Keys to Understanding Amazon’s Algorithms

by | Jul 17, 2013

by Penny Sansevieri (@BookGal)

Penny has been marketing books online longer than just about anyone. I had the great pleasure to meet her a couple of months ago, after we had known each other for years. It was a real treat. But not as big as the treat she has in store for readers today, as Penny walks you through how to understand the formulas that Amazon uses throughout its site, and which can bring your book to the attention of millions of people. This is critical stuff, so dig right in.

Did you know that much like Google, Amazon is its own search engine? The Amazon algorithm, though not publicized directly by Amazon, is something that can really help to boost the exposure for your book once you understand it.

When you’re looking for better ranking with Google, most search engine optimization (SEO) experts will tell you to look at keywords and tags as well as on-and off-page SEO factors. The same is true for Amazon though there is one additional component Google does not have: categories. For this piece, we’ll dig into two main elements of Amazon ranking: keywords and categories, both of which can greatly affect your page/book exposure.

Keyword Searches

First up are keywords. Have you given much thought to your keywords in your title, subtitle, and description? Most authors I speak with haven’t really thought much about this. Often with fiction it’s tougher, obviously, but there are also ways around this.

You’re allowed to use seven keywords or keyword strings within the Amazon page. This is the back end of the site, meaning the place where you upload your book so knowing what your keywords are is important. This means keywords that are popular in your market. How do you find these? When you type in a word on Google, the search engine offers you suggestions.

For example, if you type in the word “cooking” it’ll come up with cooking for singles, gluten-free cooking, etc. The same thing is true for Amazon. Type in the word “cooking” and the terms “cooking for one” and “cooking for two” pop up automatically. What does this mean? It means that if you have a book that works with these keywords, you should consider including them in your title, subtitle, and/or book description on Amazon.

When I was trying to decide what to name my book: How to Sell Books by the Truckload on Amazon I input the search term: selling books on Amazon. When you search this way, my book comes up on the first page (a good thing). During this search process, I noted all of the other titles that popped up first. Many of them were just titled: Selling Books on Amazon (smart authors) which digs right into the keywords and that’s what you want. That’s why you want to run this search.

Ideally, since you’re allowed seven keywords or keyword strings on Amazon I would suggest doing searches for enough keywords to fill the keyword section in your book listing. You’ll also use these in your description on your actual Amazon page.

Making Use of Your Keywords

Now that you have your keywords, here’s where to use them:

Book listing in the back end of Amazon: You can do this via your Amazon publisher account or Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) account. If you have neither, this means you will have to go through your publisher to get this fixed, or ask them what keywords they selected for you and if they aren’t exactly right for the book, suggest that they change them. Be careful with this, though. Some publishers don’t like it when their authors become involved in their Amazon listing. Just explain to them that it will help your sales, which helps them, too.

The interesting thing with keywords is that you can change them pretty often. Why would you do this? Well, first of all to test them. You want to be sure you are using the right words and you won’t always know this until you test it, especially if you’re dealing with a cluttered market like diet or business. I would suggest testing keywords for two weeks, and seeing how they do. At the two-week point you should start to see either a sales increase or nothing at all. If it’s the latter, then you may want to get in there and adjust the keywords accordingly.

Book Title, Subtitle, and Description: Most of you reading this probably already have your book listed on Amazon so changing the title and/or subtitle may be a moot point. But there’s still the book description which can go a long way to optimizing your page. For those of you who don’t have a subtitle on your book, you can still add it to the back end of Amazon. I’ve done this numerous times, and yes, it still counts towards your ranking as Amazon will pick up all of the data on your page.

For your book description, there are some particular elements and keyword placing you should consider. First, make sure the headline has the primary keywords in it. In other words the main keywords you found. For my Amazon book, it’s “selling books on Amazon.” Then, let’s say you use some bullets to describe the various elements in your book. Be sure and include your other keywords there. For me it was “selling more books” (still different from selling books on Amazon), “making money with books,” and several others.

book marketingNow, for the word count, this gets tricky. While it may seem like you want something short and sweet (so many people don’t like long book descriptions, right?) this is where the algorithm either kicks in, or doesn’t, based on the word count.

You must have at least 500 words in your book description. Why? Because too little content won’t register well (if at all) with Amazon and Google won’t pick it up, either. I know we haven’t really discussed ranking on Google, but the book description does factor into that as well. You get up to 800 words, you can use all 800 if you want (it certainly can’t hurt), but 500 words is a minimum.

Another note about your primary keyword: it should appear 2 to 5 times for every 100 words in your book description. So, no keyword stuffing, certainly, but using the keywords in a way that will help ping Amazon’s algorithm and also get you some attention in Google, as well.

Picking the Right Categories

For most marketing people, the word “obscure” sends shivers down our spine. Generally obscure is synonymous with failure or, you know, something that’s impossible to find.

But on Amazon this is a very different ballgame. The best categories are the ones that are slightly obscure if not totally so. Let me explain why this is.

The first example is when a book hits #1, regardless of the category it’s in. So, if you have a romance book and you really want to get some great ranking within your category you might say that getting placement in “contemporary romance” is ideal and while it might be, I wouldn’t recommend it. Why? The category is too broad.

Look instead to dramas which are a subcategory of contemporary romance. At one time this narrow category only had 41 other competing books in it. If your book hits #1 in that category the Amazon algorithm can kick in and you might see your book paired with other titles, or on a recommendation list with other high-profile books.

The reason for this, aside from the algorithms we’re discussing here, is that Amazon is really just like any other store. Let’s say, for example, that you run a local Gap outlet and you see that the cashmere turtlenecks, which are in the back of the store, are starting to sell like crazy. You decide to move them to the front, figuring that the additional exposure could help push them even more.

Your decision to shuffle them to the front was a good one, you see they are selling very well. Now you pair them with  a shawl or a pair of pants. The two together do even better. Most consumers will like a suggested item that’s tacked on to something that’s popular. The same is true for Amazon; pairing items together that “match” will help to elevate both titles, in some cases almost equally.

Finding the right categories (much like digging through keywords) will take a bit of time. To get started, click on this link:

It’s really important, however, to pick a category that is appropriate to your title. Meaning that you shouldn’t just plop your book in a category because it’s niche. It needs to have some correlation to your book. Some folks say that if you put a book in the wrong category, just to get ranking, Amazon can remove the book entirely. While I’ve never known this to happen, I would still caution you to play fair when it comes to category selection.

Two final notes on categories:

  1. Categories change. Dramas, for example, are no longer a sub-sub category in romance. I don’t know why Amazon does this but I suspect that shuffling around these categories is helpful to its internal system.
  2. Print and eBook categories often differ. What I mean by this is that you may dig through the link above and find the right category, but making changes on Amazon may require some help from its team. This, however, is really easy. I have found that a print book listing and an eBook listing (though KDP) will vary greatly in the categories they offer.

When you find the category you want for your book, the first thing you may want to do is go to your backend and make these adjustments, i.e. change this category.

If your eBook is in the KDP system you’ll need to email them through your Author Central Page. Just hit the “help” button (again from within your Author Central Page) and email their staff. Most of the time you’ll find the email is responded to and the category adjusted within 24 hours. Their response time is fantastic. If you don’t know what the Author Central page is just click here:  You use your Amazon login to access your page. Everyone has one, whether you’ve claimed it or not.

Category Switching

I’ve found that switching categories around is another great way to get Amazon’s attention. Generally I don’t recommend switching categories too often, once a month maybe. First you’ll want to test a category, meaning you want to see how well your book does in that niche and then move it, once it hits the #1 spot.

Other Ways to Get Amazon’s Attention

There are several other things you can do to get Amazon’s attention, including eBook promotions (the freebie days through KDP) and also pricing adjustments. Playing with price changes (I recommend not doing this more than once every six weeks) is another great way to play with the algorithm on the site. Why? Well, some experts say that frequent book changes (new review postings, changes in category, keywords, and pricing) helps ping Amazon just like updating the blog on your website.

Google loves websites that get frequent updates and blogs help to do just that. Changes to your Amazon page have a similar effect. This is another reason why I never suggest that authors blast their books on Amazon, pushing for dozens of reviews within the first month of launch and then forgetting the page altogether after the book has been out for a while.

Keep adding to the page, enhancing it. Change up the description and keywords every now and again, fiddle with pricing and swap out categories. As long as you’re doing the right things for your book, the more you play, the more it pays.

Good luck!

book marketingPenny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert and an Adjunct Professor with NYU. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most leading-edge book marketing campaigns. She is the author of twelve books, including Red Hot Internet Publicity, How to Sell Your Books by the Truckload on Amazon, and From Book to Bestseller which has been called the “road map to publishing success.” AME is the first marketing and publicity firm to use Internet promotion to its full impact through The Virtual Author Tour™, which strategically works with social networking sites, blogs, and relevant sites to push an author’s message into the virtual community and connect with sites related to the book’s topic, positioning the author in his or her market. To learn more about Penny’s books or her promotional services, you can visit her web site at To subscribe to her free ezine, send a blank email to: mailto:[email protected] Copyright 2013 Penny C. Sansevieri

Photo: Amazon links have my affiliate code.



  1. Dianne

    Hello. Thanks for the great article. Do you have a revised version for January 2015? As you know best practices can change over night. For example ONIX feed limits description to 350 words vs your recommended minimum of 500.

  2. Jennifer

    Thanks for this article. I am still confused on how I should fill out Search terms to my product. I used to have Outdoor Blanket Stadium Picnic Blanket Waterproof Blanket and then i would do their plural version, but then I have read should repeat words. What is the best way to write search terms for amazon, for a product like a Outdoor Blanket?

  3. Trevor Coleman

    Hi, One thing I really do not understand about the Amazon search engine is if I search for a book by its title and author it may give me two or three options of the correct book and then an endless list of the wrong books. Often completely different titles and authors. It does this even when I know for sure there are the correct books available. If I search a book by title and author why doesn’t Amazon give a complete list of those books? After all that is the book I want. I’m not going to change my mind and buy a completely different book. Meanwhile sellers who are trying to sell the book I want do not show up. Seems crazy to me.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      This might be due to how the books are listed (keywords & categories) on Amazon. This could be tweaking the searches so they aren’t coming up the way you’d expect them to. If the authors aren’t listed correctly on Amazon (the Amazon back end) I find that this will often give you a different set of books.

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  5. Jim Toombs

    Penny, thanks for an absolutely wonderful article. It answered many of my questions that I had floundered over. Pricing: My first fiction title, The Dog Did It, debuted July 9, 2012. It started tanking in June 2013 and now is on life support. I played with pricing – $2.99 up to $4.99 – in mid-September. Gross dollars were better but sales remained anemic and continued their slide so I went back to $2.99. Even more slide. My second title came out October 23 – Blame It On The Dog. These are mysteries involving a man and a dog. Lots of inherent tension between characters and good but few reviews. But I’m doing something wrong because sales remain low — although early returns look promising for Blame It On the Dog and The Dog Did It is making a low rise. In one obscure category, Blame It On the Dog is at #57 after less than a week and The Dog Did It has risen back to #97 after spending several months in obscurity. I’ll try these things. Should I do it now at the beginning of the Christmas Season or wait until February? And should I price for my category or fiction as a whole?

  6. Joe Oye

    Hi Penny,

    I was so excited when I googled out your that post.

    Prior to saying anything about that post, let me quickly express my genuine ‘like’ for the blurb of this blog: Practical advice to help build better book. I see the blog too as a platform to help build better profit and better life.

    Back to the post, I must thank you for its content and the lucid way it is presented. Truly, you have delved (very distinctively) into what the ‘gurus’ don’t talk about. It made me to understand and appreciate more the essence of full and seo’d Kindle book description. Though I always write my book description ‘until there is no more space’, I did not realize its importance until I read your post. I always tweak my keywords, description and categories without knowing that doing that counts toward fresh content pinging for Amazon just like the case of fresh blog posts for Google. So, we need to do double attention callings; one to Amazon and the other to buyers.

    I printed the post and it covers 17 pages of A4 size paper. I did that to not only set a special time and place to study the post but also because I have keen interest in Amazon-specific SEO which I have been researching since going to two years.

    Based on my experience in researching Amazon and the answers I have amassed on questions relating to why many Kindle books remain buried away from the buyers’ eyes and, at the same time, the ‘same’ set of Kindle are often ‘pinned’ up on Amazon top pages.

    I really studied the post and, through the comments submitted on it, I was made to see a number of wrong impressions authors are having about Amazon book ranking.

    Amazon has neither a search engine report nor an insider SEO manual for us. We, therefore, only have to rely on people like you and Joel who intimately report their ranking and selling experiences.

    Referring to the comments on your post again, I personally feel that there are lots of things to share among Kindle authors to create opportunities for better royalties and

    …better life.

    I use to say that Amazon means publishing and selling on its platform to be fun enough and it is truly so. For that aim, it freely provides the tools and functionalities we authors need to maximize the visibility of our books. While visibility is a fast way to become an Amazon bestseller, many Kindle authors aren’t seeing those supportive tools.

    Let me give an example.

    Amazon has a tool comparable to the retired Google keyword tool. The availability of the tool points us to the fact that our keywords research and selection need not be based on Google at all. As you know, Amazon has its own Amazon-specific algorithms. And so, we must understand clearly that the way READY BUYERS use Amazon search engine and how they are engaged in helping others find the books they want is quite different from the cocktailed searchers’ intentions outside Amazon. These views point us to other facts about selling the bestseller way on Amazon.

    Below are a few key points I also got from my Amazon researches:

    The alerts popular ‘gurus’ make about reviews as the core factor for top-ranking books is not so much needed like the advice on keyword selection and categorization. Keywords and categories are the core of ranking books up the Amazon pages (as you have similarly taught in your post).

    As I recently discovered, it is very easy to directly categorize into the ‘shopping’ (a word I just borrowed from your post) Kindle categories an author prefers without the need to bother the Amazon team in terms of re-categorization. I mean even with the non-parity between the KDP category paths and the Amazon shopping category paths.

    I illustrate that key point below:

    I checked your book: Red Hot Internet Publicity: The Insider’s Guide to Marketing Online. I found that the shopping categories (I always call this ‘ending’ categories’) of the book are:

    1. Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Investing > Marketing & Sales > Marketing > Direct
    2. Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Business & Investing > Small Business & Entrepreneurship

    [Getting your Kindle book in the ‘book’ category of: Books > Business & Investing > Marketing & Sales > Marketing > Direct is another case which I prefer to set apart from this communication to you].

    …and because I was able to find the KDP categories which you chose initially as shown below, I can easily follow your patterns to land a Kindle book in the same categories that the book is. To apply one of the lessons which I just gained from your post, following your patterns to get to the desire categories may only hold if there has not been any category switching by Amazon. But I think that even if there is such a switch, my book will automatically end up in the same categories with yours.

    CERTAINLY, the categories you chose while publishing the book, were:

    1. BUSINESS & ECONOMICS > Marketing > Direct
    2. BUSINESS & ECONOMICS > Development > Business Development

    I trace it up in under 5 minutes on Amazon.

    That idea of tracking the starting Amazon categories idea is simple:

    Amazon being the same, if I can find a very closely related book which shopping categories I like and want and if I can find the starting categories (i.e. those chosen while publishing that Kindle book), I will just follow the same category paths. It will be a ‘voila’ process. I tested this so many times. It worked and, still, it works.

    One more key point…

    Amazon has free mobile websites for each Kindle book, paperback and physical product. The ‘gurus’ don’t say (or, maybe, don’t know) this. I just published a Kindle article to share that opportunity.

    Talking of easy Kindle book ranking, I ranked (overnight) one of my Kindle articles with non-competitive Amazon-specific search terms (but which are buyer keywords) and it is now ranking top on Kindle Store homepage. Aside the keywords used while publishing, general single-word or double short-tail keywords are making the Kindle article mostly ranked on the first page of Amazon Kindle books. For examples (as at the time of writing this comment):

    “Mobile” – ranked up to #7 of 4,067 in the Kindle Books category
    “Online shopping” – ranked up to #3 of 148 in the Kindle Books category
    “Internet presence” – ranked up to #2 of 54 in the Kindle Books category

    The Kindle article is, until now, has zero review.

    I hope you and the enthusiasts of this blog will not mind that this comment is an ‘epistle’. One of the reasons I couldn’t wait anymore to share it so elaborately like this is because of your uniqueness in sharing information with authors and their responsiveness to your shared information.

    I like the way you share to help others and I feel that I need to get closer to the efforts like yours and Joel’s. I have navigated different blogs on the matter under focus, the kind of this post is not common. This made me felt that acknowledging your efforts will be worthy and I am fulfilled that I have done so.

    …and I cannot forget to tell you that your posts on Huffington Post are superb.

    To you Kindle authors: See you and your book at the top!

    Thank you very much.

  7. Terry Hunt

    Thanks, Penny….good stuff!

    So, I’ve talked about this with my publisher and I get the feeling they don’t know all that much about the keywords, apart from their use in title, sub-title, and descriptive copy.
    Is there another particular place in the data feeds they send to Amazon where they are supposed to put the keywords or keyword phrases I’d like to recommend to them?

    • James H. byrd

      The publishing industry commonly uses a data format called ONIX to transfer book information, but I’m not sure if that is what your publisher is using to submit data to Amazon. ONIX 2.1 (the most common) and ONIX 3.0 (the latest specification) do support the transmission of keywords with the product info, but whether or not your publisher is passing that information is a different question.

      No matter what method the publisher is using to pass data, their book catalog system probably either supports the inclusion of keywords or it does not. If it does not, they probably have no easy way of adding them without updating the software they use. (Nobody codes an ONIX feed by hand.)

      It never hurts to ask, but if your publisher folks doesn’t know where they would enter the keywords you supply, you are probably out of luck.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Hey Terry – yeah this is a common problem. So as it relates to Amazon the answer would be no. I mean publishers will often list books at BIP (books in print) and that can feed to Amazon, but the data the publisher puts into the Amazon site will always override that.

  8. Tony Acree

    Fantastically informative blog post. I will make sure every author I know reads this article. Very well done. I will be trying out many of these suggestions this afternoon.

  9. Zoe York

    Okay, my description is way too short, then! I’m going to work on that tonight.

    Does it matter if the change happens in Author Central or KDP?

    • James H. byrd

      The Author Central description seems to override the KDP description. I try to keep them the same, but when there’s been a difference, the Author Central description is the one I see on Amazon.

      • Penny Sansevieri

        Yep, James is right – Author Central will override that. Also, keep is mind that if you need help – beyond what we’ve discussed here, you can email Amazon through Author Central and they’re really quick to respond!

        • Zoe York

          Thanks! I know that the AC description overrides the KDP description – my question was more, does it matter for the algorithm where the description comes from.

          • Penny Sansevieri

            Ah, sorry Zoe – no, it doesn’t matter. The description itself is what drives the algorithm – it doesn’t matter where it comes from!

        • Jane Ayres

          Hi Penny – great stuff and have been working on my descriptions as a result. However, when you go to change the book description either via KDP or Author Central, it says you have a max of 480 words for the Book Description (not 800 – or indeed the minimum 500 for the search bots). Can you advise? Thanks.

          • Penny Sansevieri

            Hey Jane,

            This does not seem right. I’m going to email the folks at Author Central and see what they say. Here’s the thing, Amazon is always changing stuff but not generally this fast. I’ll see what I can find out!

          • Roger Ellerton


            Any update on the question Is 480 the max number of words you can use?



  10. Nancy Beck

    I agree with Jason Matthews. While this article gives some very good ideas, it sounds a little too obsessive for me. I’d rather get some more books up and increase my visibility that way, rather than changing keywords, etc., every other month.

    • Joel Friedlander

      Nancy, it’s true that many people have an aversion to things like analytics and split testing, which seem very far away from the literary impulse.

      The way I look at it, I work quite hard to create and promote my books and other products, and if learning just a little more about the “nuts & bolts” will help me get better results from that time and effort, I’m willing to invest some time in it.

      But authors come in lots of shapes and sizes, don’t they?

      • Nancy Beck

        Yes they do, Joel, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. :-)

  11. Jason Matthews

    All good tips, but it’s easy to get caught up in a continual “change my Amazon meta data mode” when doing other things like writing more, blogging more or doing something else might actually have better results over time and help you create product too.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Jason, solid point – but I think an author needs to pick their battles. Amazon is just one of them. You could have the same convo around Facebook, Twitter, etc. I recommend an author focus on the promotion they feel most comfortable with and do it well.

  12. Felipe Adan Lerma

    very useful info! esp all the links, like to the categories (subject) page on amazon; thanks so much penny :-)

    • Penny Sansevieri

      You’re welcome, Felipe – and good luck with your promotion!

  13. Mark Sroufe

    Have you written anything about increasing the visibility of book apps in the Apple App Store?

    Great article! Great insight.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Hi Mark, I haven’t actually. Nearly 80% of books are sold on Amazon to, candidly, I never focus on Apple…

  14. Greg Strandberg

    This is a very helpful post, thanks Penny!

    Amazon changing or eliminating categories is something that actually could benefit some people. If lots of people are used to typing in “Romance Dramas”, having that as a keyword could replace the category loss.

    Sometimes if there’s an additional category I want (you only get 2) I’ll use it as a keyword. Still, are a lot people typing clunky category words when they search for books? I just don’t see “Metaphysical & Visionary” or “TV, Movie, Video Game Adaptations” being typed a lot when it comes to something like the fantasy genre.

    You’re definitely right on changing things and experimenting. Changing your categories and keywords is one of your best tools for directly influencing your potential for sales. Unless your books are steadily in the top 100 in one of your categories, I’d try mix it up from time to time.

  15. Nathan Sisk

    I just started getting ready to put something up on KDP, and trying to figure out what keywords to use stumped me. This could not have come at a more opportune time. Thank you!

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Nathan you are more than welcome, good luck with KDP and don’t forget to do a freebie eBook promotion, too!

  16. Maggie Dana

    For fiction, especially mid-grade, I feel 500 words is overkill. If I had to slog through that many words (equal to about two pages’ worth of a double-spaced m/s), I’d probably give up and move onto something else.

    It might also mean that the book itself rambles and that the author uses too many words to get the job done. A succinct, well written blurb is usually indicative of a book worth reading.

    • J.M. Ney-Grimm

      You could do that succinct, well-written blurb. And then include review excerpts in subsequent paragraphs. Prospective readers will read the blurb and then (we hope) click “look inside” or “buy.” A few might check the review excerpts. And the search engines will have more words to work with. (This strategy seemed to boost sales on my books.)

      • Jane Ayres

        This is a great idea! I struggle to get more than 300 words for the book description without giving too much away but this is good advice.

  17. Roger Ellerton


    I found your article very interesting and useful.

    You make a great case to have at least 500 words in your book description. To get an idea of what you included in your book description, I went to Amazon and looked up “Red Hot Internet Publicity”. I was surprised to see that your book description has only 243 words. So I am confused. Please advise.



    • Penny Sansevieri

      Hey Roger, thanks for the note! Glad you noticed that. I actually wrote this piece while overseas (just returned today). I discovered this additional trick at that time and just had no time to made the change. Yes, it’s the old cobbler kids with no shoes. Anyway, I hope to make the change this week. Note also that most of the testing I do for these pieces I write are not done on my books, I pick unknown titles or authors and experiment – it seems a better and more fair assessment that way.

  18. Frances Caballo

    This is a great post, Penny. I didn’t know that I could go back and change my keywords and categories. What a great idea. BTW: I’m looking forward to your talk and workshop at BAIPA in September!

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Frances, thanks so much! I’m really looking forward to it, too! Let me know how this works out for you. I love, love changing up my Amazon categories, keywords and pricing. :-)

  19. E.S. Ivy

    I’ve played around with keywords before but this has given me some ideas. Thanks!

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Thanks so much! And don’t forget you can play with pricing, too!

  20. Diane Krause

    I just published my first ebook in February of this year, and was a little disappointed to find the categories available in the book setup weren’t as detailed as I had hoped they would be.

    My book is for fiction writers, and I was hoping to be able to assign a more specific category than I was able to. I used the link you supplied in this post to go to the Amazon categories page. In choosing Education and Reference, I was able to drill down this far in shopping for books: Education & Reference>Writing, Research & Publishing Guides>Writing>Fiction.

    However, when assigning categories for the book, I was only able to do Reference>Writing Skills and Education>Reference. It would be nice to have the same subcategories available when setting up a book as are available for shopping.

    Do you know if I’m missing something somewhere? I did make use of all the keywords available to me, though.

    Thanks for the great information here! I’m definitely saving this.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Hi Diane, thanks for the note. Did you email the Amazon team through the Author Central page? If not I would recommend doing that. Follow that link in the article, find the exact right category and then ask them to move both your print and eBook there. Let me know how this turns out for you, will you? I always love getting author feedback…

    • James H. byrd

      It’s true that Amazon does not offer the same categories for selection as they do for shopping. As Penny pointed out, Amazon changes the shopping categories from time to time, but the ones you select through KDP mostly follow the BISAC guidelines.

      Keywords are the ticket for getting into the shopping categories you want as well as for search optimization. Using your example, I’d try using “Publishing Guide” and “Writing Fiction” as a couple of my keywords. It may take a little experimentation, and I’m not sure how long it takes for keyword changes to influence your shopping category, but authors I’ve communicated with said it happens fairly quickly. The advantage of using this approach is that your book automatically adjusts to the changes Amazon makes in their categories.

      Good luck!

  21. Lavie Margolin

    Penny always provides great content and this is some of the best stuff yet. She takes some of the concepts that I first saw explored in Aaron Shepard’s Aiming at Amazon and brings it to the next level. Great job!

  22. Dan Erickson

    This is a great and useful article. As a self-published author, I use and understand keywords and categories on Amazon. I’ve struggled with knowing exactly how to categorize my books and what keywords might be best. I think I’ve made fair choices, but you have enlightened me. Adding my key word repeatedly in the description is a great idea. And category switching could be helpful, as my books tend to blur the lines. Thanks!

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Hey Dan … Thanks for the feedback! Really glad you enjoyed the piece. Good luck with book sales!

  23. Tricia Ballad

    Great information! Do you have any suggestions specifically for fiction authors on finding appropriate keywords?

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Yes, I would run the same type of search for this. Though you can’t use the keywords in the title, you can use them everywhere else. So, book description, etc. Let me know if that’s helpful! I know fiction can be tricky…

  24. Thomas Norwood

    The best tool to use to find keywords is the Google Keyword Tool. Unfortunately Amazon doesn’t have a keyword tool, but you can use Google’s to get a fair idea of the sort of keywords people search for. If you put in a few options, Google will give you a long list of other options based on those, and you can even sort them according to the number of searches they get per month (on Google). That way, you can choose the ones that are most searched for and include them in your title (if possible), keywords, and description.
    Another good way to tell if a keyword is working or not for a particular book is by typing that keyword into Google and having a look at the top 1-5 books for that keyword. If those books are selling really well (have a high sales rank) then there’s a chance that keyword is working for them (although it might be something else). If, however, they have a very low sales rank despite being at the top for that keyword – you can be pretty sure the keyword is useless.
    If you’re an indie author – please have a look on my website for a free 40 minute video tutorial on how to create your own author website.

  25. Venkatesh Iyer

    What is the best tool touse for determining suitable keywords for your Amazon/Kindle book, especially if it is fiction?

      • Venkatesh Iyer

        Hi Joel, and thanks. Actually, I have been using the Google (now Adwords) Keyword Tool for quite a while now. I also use Market Samurai. While I was aware of the Google tool, I was not sure about the applicability of its results for Amazon publishing purposes. I was actually hoping to hear that Amazon had its own keyword tool. I would say it is about time, wouldn’t you, especially since the word is getting around that Amazon has a search engine to match Google’s?

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Hey Venkatesh,

      Also, check out Google’s “suggest” when you do searches. That will help you to determine some recent and popular searches for your keywords.

      • Venkatesh Iyer

        Hi Penny,

        Thanks. Somehow, I never seem to get into the habit of using the Google suggest functin. I will work on it.

  26. Ernie Zelinski

    When I typed “retirement” into Amazon’s search box just now, out of 34,657 Results, my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” came in the Number 1 spot and my “The Joy of Not Working” came in the Number 3 spot.

    For “retirement books”, out of 17,290 results, my “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free” came in the Number 1 spot and my “The Joy of Not Working” came in the Number 4 spot.

    Is this really good? I don’t really know because I have no way of knowing how many people actually type in “retirement” or “retirement books” into Amazon’s search box.

    Ernie J. Zelinski
    International Best-Selling Author
    “Helping Adventurous Souls Live Prosperous and Free”
    Author of the Bestseller “How to Retire Happy, Wild, and Free”
    (Over 175,000 copies sold and published in 9 languages)
    and the International Bestseller “The Joy of Not Working’
    (Over 250,000 copies sold and published in 17 languages)

    • Joel Friedlander

      Well, Ernie, it can hardly be bad, it’s a great result. And probably, as with Google search, the popularity of your books is somewhat self-fulfilling, as the top results get the most hits, ensuring they will stay at or near the top. Thanks for weighing in.

    • Penny Sansevieri

      Hey Ernie,

      So, why don’t you take this a step further. For some of the books you found under “retirement” see what the reviews say. You can also pick up keywords there if your search results ping back a ton of ideas and book titles…

    • Joel

      That was a ridiculous comment. Makes me not want to read your books.



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