Employ right keywords to boost book sales

Among the most important marketing strategies you can employ to sell your self-published book is ensuring you use the best keywords. When uploading your book to Kindle Direct Publishing, you have to identify at least one and up to seven keywords that will help readers locate your book. Often authors overlook this part of the process until they reach this point in the upload.

Scrambling to come up with several keywords just to answer the question isn’t a good marketing strategy, though. In fact, you’ll likely list words that don’t help your book at all, even though they may be accurate words for a card catalog. For example, if you wrote about bicycle festivals and listed as keywords the cities where those celebrations occurred, unless they are quite populous it won’t help your book. Though listing such cities might be accurate, most people won’t look for your book via the city but instead through more general terms, such as bicycle festival.

There are a couple of schools of thought about how to determine which keywords are best.

One is to focus on how Amazon.com readers use a search engine to locate your book. For example, if you go to any Amazon.com page that peddles a paperback or an ebook, you’ll see a search engine at the top of the web page. If looking at an ebook web page, it says “Kindle Store” on the left side of the search engine. Your goal is determine what words people would type into that search engine to find a book like yours. Fortunately, you don’t have to do too much thinking.

Begin by deciding what would be the most general word that best describes your book. If I wrote a guidebook to bicycle festivals, for example, I would type bicycle into the search engine, and up will pop several different terms – such as bicycle touring and bicycle repair – for me to select from. These are the terms that others searching on Amazon.com have typed in. Write down the ones that are applicable to your book and continue this process until you have at least five but no more than seven words. These then are your keywords.

Another school of thought says to focus on the categories that Amazon uses to place books on its bestsellers list. So when using the search engine for bicycle terms, I might choose bicycle touring. This then brings me to a list of books that fit the search parameter; on this new web page’s left is a list of Kindle categories, which include such terms as Cycling and Travel Writing. Write down those categories that your book best fits until you have five to seven keywords.

Which method works better? I’ve experimented with both, and while each works, I prefer focusing on categories. Most readers using the search engine eventually click onto the categories to help them narrow the range of what they’re seeking, so getting yourself listed in a specific category is as good as using a search engine topic. Further, using such categories as keywords seems to help Amazon figure out which bestseller list to place your book when sales occur, and ultimately you want to end up on a bestseller list.


My name is Rob Bignell. I’m an affordable, professional editor who runs Inventing Reality Editing Service, which meets the manuscript needs of writers both new and published. I also offer a variety of self-publishing services. During the past decade, I’ve helped more than 300 novelists and nonfiction authors obtain their publishing dreams at reasonable prices. I’m also the author of the 7 Minutes a Day… writing guidebooks, four nonfiction hiking guidebook series, and the literary novel Windmill. Several of my short stories in the literary and science fiction genres also have been published.