KDP support because those guys are the one of the best support outfits I’ve ever encountered. If anyone could get to the bottom of the censor’s thinking, I figured they could.
However, before they got back to me, a friend suggested that while the rejection said the issue was the cover, perhaps it was actually still the ad copy that was the problem.
Cerebral and erotic, Entropy is unlike any romance novel you’ve ever read.
My friend thought that “erotic” was possibly a blacklisted word, and either they checked the wrong rejection box, or with the context of the word “erotic” the flower became too salacious.
So sticking with the cover I had (I was just joking about the black boxes), I changed the ad copy to:
Entropy is a provocative journey unlike any romance novel you’ve ever read.
I figured “provocative” was enough of a euphemism for sexy that I’d get it past the censors. And it was! Almost…
Unfortunately, your ad campaign has not been approved to run on Kindle E-readers for the following reason(s):
Your book contains content that is too erotic or provocative in nature.
I didn’t say it was too provocative! But apparently someone there took it upon themselves to read my book and draw their own conclusions. Oddly, their purchase hasn’t shown up in my royalty report.
Anyway, that’s fine. I don’t really care whether the ad appears on e-readers. So here’s the approved ad:
My First Amazon Ad Campaign
For my first campaign, I set my bid to $0.10 per click. They recommended $0.30 as a minimum bid, so it’s possible that I won’t get any impressions. Unfortunately, the data feed is horribly slow and I don’t get any feedback on how the campaign is going for 24 hours. So I’ll leave it at a dime for now to see what happens.
I started by targeting people who are interested in contemporary romance. Unlike Twitter, I have a high degree of confidence that Amazon actually knows what people’s interests are.
I also could have targeted people who bought certain books. But that’s a hell of a lot more work. So I figured I’d start with broad interest targeting to see what conversion rate I get.
I’ll update when I have some numbers to report!
Update: Rejected Again!
The campaign ran for a couple of days. In that time, I learned:
- $0.10 and $0.20 bids are too low to get any impressions in the contemporary romance category
- Amazon only updates the dashboard once a day, in my case around noon EDT
So I bumped my bid up to $0.30. The conversion rate would have to be insanely great for that bid to be viable. But I guess I’ll never know, because an hour later, this happened:
You read that right. They really are rejecting a picture of two fucking flowers for being too overtly sexual.
I opened a support ticket with my buddies at KDP. I included that line, pointed out that my cover is two fucking flowers, not two flowers fucking, and asked them if they could find out what the guys at AMS are smoking because I want some. (Okay, I didn’t say it exactly that way. Okay, I kind of did, actually.)
So now we wait.
Update 2: I heard back from KDP Support
They said that it was rejected for two reasons: the provocative cover image, and the fact that there is erotic content in the book (they quoted a couple of the reviews).
So there you go. Amazon refuses to run ads for novels targeted at adults.
It’s no great loss, because it appears I wouldn’t get any impressions unless I bid at least $0.30 per click. And there is no way my conversion rate would be high enough to break even at that bid. (It would have to be about 15%, or three times the conversion rate I see on Twitter. No way that’s going to happen.)
So I’m scratching Amazon Ads off as a marketing channel, and turning my Twitter Ads back on now.