We all want to sell more books, and in this episode, Dave Chesson from Kindlepreneur gives some actionable tips on how to use keywords for better book marketing.
In the intro, I discuss how audiobooks are becoming the dominant format for reading in Sweden and why the subscription model is on the rise. [The New Publishing Standard.] Plus, why audiobooks will be boosted by Amazon's new Echo Input [The Verge], Echo Auto [The Verge], and the Audible app on the latest Apple watch. [The Digital Reader]
Today's show is sponsored by IngramSpark, who I use to print and distribute my print-on-demand books to 39,000 retailers including independent bookstores, schools and universities, libraries and more. It's your content – do more with it through IngramSpark.com.
- The deeply personal reason Dave created Kindlepreneur
- The differences between finding keywords for fiction and non-fiction
- Steps to take to find words your potential audience will be searching for on Amazon
- The difference between broad and specific keywords. We discuss Keywords Gone Wild article on The Book Designer.
- How to breathe life back into a book that hasn’t been selling
- Dave’s thoughts on format (ebook, audiobook etc.) and keywords
- Using your 7 keywords to create a list of thousands for AMS ads. Plus, click here for Dave's FREE Amazon Ad Training Course
- Ideas for blog content that will draw in readers and other writers in your genre
You can find Dave Chesson at Kindlepreneur.com and on Twitter @DaveChesson
Transcript of Interview with Dave Chesson
Joanna: Hi everyone. I'm Joanna Penn from the creativepenn.com. And today I'm here with Dave Chesson. Hi Dave.
Dave: Hey Joanna. Thanks for having me.
Joanna: Oh, it's great to have you on the show. Just a little introduction.
Dave writes books under multiple pen names and is best known in the Indie author community for creating KDP Rocket and also for his useful blog and podcast at kindlepreneur.com. And today we're actually going to talk about a number of things that I'm quite excited about, search engine optimization, and also how to find and fix your book sales problems. So a really exciting show today.
Before we get into that, I wanted to know, Dave, a bit more about you and how you got into writing and also helping authors with these cool tools.
Because when I look at the market, there are definitely more lucrative markets for skills like yours.
Dave: I used to be in the US military. I was in the Navy and the first job that they sent me out was without my family all the way to Korea. So I was stuck alone and my wife and kids were back in Wisconsin.
My wife had one of those moments where she said, “You know, is this what you want to do? Like, is this the definition of success?” And I said, “Wow, no, not really.”
I started looking at ways of building a side business, a way to potentially build something that would allow me to leave the military and be home with my family instead of on the other side of the world.
The funny thing is I've never credited myself as this amazing writer. As a matter of fact, something I haven't really shared ever is I have dyslexia. I'm afflicted in my ability to write. If you ever watch me write on a board, it's cringing.
People even, like, will go, “What are you doing?” It's like a horror film to somebody, just watching me because it's all over the place. And if you ever received a handwritten note from me, you thought that maybe I handed it to my four-year-old son and said, “Here, write out.”
So the idea of me being a writer is just crazy and I grew up with this self-imposed belief that I can't write.
But what was interesting was that for me, I started to realize that when people go to Amazon, when they're looking for information, they're typing in information, they have a way of telling us what it is they truly want.
I learned throughout life that if you have the answer that people are looking for, if you have the story that they really want, that you don't have to be Ernest Hemingway. You're delivering on what they truly need.
That allows someone like me who has dyslexia, who has always considered themselves a poor writer, to be able to create things that helped people solve their problems or just gain a little enjoyment.
And from that point on, I just fell in love because someone like me could finally write. And I also learned too, the more you write, the better you get. And so from that point in, and I just fell in love with this whole.
But more importantly, I also wanted my writing to get in front of people and to serve people. And so that's really how the journey from a physics major, shunned from writing, now gets to sit down and enjoy and benefit. And I will say fast forwarding today, I am here in Franklin, Tennessee with my family doing writing full-time,
Joanna: Which is fantastic. And I guess the other side of it is your SEO, your technical skills around Rocket.
Did they teach you that in the Navy or is that something you've also skilled up at?
Dave: No, I'm very data analytical. As a matter of fact, before they sent me to Korea, I was actually a nuclear engineer for the Navy. I really enjoyed the ability to look at numbers and make decisions based off of that.
A lot of people were telling me that, you know, “Just write a book, you know, just whatever's in your heart.” And I'm like, “That's cool.” There were some great ideas, great things that are in my heart.
But perhaps I could either shape them so that they meet needs or that they really address people that I speak to certain groups, if I know they're there.
When I started to look at ways to understand you're not just Amazon, but also Google, it gave me an opportunity to not only write what people needed, but to get in front of them and that was a game changer for me.
Joanna: I really liked that and I think this is so important. I've had Chris Fox on the show and a lot of people go, ”Oh, write to market,” but actually what you're talking about as well as writing something that you're interested in, but also as you say, it meets needs.
Sometimes it needs just a little tweak with the words that you're using to describe exactly the same book, but you're just tweaking the words, right?
Dave: And not only that, sometimes it just creates a much better book. A great example of this was an author I was working with who was creating a book on how to sell art, and the focus on it was all about selling art. But they were approaching it from a traditional perspective of selling art on the street, selling art in the art galleries.
However, then when we did our research, we found out that more people were typing in how to sell art online than people who are typing in how to sell art.
And this author had nothing about the online aspect of art selling. Now imagine the disappointment of shoppers who would go to Amazon, type in how to sell art, even though they're really wanting the online aspect, buy the book, pick it up, start reading it, and realized she never covered the online aspect.
I'm sure she would not only have disappointed the readers, she probably would have gotten some bad reviews, people pointing out that she was too traditional. And again, it would have just ruined the entire experience.
So armed with that information, she was able to add more to the book and create something that really delivered.
But also a little trick too is that we knew that people wanted specific understanding about platforms. So what we did was we created the content and upgrade of find out the five best online platform for selling your art, and that was the email signup. It really changed the course or direction of the book, not just getting it in front of more people, but making the people happier in the same process.
Joanna: Goodness. I prepared all these questions and now I've got a whole load more questions. I'm going to follow that path because I think what you're talking about is really useful and we're going to come into more detail around keywords and stuff.
You mentioned about research and understanding a different perspective. And I think this is where a lot of authors really struggle because in their mind, like you say, they're like, “I'm writing a book called How to Sell Art” or, “I have written a dark fantasy thriller,” and that's what they type into.
Let's use KDP Rocket because that's your tool, but also they could type that into Amazon themselves manually. They could type that into Google keyword search tool, so whatever tool they type it into. But I think the issue with so many authors is that they might be typing in the wrong thing to start with.
Do you know what I mean? So let's take it up a level.
How can we change our perspective on research around keywords so that we're not going too detailed right at the start?
Dave: It's going to be a different strategy based on whether or not your nonfiction or fiction because with nonfiction, it's about solving a problem, a pain point.
It's about discovering what it is somebody truly wants, the result they want to gain.
But in fiction, it's about entertainment and its description of the type of story you want. So when it comes to nonfiction, what I like to do is I like to create a couple of lists to help me generate some ideas and some seeds to start with.
The first thing is I like to list the problem. What kind of problem does this solve? And I use the problem words.
Say the book is around quitting smoking. The problem is stop smoking. The problem is a family hates it. I'm trying to think of all the problems that the smoking itself causes.
The next list is the description of the problem. So we talked about what the problem causes.
Then we move into the description of the problem itself, like, how do I describe this. Stop smoking. Quit the habit. All these words that are the action to what the problem is.
And then finally, the last one is the results. The benefits: freedom. I'm really just generating ideas, but it's, I can now hang out with people.
Joanna: Or run a marathon.
Dave: I can run a marathon. I'm healthier. My doctor's happy. I will start creating the benefits.
So we start with the before, during and after in a way.
Now with fiction, on the other hand, we start to move into a couple of categories. Number one is time periods. Remember, we're describing stories and sometimes the time period makes a major change. We could be doing civil war, medieval, modern. Futuristic, apocalyptic, any significant event that it centered around, again, something western.
If I say Caribbean, I'll bet you that already kind of denote some type of story, right? I mean, the Caribbean can be a lot of things, but we're probably all thinking pirates.
There are certain words and time periods that are associated.
The next one is character types. Is it a strong independent woman? Is it a frail flower? Is it a mutant or…and better yet, just going off of that, you can start to break down into a lot more words because mutant has its own connotation, but you could do superhero.
I'm not even as a writer in that area, but you could probably come up with a lot; werewolves. Lichens. There are all these different ways that you can describe certain characters, their character types or character roles. Alpha male.
Then the next one is what I call the sub-genres. So you would say, “I write romance books.” All right, let's dig a little deeper.
What kind of romance book? “I write about finding love again.” Okay. What are some of the words that Amazon has used in categories to be able to break that down further? Second chance romance. Ah, see, that's what it is, right? Love again, that's what people are using. So now we have genre specifics.
And then finally we add another category in the fiction where we're trying to look for any special details in the story itself. We talked about time periods. Now it's locations or significant actions, like a nuclear holocaust, something that is the trigger to the story.
Divorce could be the trigger, infidelity. I'm just trying to shotgun a couple of genres to show, but with those four areas, you can start to piece together really good terms that people use.
One of my favorites was we were able to do research and found that one author's keyword phrase, and I won't use her name because I don't want to give away her thing, but it was Victorian second chance romance with baby.
Now, that sounds ridiculous, like what's the “with baby part,” but you have to remember as shoppers when we're going into Amazon and we're typing in something, we're, like, trying to come up with how do I describe the story I want? And so we'll start and then at the last moment will add something.
I thought this is a perfect example because of Victorian second chance is about the Victorian era. So we now know the time frame. We kind of know the situation.
Second chance romance, which usually means a mother who's husband for some reason, he's either left, died, maybe ran off to the war or something like that and he's gone. And she finds romance again. But at the last moment it's like, “No, I want this to kind of be a bit wholesome, not about some scandalousness, right? I want it to be centered around family. Oh, she has a child. Let me add that in.”
So as you can see, we just broke down the psychology of a shopper in Amazon and we start to figure out how they search for their stories. And so again, it really comes down to giving us knowledge.
In this case, if you were looking at writing a Victorian second chance romance, you've got some opportunity there. There's not that much competition, a lot of sales.
But if you make something that's more around family, you're actually going to find a much easier opportunity to get to the right market and to sell the right book.
Joanna: Wow. Okay. I hope everyone right now has all the action points they need to go away.
I think what you described there for fiction was really useful because I do find nonfiction more obvious. My book titles for nonfiction are super obvious, but I think fiction is so is very challenging. So that's super, super useful.
I did want to ask you so there's been this rumor that's circulated over and over again. It keeps popping up. I saw it years ago and I saw it recently come back on a blog post on The Book Designer about keywords. It used to be called keyword stuffing. Now it's called something else.
But you mentioned there ‘Victorian second chance romance with baby'. That to me is a long-tail keyword, but it still means something in a human way, whereas these articles potentially say, “Look, it doesn't matter. It doesn't need to be human-readable. What you should do is put as many keywords as you possibly can into each of those seven fields on Amazon and somehow the algorithm will work it out.”
Now, of course, none of us really know what's going on with the algorithm.
What are your thoughts on human-readable keyword phrases versus stuffing?
Dave: One of the great things about being the creator of KDP Rocket is we work with Amazon's API, which is kind of like their internal system. I actually get to peek under the hood and see how it kind of does things in a programmatic way.
There is a really cool thing that I discovered looking at this. And first off, I want to say to everybody listening to this, that is a great article. I love that article because what I loved most about the person who wrote it was that he didn't just do a theory.
He tested and he provided great data. I love that. That's my favorite. I thought that was wonderful.
Here's another thing we could add to that article though. What he's saying is that there's 50 characters inside each box that you can put in. So, putting in more words, Amazon will kind of piece together some of the words and then kind of show it.
What we call this is a broad search. For those who are doing Amazon marketing services or now an Amazon advertisement, when you put in your keyword, you can ask Amazon whether it's broad, or whether it's specific.
Broad means is that, hey, Amazon, I have these five words. It's cool if you pluralize any of them. It's cool if you put them in different order. It's cool if you use just some of them. Looking at the way the API works, I believe that it is using the broad aspect, so kind of what he was alluding to.
And so yes, you're right, you will get shown for more by having more words in it. However, this is my strategy for using that information but not going overboard, because like you said, overboard, we call that keyword stuffing. Keyword stuffing is not a cool thing.
What I like to do though is I challenge myself to find a long-tail keyword like you discussed, like we said, Victorian second chance romance with baby. You're just about hitting your 50 characters already. And what's great about this long-tail keyword is that again, using the broad algorithm, I think it's called a boolean algorithm.
I'm getting nerdy there. My bad. Reeling it in.
So he put in this term. Now we're going to say, “Well, what if the person puts second chance with baby? Hey, they had those words in there or baby Victorian second chance that works too.”
That's how the algorithm's going to think. And what I want to challenge our listeners out there is when you're coming up with your keywords, don't go for one word. Don't go for two words. That's not the way to go about it.
Challenge yourself and do your research until you find three, four, five words. And let that be a phrase that you know is a good phrase even by itself. And then let Amazon expand that and grow your sales.
Joanna: Just in case anyone's just starting out, Amazon allows two categories and seven keywords when you publish on that platform. Some people say that the keywords should be the browse categories.
So for example, for me, if I use the key word conspiracy thriller, I know that my book will also appear in the conspiracy thriller category, but that takes up one of my seven keywords.
How do you balance adding those browse category keywords with the long-tail keywords or should we just try and combine them?
Dave: I think that would have been the case pre-November 2017. What happened was that back before that time period, it was very hard to get Amazon to allow you to be in whatever category you wanted.
It was also pretty hard, but kind of inside information, of getting Amazon to add you to more categories than just two. However though, in November they completely changed it. Now, it's ridiculously easy to get the categories you want.
Now before I go into that though, there are some categories that do specifically require a keyword in order to show up for it. Luckily, Amazon lists all of those, so when you're doing your category research, be sure to check that list.
If the category you're targeting is not in that list, then don't waste your keyword just to get into it. Instead, follow a process. And I don't know if you have a video, but I've got a video on it showing me actually doing it and I even got Amazon to call me.
That's an option you can get there. They'll call you on your phone and you can be like, “Sweet. Hey, change me to this, this and this.” And no kidding, like, five seconds later, it's done. It is so cool.
Joanna: You need to send me that link so I can put it in the show notes so that everyone can see that because I didn't want to speak to anyone, but it's still good.
Dave: There is the email option, which takes 24 hours.
Joanna: Yeah, so just do that one.
Dave: I was jazzed because it's rare to get Amazon to call you and actually provide a great result immediately. But this is one of those cases.
So just to recap if you've got some target categories that you want to be in, verify that they don't require a keyword. If they don't, then just use the process and tell Amazon, “Hey Amazon, please add my book to this category,” and it's done. No waste of your keyword, one of your seven keywords, to get it done and it doesn't strengthen or weaken.
Now one of the other things too though, just to add to this, is that you can actually go up to 10 categories. You can add to 10 categories. However, you will only see three categories on your Amazon book sales page.
If you take your ASIN number and you put it into the search, you can look on the left side and then see all the ones you're listed for, but do understand that you'll only see on your sales page three, but you are showing up for the ones who requested, which can be up to 10.
Joanna: It's really annoying that they got rid of that.
Dave: I know.
Joanna: It used to be right at the bottom. You could scroll down and see where an author is. And now you have to go into each one, but what I would say, another tip for KDP Rocket, it does have a category, a feature, doesn't it?
You can analyze people's books and see the categories where things show up. I found that really, really useful.
Dave: I'm not gonna lie. The researching and finding a great category as actually been one of my biggest pains. It's like my least favorite thing to do, that and write my author bio.
But that's the cool thing about being an author who's got his own programming team. A lot of times they're just like, “Oh, we could do something about that.” Cool. Hey guys, guess what we're doing?
And one of the cool things about that is that it will tell you how many books that day you need to sell in order to be number one for the best seller. So you can quickly figure out that, hey, this category requires 143 books to be sold today. This one though only requires eight and it's relevant to your book. I'd recommend the eight one.
But then again you get 10. So why not show up for those for all of them, even the 181?
Joanna: If anyone listening is kind of feeling like, “Oh my goodness, I don't want to do this work,” I totally feel for you.
I think the other thing is it's never actually over. I've got 28 books now and most of them I haven't updated the keywords since I published them.
I started playing with Rocket again and I've been using Rocket on and off when the book comes out. But now I'm like, “Oh, I really need to actually go back,” because keywords and searches change all the time, don't they?
Dave: They do.
Joanna: it's not a static thing.
Should authors be concerned about updating things or moving categories? Do they cancel things out in any way?
Dave: It doesn't happen all the time, but this happens, I would say not a majority, but a large percentage of the time. Just by refreshing their keywords, authors almost breathe a little bit new life into the book.
One of the things you can do is if you've got a dead book, it hasn't had sales in a while, you could really breathe some life back into it just by changing the keywords.
My analysis of what this is, is that Amazon sees you interacting with your book again. And it's going to give you a benefit of the doubt and bump you up there.
Now they'll get you to show up in front of shoppers when you do this. But again, if the book cover is just terrible, or the book description just is not gonna happen, you might have risen in the ranks, but that does not mean that equates to more sales.
Where I'm seeing authors really benefit from it is where they're going in and doing a systematic approach and changing up a keyword and then finding the right combination of them.
Jason Paul is a phenomenal sci-fi writer. He's done an incredible job. But what he'll do is he'll do his research, he'll find his seven keyword phrases, and then he'll give it about a week or two. Then he'll come back and he'll change just two of them. Not all of them, just two. And he'll use some two new ones and he'll monitor.
And what he'll see is maybe the sales go up or the sales go down or nothing happens. If the sales go down, then he immediately puts the old ones back and then changes to other ones.
If the sales go up, then great. He just found a better combination for his book, and then he'll go to the next two and he'll systematically change them and see what happens until he finally has what is the most optimized combination.
Now, why is this a great thing? Well, number one, one thing with keywords is that just because you find this great keyword phrase that people are typing into Amazon and they're buying books, that does not mean that's a perfect one for you.
If we go back to a Victorian second chance romance with baby, if your cover doesn't show anything Victorian style…
Joanna: Or a baby.
Dave: Or a baby or a mother, you might jump up in the rankings. You may be right there in front of that market, but nothing is going to convince the person who is typed in the phrase that your book is the one.
But whereas on the other side, if your book has that cover where it's the lady who looks like she's being shunned by highbrow Victorian society and she's holding a child close, but there's one guy looking at her with interest, we just combined the phrase to the cover.
And hopefully, you've got a book description that furthers all the pain points and the cool plot twists and things that people are looking for in that style book. And guess what? Now you're gonna find a great benefit.
So again, this is kind of experimenting with keywords to find that right combination that brings the right market to see your book and then convert on it. So just take that systematic approach.
Change them up a bit, monitor, but don't go all nuclear. I've seen people where they had some great keywords. They didn't realize that they were bringing them the traffic. They went in and changed them all. And all of a sudden their sales dropped. Make sure you know which one that is before you go apocalyptic on them.
Joanna: I have so many questions. And it's so funny because I've been doing this for years as well, but I think things are changing quite a lot at the moment.
One of my questions is around what we've seen in the last couple of weeks and it's still not moved over completely, but CreateSpace moving to KDP Print, which means now on kdp.amazon.com, we've got print books as well as e-books.
Now, we've always had the ability to put keywords into CreateSpace or IngramSpark, but it's not been the same as Amazon keywords.
So with Rocket I guess, but also just in general with research, are the differences between keywords that you might find for a print book versus for an e-book and then I guess even for an audio book. When I go shopping for audio books, I actually shop on Amazon because the audible search is so terrible.
What are your thoughts on format and keywords?
Dave: There are definitely certain styles of book that require a certain format. For example, if you're writing a study guide, you're going to have a hard time beating out others if all you have is an e-book.
The market isn't thinking to themselves, “I need to explain that I'm looking for a physical book,” in this case. They're just expecting it. So we're going to have times where just because of the content that the market's not going to write anything different.
The same thing with a coloring book. You're not going to get away with an e-book on an adult coloring book. I don't think so, whereas we start to get to a point where the market will describe what they're looking for is in this case, things like free book, but those are things that we can't put as one of our keywords. So just something to consider with that.
You're absolutely right. Audible search function sucks. And I'll explain why that is in a second, but I'll go to Audible when I know that there's a book I want. And I'm not gonna lie, I'm actually not a reader. I'm a listener. I crush out, like, four or five articles a month and I love it. I just have ADHD to the point that I can't sit with a book.
Joanna: And you're still a reader. No guilt. It's absolutely fine. It goes in your brain. It's all good.
Dave: I have had so many wine nights with some friends of mine that will argue about that. It's like, “Can you say you read?” And I'm like, “Yes. I read.”
I'll go to Audible when I know that there's a specific book that I want, type it in, find it, click it and go. But I'm not going to lie. I will still go to Amazon when I'm looking for my next sci-fi fix. And I'll type in whatever it is, which for me, I'm a sci-fi, military, space, Marines, alien hoard guy.
Joanna: That's really good long-tail key word.
Dave: It actually is. Any of the sci-fi guys out there, go for that one. It's good. And then let me know and I'll read it. So, you know, I'll type that in.
I'm not buying the book if it doesn't have Audible. I will click and look because I'm always trying to see. And sometimes I have bought a book because it looked too cool. And the author doesn't have an audible yet. But most of the time I'll just select it.
I think that overall, a majority of people don't think specifically to search for a type of book. If they do, they're just selecting in the Amazon search. They'll go either Kindle or book and go that route.
But otherwise though, from a research perspective, we're not seeing any differentiators in the words that people type because people just quickly go up to the top of Amazon, type in a phrase, and click search. And then maybe they'll start to augment and change things as they go until they finally find the product they're looking for.
But to step back on the why Audible's search sucks and why Amazon is really good is because Amazon uses a company called A9 to actually do their search algorithm and it's phenomenal. They're great. They do a good job.
They do not use it for Audible or at least at the time of this recording, they do not. Instead, they're using a different algo to be able to pull that information.
Amazon owns CreateSpace and they own Audible. This is like left hand, right hand. They don't talk to each other. Anybody who has published on CreateSpace and then talked to them, which they have much better customer support than Amazon, it's funny. They'll say things, it's like, “Oh yeah, you can do that.”
And then you'll go to Amazon. They're like, “No, no, we don't do that.” It's like, “What?” But that's CreateSpace. So we find that there's a lot of major differences between the different areas.
Joanna: These are companies that they bought and therefore the whole back-end system is completely different.
What I would say on the print thing is I have found that large-print people are searching for large print specifically.
I seem to have started my own large-print resurgence because there are specific keywords and people are looking for large print books. Plus if people are wide and they published through IngramSpark, a lot of libraries will buy large print. So there's a little tip for people with print.
Dave: I might have to do some research today on that because that's a really good point.
Joanna: I've started to do large-print editions because of the keywords that are available for large print. I probably just shot myself in the foot by announcing that, but I have talked about it before on the show.
Dave: That's a really good point and I bet you too that that's tied with certain demographics. I would say, look, if you're writing a book for millennials, that's probably not a big deal.
Joanna: It's interesting. It's obviously for the visually impaired but, also like you say about dyslexia, a lot of dyslexics find it easier to read it with larger font, but there's also specific fonts you can use.
But the larger print, it's a really interesting demographic. I have had a lot of emails from people on the show who were really happy with more large-print books. So I'm now in a bit of a crusade to get everyone doing a large-print edition.
But let me ask my other question. We've talked about the keywords that we're going to use on Amazon in the keyword field. And obviously that field is also there for Draft2Digital and all the other sites. Well, not all of them, but most of them have keyword fields.
But what about our Amazon advertising keywords? So people are doing their research. They've come up with their seven.
Do they then use those same keywords on Amazon advertising? They just change the name, right? That's why you we're stumbling over it.
Dave: Right, I know.
Joanna: But did they use those same keywords or do they then use those as, like, a seed for a whole load of new ones? And of course, again, a little nudge on Rocket does help you with less of keywords. I know that people are like, “Okay, well I've got my seven. So that's my Amazon ads.”
Dave: I think you brought up a great point. I love to use these seed words.
So I have my seven and I will start to really investigate and pull from there because what people who are probably either learning or already know on Amazon, AMS. I'll just call it AMS for ease just because it's a habit, is that if you're only doing seven, eight, nine keywords, you're not going to get any traction on AMS.
Typically, you're looking at hundreds, if not thousands, and so how do you generate that? That's a very important part is understanding what your seed keywords are, using those to grow at a very large, but pertinent list, and then uploading those.
Now, one of the really cool things about AMS that I absolutely love is that for the first time, we get to see numbers. I am such a die-hard number guy. I love it because I can now look at my AMS dashboard and I can see that Amazon showed my book like 150,000 times.
And out of those 150,000 different shoppers, there was, like, 400 clicks. That means that out of 150,000 times that somebody passed by my book, 400 people saw the cover and it intrigued them.
They saw the title, they saw the reviews, and they saw the blurb and it was enough to get them to click to look a little bit more in.
Now, what's really neat about this is that you can then break it down to another phase. Out of the 400 clicks, 80 of them bought it. That means that I had 400 people, okay, or in this case, 320 came to the page, didn't like what I presented or weren't interested enough, and they left.
Now what's really cool about this is we can break that down and say, “All right. Well, what if our number out of 150,000 was 4 clicks? What if out of 100 clicks only one person bought?” If we break this down, we can look and find where the problem lies with our book.
I just absolutely love this because you can say that, “Hey, my friends and family loved this book cover,” but the numbers can show that 150,000 people saw your book and only one person even noticed it enough to give it some attention and click on it. And then on top of that too, is that they got to your sales page, your book page, they read your book description and 99 of them totally were not interested and left.
I've used this type of number analysis to really improve a lot of books. A while ago, I was a consultant to Galaxy Press and was brought in to look at their numbers. The first thing I did was I said, “All right, show me your AMS ads. I want to see where these books are succeeding and where they're failing.”
On one particular book, they had just changed the cover and it was awesome. And they'd had some really good clicks, but the sales were just horrible. I mean, they were just like, it was like, “You gotta be kidding me.” And we're talking, like, thousands of clicks and only less than 100 actual purchases.
So what we did was I actually went through and I rewrote their book description. And at first the publishing company was like, “No, no, no. We like our books description.”
And I was like, “This is terrible book description, the reason being is that you're giving me a book report. This is not intriguing. It's too much information. You're telling me the entire story. You're bringing up characters that I should not care about at this point.” And so I wrote this other one.
And I use pickfu.com, which is an online service where you can pay them money and they will show it in front of people. And those people can vote which one they like better, but what's more important is they put the comments in there.
Using this, it was able to quickly show that my new book description was way better in front of people than others. It was something, like, 70% chose mine, 30% chose theirs. And I made a mistake because in the title I said, “Which one's the better book description,” but reading the comments of the people that liked the other one, they had said, “Oh, I've read this book. This one explained more.” So it's like, “Oh my bad.”
When they implemented the new book description, they tripled their conversion rate on the book. They had the same number of clicks, but they had three times more people actually buying.
It goes to show that for once we can take our book, put it through AMS, and actually see what is working. We can see what keywords are actually converting more buyers. We can see where the problem lies with our book.
Is it the book cover that stinks? Is it the book description that stinks? And what's even more important about all of this is that after you've solved the problem, okay, whether it's a better cover or a better description, all of your other marketing efforts are going to have much better fruit.
You're going to get more from them because you solved where the customers were not buying your book. You fixed it. And whether you're doing any of the promotions that you're doing, you're going to see better things come from it.
Joanna: I know some people will be still feeling like, “This is way too much work,” but I do think that part of being an Indie author, this is part of the job. I just finished my latest novel and I'm in that kind of, it's the finishing stage.
I know the book's done, and I have identified some initial keywords so I can get the pre-order out. But now I know that the piece of work I need to do is really going into this in more detail. And so it's part of that finishing energy. I totally get why traditional publishers don't do this stuff.
I'm managing 28 books now of my own. If you imagine them, managing hundreds of thousands of books, this type of stuff is too much. It's much better to know your own book until you come up with these things.
We talked about at the top of the interview, I just can't imagine how traditional publishers can manage this. So as Indies, we have to be like, “Okay, this is a bit of work,” but once we do the work we can leave it.
How long can we set and forget? I know I've left it too long, but six months to a year before you need to update.
Dave: Well, with AMS it depends on how much you want to get from AMS. I tell people who are, like, really focusing on that, that you're probably updating your campaigns at least twice a week because…
Joanna: I guess I meant on Amazon, on the Amazon keywords.
Dave: Got It. I would say what I'd like to do is I would like to do that optimization sequence that we talked about, find that right pairing.
Give it a month or two right after it's published to tweak it and find where it's going. And then after that, if you start to see where the sales dropped, of there was actually a significant drop, that's when I would trigger to go back in and tweak them.
As well as, if you're not doing AMS ads, give it a little push. Give it a punch there with some AMS sales so that Amazon's like, “Oh, okay, hey, look at that. There's more sales, more life.”
I have found that AMS has a great benefit because what you continue to show Amazon using AMS ads is that even after, like, three months after you published, your book is still making sales. The A9 algorithm: it's almost like it doesn't know that you're doing AMS, in a way, but it's like, “Hey, this book keeps making sales. Let's keep showing it.”
So you have a lot of benefits to doing that. I would say if you start to see a drop, change up your keywords. Tweak it and see what's happening.
Joanna: Do a few ads.
Dave: That's right. Give it a few ads. Pump it back with a bit of life. Get yourself up to that spot.
Joanna: We're actually almost out of time, but do you have a bit more time because I still have some more questions?
Dave: Most definitely.
Joanna: These questions are entirely selfish.
So on KDPRocket, you have Google keywords and you have Amazon keywords. And you are also with Kindlepreneur, a nonfiction business based on content marketing, so offering podcasts, blog posts around keywords that people are searching for on Google generally, things about self-publishing and this type of thing.
But fiction is an entirely different kettle of fish as we've talked about with keywords, but also for content marketing.
I feel like because I've built a business on almost 10 years' worth of content for nonfiction, I want to do it for fiction. And so far I've not done a great job of content marketing for fiction.
My question with Google keywords versus Amazon keywords is this: we have our list of keywords for our book. We can obviously go and test that on Google, but should we assume that those are the same keywords that people use on Google?
Or are there completely different types of keywords for Google versus Amazon?
Dave: They're pretty much two different psychologies. Typically, we may start our what I call the buyer venture or the buyer journey on Google.
Maybe you have lower back pain and you're like, “Oh man, you know, I need to figure out what's going on here.” And then finally you're like, “You know what? I'm going to go to Amazon and get a book on this because I don't have time to go through all these. Somebody lay it out for me, please.” That's more than nonfiction side.
From fiction, on the other hand, content, it's completely different. A lot of people will go to Amazon with the intention of, “I want my book.” However though, in Google, typically people will search on Google looking for things of interest.
Some of the best content that you can definitely come up with if you're a fiction writer as a website is start listing your sub-genre's best books – the Top 10. And again, not sci-fi books. That's going to be impossible to rank for, but maybe it's cyberpunk, top 10 cyberpunk books, top 10 alternate history books, okay, whatever you're writing in or in this case, maybe Victorian second chance with baby.
Again, we're almost using those keywords. But in this case, if you think about it, I may just be browsing and trying to find what's the next best Victorian second chance romance or just second chance romance book out there?
I'm going to go to Google to learn that. And then I'm going to turn around and either click a link to go to Amazon to purchase a book from there or I'm going to go to Amazon and type in that book title and look.
That's one. A best book list.
Another one is character types. If you're in science fiction, I saw an author who wrote an article that was, like, the best 25 sci-fi weapons. And they listed off some of the most iconic weapons from the Marines assault rifle in “Aliens” to the mad, the big gun in a, “The Fifth Element.”
It was really cool and as a sci-fi nerd I was enjoying seeing this nostalgia. That again is something I would turn to Google and not Amazon.
But what's really neat about those two types of content, lists of say top 10 vampires or list of whatever, is that you're bringing in your kind of reader. We're not just writing articles to bring in people.
Those articles are bringing in the right people, the people who are going to Google because they love vampire books so much they want to look at a list of the top 10 vampires in literature. They want to look at the best books in a sub-genre.
I would much rather have say just 200 of those people than 10,000 of just book readers, because now I know that the 200 people coming here, they're so interested in my kind of book that they're on own time looking and researching and nerding out, and booking out, we'll say, and trying to find their next thing.
I wouldn't put yourself as the top 10 best sci-fi book of all time. You might mention yourself in a much smaller niche. That that's your decision. But I would definitely at the end of it say, “I'm a huge lover of cyberpunk. Having read all of these books, I wrote my book which mimics these. If you think that my list is great and I've got an understanding of this genre, I highly recommend you check out my book. Let me know what you think in the comments.”
That's a great transition from the board search or looking for something to potentially finding your book, getting it on the radar, and making more sales just from your content.
Joanna: Going back to exactly what you said at the beginning, that time period, character type, sub-genres, details, location.
For example, just before we came on, I went to KDPRocket and had a look at “Ark of the Covenant”. So one of my books, “Ark of Blood,” is about the Ark of the Covenant and actually there's a lot of books on the Ark of the Covenant. It's a common MacGuffin in the thriller niche.
But then what was great was that a number of Google searches came up. Say, for example, where is the Ark of the Covenant? Actually that would be make quite a good article on a website.
I think it's good to think, “The Ark of the Covenant might be a keyword, but, ‘Where is the Ark of the Covenant' is actually one of those longer-tail keywords.
Dave: Exactly. In this case what you've shown here is that if somebody is taking time out of their day to go to Google and type in this, they're really interested in this type of item. They're probably wanting to be entertained by it.
Which means that if your fiction is about that thing, there's a really strong possibility that you're going to make a good connection with a good type of reader who will enjoy your book.
And so, not only do we do lists, but also look for general interests. Again, I'm a sci-fi guy. So it's hard not to say sci-fi here, but one of the things that I've also loved too is assisting in showing hard science.
If somebody is looking at …this is gonna be super dorky, but in the sci-fi realm, it's important to really provide good, strong science. “In a vacuum would such and such happen?” But to be able to write in your book when you're doing research and put in, “When this happened, there was no scream in space.” I mean, that's important. You're starting to get other authors coming to your content as well.
Writing about the subject or how do you write about this particular niche-centric thing will bring in. And not only that, that might increase your sales, but one of the things I love is networking with other authors.
If you're bringing other authors in your genre to your blog, that gives you an opportunity to be able to communicate with them, potentially coordinate with them and collaborate as you move forward. Not just in book writing but in book marketing and sales and others' email lists.
Writing for other authors, as well as the readers, can be a great benefit to growing not only your email list, but also your sales.
Joanna: Final question because I could ask you questions forever.
One of the things people are very concerned about is the amount of spam bots and books arriving on Amazon, that people who are very technically minded are managing to get into all these categories. For example, there are a lot of romance books in sub-categories that are not romance these days.
There are a lot of issues, let's say, with the way that the algorithm is serving the reader as a customer. And in fact I was telling someone for the first time ever in the history of my relationship with Amazon, I've actually gone to iBooks to have a look at what they are curating and then gone back to Amazon to buy, which is shocking. And mainly that's because of how much is being served through the ads.
So what I wondered is, because of your knowledge of SEO and the history of SEO on Google, what we saw maybe, what, three or four, maybe five years ago, I can't remember, when Panda and Penguin updates went through and completely decimated the not very good content stuff that was there:
Do you think that some kind of update is going to clean up Amazon? Because I just can't see it being sustainable in the way it is going forward.
Dave: Google is funny. They're always tweaking the algorithm. They're always making changes. As a matter of fact, they even just came out with a new one called Medic or that's been coined by the SEO or is called Medic. And I loved their company for what they're doing because that is their one thing, right?
They do a lot now, but that is their true baby, right? Amazon's true baby is the Amazon Store and AWS, right? A9 is a company that they bought out ultimately that they then use to kind of do the algorithm and list out the books or the products.
And like we talked about earlier is the left hand doesn't talk to the right hand. From what I've seen, and again, this is my thoughts, so no hard data on this one, but what I have seen is that over the past five, six, seven, eight years or so, Amazon really hasn't made many changes when it came to its algorithm.
They may change what they display. Like, we were talking about category strings and how you've got to use ASI number to actually see what you rang for now. But there's really been zero dramatic shifts. There's been zero A9 changes.
We have seen them go a little militant on reviews, to the point that they're hurting legitimate reviews and legitimate authors. But I've definitely seen some illegitimacy get automatically taken out. I think that they're on a crusade on that one.
We did see court cases come up because Amazon was actively suing people for doing it. We've also seen Amazon actively sue people or shut down their accounts when they were doing some stuffing and hurting the KU people out there. They are acting on that.
But when it comes to that A9, I haven't seen a thing. And just to reiterate, the left hand doesn't talk to the right hand.
From a search result perspective, I don't think that that's going to change. I think the number one way that Amazon's A9 algorithm works sort of makes it that it's still okay. It's almost to get away from the trap.
One thing, one hack, shall we say, that one can always do to make themselves rank number one, is that if you have somebody who is going to buy your book, instead of sending them a link, just tell them, “Hey, type in Victorian second chance romance with baby and then find my book, Click and buy it.”
If you have enough people do this, it will make it immediately jump up to number one and you'll sit at the top.
Now, there might be people who are going to scream foul for me saying this, but here's the beautiful thing about the algorithm is that after you're done manipulating shall we say, okay, not in a negative way, but you're done giving your book and opportunity to show up at the top, if your book does not deserve to be there, Amazon's A9 algorithm will find out real quick because when people naturally type in the phrase “Victorian second chance romance with baby” and they don't select yours, but they select the one under it, you will drop down in the rankings.
The telltale factor for A9 is what makes Amazon more money. What is actually getting clicked on? And they have other factors to figure out whether or not it's a good long-term thing.
For example, if the reviews come in and just constantly a one star, it will drop. Even though it was getting the clicks, it will finally drop down and it will start to kind of die off because Amazon seeing the later effects.
So I just gave this explanation to let us know that from what shows in the results, that one I don't see changing because the true nature is what makes Amazon more money. And why is Amazon going to stop the money problem?
But with regards to categories, that's something different. That's not the A9 algorithm. That's their category selection. I've seen Amazon start to take more action in removing people from categories.
I also think that the process that we talked about asking Amazon, you're giving Amazon a human interaction. There's somebody who's actually checking your request. If you wrote a book on alien invasion, don't go selecting a quantum physics.
Joanna: Textbook or something, yeah.
Dave: Textbook category because that ain't going to fly. I think that that might've been one of the reasons why they did what they did.
Joanna: Good point. We're definitely out of time now.
Tell everyone what KDP Rocket is, if they haven't heard of it and you, I know you've got some changes coming up. So tell us a bit more about Rocket.
Dave: One of the things that always helped me was doing the research that we just talked about, finding out what words people type into Amazon, how many people are actually typing it in, and also what kind of complicate competition am I going to face in order to get my book to show up in front of that market.
And beforehand I used to use these crazy Excel sheets, super number craziness to be able to figure it out.
Well, I got a programming team together. We created a software that does all that for you. With the click of a button, it lays out exactly what words people are typing in. It gives you a number to understand how many people actually type it in and also what the competition level is.
But the cool thing, like I said before, about being a author that has a programming team is we just kept adding to the program.
We have a competition analyzer that gives you details about who you're facing and what they're doing. We have the category feature that totally saves time in trying to find the right categories, especially now that you have 10 you can go for. Let's make that process a little more effective and efficient.
And then finally too with AMS, we talked about with doing AMS ads. We're looking at hundreds and if not thousands of keywords to do it effectively. Let's use a program to find an effective and efficient manner of gathering those keywords so that authors don't spend so much time copying and pasting and clicking and going here and there and let them get back to their book.
And, of course, we have a version 2.0 coming out. Anybody who owns KDP Rocket, you always get our updates and upgrades for free. That's one thing I hate most about softwares when they do that to me. But we're making it cleaner, faster, better.
We also have new features coming out to include international markets and also making it so that AMS ads, you can really tell Rocket what you want it to do and it will pull. So that filter actually should be coming out next week. A lot of really cool stuff. It's just fun being an author who has got a programming team.
Joanna: It's fun for the rest of us to watch you having fun and then use the tool. And I'm glad you're doing the international markets because, of course, the AMS UK, a lot of us are using that and the stores are very different. And the categories are different.
Everything's different, which is a right pain you have to publish once on multiple platforms. But as Amazon says, this is only day one, right? There's going to be a lot more developments.
Where can people find you and everything you do online?
Dave: You can find me at kindlepreneur.com. And to this day, if anybody has any questions whatsoever, if you go to my contact page, hit me up. I will reply. I still do that.
If we covered something that you had a question about or it was a little too fast or you want to dig deep on something, let me know.
Joanna: Oh, thanks so much and I will link to all your tutorials and Rocket and everything. And thank you so much, Dave. That was so useful to me personally and I know to everyone listening. So thanks again for your time.
Dave: No problem. And again, thank you so much for having me.