Keyword Blues

For online book sales, keywords can make or break you.

The number of books for sale on online platforms is mind-boggling. Amazon alone has millions (I remember when it was a million, but that was a long time ago). With those numbers, you have to make it easy for readers to find your book. If they can’t find your book, you don’t make money.

That’s where keywords come in. Readers type a few words in the search bar, and Amazon shows you all the books that match the readers’ keywords. Here’s the trick. The author has to put in the right keywords in the book’s metadata so it’ll show up on the sales page. How does an author know she has the right keywords? That’s the second trick. She doesn’t.

So now what?

Lucky for the author, there are apps that’ll help her find the right keywords. I bought an app called Publisher Rocket, which helps me find the keywords–a single word or a phrase–to make it easier for readers to find my books. I plug a few words in the search bar, and the app shows me 1) whether my keywords are useful, 2) my competition (how many other authors use those keywords and the top 10 sellers) and the average daily and monthly income for each author, 3) helps me find the category that best matches my books, and 4) how often the keyword or keywords show up in Amazon searches.

It’s wonderful. For The Underground, I found “love triangle” and “paranormal politics.” Yeah, that last one kinda surprised me, too. For Invasion, “epic space battle” brought up a lot of hits. So now they’re in the books’ metadata. It’s not as easy as it sounds, though. Like the saying goes, you have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince. Still, it was easier than I thought it would be.

Except for The Moreva of Astoreth. It’s a sci-fi romance. Seems like it should be easy, right? It’s not. Oh sure, there are lots of sci-fi romances out there, but they all involve a human woman and an alien man. My book is set on another planet, so they’re both aliens. Anyway, I plug in the potential keywords and the most godawful, stupidest titles come up. Claimed by the Alien Warrior. Mated by the Alien. A couple of books even have a pregnant woman on the cover, along with her alien man. I mean, what? Really? People actually read this crap? Apparently so–the monthly take for some is over 10K. I should also add that most of the covers show the torso and arms of a seriously ripped muscle-man (think Arnold Schwarzenegger in his much younger days). They’re all colors, too–green (of course) purple, red. On a couple where they showed the guys’ heads, they have horns. They look pretty lethal, too. I sincerely hope when they do the deed, she’s on top.

So I tried keywords more in line with my story because I don’t want my book showing up with that bullshit. One of my main characters is a healer. I typed in healer. Nothing. A secondary character is the goddess of love, so I typed in love goddess. Nada. Priestess. Nope. Bigot/bigotry. I thought for sure that would turn up something. It didn’t. Personal transformation brought up all this New Age-y stuff. You know, do this three times a day and you’ll achieve nirvana by the end of the week. I just rolled my eyes.

Nothing to do but keep plugging. I’ll hit the jackpot.



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