New Category Rankings for Amazon Books

Amazon category ranking 3Not sure exactly when Amazon made the switch from listing only the Top 100 in categories in the Product Details to the Top 3,000 or so. I’m not even sure how high it goes.

The official word at KDP remains the same: Every book will have a Best Seller Rank after it has sold at least one copy, but Category rankings will only appear in the Product Details section of a book’s detail page if the book is ranked within the Top 100 books in its category.

Amazon category rankingClearly not the case anymore. Months ago this example (left) would have only shown the #82 ranking for Metaphysical and anything over the Top 100 would be omitted. Now it displays for a couple of categories beyond 100.

Amazon category ranking 2Or here’s another example (right) that’s slightly more bizarre. This book is presently #16 for Dogs, which is kinda cool, and it’s also #224 for Short Story-Single Authors, which is kinda strange. (How many authors does it take to write a short story and why is there a category for that?)

Good move, bad move, TMI? What do you think?

At least books that aren’t selling well have a little something to be proud about. But does it mean anything or help with sales?

Please share your comments below.


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Spice Up Your Author Page with Icons

social media icons for authorsIndie authors know the importance of connecting with readers. It’s about building community, using the gifts of the internet to network with people all over the world and ultimately help with book sales. How can you facilitate this within your ebook?

If a reader enjoyed it, there’s a good chance she/he will click on your author page especially if it’s easy to find in the Table of Contents. Somewhere in that author bio should be links to places like Facebook, Twitter, your website or blog, whatever you prefer for connecting. Most authors do it with text links. The problem is the growing number of links many of us want to share with potential readers. I have a half dozen or more, and suddenly the page looks a lot less appealing with so many hyperlinks blaring at the reader. Icons are more effective, and it doesn’t matter how many you have. The more the merrier.

On a minimal scale, notice which example below gets the job done better. Text links…

https://www.facebook.com/author.name

https://twitter.com/authorname

http://www.amazon.com/authorname/e/B004A8W4BG/

or icon links… Facebook logo  Twitter logo amazon_kindle_icon large

The answer is clear especially when you get into higher numbers. Images quickly tell readers where you and your other books can be found. List the sites you want and hopefully enough of them so that the readers can choose the social media connection they prefer. Others may include G+, Pinterest, Goodreads, YouTube or maybe your blog feed. Bottom line, make it easy for readers.

If you format in MS Word, just use the Insert tab to add a Picture for each icon image and size it accordingly, around .5 inches or 100 pixels square. Then use the Insert tab and add a Hyperlink to the URL of the destination. Choosing the Open in a New Window option is wise too.

Only include Amazon icons for Amazon books. If you upload directly to vendors like Kobo or Apple, use their icon or none at all. For Smashwords, Draft2Digital or other distributors, just use social media icons and not book vendors.

What about copyright and legal issues? It’s true that each company has its own specifics on what you can and can’t do with their logo. You can check each website’s branding guidelines, which I’m just going to list a few because there are dozens of possibilities. Unfortunately the approved icons are rather boring, and the creative ones you find online with an image search are typically not allowed. Boo-hoo, I know. My assumption is this rule gets broken like the old 55 mph speed limit and you’re probably just risking a notice to make a change, but I’m no lawyer and sense the idiot emails coming soon. Here are the places to go for the company approved icons:

https://www.facebookbrand.com/

https://about.twitter.com/press/brand-assets

https://developers.google.com/+/branding-guidelines

http://www.youtube.com/yt/brand/downloads.html

https://brand.linkedin.com/

Questions or comments? Leave a reply below.


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Playtime with Amazon’s Search Engine and Selling Prompts

Amazon CartThis article by Jason Matthews first appeared on The Book Designer.

In 2012, Forrester Research reported that more people use Amazon’s search engine than Google’s when searching for products to buy. That wasn’t a surprise. Google’s search engine was designed to provide information and sell advertising while Amazon’s was designed to sell products. Hearing this news excited me as an indie author selling books. I realized the need to pay more attention to a powerful search engine: Amazon’s.

Consider how readers find books at Amazon. People often shop for specific titles that are recommended to them by friends and family. In those cases, the title or author name is usually known and won’t be difficult for the shopper to find. Sometimes people browse titles and read descriptions, often clicking on Amazon up-sell icons as in the “customers who bought this item also bought” variety. And then some people discover books entirely on their own using search terms. It’s with these cases where authors can have the most influence to help buyers discover their books. Authors accomplish this by employing keywords, individual words or short phrases that can be part of your title, subtitle, categories, KDP dashboard selections and more.

If you feel any dread when it comes to keywords (or metadata), you’re not alone. Many authors have a limited understanding of these digital entities and struggle to add elements to their books to assist with Amazon’s search engine. Fortunately there’s good news for those who recoil when it comes to keyword research; this can be fun. Think of it as a game where you play around and experiment with Amazon’s search engine. (Great video tutorial course with coupon code: KEYWORD7.)

Remember that most of this boils down to one smart question: are readers able to find your book without knowing the exact title or author name? The answer may be a resounding no at first, but these things can be improved upon.

Step 1: Get familiar with Amazon’s search engine.

Select the book department since most people who buy books shop there. Your starting point should look like this:

Amazon search engine

As you probably know, the search engine is the orange highlighted box above where you can type.

Step 2: Recognize the Selling Prompts that appear.

As you type letters into the box, Amazon immediately offers time-saving prompts of what it thinks you might be searching for. (This is my belief of course; the formula for Amazon’s search engine is a secret. I’m speculating the obvious, that these prompts are related to what previous customers have searched for and bought.) For example, start typing the letters T-H and watch the green box of prompts become active below:

Amazon search engine 2

Amazon thinks you might be shopping for bestsellers like The Fault in Our Stars, or The Goldfinch or perhaps A Game of Thrones. Take it two letters further with T-H-E-R for the change in results below:

Amazon search engine 3

Now Amazon prompts you with people, book titles and subjects. It thinks you might be searching for Theresa Caputo (star of Long Island Medium television show), books on therapy or popular titles like Wherever You Go, There You Are. (These prompts change over time, so your results may be different. Amazon likes to sell and recommend what’s hot now.)

Consider how these selling prompts may influence people as they type. Because the prompts are time-savers, people actually looking for those items will often scroll down and click on them. But how many of these prompts influence buyers who were searching for something else? Once the prompt appears a buyer may think, “Hmm, I’d love to know more about Theresa Caputo.” It probably happens frequently with Mrs. Caputo benefitting because she’s already a celebrity and her name begins with the same letters as many titles and subjects: T-H-E-R.

Step 3: Your Turn to Experiment

Now that we’ve chatted about Amazon’s search bar and selling prompts, how might this feature help you sell books? Begin by playing around with multiple search terms related to your book, analyzing the prompts along with their results when clicked. Then you can make incremental changes to your keywords and metadata that will help your book match up with those terms over time. Even though prompts may change in the months ahead, there are still good strategies that come from this.

Let’s discuss some examples. Like any book, yours has a title, possibly a subtitle, categories, keywords and interior text that help both readers and Amazon’s search engine determine the content. (I didn’t mention the description because my experiments have shown Amazon’s search engine does not currently index the words of the description, although Google’s does).

For instance, let’s say you wrote a novel called The Day I Met Dad about a man traveling into the past in attempt to get to know his father, who had died just before his son’s birth. The novel has elements of science-fiction, family relationships and humor. Those genre-related terms may enter your keyword list, but one subject of major importance is time travel. You may consider all sorts of keywords like time machine, time travel, time traveler, time traveling or even versions with the British spelling: travelling. My advice is to begin by typing the word “time” into the search bar. You may also need to start typing the next word to see results relevant to your novel. Here are prompts that arise with T-I-M-E–T:

Amazon search engine 6

Clearly the term “time travel” is a great choice because it’s the first selling prompt. When clicking on that prompt for “time travel” you may notice the book results are different than if you had typed “time travels” into a search. This is why it’s important to experiment with closely related words. I would also choose a keyword like “time travel fiction” over “time travel novel” for the same reason.

Other things to consider are the books that result after clicking the prompt. How many results does Amazon list, shown on the left corner of the screen? More results can make it more challenging to rise to the first page, which is why it helps to optimize each element of your book as I’ll explain later. How many of the titles have “time travel” in them? The title and subtitle carry huge metadata importance to Amazon’s search engine, so if your novel doesn’t have that element in the title, it will be more difficult to rise to the first page of results. In that case a subtitle would help, like The Day I Met Dad: A Time Travel Fiction. I know some authors may find that subtitle unattractive, but it will assist immensely with the search engine offering the book from a subject search. (It’s an option that can always be added later to a KDP book.)

For another example, let’s say you wrote a memoir about overcoming a history of drug abuse. A preliminary list of keywords might include drug abuse, drug abuse memoir, drug addict, drug addiction, drug addiction recovery and more. When playing around with Amazon’s search prompts, some things become apparent by the time these letters are typed: D-R-U-G–A.

Amazon search engine 7

The top three results are all relevant to the story, which would make great keyword choices. When I added a “d” to the end, “drug addiction recovery” was also a good choice.

What about genre? I believe subject matter and genres are less like to change as much over time compared to prompts for people, characters and bestselling titles. Let’s say you wrote a novel that involves elements of historical romance. Type H-I-S-T into the search bar and see these prompts:

Amazon search engine 9

Again, I would choose “historical fiction” and “historical romance” over “historical novel” or “historical novels.”

We could go on all day with analyzing selling-prompts, and you can at home with your own examples. Below are some tips for implementing keyword choices to help Amazon’s search engine connect these terms to your book, along with reminders for how time may change things.

Titles and Subtitles

When possible, adding a keyword or two to titles and subtitles helps immensely with search results. This is easier for nonfiction, but many fiction books can benefit as well by finding ways to get keywords into the title or subtitle, as in the time travel example above. Obviously this is something you’ll want to do only once, and so it makes more sense with genre and subject matter than a term that might be just a trend.

KDP Keywords

Amazon lets you insert seven keywords (or short phrases) into a box in the KDP dashboard. Use all seven choices with some variety, e.g. not just related to time travel. There’s no need to insert your author name, especially if you’ve created a profile at Amazon Author Central. If you published through a press that doesn’t give you access to your KDP dashboard, find out what those keywords are and consider requesting a change if they don’t seem helpful. This is a very quick process and can be changed again any time. You may want to check your keywords in Amazon searches every six months and see the results for both selling prompts and your book in the results. It’s really easy to make alterations when that seems like a wise choice.

Categories

Amazon lets you pick two categories and will sometimes assign extras of its own choosing. These categories should be keyword related and often can be linked to special Amazon-recognized keywords as this tutorial explains: Make Your Book More Discoverable with Keywords. This is another area than can be checked over time and easily changed in your KDP dashboard.

Interior Book Text

For paperbacks with the Look Inside feature, Amazon indexes about the first 20% of the book’s text for search terms. You can load up with a dozen or more keywords and add them to the bottom of your copyright page, which generally doesn’t get read by readers but does by Amazon’s search engine. This might be a line like “Subjects include: time travel, time travel fiction, time travel books, science fiction, humorous fiction, family relationships, fathers and sons” and a few more terms you found during research. Remember to place this somewhere that will be read by the search engine but probably not by readers. I make changes to this about once a year, but I’m fairly obsessive about these things.

Description

Amazon does not currently index the book’s description even though their tutorials claim they do. Believe me; I’ve experimented plenty of times with my own titles. However, Google does index the Product Page description, and so Google search results for your description will show up listing the Amazon book. For that reason, and because Amazon could alter their program, it’s worthwhile to include the same “Subjects include:” line discussed above at the very end of your description to help with Google searches, though this is the least effective method outlined here.

Extra Option: Cross-Test at Google Keyword Planner

Since this post is already long and focused on Amazon, I don’t want to over-complicate it. But for those who want to go the extra step, you can cross-test keyword choices at Google’s Keyword Planner to get rough numbers on how many people type your exact keyword choices into Google searches. A similar ratio should exist at Amazon.

Remember that you can experiment with keywords and categories, then give it a few months to a year, and make changes if you don’t see improvements when searching for your book. And you don’t have to be as obsessive as I am to benefit from it. Have fun while making discoveries.

 


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Bestselling Keywords for Amazon Authors Video Course

keywords for authorsAuthors, are your keywords doing their job? When you type your own book’s keywords into Amazon searches, does your book appear in the results?

If your books aren’t popping up in the results of Amazon searches, it will be hard for potential readers to find it. Some of this is a matter of simply using keywords better. This video explains that and much more using Amazon’s internal search engine and Google’s Keyword Planner in easy to follow steps.

The video course, Bestselling Keywords for Amazon Authors, has just been released at Udemy and other educational retailers. For a very limited time, a free coupon will be available to new students on a first come, first serve basis. Once the coupons are gone, they are gone. Here is the coupon code: AUGUSTKEYWORDS. After they expire, a sale price coupon will be available here: KEYWORD7.

Course description:

Most readers find books at Amazon by typing terms into the search bar. Think of Amazon as a search engine and these terms being keywords, which are misunderstood by many authors. Using keywords wisely in every aspect related to your book makes an enormous different for how many people find your book.

This course is designed for writers about to publish and for authors already selling books on Amazon. It explains everything in an easy to follow method to help you find and implement the best keywords for your book, whether it’s already published or not.

Taught by Jason Matthews, an author, speaker and publishing coach, this course gives your book the advantages it needs to reach a greater audience. Each video lesson shows real-time examples at the sites you’ll be using. All of the videos are between 2 and 5 minutes, making it simple to follow and implement the advice.

Doing better with keywords and Amazon searches leads to good things: more people will find your books, which means more people will buy your books.


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Kindle Unlimited Amazon’s Newest KDP Select Program

Amazon has a new subscription program for books enrolled in KDP Select and U.S. readers called Kindle Unlimited. Books already enrolled in KDP Select are automatically placed in the new program, though authors can opt-out if preferred. Readers pay a $9.99 monthly fee for access to unlimited books (that are enrolled).

From their email;

Today we are excited to introduce Kindle Unlimited-–a new subscription service for readers in the U.S. and a new revenue opportunity for authors enrolled in KDP Select. Customers will be able to read as many books as they want from a library of over 600,000 titles while subscribed to Kindle Unlimited. All books enrolled in KDP Select with U.S. rights will be automatically included in Kindle Unlimited.

KDP Select authors and publishers will earn a share of the KDP Select global fund each time a customer accesses their book from Kindle Unlimited and reads more than 10% of their book-–about the length of reading the free sample available in Kindle books-–as opposed to a payout when the book is simply downloaded. Only the first time a customer reads a book past 10% will be counted. (I’m confused–doesn’t that last sentence seem to contradict the first sentence in the paragraph?)

KDP Select books will also continue to be enrolled in the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL) available to Amazon Prime customers in the U.S., U.K., Germany, France, and Japan where authors will continue to earn a share of the KDP Select global fund when their book is borrowed. KOLL borrows will continue to be counted when a book is initially downloaded.

For July, we’ve added $800,000 to the fund, bringing the July fund amount to $2 million.

Learn more about Kindle Unlimited. Visit your Bookshelf to enroll your titles in KDP Select, and click on “Manage Benefits” to get started.

Best regards,
The Kindle Direct Publishing Team

For an indie author, it’s hard to bite the hand that feeds you, but you also notice when a monopoly grows ever stronger. Is this move “ultimately” for a reader’s benefit, the author’s, Amazon’s, some combination or does it benefit everyone? I’d ask some Big 5 publishers, but I have a feeling they’ll decline to respond.

Share any thoughts in the comments.


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