As a self-publisher (or indie publisher), you not only have to write well, you have to be good at every aspect of production and marketing if you want to sell any books. I’ve taught myself much about book publishing, but there is much more to learn. One of the most important things I have learned is that picking the right keywords for your title and subtitle on Amazon allow you to tap into the massive amount of traffic that is already on Amazon’s site.
This is really important to understand. Optimizing for keywords may be an arcane science, but keywords are what your potential customers use to find what they want. These are people who are already shopping to buy a book, and if your book is in their genre, the book they see might as well be your book. Much (but not all) of the success summarized in the graph above is because I fine-tuned the keywords in my subtitle to get more interested traffic.
The graph above is from my private AuthorCentral page on Amazon and shows how my author rank has changed since I published my novella. The scale on the right is a bit hard to read, but shows 100,000 place increments. Lower is better, as in, if your #1 then you are selling the most books.
At the time of this screenshot, my sales rank was #67,147. As you can see, it bounces around a bit. Early on, it was almost #300,000 at one point, which is bad. Of late, I’ve been selling about 5.5 books a day including both ebook sales and Kindle Unlimited and paperbacks, so #67,147 sounds about right…maybe a bit worse than I would have guessed.
Exactly how Amazon calculates author sales rank is a great mystery. Clearly the more you sell, the better your rank. But it certainly feels to me like the older your book is, the faster it falls when it is not selling and the less each sale counts. I can’t prove it, but it feels that way, and there might be some logic to it if you think Amazon wants to give more exposure to newer books. But it is really just a guess on my part.
I’ve written an exhaustive article on the topic of how to pick and use the best keywords in your title and subtitle when selling your book on Amazon. You can get a copy of it (with about 20 screenshots of exactly how to do the things I explain) by signing up for it at the right.
Let me summarize a few of the key points to help you get started:
- Keyword optimization in your title and subtitle is one free and powerful way (but not the only way) to increase the traffic to your Amazon sales site. Sales are the result of how attractive that traffic (shoppers) find your product, which is a function of how attractive your cover is, how well written and engaging your blurb is, your price, the number of reviews you have gotten and how many “stars” you have, etc.
- Amazon allows you 200 characters, and all have to be on your cover. So you have to work within these two restrictions. It is tricky, but there are ways to do it.
- If asked, you would probably say that you know Amazon has its own search engine. But Amazon actually has multiple search engines and they see (and don’t see) different parts of your Amazon sales page, just as Google and Bing can only see parts of your Amazon sales page and data. CreateSpace has its own keyword process, and its distribution partners have their own search engines. Understanding these different search engines and how they work is important to helping you get the right keywords in the right places.
- You can use Amazon’s “auto-complete” feature to help you pick popular keywords for our genre or category (some people call it a “niche”). The auto-complete function essentially has two categories of words. The first group of words are far more important, but secondary words can also help. In all cases, be sure to use only keywords that are relevant to your subject matter. “Erotica” is a tremendously popular search word, but if your book is on the evolutionary development of mice, erotica is not an appropriate word for you to use. It might bring you some customers, but it will also antagonize Amazon’s customers and potentially Amazon. Don’t do it.
- Another no-no: Don’t do “keyword stuffing” — that is, making your title just a long list of popular keywords. Doing so makes you look like an idiot, and you won’t sell many books.
- You need to experiment with your keywords (and the other things you are doing to drive traffic to your site) until your book is “above” the fold for your category because at least 80% of online sales are for products “above the fold.”
These points are the bare essence of what is in the booklet. In the booklet, I go into super helpful detail with screenshots and proofpoints.
Let me know if you have any questions!