Amazon—it’s both a source of income and frustration for indie authors. For many, Amazon remains the only retailer that supports a writing career. And yet.
Gaining traction on Amazon can be incredibly difficult. It’d be nice if it were as easy as uploading a book to KDP and sitting back to watch the sales roll in. But it’s not. It’s a little painful how far from reality that thinking is.
Keywords help you gain visibility on Amazon… but only if you’re already selling books
Here’s the truth: Amazon is a money-making business. If your book isn’t already making Amazon money, they’re not going to boost its visibility. As much as indie authors depend on Amazon to sell books, Amazon’s focus is always going to be on their bottom line.
That’s why listing your book on Amazon will never be enough—you have to drive traffic there. Having an author platform is vital for exactly this reason. You need established fans who will buy your book so Amazon will take notice and start sharing your book with new readers.
(Got questions on author platforms? Submit yours through my contact page, and I’ll answer it here on my blog.)
Once you’ve begun sending traffic to your book’s Amazon page and you’re making sales, the benefits of keywords will kick in.
Keywords help Amazon categorize your book
Using keywords makes it easier for Amazon to display your book to potentially interested readers. These keywords are ones you add when you upload your book through KDP. Your dashboard will look something like this:
You’re limited to two categories and seven keywords, which makes your selection incredibly important. A strong knowledge of genre (and how that translates to Amazon categories) is vital at this stage. You’ll want to get your book in front of the people most likely to read your book.
The answer isn’t “everyone,” either.
How to make sense of categories and keywords
I’ll admit to this: With my first self-published book (and possibly the entire series), I didn’t use the categories and keywords to their full advantage—in part because I didn’t write to genre (as I should have for a more marketable book). But that’s another post for another time.
For your two category options, you want to find the overarching category your book best fits into. It’s okay at this point if the category is broad with a lot of competition—you can use the keywords to get into subcategories with a narrower market.
So what category is right for your book? If you haven’t been on Amazon and looked through the categories of Kindle books by this point, jump on Amazon and start exploring now. Market research like this shouldn’t be skipped. It’s easier to market (and sell) your book when you understand how your book fits in with (or stands out from) other books within your genre.
Once you’ve determined the best two categories for your book, you can move onto keywords. Amazon is essentially one big search engine, so if you’re familiar with SEO, that knowledge will be useful. You can also use pre-defined keywords to get your book listed in subcategories. Use this KDP help topic on selecting browsing categories for a list of those keywords.
Keywords like “genes” and “new adult” place my book in relevant subcategories. These subcategories often have fewer titles listed, which theoretically makes it easier to gain visibility. (Theoretically, because you also have to be selling books to get your book’s visibility boosted.) If your book ranks high in smaller categories, that momentum can carry over into larger categories.
How you can use Amazon keywords and categories to your advantage
Whether you’re still working on your book or already published, you can tackle your Amazon keywords and categories. It all begins with checking out books similar to yours. If you’re not sure what those might be, try several genres until you find a few books that are similar.
This market research—and yes, you should be reading these books—will help you discover the categories your target audience uses to find new reads. Find other bestselling titles in your book’s genre, and note which categories and subcategories the book is listed under. Study and understand.
If you’re already published, go back and look at the categories and keywords you chose. How do they stack up against the research you did? You’re not locked into the ones you originally chose, so make any changes you feel are necessary. While it’s definitely better to choose the most appropriate categories from the start, it’s not too late to change them. You might even see a boost in visibility after updating them.
If you’re still working on your book, you can start making a list of which categories your book best fits under so that when you’re ready to publish, you have all the necessary information ready to go.
Want to learn more about Amazon keywords and categories? Penny Sansevieri (aka @bookgal) has amazing books and resources for you.