Sunday, January 12, 2014

Self-Publishing 101: Using the Right Search Words

Search words are one of the most important tools used to sell a novel, so you want to use them wisely. At Amazon you are allowed 7. That’s it, so you have to pick carefully. Did you know there are rules for what search words are allowed and which ones aren’t? The following is a list of what not to use.

• Reference to other authors
• Reference to books by other authors
• Reference to sales rank (i.e. 'best-selling')
• Reference to advertisements or promotions (i.e. 'free')
• Reference to anything that is unrelated to your book's content

This list is straight out of Amazon’s rules. Wondering why you can’t use another author’s name as a search tool? Try searching for a famous author, it can become a struggle trying to actually find a book by that author.  You shuffle through page after page of books by other people. By using that author in your listings, you are in fact damaging that writer’s career.  Also it’s a big no-no as far as Amazon is concerned. When caught you will receive a warning, then your books will be taken off Amazon if the search words aren’t removed.  I’m paranoid about upsetting Amazon.  Let’s face it, most e-book sales come from Amazon, so I don’t want to do anything to get kicked off.

I can understand the why Amazon does not want you to use most of these as search words.  What I don’t understand is the last one.  Why would anyone use one of their precious search words for something that has nothing to do with their novel?  Sure, I might get more hits on one of my westerns if I put a famous TV show like DUCK DYNASTY in the search words, but the people searching for anything related to that show probably wouldn’t have any interest in my book, so chances are I would lose sales by not using one appropriate for my novel. Not to mention Amazon says don’t do it, so I won’t.

So what search words should you use? That depends completely on what you’re selling.  Were there more categories your novel would have fit in, but you were only allowed two?  This is a good place to add those. The setting of a novel is always a good thing to include.  The nice thing about self-publishing is that you can always go back and make changes. If you can’t think of 7 great search words, put your not so great search words.  Get the book published, then give it some more thought and go back and make changes.

The nice thing about Blogger is that you can use famous TV shows as a search word.  Think I should? (DUCK DYNASTY!)


  1. I don't even know where to begin with a comment. Search engine optimization makes me crazy, and it's essential if one wishes to be found online. Problem is, the rules shift all the time. On top of that, entities like Amazon and Google have no truly viable way to police the rules. Consequently, search becomes a nightmare for both people trying to ensure their keywords are fair and relevant and for end-users attempting to find something resembling what they need or want. Frustrating doesn't come close. **sigh**

  2. I've struggled with this quite a bit also. I try to use as straightforward a words as I can but I don't know really whether that helps or hurts.

  3. I had no idea there were these "rules" set forth by Amazon, but I can certainly understand the need for them. So, can you use other authors names if you are in an anthology together? I had to laugh about Duck Dynasty. I can see someone doing something like that--not ever thinking that the people that are drawn to something so completely irrelevant would say, "Well, hey, lookie here--this looks like a great book I might want to read!" Very good post, Livia!

  4. Maybe we should all use Duck Dynasty for a week and see if it improves our sales. LOL. Or twerking.

    There's a whole science to SEO that eludes me. What's best and what's a waste? I just don't know. I've fooled around with this some, but haven't made much progress with understanding it. Same goes for Google Adwords.


    You'd think most of those rules would be fairly self-evident to most authors, wouldn't you? Especially that last one, as you said.

    There's a great website that will generate a "Tag Cloud" for you after reading a blog post or other bit of writing - I use that to help me come up with keywords that I might not have recognized as such. Plus, the tag clouds are artistic!

  6. Glad for the information. You impart wisdom with great humor. What a way to learn. Doris

  7. Kathleen when discovered, Amazon will give you 5 days to remove the search word or they'll take down your book. I'm not sure what they would do to a second offender.

  8. Charles, I struggle with it, too. I've been known to go back and change the search words hoping to hit the magic keyword.

  9. Cheryl, I have the feeling most people do not realize there are rules. I know as a fan, I become very frustrated searching an author's name and dozens of other author's books show up first.

  10. J/E.S. thanks for the tip. I'd heard of Tag Cloud, but had never used it.

  11. Thank you Doris. I appreciate you coming over and commenting.