Kindle marketing: Keywords and phrases


In this post, I’m going to look at some of the issues surrounding Amazon’s kindle publishing using keywords, categories and tags to help readers find your work.

To help readers get to your book, you need to make sure it’s as easy to find as possible. Obviously if someone knows the title or your name, it’s easy for them! However, you also want to try and reach as many browsing readers as you can, and that’s where good use of the keywords and categories comes in.


When publishing, the KDP information page asks you to select two categories. These are based on the system all libraries use and are what you see down the left-hand side of Amazon’s home page.

It's mid-August! We don't need back to school yet :)

It’s mid-August! We don’t need back to school yet 🙂

Choosing the right category can make a big difference. If you click through the categories, you can also see how many titles there are in each one (either in brackets on the menu, or on the top bar Showing 1 of 1651 titles). In Crime, Thrillers and Mystery, there are 259,638 results. If you drill down a little further, you might decide your book’s better suited to one of the sub-categories, Police Procedurals, with 7,448. It’s also important to know that any book in the smaller category is shown in the larger – if you list under Police Procedurals, you’ll also be visible under Crime, Thrillers & Mystery so it might be better to be as specific as possible, while remaining honest about what your book really is.

It’s important to note that not all the categories are listed in the KDP options. There’s a VERY niche category of Adventure Stories/Sea Adventures which only has about 8 books listed. When choosing your KDP category, if there’s nothing that suits your book then you can choose “Unclassifiable” at the end of the list and then email Amazon to request a category change to something more specific.

Ways to choose your category:

  • Look up books similar to yours – what category are they in? This is a good way to find those niche, small sub-categories.
  • Look through the left hand column. How would you describe your book to a potential reader?
  • Which category would you search for first, and second?
  • What category are similar authors listed in?


You’re allowed to select up to seven words or phrases for your keywords. When customers search, Amazon searches the category, title and keywords so these can help direct readers to you if you get them right. Sadly, there’s no way to see what keywords other books use, so you need to do a bit more thinking on this one.

Amazon’s FAQs has a list of potentially useful keywords to get started, which are required if you want to list in certain popular genres.

Brainstorm some ideas – how would you describe your book to a potential reader? Once you have a list there’s a few things you can do to test them out. First – put them into Amazon’s search bar. Look at the auto-complete: is there anything there that would work better, or which is obviously also a contender? For example, by typing in “How to write” into the search bar, the author of this article about marketing a book on writing found that How to write fast, his original search term, was not searched for as often as How to write a lot – so that phrase went into his keywords too. You can also use the google keyword planner on their adwords section, which will recommend some alternatives and show you a likely search rate. It requires you to sign up for an account but you don’t have to buy ads to use the planner.

Be honest – expectations are crucial.

You need to remember that you’re targeting people who want to read your book, so only choose categories and keywords that really apply. Ever been to a film that wasn’t what you thought it was going to be? If you want a brilliant Chinese takeaway but end up with a great pizza, you’ll still not enjoy it as much as you were going to enjoy the Chinese. Expectations are crucial. If you sell your book as a crime drama, but it’s really a romance, you’ll either not sell very many or you’ll sell some and get negative reviews because, no matter how good it is, people won’t like that it was mis-sold. So think about how you would genuinely describe it, and how to explain that to people.

Helpful sites with more ideas

A beginner’s intro to categories and keywords, as well as some hints for how to come up with them.

Use Amazon’s autocomplete to suggest keywords for you (or show you that nobody else is using that search term!)

Quite a good run down of the difference between categories, keyword and tags, and especially useful on why drilling down into smaller categories is useful.

Aimed mostly at non-fiction, but some useful information on how to use keywords in your product description and title as well as just the keywords publishing section.

How to request a change of category – excellent, considering the KDP book information doesn’t have every category available just ‘unclassifiable’ tacked onto the end.


Interview with my cover designer!


Balancing Act Cover MEDIUM

This has been really exciting – for my new novella, I’ve decided to get the cover done by someone professional rather than doing it myself, as I’ve done for my previous short stories. I’ve really enjoyed the process, and had found Jane a very reliable, professional person to work with who’s done some great work for me!  Her website is and you can see some of the previous covers she’s done.

The novella itself is currently being processed by the KDP system and will be available early this week – another post will definitely announce its arrival!

I wanted to get someone else to do the cover because design really isn’t my forte – I quite like the story covers, but they aren’t as professional looking as I would like because my taste outstrips my ability, and though I put in hours and hours of work, I think that time is better spent doing what I am good at – writing stories.

Plus, this novella is more of an experiment to see how well I can do on Kindle publishing, and I want to give it the best possible chance. It’s like sending it out into the world – would I want it in everyday jeans and a t-shirt, no makeup and three day old hair? No – I want it dressed to impress and ready to rock.

There’s an interview with Jane here which explains really clearly and interestingly the process of designing a cover:

Fenella Miller: Jane Dixon-Smith talks about cover design..

Review: Self-Publishing Attack!


The full title of this book is “Self-Publishing Attack! The 5 Absolutely Unbreakable Laws for Creating Steady Income Publishing Your Own Books” and, really, what an offer! To learn the things I need to do to create a steady income writing? Awesome!

While this book is pretty awesome in what it offers – and doing it in 141 pages for £2.56 on kindle – it’s also very realistic and honest about what exactly Bell is offering. He doesn’t promise magic, and he doesn’t promise six-figure salaries. What he does suggest is the successful ways he’s found, through his own experience and knowing plenty of writers, to make a decent living. I found myself highlighting madly on my kindle, and scribbling plenty of ‘read this late’ notes.

Bell is mostly discussing what to do when you’ve completely written a book and you want to get it out there to people. He’s talking about thinking like a business, not an ‘artist’ in the airy-fairy way some people like to define artists, and the ways to make sure that you can get you product in front of people. He also does have some comment to make on how to write an excellent book that people want to read – the most important aspect.

What you won’t get here is some marketing plan based on twitter and blogging – while Bell has both of those things, he’s pretty clear that it’s the writing that counts, not the social networking, and that actually these can be a distraction from writing the best damn book you can think of and ways to improve getting it in front of an audience.

Bell covers setting goals and taking actions to meet them, writing great books that work for kindle – opening pages that feature in a downloaded sample and how to include a synopsis in that sample – ways to plot character and structure, how to get a great cover and to format your book. 

It’s incredibly helpful and practical, and the way Bell writes is excellent – honest, up-front, and encouraging. Highly recommended for anyone trying to write fiction to sell themselves.



E-Publishing stories


In this post, I’m going to look at the three main e-publishing options available for short stories – amazon, lulu and my own website.

Having decided to experiment with e-publishing I chose a story I’d written while at university and think is pretty good. As much as anything, I want to see what the process is like and whether it’s viable. Obviously, when trying to sell writing, marketing is crucial, and that’s something to look into once I’ve got my head around making it available. There is clearly an option to post writing online for free on various websites like East of the Web or enter competitions etc but, as I said yesterday, I’d like to try this as well. Submitting stories for free is something I’d class as marketing with the hope that it’d lead to something more later on.


As I go through this post I’m going to suggest some of the pros and cons that I think are the major issues, as well as be really upfront about the costs involved – because, after all, that’s partly the point of this. Of course if I just wanted people to read my work, I could distribute it in all sorts of ways but I do want to explore the possibility of making this a more realistic lifestyle eventually. The balancing act required – in all types of publishing – between income (and how that’s divided!) and the price someone is willing to pay – is always going to be a delicate one, and is one that has been squeezed in recent yeras with the development of online purchasing, both digital and hard-copy. Undervaluing fiction is also a negative thing; I strongly believe that to make something sustainable it needs to pay for itself (a discussion I recently also had involving subsidies to the film industry) and I think that when people expect to get a novel for free it makes them less willing to pay for other novels.

Publishing options

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