The Alchemy of Perfect Keywords
by Beth Daniels
I've been very bad at keeping up with postings but I'm attempting to turn over a new leaf.
What, you may ask, have I been doing while neglecting you?
That would be swearing over the mysteries of Keywords. I've found I hadn't the least idea what they really were.
I thought they were what identified what niche or category a book fell under.
That's not the case. It's what someone searching for someing specific might feed into the search bar!
The trick is to supply the keywords they might use, not get too fancy because they probably aren't getting fancy either, and yet not repeating the same words over and over again.
So here is what I've decided is a guideline to use (for myself if not for you!):
1) describe your genre and nitche -- for instance as J.B. Dane I write urban fantasy mystery comedy with a PI hero. Therefore, I need to find other words to indicate urban fantasy. Things like metaphysical, supernatural, paranormal, horror. As these are mysteries: crime, suspense, or if there is a specific "evil" in the storyline, like a serial killer, then that would be appropriate though just for the storyline that has this element in it. My hero also uses magic but I can't use terms like wizard, mage, sorcerer, magician, or similar terms because he isn't any of them. He's just got a knack, so while I'd be smart to include magic, I can't mention the titles given to people who use it. But he is a PI so I can use private investigator, sleuth, PI, and maybe even shamus or gumshoe, thou that's pushing it since I have to think about what a reader would type in a search line. I also have comedy so: snark, sarcasm, comedy, COMEDIC, funny, and humorous could be used
2) Single keywords are not the way to go. Dave Chesson of Kindlepreur says this and I've read others give the same advice (I've been reading a lot of books and blogs about the topic). Amazon gives you 7 slots with 50 characters to use in each slot. Ergo, you can string words together to fill as many of those character slots. The nice thing is that, as I understand it, Amazon's system turns them into various combinations of these same words. That wouls make URBAN FANTASY PI MYSTERY COMEDY (which is only 31 characters) into
PI MYSTERY COMEDY URBAN FANTASY
MYSTERY COMEDY URBAN FANTASY PI
FANTASY MYSTERY URBAN PI COMEDY
PI RUBAN FANTASY COMEDY MYSTERY
URBAN PI FANTASY MYSTERY COMEDY
well, and a few other combinations. My brain boggles at the idea of creating them all myself. But you get all of this each time you feed in a keyword string in each of the 7 spots. The trick is to not repeat one of these words in one of the other strings. If necessary, a thesaurus can come to the rescue. Just keep in mind that a reader might not chose some of the offerings, so use the most logical variations
3) You also use keywords when writing the description for the book. As if making sure it sounds interesting, intriguing, gives hints of character personalities, the voice of the presentation (you know, serious or far from serious), and includes a "hook" wasn't difficult enough! No, now you really dazzle with those thesaurus words. That doesn't mean you can't drop in ones a reader will probably be looking for but if, in the case, I describe the crime, the setting (contemporary Detroit) and supply what some of what the characters are (in the case of RAVEN FOR A SONG, my hero gets hired by a siren) or do for a living (in SUPERSTAR the main male character is a musician/singer/song writer). Having keywords in the description means the system picks them up, too. For instance, I sometimes go looking for mysteries that take place in London in the late Victorian period. Both "London" and "late Victorian" might be in the description, although Victorian would probably have been in the keyword strings, too, though not specifically "late" as it probably isn't needed in the strings.
4) Lastly, there might be keywords in a title, so in naming something that could be a consideration.
I've begun reworking all the keywords I've fed into Amazon in the past, and reworked a few descriptions as well. I'm not entirely sure I've mastered this yet -- and, let's face it, things keep changing -- but it's definitely keeping me off the streets right now.
Well, the restaurants and bars are all closed, so I can't go hang out at any of them currently, can I?