custom ad text

How to Write a Great Custom Text Ad for Amazon



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Amazon Marketing Services (AMS) is hands down the best way for you to promote your self-published book on Amazon. It’s their own built-in targeted advertising service. It shows ads for your book to people who are already shopping for books like yours–in other words, an advertiser’s dream audience. This post is intended to help you write custom text for your AMS ad that will compel people to click on it.

In the bookstore world, they say if person picks up a book and looks at it, you’re halfway to a sale. (This is why a smart bookstore owner will actually pick up a book and physically put it in the hands of a customer.) In the digital world, if they’ve clicked on your ad, they’re halfway to buying it. They want to be convinced. You just need to seal the deal.

Why do I say this is your dream audience? Because you don’t have to motivate them. They’re already shopping for a book. It’s just a question of which one they’re going to buy.

Not only that, they’re already looking for books just like yours. If they typed “mysteries featuring detectives who moonlight as clowns at kids’ birthday parties” (okay, that’s a bit of a stretch, but it’s just an example) and you just happen to have written Book Three in your Happy the Clown, Homicide Detective series, AMS will lead them right to your book and do the digital equivalent of putting it in their hands… if, that is, you’ve set it up correctly. And a big part of setting it up is making sure you have the right type of ad text.

To back up a bit, AMS is one of the tools that all self-published writers should be using. I discussed it in my blog post called 5 Essential Tools for Author Self-Promotion. It’s easy to get started with, and Amazon will even create an ad for you that uses no custom ad text if you prefer. Amazon is actually very good at automatically targeting readers. I recommend that you run at least one ad with no custom settings. Let the Amazonians handle it… they know what they’re doing.

But I also believe that no one understands my book quite as well as I do, and I alone can bring the passion to my ad text that will somehow shine forth and grab people by the heartstrings, shaking them until their wallet flies loose. So, I prefer to write my own ad text.

My most successful ad on AMS is a Sponsored Product ad that uses automatic targeting. That means I didn’t select any keywords for the ad. (Keywords are just the words people type into the search bar when they’re looking for something to read.) Instead, I let Amazon decide what keywords to use.

The reason I did that is because Amazon also knows the purchasing history of its customers. It even knows what books they’ve looked at but haven’t bought. It knows everything about them–far more than I will ever be able to guess at. All this information is stored in their massive database which is someday going to dominate all humanity by making free will obsolete. Until then, though, I’m happy to use it to help me sell some books.

However, instead of letting Amazon show a standard ad with no custom text, I elected to write the following:

A multi-generational tale of family, food, and immigration by best-selling author William Kowalski. Based on a true story.

I agonized over every word of this tiny squib. I thought carefully about who was going to be reading it, what they are likely to be hoping for in a book, and what kinds of emotions are evoked by the words family, food, and immigration. I also wanted them to know that I’ve written other books that have done very well, so if they take a chance on buying this one, they are likely to feel like they’re in good hands. Finally, I elected to tell them also that some of this story is true, because many people enjoy knowing that a story they’ve lived through in their head has an analog in the real world. It helps them feel connected.

Amazon then shows this ad in a little box that pops up when people are browsing. This is what it looks like:

custom ad text for AMS
The custom text on my Amazon Marketing Services ad.

It would, of course, make absolutely no sense for you to simply copy this ad text for yourself. So how are you going to write your own ad text?

My advice is simple: remember that people will always remember how you made them feel, long after they’ve forgotten any particular information you’ve imparted to them. I could have chosen to tell people more about my qualifications for writing this book, but that would just be a bunch of facts that wouldn’t really cause an emotional response. I don’t want people to buy this book because of what their head is telling them. I want them instead to make a heart-based decision.

And it works. In the year that this ad has been running, it’s been shown almost twenty million times. That doesn’t mean I’ve sold twenty million copies, but it does mean that I’ve gotten twenty million free advertisements from Amazon. Yes, I said free. That’s because Amazon doesn’t charge you every time they show the ad. Instead, they only charge you when someone clicks on it. Amazin’, Amazon!

Appealing to the heart rather than the head is a good subject to explore a little further. Most people make most of their buying decisions for heart-based reasons. Every manufacturer of a well-established brand knows this. There is no reason for you to choose one brand of detergent over another when they all do the same things for a similar price… except for how it makes you feel when you use it. Advertisers know this very well.

Another person who knows this very well is a gentleman named Simon Sinek, who gave a fantastic talk a few years ago at TED called “How Great Leaders Inspire Action”, which has since been transformed into a greater movement called “The Power of Why”. Like all great ideas, the concept behind this one is simple, too.

Sinek posits that we are the most successful at convincing people when we appeal to their hearts, rather than their heads. Martin Luther King, he points out, did not go around telling people he had a plan–he told them he had a dream.

He goes on to explain that most companies are very good at explaining what they do, but not so good at explaining why they do it. He uses Apple as an example of a company who is doing it right. Apple, he says, could have gone the route of just explaining to people what kind of computers they made, what kind of specs they had, how much they cost, how that cost compared to other computers by other companies, and on and on. There are a million facts Apple could have emphasised in their ad campaigns. Instead, they chose to talk about why they do what they do. I’ll let you watch the Sinek talk yourself to find out the answer to that. It really is worth your time.

Yet another reason this talk is valuable is because it will help you learn how to sell something else: yourself. This is an incredibly valuable skill to have, and not just in terms of crass commercialism. It’s also very useful in other situations, such as when you’re applying for jobs. Once you begin to understand how powerful it is when you share with people why you do what you do, you’ll notice an immediate shift in how they respond.

Let’s put it in even more personal terms: the dating world. Let’s say a young man wants to go out with a certain woman, and he wants to make himself as appealing as possible when he asks her out for their first date.

In Scenario 1, he explains to her all the fact-based reasons she should go out with him: because he has a good job, he drives a fancy car, he makes a lot of money, he scored highly on his SAT, et cetera.

In Scenario 2, he simply tells her why he wants to go out with her: because he thinks she’s beautiful, he really likes her, and he wants to get to know her better.

Which scenario do you think will get the response he wants?

Now, let’s return to our original discussion of trying to get people to buy your book. Custom text ads don’t allow you the space to list all the reasons why they should buy your book, so a fact-based ad is out of the question, anyway. That’s a good thing, but many people find the very short 150-character limit frustrating. How can you possibly express yourself in 150 characters? Even tweets are allowed to be longer than that these days!

Start by making a list of words that evoke the same emotions you think your book evokes. Keep this list short, maybe just two or three words. In my case, again, I chose family, food, and immigration. Family and food are closely related, and both are very powerful words that instantly conjure up strong emotions in practically everyone. Immigration happens to be a hot-button issue right now, so I made the decision to coast on that a little bit and see if it worked out. It did.

Next, use those three words in a single sentence. Keep that sentence under 150 characters, and you’re done. You’ve written a nice piece of custom ad text that should appeal to readers.

Remember that you can run more than one AMS ad. In fact, you can run as many as you want. AMS makes it easy for you to keep track of which ones are doing well, so you can cut out the non-performers after a few weeks and let your winners run.

And don’t forget to watch that video! Here it is below… no need to go anywhere!