From author D.J. Gelner:
As many of you know, I co-edited an anthology of sci-fi and fantasy short stories this year with my good friend and fellow author J.M. Ney-Grimm.
The result is Quantum Zoo, a book near and dear to our hearts, and the hearts of the ten other writers who contributed excellent stories to the collection.
. . . .
You see, part of the impetus for releasing Quantum Zoo was that we wanted to get it in the hands of as many people as possible using a variety of promotional methods to see what works to promote fiction these days, and what doesn’t.
To those ends, we put the book in Kindle Select for its initial 90-day term, and figured we’d get around to setting up a free promo at some point.
Of course, life got in the way, and before I knew it, we found ourselves scrambling in September with only three potential promo days left!
J.M. and I worked tirelessly to brainstorm some ways to give more books away–after all, we didn’t want to do QZ or our fellow authors a disservice by watching a piddly 30 or 40 people download it for absolutely free!
So we came up with a gameplan that was part foresight, part improv, and a good amount of luck.
And we gave away over 2,000 books on KDP Select over the course of those three days!
. . . .
1) Get a Killer Cover
The days of “not judging a book by its cover” are long gone. For a lot of readers, a professional-looking cover is the first indication of quality in a publishing world filled with increasing amounts of people who don’t take the business terribly seriously.
. . . .
2) Choose THE RIGHT Keywords
Amazon only allows KDP authors to use 7 keywords (in addition to the keywords in the title) to promote your book in their vast search engine.
At first, it can be a daunting task–which 7 words do you choose as a new author? I remember using plot-related keywords with JWATT at first, things like “dinosaur hunt,” “Isaac Newton,” etc.
Over time, that sense of enormity has shrunken down to something more akin to “frustration.” For the longest time, it seemed like no matter which keywords I chose, there was little or no effect on sales.
In promoting Quantum Zoo, J.M. and I had a bit of an epiphany, probably spurred on in one of our brains by David Gaughran’s excellent book, Let’s Get Visible:
Make the keywords Amazon subcategories, or at least related to those subcategories.
You see, Amazon puts fiction books into a vast web of categories and subcategories. I want to say that about a year ago, they vastly increased the size of this web, with a whole bunch of new subcategories. For a while, it seemed like there was no rhyme or reason to where a given book ended up–Jesus Was a Time Traveler (JWATT) was in Time Travel, Technothrillers, and a few others for a while. Rogue ended up in “hard sci fi.”
I think it was Gaughran who advocated making these new desired subcategories keywords themselves, to ensure that your book got in the subcategories you wanted. Essentially, you get the 7 keywords, plus the 2 categories you can select in KDP, plus whatever Amazon’s algos glean from your title.
The reasoning? This is the key part of the strategy! The more categories and subcategories the book is in, the better the chance it has to appear in a given top 100 list for that category or subcategory. The more top 100 lists the book appears in, the more visible it is to people who browse those top 100 lists for their next reads.
We actually followed this strategy with Quantum Zoo–since we have a lot of different takes on sci-fi and fantasy, we have a lot of potential genres we could be in. So we listed a bunch of them out: “first contact,” “technothrillers,” etc. in addition to picking the obvious “sci-fi anthologies” as one of our Amazon genre selections.
And this is also where the “luck” portion of the strategy came in. While we recognized the utility of being in as many different genres as possible for keyword searching purposes, we didn’t understand just how important being on those top 100 lists for both paid and free purposes was until we saw the results of our promo.
The strategy definitely helped us come out guns blazing–we noticed that the higher we got on those genre top 100 lists, the more books we sold, to a point, at least.
But it’s exponentially more important to be on the top 100 lists when giving away your book for free! That’s because as a “crap filter,” even the free book hoarders will scour the top 100 lists, using them as a form of “social proof” for which books are decent, and thus “worthy” (of a free download, no less!). The more lists you’re on, the more you can put the algos to work for you, and the better the chance you have of getting downloads.
The more downloads you get, the more potential reviews you get on both Amazon and Goodreads, and the more word of mouth you might start to generate.
About a month after publication, though, when reading up on the topic a bit more, I came across the following helpful page:
Amazon Categories with Keyword Requirements
In a rare look “inside the algorithms,” Amazon essentially has given us the tools to craft titles and use keywords to drill down into some previously esoteric sub-subcategories. I’ve since tried using some of these terms in my books, and while it can take a few weeks for Amazon to index them with your book, it works.
Now that you know just how important those keywords can be, have fun looking through the list for some ideas on what words you can use to get your next book in as many different categories as possible.