Case study

How Sponsored Products helped reach the right readers at the right time

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James Rosone and Miranda Watson are the pen names for the husband-and-wife writing team behind Front Line Publishing, a veteran-owned company born out of a personal post-traumatic stress disorder journey. Front Line Publishing started producing military-themed technothrillers and science fiction in 2015, when Amazon self-publishing made it possible for them to share their stories without the barriers of traditional publishing.

James Rosone and Miranda Watson

Josh and Miranda

The challenge: Reaching the right readers at the right time

Rosone set out to grow his author brand and find new readers for his books. He identified two objectives to help achieve this:

  • Reach readers at the right time; he hoped sponsored ads would help reach readers as they’re shopping for books on Amazon, minimizing the steps from discovery to purchase and increasing the chances of a conversion.
  • Make sure ads are put in front of the readers likely to enjoy those books.

The solution: Getting literate with targeting

At first, Rosone was nervous but decided to consider his initial campaign as a learning experience, anticipating that it would help him create his long-term advertising strategy. He launched his first Sponsored Products campaign using the automatic targeting feature, and reviewed the data after running the campaign for two months. He did this by downloading the search term report; choosing the keywords, phrases, and products that were the best match for his campaigns; and using these in a new Sponsored Products campaign with manual targeting.

After discovering that the search term report contained some surprising keywords using budget and affecting profitability, Rosone decided to look into the negative targeting feature. He was unsure about using this unfamiliar feature, but once he tried it out, he saw his ads become more effective. Rosone’s strategy was to choose all the keywords, phrases, and products that weren’t a good match for the campaign—for example, “romance thriller books for women” and “brad thor books chronological order”—and use negative targeting to exclude these from his manual campaign. Since Rosone writes both thrillers and science fiction under the same pen name, negative targeting has enabled him to ensure that readers browsing for sci-fi are only seeing ads for Rosone’s sci-fi books, and vice versa for thrillers. Although learning about negative targeting was the biggest obstacle, Front Line Publishing attributes this tool with much of their success, and names it “hands down” their top tip for other authors.

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Develop a long, detailed, and effective negative keyword list, and use this in the creation of each new ad. It’ll save you money, and it’ll help your ad take off in effectiveness right off the bat.

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— James Rosone, Author and Owner, Front Line Publishing

Rosone has also developed a strategy to reduce the overall cost of advertising with Sponsored Products: by only advertising the first book in a series. He considers his spend on these ads as the cost of acquiring a reader for the series, rather than for a single book.

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What most people don’t always factor in is that while you’re spending money to acquire new readers now, while that may feel like it’s expensive, if your books convert readers from book one until the end of your series and into the next, then your costs to acquire readers will go down.

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— James Rosone, Author and Owner, Front Line Publishing

Rosone encourages other authors to focus on spend vs. sales against the series being marketed to determine how effective the campaign is. He gave the example of his series, Monroe Doctrine. While the earnings on the first book is $3.49, the value of a reader who reads all eight volumes is $42. Based on historical performance of campaigns for other series, Rosone projects double the return on investment for this campaign. He notes that timing is also important, and usually begins advertising series books once the second book is released and the third book is available for preorder.

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The results: Driving growth in sales, profits, and confidence

Amazon Ads has helped Front Line Publishing grow sales, with their annual revenue rising from $316,547 in 2020 to $634,542 in 2022.1 This growth was achieved without an increase in their ad spend, as their experience with ads has helped them build more efficient campaigns.

As a result of the success they have found with sponsored ads, Front Line Publishing now spends up to 90% of their total marketing budget on Amazon Ads. Having helped grow readership, sponsored ads have become an integral part of their marketing strategy for the foreseeable future.

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The best piece of advice I can give someone who’s considering using Amazon Ads is to have patience when you first start out. Know that it takes some time to gather data to see what will work, what will not, and what needs tweaking.

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— James Rosone, Author and Owner, Front Line Publishing

1 Advertiser-provided data, US, 2019–2022