I’ve started this post multiple times of the years but decided to put everything together in one place, so you can get help fast. So real quick:
Why choosing a keyword-rich book title is a necessary evil for self-published writers
When you publish a book on Amazon or any other online ebook store marketplace, people have to find it. They do that by searching for what they want, just like on google or any website search engine. There are other ways your book might get some visibility, if Amazon figures out what kind of readers will enjoy reading it, but it probably won’t get any traction if nobody knows what it’s about.
Keywords on KDP (kindle direct publishing) serve two main functions:
1. They let readers know what kind of book you wrote
2. They let the robots know how to promote your book.
Even if you do everything wrong, as long as you’ve got your book cover right (most authors don’t) a HUMAN could look at the cover and figure it out. But the robots can’t. A human might decide your story sounds interesting, even if you don’t use any genre keywords. But a robot won’t get it. They’ll have no idea where to show your book or how might want to buy it.
Amazon keeps track of purchase history, so they look at what readers are buying and try to show them more books like that. If you want Amazon to promote your book for you, you’ve got to give it enough information to get started.
Where to use your keywords on KDP (and which categories to choose!)
When you publish a book on KDP/amazon, it’ll ask you for keywords like this:
There are a few different strategies here, but keep in mind you can come back and edit these anytime later. You also don’t need to put in just one keyword phrase per box, you can “stuff” 7 or 8 keywords together. These keyword boxes help Amazon to place you in the right categories though, so it would make sense to find the exact categories you want to be in, and use those keywords.
However; you can choose two categories when you set up shop, and you can contact KDP support to give you 8 more. So the initial setup page isn’t really that important, because you’ll probably change it later.
Choosing KDP keywords for your book for FREE visibility
But there’s one more place to use keywords, and that’s in your actual book description. You want to write engaging copy for humans (and it’s REALLY important to get it right) but you also want to have some of the same keywords on your description and amazon page, so that it shows up.
– sidenote: I suspect amazon will start using keywords inside the book as well, the actual book contents, in its search results, so think about putting some there too, maybe in a reviews or blurb summary at the front.
The trick is, you want to use keywords that accurately represent your book, but ALSO keywords people are actively searching for, and this can make a huge difference in discoverability.
How do you know what’s popular/what people are searching for?
There’s a free way and an easy way. KDP Rocket is a keyword research tool with some great features, so it’ll save a lot of time and give you a deep peek into Amazon’s ecosystem, to see real data on what kind of books are selling. Here’s a quick video review.
Publisher Rocket Review – best KDP keyword research tool?
KDP rocket (not publisher rocket) just had a big update, and now there’s a cool “insights” button on categories to get even more information from Amazon. I’ve used it to already target a few categories where I’ll rank easily.
How to rank your book #1 on Amazon
You might be wondering, who cares about keywords, what’s the point? Well, every category is a chance to compete with relevant books. As long as you can stay in the top 100 of each (or any) category, you’ll show up as a bestseller. And if you want to become a “#1 bestselling author” you’ll need to hit #1 at least for a few hours (though, I’d caution you against bragging about that title, because it’s pretty easy to do).
If you DO get the orange #1 bestseller tag, take a screenshot and celebrate, or use it in your marketing. But the important thing is to stay in the top 100, which means, you need to sell enough books, to have a better rank than the person at #100 in any category.
Obviously, this will be very difficult in big, competitive categories, and pretty easy in smaller ones, with less books and less books that are selling well (but that also means, your book probably also won’t sell well, just by appearing in an unpopular category.
Here’s an updated video about publisher rocket’s new features:
Best keywords for Amazon ads
There’s one more place to use keywords I haven’t mentioned yet, and that’s in Amazon ads. There are several types of amazon ads, but most people use keyword targeting. It’s pretty cool actually; I can pick specific authors, titles or categories and have my book show up JUST there, on those pages. But I have to pay for the click, and I’m competing against everyone else who wants the same spot.
The trick is to find keywords that don’t cost that much, and also put your book in front of the right readers. Otherwise, you could get lots of clicks but no sales. Generally, you start with a big bulk batch of potential keywords, and get rid of the ones that don’t work.
That’s what most people use publisher rocket for, to get that big list of keywords to test out.
Free keyword research tools for KDP
Do you really need a keyword research tool? No! In fact, I do almost all my research manually. I’ll click at other books in my genre, check out the bestselling genre pages, and copy/paste titles and authors. I’ll check each category and choose the winners, and see what they’re doing on their amazon page or what other books seem relevant. I want to make sure my book is really a good fit, which means considering every title, even reading the reviews, to make sure it’s similar enough to attract the right audience.
But my way is slow and takes a lot of experience. A keyword tool like Publisher Rocket, costs under $100 for lifetime access and I’ve been using it to sell books for years. Watch the video above to see how I do manual keyword research.
Other Kindle Keyword Research tools for Authors
This one puts out a monthly summary by genre, so you can see at a glance what’s performing now. They basically do all the research for you and sell the updated guides. It’s like having a custom publishing industry summary.
Here’s one for Romance books
It’ll give you information on the trending keyword searches…
Or what’s trending in book cover design for that category…
It can even make a wordcloud of frequent keyword phrases
It’s a ton of information, and you can buy whatever research reports are relevant for your book genre or category.
KDSPY review (kindle research browser plugin)
This one is a bit older, but it’s a chrome plugin so while you’re browsing amazon, you can quickly “spy” on competitors and see how they are doing. It’s always been nice to have, even if you just use it sometimes, but they just added some cool new features and a free course.
The very neat thing they added is an “insights” feature, which uses AI to get even deeper information about a book, so you can try and figure out why it’s so successful.
What this does, is sends a long, detailed prompt straight to ChaptGPT along with your book link. In theory, I think it’s pretty amazing. However, chatGPT is only trained on things from a few years ago, so it’s not super up to date, and it has a problem with hallucinating or making things up.
I tried it on my books, and some of the info was great; and some it just made up. Soon however, I’m sure we’ll have some AI writing tools that can actually “read” an entire book and give quick summaries, and that will be super useful. Or for example, you could have it read all the reviews on a book and that condense it into a list of features people like or don’t like.
AI tools like this are brand new, but there’s a lot of potential. In the meantime, any of these keyword research tools will give you a lot of information and save you a lot of time. While you *can* do everything manually by yourself, progress will be slow and if you’re getting zero sales, it’s hard to figure out what to fix first.
Get KDP spy
More KDP research tools and resources
3 Steps To Finding Profitable Kindle Niches & Bestselling Book Ideas
FREE amazon ads course
How to choose KDP keywords
How to choose KDP amazon categories
How to use Amazon ads to promote your book (best keywords to boost impressions)
This is an older video and case study, but I’m adding it because it’s relevant. Like I said, keywords are good for Amazon ads. You want to target books and titles and categories with ads, so your book keeps showing up there, until Amazon learns enough about your book to show it to the right readers.
But it can also help to add keywords to your book description, or even your amazon title or subtitle. Try to avoid “keyword stuffing” that can make your book seem unprofessional. On the other hand, readers skim for books at a glance, and you need to tell them quickly what your book is about and who it’s for. You should really refer to anybody else’s book in your book description, but you can usually get away with some genre keywords – if you know what they are!
For example, I’m trying to promote my vampire dystopia series, but “vampire dystopia” doesn’t get a lot of traffic, nowhere near as much as “fantasy romance” or “romantic fantasy”. But if I show up too much for the *wrong* keywords, and the book doesn’t convert (it isn’t what those searchers were actually looking for, so they don’t buy it) that can actually hurt, because I’m just teaching amazon who does NOT like my book).
It’s worth testing things around, but keep in mind just updating your keywords, categories or amazon pages may not make a huge difference if you’re getting zero traffic. If you’re running ads though and can keep track, you should be able to see whether your changes are making a difference.
You can add up to 1,000 keywords in AMS. It’s an experimenting game to figure out which keywords will be profitable for you. If you want to upscale you can increase your daily budget, or add more keywords. You need to be careful on your bid amount, however. You can quickly lose money if your clicks cost $1 and you only get sales from it once every 10 clicks. I’ve made sales with bid amounts as low as 5 cents. You have to experiment
Do keywords in the Amazon description really matter?
I usually tell people to include keywords in their amazon description.
Yes, also for fiction.
But I haven’t been doing it myself. Mostly because it looks tacky; also because a lot of the mega bestsellers don’t seem to be doing it – in YA, bestsellers often have short and powerful descriptions, not keywords.
The description has to convert.
But your book also needs to be found.
Last week I tried making all my covers more colorful, and that seems to have helped a bit.
All my books are now ranking under 2000 in the free section.
The rank is pretty steady, so it’s a good time to try things out.
According to Amazon experts, keywords should be included in:
- The title
- The description
- Bullet points
- Bold and Italic Text
Also, descriptions should be longer than 1000 words.
SO, I changed my titles.
Scarlet Thread: a dark fantasy romance based on Greek mythology
Shearwater: a young adult mermaid fantasy based on Irish mythology
Orpheum: a darkly tragic musical fantasy based on Greek mythology
Prescient: a young adult time travel survival story set in a dystopian wasteland
Yes, it’s cheesy and seems desperate. Maybe it’ll hurt sales. But if not, and it gets more visibility, it might boost sales. I also added in some bullet points.
This book is for anybody who loves:
- Greek mythology and the gods and goddesses of Olympus.
- young adult dark fantasy.
- epic stories full of history and mythology.
- magical powers and supernatural creatures.
- tragic romances and Gothic themes.
Those things are extras. I still need a powerful, captivating description that hooks readers and sells the books. Mine aren’t that great, but I can fix them more later. For now I just want to see what happens with these changes.
I’m opening up the 21 Day Author Platform program for a limited time. There are some bonuses and extras in there if you want to hire me to do all this keyword and category research for you.
KDP categories research and hidden stuff
If you want to check which categories your book is already in, try this free tool:
I’m a philosophy dropout with a PhD in Literature. I covet a cabin full of cats, where I can write fantasy novels to pay for my cake addiction. Sometimes I live in castles.