Choosing Keywords – Guest Post by Jaq D Hawkins…

We’ve all dealt with it. We get our book files ready, check one last time for any typos that might have slipped through, get a cover file ready and write the crucial blurb that will sell or fail to sell our book… once someone actually sees it.

Then we get down to the line for selecting keywords and the fate of the book’s discoverability lies in the careful selection of a few words or terms that we predict people will use to search for a book just like the one we’re about to upload.

On Amazon, usually the seller that results in the largest percentage of sales, we get a limit of seven words or terms. How do we choose the keywords that will bring our book to the attention of our target audience?

I’ve read countless articles on choosing keywords from blogs and author groups, all giving advice on ways to bring your book to the front of the store. However, a lot of other authors are reading those same articles and practicing the same methods. How can we compete?

Usually Amazon will favour a book with a lot of sales and/or reviews. This is no secret. But all books start out on zero and the sales and reviews have to follow from the release at the back of the store. Methods for bringing these counts up are a subject for another article, but choosing the keywords that will help potential customers discover your book will help.

Advice I’ve read ranges from putting words into Amazon’s search bar and seeing what phrases come up to using various apps online that show commonly searched keywords.

What I’ve found most effective is making sure your genre is included in your description, and if possible in your title. Think from a reader’s point of view. If you were looking for a book like yours, what search words would you use? For example, my Steampunk book, The Wake of the Dragon, has a subtitle: A Steampunk Adventure. As long as the subtitle shows on the cover, Amazon is happy to include it in the metadata.

There are a lot of Steampunk books out there these days. If I put the search word ‘Steampunk’ into Amazon’s search bar, I get pages and pages of results. Mine is in there somewhere. However, If I add the word ‘Adventure’ to the search, mine is on the first page, 5th entry. If I put in ‘Steampunk Romance’, mine is nowhere to be found. This is because my book is not a Romance and would not satisfy a Romance readership.

If I search on ‘Steampunk airships’, I’m on the first page again. Twelfth from the top. The Wake of the Dragon is about airship pirates, so if I search on ‘Steampunk pirates’, well, I’m on page two and there are some goggles and jewellery before me. But that’s still not bad!

Now, if you Google ‘app Amazon search terms’, a lot of free apps come up. I tried two of them and got similar results between them. I found that if I just put in the word ‘Steampunk’, I get a lot of merchandise before it even gets to anything book related. So, I tried ‘Steampunk book’.

The top results included books, bookmarks, bookends… but eventually we get to a book related term. Book series. As I do have plans of writing a couple more Steampunk books that would form a series, I quickly went and changed one of my more obscure search words for this book to ‘series’. In theory, this should increase my visibility because it’s a term readers are using to search on.

I then tried the same two apps to search on ‘Fantasy books’. This is a tough one. The competition is astronomical and the shared terms between Epic Fantasy and Fantasy Romance, which have completely different reader demographics, complicate the matter.

I found the results favoured specific series names, age groups and more useful for me, terms like ‘bundle’ ‘trilogy’ and ‘complete series’. The word ‘Trilogy’ is in the title of my combined book, The Goblin Trilogy so I search and… as I said, the competition in this genre is enormous. I quit looking after seven pages, as would many readers.

Another useful thing to remember is that phrases in your description space can also be found with the search function. You can expand your keywords within reason with some clever inclusion. As soon as I’m able to make changes on my Goblin Trilogy page again, those phrases like ‘complete series’, trilogy and ‘collection’ will be written into the description. Meanwhile I note that ‘cats’ is also popular which could shape my future keywords choices as it actually fits into my next Fantasy release, The Chase for Choronzon, in which one of the lead characters is in fact a cat.

Looking for the right keywords is partly a matter of trial and error, but the key is to pay attention to what readers are actually using to search. Next time you’re looking for your next read, take note of your own search terms, and by all means try the free apps to see what’s being typed into that Amazon search bar.

Jaq D Hawkins

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