Ninie Hammon’s Blog for Writers

Three ways to lead Amazon search bots to YOUR book

Posted: June 26, 2014, 3:15PM


Whenever my husband and I have time to kill in London, we pop up out of the Knight’s Bridge Tube Station (like prairie dogs checking for coyotes) and step beneath the big green awnings of what is arguably the world’s most famous department store: Harrods.

Occupying a full city block of some of the priciest real estate in the known world, Harrods Department Store is home to four and a half  acres of the most exquisite hats/shoes/coats/food/toys/furniture /cosmetics/jewelry/whatever-else-you-can-think-of. That’s why my husband and I go there—for the expensive

merchandise. Oh, not to BUY the stuff. Are you kidding me? I couldn’t afford a Harrods plastic bag to put a sandwich in. No, we go there to play a game.

At exit #7 we synchronize our watches. We must return to that spot in exactly 30 minutes. During that time, we race around like lunatics all over the store’s seven floors—because whoever shows up at #7 with a cell phone picture of the MOST EXPENSIVE ITEM (excluding jewelry) wins the game.

Not a Formula One…a mere Aston Martin Cygnet.

The last time we played, I thought I had him. I’d found a painting with a price tag of £90,000. (With the exchange rate at the time, that was roughly $135,000.) But I groaned when Tom handed me his phone—on the screen was a picture of a FORMULA ONE RACECAR … for a measly £2.7 million.

How did he find that car? We’d both frantically searched the store with the same product goal in mind, but I never saw it. I’d wager that the 15 million customers who assail Harrods every year have a product in mind, too, so in a store that big, how do any of them ever find what they want?

And Harrods is a hairball beside Sasquatch compared to Amazon, a retail behemoth that won’t even disclose how many sales it makes! Folks whose arithmetic skills didn’t stop at the multiplication tables have done some educated calculations, though, based on the numbers Amazon does release. Best guess is that the company sold roughly 368 million items during the 2013 Christmas season. On Cyber Monday, customers were snapping them up at roughly 450 items PER SECOND. The store shipped enough merchandise during the season to deliver an item to every household in America.

Amazon’s not telling how many eBooks zoomed out there into customer Kindles last Christmas, either, but it has reported that more than 150 KDP authors sold more than 100,000 copies each.

We’ve talked in Driftwood Marketing about dividing the tasks of book marketing into four bite-sized chunks. Product—making your book excellent. Store—positioning your book where customers can find it. Promotion—making enough noise that customers notice you. And Sales—pricing and strategies to entice the customer to buy, buy, buy.

In my last blog, I talked about categories, about slotting your book into the proper “department” in the Amazon store. This week, we’ll finish our discussion of store by talking about how to get noticed once you’re there, using: keywords, book description and Author Central.

Customers use Amazon’s category lists to find the department in the store with the kind of books they’re seeking: mystery thrillers and suspense, romance, scifi, etc. So if you’ve done your homework and have selected the perfect category for your book, you’re sitting pretty—right? Not necessarily.

Let’s say your purple rubber duckie has been properly slotted into the Toy Department of Harrods … but the sales clerk stuffed your duckie between a gigantic Pooh Bear and a selection of Barbie doll dresses way back in a corner. Truth is, most customers will browse the big merchandise tables by the front door and never make it to the back of the store.

Same with Amazon. Many customers skip the category system altogether and go straight to the “front tables”—the search engine. They type in exactly what they want and instantly page after page of inspirational-Amish-paranormal-zombie-steampunk-fantasy-romance books appear on the screen. What’s important to know here is that 85 percent of customers stop looking at those search results after the first two pages.

Want to make a sale? Then your purple duckie must be smack in the middle of a front table in Harrods and your book must appear on the first two of pages of Amazon search results. Don't know about duckies, but the way you get your book to the front in Amazon is with keywords,  book description and Author Central.

Ok, so this image has nothing to do with keywords. It was just too cool to pass up!

1. Keywords

Amazon allows you to select seven “search” keywords or phrases when you upload your book. So, I need to pick keywords that relate to the content of my book—right? For Five Days in May that would be … let’s see… there’s a tornado in it and a death row inmate about to be executed and a woman with Alzheimer’s. Hmmmm. The keywords should be: tornado, death row, execution, Alzheimer’s, euthanasia, death penalty and … Oklahoma! Right?

In the words of  that great philosopher and theologian Rocky the Flying Squirrel, “Wrongo, Moose Breath.”

You must view keywords from the reader’s NOT the writer’s perspective. What words would a customer type into Amazon’s search engine if he were looking for a book like Five Days in May? How many readers are looking for a fiction book about the death penalty? About Alzheimer’s? Do I honestly believe thousands of Amazon customers are diligently typing “tornadoes” into the search engine?

Look for the general themes in the book. The keywords I did select for Five Days in May are: inspirational suspense, contemporary fiction, psychological suspense, psychic paranormal, crime fiction, women’s fiction. (Plus “small town” because it was required to get the book into the right category.)

It’s not like the best keywords are some closely-guarded secret. Amazon will cheerfully TELL you what the most-searched words are. Just type a word you’re considering, like “suspense,” into the search box and the dropdown will list other words customers combined with it to find what they were looking for.

2. Book description:

Your book description has a dual purpose. It must be slam-dunk perfect for two totally different audiences: readers and Amazon’s search bots. That is reeeeally tricky. In 4,000 characters, you have to seize the interest of a browsing reader AND jam in your seven keywords so the search bots will prominently display your book. Make your description a keyword landfill and the bots will find you but the reader directed to your book will think you’re an idiot; make it a keyword-free master sell-job and Amazon won’t send any customers your way to read it. But hey, you’re a writer! Crafting elegant prose is what you do!

3. Author Central page

Please tell me you have one. If you don’t, stop reading right here and high tail it to Amazon and build one. It is your “face” on Amazon, to reveal who you are to readers—with a bio, pictures, video, blog posts—whatever. Readers buy from people they like so be engaging. Mine begins: “I think I might be able to grab and hold your attention here if I set myself on fire. That's probably the only way, though, and …” Don’t pass up all that free advertising.

There's another equally important reason for your presence there. You can feed the search bots more keywords in the Back Flap, Inside Flap, From the Author and Author Bio copy on Author Central.

This is the description of my book, Black Sunshine, using Amazon's HTML coding.

DON’T enter your book description through Author Central, though. Enter it in that idiotic little box on the dashboard you see when you upload your book. You get more words there. AND you can enter HTML coding so you can use bold, italic—even Amazon orange—to make your description stand out from the crowd. Amazon has its own HTML coding, but you can go online and find out how it’s done.


“Product” is all spiffy? Check!

“Store” is set up to draw customers? Check!

What’s next?

Why shouting, of course. (AKA promotion.)

Write on!



Janie DeCoster July 1, 2014, 11:29AM |

Thanks for the information. It was very helpful to me. Getting notice is so important and it is really up to us as authors to keep our books out there.   Reply

Replies (1)

Rita Mack July 20, 2014, 11:47PM

Thank you, I really appreciated your advise.   Reply

Replies (1)

Michael Coady July 21, 2014, 9:15PM

My suspense thriller has been on Amazon for nearly a month with few sales so any help with promotion is always appreciated. I'll have to take another look at my seven keywords. Thanks!   Reply

Replies (1)

Kristy Woodson Harvey July 22, 2014, 10:22PM |

This is great advice! Can't wait to use it!   Reply

Replies (1)

Ray Cowie October 28, 2014, 11:39AM

Just to help you out, Knightsbridge in London is one word. (I follow you on Twitter, that's how I came across your website). All the best, Ray   Reply

Replies (1)

Fyre Curl. April 8, 2015, 8:42AM

Great advice. Thank you   Reply

Add a Comment

Your Name:

Your E-mail: (Your E-mail Address will be kept private.)

Your Comments: (Required)
Enter Verification Number (Required)


"Oh, and about the 9 and the e beside my name. Say it fast, emphasis on the 9. That’s how you pronounce my first name -9e. (Think “rhymes with tiny and shiny, NOT with skinny and penny.”)

Suspense Author

I have soooo many stories I want to tell you, so many worlds I want you to see, so many people I want you to meet. People in trouble, most of them. Big trouble they didn't ask for but there it is. Ordinary folks like you and me who are forced by circumstances to fight for their lives. And then, smack in the middle of their everyday worlds they encounter the unexplainable. It's always the game-changer.

Welcome to my world. If you'd like to know more about me, I'm easy. Click on Meet Ninie and you'll see. My life isn't really an open book; it's more of a pamphlet, and you are cordially invited to read it. I'd love to interact with you on Twitter, Facebook Fan page, and Goodreads. Or come visit with me at 9e's Kitchen Table, a Facebook group where readers and I hang out. I think you'd like it.