How Do You Target an Ad with Amazon Marketing Services?

Images combined from Shutterstock.

Images combined from Shutterstock.


KDP Select authors can place an ad on with a minimum ad campaign budget of $100 and cost-per-click bid of 2 cents.

The ad is placed through Kindle Direct Publishing via Amazon Marketing Services.

Placing an ad on Amazon won’t likely provide an easy fast-track to success.

Advertising isn’t likely the magic answer to your marketing woes.

But paid advertising can be used effectively.

  • If your ad makes thousands of impressions to your specific target audience, it helps with branding. (The branding is not as good as one could hope for, as the thumbnail and author name are tiny, but there is still a branding impact.)
  • If your ad generates hundreds of clicks to your specific target audience, this helps with branding much more. On your product page, they see a larger image of your cover, may read your description, and may peak inside.
  • If your ad results in a few sales to your specific target audience, and if they really enjoy the read, you might get some valuable recommendations. Plus, this may improve your sales rank, which can have benefits of its own.

The key words here are specific target audience. You want to show your ad to people who are most likely to want to read your book. They are more likely to buy your book, now or months down the line, and they are more likely to recommend the book if it’s really, really good.

Note that authors with multiple similar books have a distinct advantages with long-term branding, and authors who supplement their paid marketing with free marketing strategies also have a distinct advantage.


KDP lets you target an ad campaign with Amazon Marketing Services.

Wise choices help you best reach your specific target audience.

Visit your KDP bookshelf. Under the KDP Select column, click the Promote and Advertise link to get started.

There are two ways to target an audience:

  • target by interest
  • target by product

It’s a choice; you can’t do both with the same ad. You won’t be able to switch later (except by terminating the ad and starting a new one).

Either click to target by interest or click to target by product, and then you will be able to select your options.


You must choose between interest targeting and product targeting. You can’t have both (not with one ad).

You also can’t edit this later. (You can edit your bid, budget, or the duration, and for product targeting only, you can edit the list of products.)

  • Interest targeting lets you choose broad categories, like Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (but you can’t narrow interest targeting down, like just Mystery).
  • Product targeting lets you select specific products at Amazon to target.

Each has its advantages:

  • Interest targeting is generally wider, and you have the same targeting list as any other author who selects the same category.
  • Product targeting allows for more directed targeting, but takes time and research to use effectively.

Is targeting necessary? We don’t pay for unclicked impressions, only for clicks. So if readers outside of your subgenre see your ad and ignore it, you really haven’t lost anything.

But if people outside of your subgenre see your ad, click on it expecting one thing, but then find another thing on your product page, that wasted click will cost you.

The more effectively your tiny thumbnail and first few words of your title clarify your precise subgenre—not to your specific audience, familiar with the subgenre, but to other shoppers who aren’t familiar with it—the less you need to worry about precise targeting. Extra impressions that aren’t clicked don’t cost you money.

On the other hand, you don’t want your targeting to be too broad no matter how effective your ad sends its message about the content. If you want to find your readers, you need to apply some targeting.

A niche audience may be reached better through specific product targeting.


If any of the categories are a pretty good fit for your book, interest targeting may work well.

Update: I’m getting better results, presently, through product targeting. I suggest targeting at least 50 books (with product targeting, not interest targeting) where readers who enjoy those books are likely to appreciate your book. You really need to think about your specific audience.

Here are some fiction categories that are likely to work well for books that fit into them:

  • Romance
  • Science Fiction & Fantasy
  • Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
  • Comics & Graphic Novels

But if you have a subgenre where people outside that subgenre aren’t likely to be receptive to your book, you may want more directed targeting that product targeting offers.

The Teen & Young Adult category is interesting. If you have a novel for this audience, you may actually want to select two target audiences, if one of the above categories is also a good fit.

The Literature & Fiction category is kind of like the “not listed above” category. It can work well for some books, but will be too broad for others. Product targeting is the alternative.

In hot genres, there are likely to be many competing ads going in those categories. Product targeting may not help evade that competition though.

Here are some nonfiction categories that are likely to be good fits for many books:

  • Parenting & Relationships
  • Biographies & Memoirs
  • Cookbooks, Food & Wine
  • Health, Fitness & Dieting
  • History
  • Religion & Spirituality
  • Science & Math
  • Travel
  • Sports & Outdoors

The following nonfiction categories seem much broader:

  • Nonfiction
  • Humor & Entertainment
  • Education & Reference
  • Professional & Technical
  • Arts & Photography
  • Business & Investing
  • Computers & Technology
  • Crafts, Hobbies & Home

But remember, in some cases, it’s okay if the category is somewhat broad. It really depends on how people outside the audience may interpret the ad (you don’t want wasted clicks from people who didn’t realize what they were getting). It helps to know how well your cover signifies the content.


You can achieve more directed targeting with product targeting.

However, it may take a very large list of hundreds of books to get many impressions.

Update: I’m getting better results, presently, through product targeting. I suggest targeting at least 50 books (with product targeting, not interest targeting) where readers who enjoy those books are likely to appreciate your book. You really need to think about your specific audience. It’s okay to select other products, like movies, that are likely to be a great fit for your book.

If you spend too much time assembling your list, your page could time out. If so, you’ll have to start over.

Alternatively, you can add several books now, then edit your list after your ad is approved. When you proceed to edit your ad, look for the Target Products Management tab.

Check the box at the bottom of the list (once it appears) to expand your targeting to closely related products if you’d like to increase how many impressions your ad makes.

Or uncheck that box to better focus your targeting. This box automatically checks itself every time you load a new page of keyword results, so if you really want this unchecked, you’ll have to frequently uncheck it.

Choose wisely: That checkbox won’t be an option after you submit your ad. (But you will have the option to edit your list of products targeted.)

You enter keywords (or titles or ASIN’s) and Amazon will show you the top 146 matches.

If you’re seeing many other products in your list (some aren’t even books), you could try adding the word “Kindle” to the keyword, as in “gothic Kindle” instead of just “gothic.” But the more you restrict your targeting, the fewer impressions you make.

It might be okay to target non-book products. Those customers may have related interest (like golf products for a book related to golf). You can always cross your fingers that they won’t actually click on your ad unless they actually own a Kindle (which seems logical, so it might just work).

Click the link “Add all on this page” to select up to 30 products at once. You might need several hundred similar products to create many impressions.

I select all of the first page, and sometimes all 146 matches. When I get to the next page, I decide how many of those matches are relevant. If most are, I take the whole page and check the next.

Think of all the relevant keywords:

  • Start with the subgenre, like “paranormal” or “space opera.”
  • Think of places where you book is set, like “Egypt” or “Paris.”
  • Think of subjects that relate to your book, like “chess” or “mythology.”
  • For historical books, include the period, like “Victorian,” “Hundred Years War,” or “ancient Rome.”
  • Think of similar keywords. For example, if your sci-fi book involves alien abductions, keywords like “aliens,” “alien abductions,” “extra terrestrials,” “ufo’s,” “ufology,” “ancient aliens,” “ancient astronauts,” “spaceships, “starships,” or “Martians” may be relevant. At some point, if the keyword isn’t finding any books that you haven’t already added, it’s time to think along other lines.
  • Think of the interests of your specific audience, such as “feminism,” “video games,” “jewelry,” or “knitting.” It helps to know your audience well. But also think of interests in your book.
  • Search the bestseller lists at Amazon. You may find that you’ve already grabbed many of these in your keyword searches. But if not, you could always copy/paste ASIN’s.
  • Check out your customers-also-bought lists. If you know your subgenre well, you’ll already know highly similar books. Be sure to target these, too.
  • You can also enter the names of popular authors or series. You can’t do that for the 7 keywords when you publish, but in advertising, you are trying to identify similar products. But realize that popular books are likely to be targeted by many other ads, so it will be competitive. (If it’s not a very similar book, you’re just wasting your time and money.)
  • There are probably many other kinds of relevant words for your book and audience, like “short reads,” “tenth grade,” “tween,” “Christian,” “literary,” etc. But you’re not entering keywords, you’re selecting the products. What matters is if the products that show on the list are likely to attract the same readers as your book because they share similar interests.

Go onto your blog and ask people to list all of the words they can think of that relate to your book. People are generally helpful, and this might turn into a fun game. Then you can use some of the results for your product targeting.

Remember, you can always edit your product targeting later (but if you instead select interest targeting, you can’t edit that nor can you switch to product targeting; and if you select product targeting, although you can edit the list, you can’t switch to interest targeting), so it’s okay to test things out or think of better ideas later.


Advertising costs money, so it carries risk.

Results aren’t guaranteed.

Advertising isn’t an easy fast-track for success.

It’s not the simple solution to your marketing woes if your book isn’t selling on its own.

It’s not a substitute for learning how to market. But it can supplement effective free marketing strategies.

It doesn’t always provide a good short-term return on investment. But it can provide long-term benefits. And it can give added exposure for a hot promotion.

There are effective ways to advertise. And it partly depends on your goals, like branding or exposure rather than immediate sales.

You might only get 1 click for every 1,000 impressions, and you might only get 1 sale for every 100 clicks. You might not even get that. It’s a risk.

The more you bid, you’re more likely to lose money short-term, perhaps a lot of money. The more you bid, the fewer clicks you get (since you pay per click) and the faster your money runs out. But if you have a hot promotion going on, it may be worth it for that.

The less you bid, the smaller your short-term risks, but the fewer impressions, clicks, and early sales you’re likely to get.

Advertising tends to be more about branding than immediate sales. Or for short-term promotions, it’s more about exposure.

The more similar books you have, the better. The more your cover and product page appeal to your specific target audience, the better.

Thousands of other authors are trying this new advertising tool out. Thus, in the beginning, many authors are raising their bids impatiently, just wanting to see something happen. So it will be harder to get good numbers early on. Patience may have some merit.

Chris McMullen

Copyright © 2015

Chris McMullen, Author of A Detailed Guide to Self-Publishing with Amazon and Other Online Booksellers

  • Volume 1 on formatting and publishing
  • Volume 2 on marketability and marketing
  • 4-in-1 Boxed set includes both volumes and more

Follow me at WordPress, find my author page on Facebook, or connect with me through Twitter.


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8 comments on “How Do You Target an Ad with Amazon Marketing Services?

    • Which kinds of options? Pretty much all you can choose at Amazon is your bid, budget, duration, and targeting. A nice thing about the tool is that you can fully explore your targeting options without commitment (just don’t click the button to submit your ad for review).

  1. Another great post, thanks for clarifying the targeting process. I have placed two ads so far; one using interest, and one using product targeting. To my great surprise, five days later the former has zero (!) impressions, while the latter has 100 ones. Even more surprising is the fact that my product-targeting ad has a lower-than-recommended CPC bid ($0.03 as opposed to $0.05).

    My explanation is that everyone is using the target-by-interest option, as it’s easier and less time-consuming. As a result, bids can get quite high, and I’m being consistently out-bidden.

    • Thank you for sharing that. I have more impressions with interest targeting, though I’m not in a hot genre. If you target fantasy books with product targeting, I would expect interest targeting books to outbid those ads, too, for example. Did you select books or products outside of your genre? (Another question is whether or not ad data is accurate yet.) Good luck with your ads.🙂

    • That’s a good question.

      First, if that box underneath the product list is checked (to target similar products), you’d think that would cover alternate editions.

      I notice that only one edition shows up in the list when I type keywords, and it’s often a paperback. If you had to select each edition, it seems logical that all editions would show up in the search to find products to target.

      But things don’t always work the way we expect them to. My feeling is that you don’t have to select each edition, which would be a hassle, as it would require multiple searches for the same book.

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