What I learned from erotica writers

Amazon keywords

I know, I know — that subject line is totally unfair. Except that I did learn everything in this post from reading the thoughts of erotica writers on kboards..then I decided to try out their techniques in my far-from-erotic works.

The hot topic among erotica authors at the moment is keywords. Remember typing in those seven words or phrases on Amazon when you were publishing your ebook? I’ve added a screenshot at the top of this post to jog your memory.

If you’re like me, you probably went for the obvious and perhaps also added in keywords that Amazon uses to put your book into categories you can’t choose out of the dropdown menu. This latter technique is especially useful for new authors like me, who can only dream of selling enough books to make it into Amazon’s Paranormal Fantasy category…but who can find some new readers in New Adult Fantasy in the meantime.

But, beyond getting me into book categories, I have a feeling the rest of my keywords were a total waste of my time. Why? When you search on Amazon for “werewolf,” 32,920 results pop up. Who’s going to page through those endless covers and stumble upon my book? Nobody!

Amazon search resultsWhich brings me back to those wily erotica authors. I’m not going to mention some of the keywords they suggest because I think I need to wash my brain out after reading them and don’t want to share the joy. But here’s the G-rated version. Rather than using the keyword “werewolf” for my book, why don’t I try out something like “werewolf kindle unlimited”? That phrase only turns up 504 results, or 20 pages of books. Someone who has enrolled in kindle unlimited and is looking for a werewolf novelΒ to read just might pick up Shiftless if I was listed under that keyword phrase, so I decided to give it a whirl.

Adding “kindle unlimited” to one of your keywords is a no-brainer if you’re enrolled in KDP Select, but should you go all-out and add the term to all of your phrases? Probably not. Amazon will mix and match words from different keyword phrases when indexing your book, so you’d probably be better off choosing other terms entirely so you get more bang for your keyword buck. After all, you do only get to choose seven phrases for your book, so it’s best to make each one count!

Now, let’s talk numbers. What’s the sweet spot in terms of keyword search results — are you looking for a phrase that turns up as few results as possible or as many as possible? The answer is: neither. As I mentioned above, if your keyword phrase is too vague, you’ll get lost in the shuffle. But, at the other extreme, a keyword so specific that only five other books turn up is totally useless if no one searches for “basket weaving with werewolves.” This is where keyword choice becomes an art, but as a rule of thumb, I generally aim for phrases with 50 to 500 results, hoping specifically to find those that clock in around 100 to 300 books.

One erotica author swears that you can make $100 in your first week with an unpublicized 5,000-word erotica short if you get the keywords right, and while I suspect less-sensational fiction won’t get you that far, it can’t hurt to play with those keywords and see how far they’ll help your book rise in the rankings. I’ve just updated Shiftless‘s keywords and will keep you posted about the results, and I’d also love to hear from other authors who have gotten more scientific with Amazon’s keyword options. Have you found keyword phrases that helped your undiscovered book see the light of day?

26 thoughts on “What I learned from erotica writers

  1. Oh, this is such a THORNY issue for me (and most authors, even if they haven’t realized it yet). I feel just as you do, Aimee. Finding keywords that are specific enough to pull up a smaller list of titles, without being so specific no one would ever search for them (basketweaving with werewolves, haha) is a true art form! And the reason I’m not getting enough hits on Swamp Ghosts, yet. With WRR, it was definitely the reference to the ghost that put me in the top 100 best selling fiction/ghost category for so long. Even though the ghost is not a huge part of the book, it worked. I’ve had a lot more trouble finding good ones for Swamp Ghosts, since there really are NO actual ghosts in this one, despite the title.

    Another area I’m having trouble with, is being able to set the categories I want, when the drop down menu won’t let me go far enough. Choosing Romantic Suspense is a total waste. There are thousands upon thousands of books in that category, and mine will never show up close to the beginning with that. How do you do it?

    Thanks for a great and IMPORTANT post, Aimee! I can always count on you to come up with great topics. Oddly enough, when I’m on this Comments page, your image has replaced my header for the blog. ??? Anything to be done for that, without losing it in the post?

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    • Sorry about the image issue, Marcia! I think I fixed it. I’m pretty new to WordPress, so it’s a bit dangerous letting me click random boxes behind the scenes. πŸ™‚

      The categories are a related, thorny issue. I tend to go about it the same way — a slow slog through categories looking for ones that match my book but have few enough entries that I might show up in the top 100. And, to make matters worse, categories are constantly changing. Some categories only exist for all books (meaning you have to rank with the paperbacks to show up and won’t show up on someone’s search on their kindle) and others only for ebooks. I try to go through and look at my books’ categories and keywords if their rank starts sinking, but sometimes I forget….

      Liked by 1 person

    • My understanding (from the kboards) is that you can use keywords to get into those narrow categories. So for example if you want to be in Fantasy>Happy Fantasy>Superheroes>Named Marcia but Amazon will only let you choose Fantasy>Happy Fantasy, doing that and adding Superheroes and Named Marcia as keywords should get you displayed in Fantasy>Happy Fantasy>Superheroes>Named Marcia.

      I also tried using some keywords as Aimee suggests here, to get into additional categories.

      This is all second hand for me though. Will let you know next week if it works.

      By the way I’m in Fiction>Ghosts now too! πŸ˜€ (More dead people than live ones in mine.)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amazon lists specific keywords for some of those unpickable categories in their help section. However, I’ve found that you generally can get into them using the method you describe, which is handy since their help section is out of date and doesn’t include tips for getting into all of the unpickable categories. πŸ™‚ If all else fails, you can always email support and they’ll put you wherever you want to go.

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        • Yeah, I’ve been to that page as well and put in some of those words. It’s a good thing they give you seven. I had to use spirit instead of ghost though because ghost is in my title and apparently you aren’t supposed to duplicate. πŸ™‚

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      • So you ARE talking about actually typing in the additional category level? I wasn’t sure you could actually do anything other than pick the ones from the menu. I’m going to try it, for sure. Thanks, Jen!

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          • I’m going to be working on that in the next week or so, for sure. Thanks to you and Jen, I believe I’ve got the idea, and I’ll be checking out the link, too. Maybe I’ll get better at it. Appreciate it, Aimee.

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        • Exactly. Like if you browse the actual categories, you can drill down to Fantasy>Dark Fantasy>Humor, but that doesn’t exist as a category choice when you publish. So I picked Fantasy>Dark Fantasy for a category and put Humor as one of my keywords.

          Whether is ACTUALLY funny remains to be seen, of course. Pretty sure all my PTA friends won’t be quite as amused as I was while writing it. πŸ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

          • OKay, that makes sense, though I think it’s dumb of amazon not to allow us to simply type in categories that they already have set up, rather than them assigning one to us based on the ones we’ve chosen with a keyword added in. Seems like it would be much more accurate that way. But I’ve been planning to do some changes in mine (David Gaughran suggests changing them often, to find new readers), and I’m going to try this approach. Thank you so much, Jen. πŸ™‚

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  2. Great post!

    Love the kboards.

    I did the same thing with my keywords to get into narrower categories. (I think we write in the same wheelhouse and have the same issues with how much paranormal fantasy there is.) I also chose Dark Fantasy as a category, which is equally applicable for me but has fewer books in it than Paranormal.

    No idea how it will work out, hitting the publish button TOMORROW! πŸ™‚ Trying to time it all so both paperback and ebook format are available and linked by my promised release date is kind of a crap shoot given their time ranges. But of course early is fine, late is not.

    Liked by 1 person

      • And yes, Jen…I do hope you’ll share your launch news with us here. I promise to retweet it, and to remind all our members to do the same. πŸ™‚ I’m so excited about getting my hands on your book!

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      • That is nice of you, thank you. I will post here for sure! (Ask Marcia… I tried to do a post last week about doing your book cover in GIMP but managed to crash my DNS server while trying to make it. If that’s not an indication that GIMP is too complicated, I don’t know what is. ;))

        I don’t “officially” launch until 11/6. I’m just uploading everything now to get it all a.) up, b.) linked, and c.) correct on time. The formatting of the description on my Amazon paperback page is already messed up and has no paragraph breaks. (A little Googling taught me that this will sometimes happen if you format it in Firefox, go figure.) This is the kind of thing I want fixed before too many people see it, so trying to work out all those kinks before launch. On the bright side, Amazon has discounted the paperback 50 cents for no reason. Assume they do this regularly?

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    • OK, I’m totally confused now. Are you relying on AMAZON to put you into the smaller category via your choice of keywords? Or are you typing in the category you want in the field where the dropdown menu is? I have read several articles on how to drill down to the level you want, but they don’t tell you how to make it happen on the upload page. There’s where I’m having my problem.

      Also, when I wanted to make a category change that wasn’t listed in the menu before, I had to actually CALL amazon and get them to do it for me. I would like to be able to avoid that step.

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  3. Great post, and I LOVE the title – certainly eye-catching.
    I recently got an ARC for a book (that is now on sale) on precisely this topic, and the author has had fantastic results. If you haven’t found him yet – Nick Stephenson, at http://noorosha.com/
    And the book is: Supercharge Your Kindle Sales
    I’ve had a good look, and it looks easy to follow, I just haven’t had the TIME yet to do it!
    Constantly caught between that issue of, do I spend time working on marketing the books I already have out, or do I spend it finishing the next one?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Deborah — Thanks for the book recommendation!

      As for marketing vs. writing. I generally write whenever I can, but when my head gets too fuzzy to pound out the words, I spend a bit of time marketing. I’m sure I could sell more books if I spent more time marketing (or did it when my head *wasn’t* fuzzy), but that’s the tradeoff of doing what I like best first!

      Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the link, Deborah. I’m checking it out. In the Truant book, they say that the best way to sell is to get as many good books done as you can, because even if one book brings in $150 or $200 a month, if you have 10 doing the same thing, it starts to add up. BUT. They also talk about market tactics, such as bundling and funneling that really sound like good ways to build sales, even when you have more than one book out there. It’s a balancing act, I guess, but I’d so much rather write. I’m still thinking VA as soon as I can possibly afford it. Then they can set up the sales for me (bundles, etc), and do the Twitter/Facebook stuff, and I can turn out books. I only have so many good writing years left, and I don’t want to waste them. Making decisions, yes. Doing the tedious part, not so much. I’d rather hire someone to do it for me, and I can sit here all day long, telling my stories. πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: What are your writing rewards? (And a keyword bonus) | The Write Stuff

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