Thursday, February 15, 2018

Using Keywords to Maximize Your Self-Published Book Sales

You’ve written your book. You put your heart and soul into it, you’re proud of the end result and you’ve pressed the ‘publish’ button. Aaaannnnd, nothing. Maybe a couple of sales. You’re disheartened. Maybe it’s not as good as you thought? Should you have paid more for your cover? Should you give up on this self-published author business?

Hold your horses. There’s probably a simpler solution that’s really very easy to fix with a little research on your part. People are browsing Amazon right now, wanting to buy an ebook like yours. We will use Amazon and its Kindle keywords as the case study, but the strategies apply to other online retailers too. The problem is that unless your book is hanging out on the bestseller list, the only way they really have to find your book is to use keywords.

The biggest mistake people make when they publish their book is to not put enough effort into choosing the right kindle keywords. The good news is that you can easily change your keywords whenever you want – so if your book sales are disappointing, try tweaking the keywords and watch your sales rise.

This is great news for you -  you can figure out the best keywords to use to get your book in front of people that want to read it. Here’s a handy guide on how to do just that.

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Finding keywords readers search for

The first mistake indie authors make is to just put in the keyword section a bunch of words they think are related to their book. While that’s not necessarily wrong, you only get seven keywords. To make the most of them you want to make sure that not only are the words you use related to your actual book; they are the words readers are using to find books like yours.

Most self-published authors will choose the obvious words. For a thriller they might choose something like: thriller; crime; killer; dark; gritty; victim; murder. Those are all perfectly good keywords on the face of it. They’re linked to the type of book, and are probably the kind of things a reader searches for. So why might you want to rethink them?

You could try and think like your readers, which could help you use the words they would use. It’s still guesswork though. Or you could use a few tricks to find out what words people actually do use.

What is this sorcery? The Amazon search bar. It has a very handy auto-populate feature that does the hard work for you. When you do your keyword research, use incognito or private browsing mode with your internet browser – that way the search bar won’t use information specific to you and your past searches, and will just show you what are generally popular searches.

Choosing the right kindle keywords

The next important part of this tactic is to check that your list of keywords is lucrative. How do you do that? You see how many and which books show up in the results. Handy tip – very few people scroll beyond page 1 of results, and almost nobody makes it past page 3. So, if your book isn’t going to have a chance of being on page one of the results, you’re wasting your keyword space.

A keyword of ‘crime’ will pit you against around 60,000 other books in the search results. You can bet your book isn’t going to be near the top of those results unless it’s already selling well and highly reviewed.

Making sure that most of the book keywords you’ve chosen have less than 1,000 results is a good way of making sure your book won’t get buried too far under a pile of others in the search results. More than 2,000 and it’s probably not a keyword you want to be using. I find using a mix of keywords that have different numbers of search results works best: a couple at 800-1,000, a couple at 500-800, and the others less than 500.

What if all the keywords I found have too many results?

If you’re writing a book in a popular genre, you might struggle to find keywords for your book with under 1,000 results easily. One way to build a list up is to use Google. Type in your keyword, and look for what auto populates. When you select one, scroll to the bottom of the page and look at ‘related searches’ for even more ideas. Keep doing this until you have a long list of possible keywords and phrases readers use that you can then test in Amazon’s search bar.

Another tip is to type the genre into Amazon’s search bar and follow it with the word ‘with’. Using our theoretical thriller, I type in ‘thriller with’ into the search bar and ‘thriller with surprise ending’ is auto populated. At the time of writing this article, that had 158 results. Perfect!

But if I put thriller, surprise, and ending into my keywords won’t that use up 3 words on just one possible search? I can hear you thinking. What you may not know, is that although they are called keywords, you can actually use phrases separated by commas, and they count as one ‘word’. There’s an overall character limit, but you can fit several phrases in there before it reaches the limit. So, thriller with surprise ending only uses one of your seven keywords for your self-published book.

Using keywords to get into a sub-category

The only exception to these book keyword rules is when you’re using one or two of your precious keywords to appear in a popular sub-category.

If there’s a sub-category you want your book to feature in but it isn’t on the pre-defined list that you can choose from when you publish, check out Amazon’s handy guide on which keywords can get you into that category here.


So, there you have it – how to maximise your keyword potential for your self-published ebook. Just make sure that you don’t include anything that would misrepresent your book – such as the name of another book or any of Amazon’s program names like ‘Kindle Unlimited’. Don’t repeat keywords that are already in your book’s title, as they are already used for search results.  More information on keywords, and what not to include can be found here.

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 Written by Lisa Flynn. Lisa is a freelance writer, content marketer, and social media manager who developed a love of reading and writing from an early age. She has self-published over eleven racy novels under several top-secret pen names and also ghost writes in the romance and erotica genres.