Keywords are those all important phrases used in a search. For the sake of this post, the discussion will focus on an online search, as opposed to a local database query, and more specifically, an Amazon search, as opposed to a general search engine query.
Why the interest in keywords? Because they help determine a book’s discoverability. If you’ve put in the hard work and effort to self-publish a book, then you will want Amazon readers to be able to find it. Other metadata such as book description and categories are also important for making your book discoverable, but the search keywords you provide are, well, key to discoverability.
A keyword is a word or phrase that is used in a search. A very important distinction is that keywords are what the user types and are not necessarily the exact words in a book. Therefore, you want to choose search keywords for your Kindle and CreateSpace projects based on what the user will type to find a book like yours. For example, my novel THREADS is a literary sci-fi book. But if I type “literary sci-fi” into the Amazon search box, nothing pops up as I type. This is an indicator that the phrase isn’t often typed by Amazon.com visitors. However, “coming of age” and “time travel”, which also describe my book, both pop up in an Amazon search telling me that this is what readers are looking for and therefore, make a better choice for keywords.
Some keywords are obvious. For example, setting (e.g., jungle, Victorian era), theme (e.g., survival), and character types (e.g., teenage girl, war hero) are all good ways to determine keywords (just double-check that they pop up in an Amazon search). Additionally, many readers classify their favorite books by a subgenre and do a search based on this criteria. For example, “cyberpunk” and “space opera science fiction” are two subgenres with very different types of stories in the science fiction genre, and both pop up in the Amazon search box, indicating a good keyword choice. Notice that sometimes a subgenre does not contain the genre name at all, as with cyberpunk. As another example, THREADS can be described as “cozy” (or “cozy novel” or “cozy mystery”) because there is no profanity, sex, or violence. To create a strong list of search keywords (Kindle allows five, CreateSpace allows seven), some research on subgenres may be necessary, but can be worth the effort.
Finding the words readers type to describe the books they want to read is the key to keywords and discoverability. Since Kindle and CreateSpace allow search keywords to be edited at any time, take the opportunity to change up the keywords. The effort may result in stronger sales.
*Much of this post is based on information from A Guide to Self-Publishing for CreateSpace On-Demand and Kindle eBook