In this post, I’m going to look at some of the issues surrounding Amazon’s kindle publishing using keywords, categories and tags to help readers find your work.
To help readers get to your book, you need to make sure it’s as easy to find as possible. Obviously if someone knows the title or your name, it’s easy for them! However, you also want to try and reach as many browsing readers as you can, and that’s where good use of the keywords and categories comes in.
When publishing, the KDP information page asks you to select two categories. These are based on the system all libraries use and are what you see down the left-hand side of Amazon’s home page.
Choosing the right category can make a big difference. If you click through the categories, you can also see how many titles there are in each one (either in brackets on the menu, or on the top bar Showing 1 of 1651 titles). In Crime, Thrillers and Mystery, there are 259,638 results. If you drill down a little further, you might decide your book’s better suited to one of the sub-categories, Police Procedurals, with 7,448. It’s also important to know that any book in the smaller category is shown in the larger – if you list under Police Procedurals, you’ll also be visible under Crime, Thrillers & Mystery so it might be better to be as specific as possible, while remaining honest about what your book really is.
It’s important to note that not all the categories are listed in the KDP options. There’s a VERY niche category of Adventure Stories/Sea Adventures which only has about 8 books listed. When choosing your KDP category, if there’s nothing that suits your book then you can choose “Unclassifiable” at the end of the list and then email Amazon to request a category change to something more specific.
Ways to choose your category:
- Look up books similar to yours – what category are they in? This is a good way to find those niche, small sub-categories.
- Look through the left hand column. How would you describe your book to a potential reader?
- Which category would you search for first, and second?
- What category are similar authors listed in?
You’re allowed to select up to seven words or phrases for your keywords. When customers search, Amazon searches the category, title and keywords so these can help direct readers to you if you get them right. Sadly, there’s no way to see what keywords other books use, so you need to do a bit more thinking on this one.
Amazon’s FAQs has a list of potentially useful keywords to get started, which are required if you want to list in certain popular genres.
Brainstorm some ideas – how would you describe your book to a potential reader? Once you have a list there’s a few things you can do to test them out. First – put them into Amazon’s search bar. Look at the auto-complete: is there anything there that would work better, or which is obviously also a contender? For example, by typing in “How to write” into the search bar, the author of this article about marketing a book on writing found that How to write fast, his original search term, was not searched for as often as How to write a lot – so that phrase went into his keywords too. You can also use the google keyword planner on their adwords section, which will recommend some alternatives and show you a likely search rate. It requires you to sign up for an account but you don’t have to buy ads to use the planner.
Be honest – expectations are crucial.
You need to remember that you’re targeting people who want to read your book, so only choose categories and keywords that really apply. Ever been to a film that wasn’t what you thought it was going to be? If you want a brilliant Chinese takeaway but end up with a great pizza, you’ll still not enjoy it as much as you were going to enjoy the Chinese. Expectations are crucial. If you sell your book as a crime drama, but it’s really a romance, you’ll either not sell very many or you’ll sell some and get negative reviews because, no matter how good it is, people won’t like that it was mis-sold. So think about how you would genuinely describe it, and how to explain that to people.
Helpful sites with more ideas
A beginner’s intro to categories and keywords, as well as some hints for how to come up with them.
Use Amazon’s autocomplete to suggest keywords for you (or show you that nobody else is using that search term!)
Quite a good run down of the difference between categories, keyword and tags, and especially useful on why drilling down into smaller categories is useful.
Aimed mostly at non-fiction, but some useful information on how to use keywords in your product description and title as well as just the keywords publishing section.
How to request a change of category – excellent, considering the KDP book information doesn’t have every category available just ‘unclassifiable’ tacked onto the end.