Playing Tag the Self-Publisher Way

POSTED ON Jan 30, 2012

Joel Friedlander

Written by Joel Friedlander

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Editor’s comment: Please note that since this article was originally published, Amazon has eliminated the use of tags.

by Judy Croome

I’m pleased to welcome back South African writer Judy Croome, who contributed 12 Easy Steps to the Making of a Book Trailer in May, 2011. Today Judy’s writing about the importance of tagging your book on Amazon and other sites. This is an important lesson in discoverability. Here’s her article.

I used to think playing tag was a child’s game. I was wrong. In the world of self-publishing, playing tag is far more important than that!

I’ve always pooh-poohed the notion of tagging a book on the Amazon product page.

But I learnt the importance of tagging in a recent marketing promotion.  Playing tag is an important marketing tool and, in this game of grown-up tag, we ‘tag’ our books.

What’s a tag, you might ask?  You can read about Amazon tags here, but the short version is that a tag provides more information about the book in question. If your book is about faith, and is set in South Africa, “South Africa” and “Faith” would be appropriate tags.

Tagging on Amazon

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In essence, a tag is a label that helps readers find all similar books in a single category. The more readers who “tag” your book in a certain category, the higher up the list your book will appear when someone does a search for a particular tag:

What Difference Do Tags Make?

Well, the more popular your books tags are, the more exposure your book will get. In an exploding market with too many books and too few readers with money to spare, any extra exposure to readers browsing books to buy is worth the effort.

How do you get your book tagged sufficiently to have it bubble to the surface of a relevant tag category?

You can call on every family member or friend you can possibly think of and ask them to tag your book. Or…you can do what I did, and participate in a marketing promotion, where authors help each other and cross-tag their books.

The advantages are that your book can be tagged enough times to leap to the top of a variety of categories. Every reader who searches for something to read in that particular category may see your book cover on the bottom of his screen.

The disadvantages are that some authors do all the tagging and others don’t do the reciprocal tagging. In addition, tagging the other participating authors’ books is time-consuming.

The Game of Book Tag

Tagging on Amazon

Clicl to enlarge

As ignorant as I was about the importance of tagging, I made some basic mistakes. Here are some tips to help you start the tagging process:

  • Prepare a carefully thought-out list of the top categories where you want your book to appear. You can only have a maximum of 15 tags per person per book, so make your tags count. Activate your tag choices by clicking on “Agree with these tags?”
  • On your Amazon product page enter these tags as soon as your book is up for sale. Remember, your book isn’t tagged until you click “Agree with these tags?”
  • The paperback and kindle editions of your book operate on different tags. Be sure to enter your tags separately for each different edition. Ask your “taggers” to tag both (and remember to tag both for other authors.)
  • Book tags do not transfer to Amazon’s international sites, so tag your book separately on each Amazon website.
  • The reader site LibraryThing also operates a “tagging” system.  And, as at date of writing, it has nearly 1.5 million members most of whom are readers. Tag your book there as well.

While Amazon doesn’t specifically prohibit authors from using tagging as a marketing tool, the system is open to abuse. Be responsible in your tagging. Why ruin a good thing? Every game of tag has its rules and this one is no different. Play tag on Amazon, but play it fair.

Judy CroomeJudy Croome lives and writes in Johannesburg, South Africa. Shortlisted in the African Writing Flash Fiction 2011 competition, other short stories and poems have been published in journals and anthologies. Her independently published novel, Dancing in the Shadows of Love, is available from Join Judy on Twitter

Photo by DaveBleasedale

Joel Friedlander

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Joel Friedlander

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