If you have a book for sale on one of the big bookseller websites (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords), you know that getting it up there is only half the battle. Once your book is ready for purchase, how do you get people to buy it? Even if it’s the greatest masterpiece since Shakespeare, no one’s going to buy a book they never end up seeing, and that’s where book tagging can help.
There are many different marketing approaches an author can take to increase his book’s visibility, but Amazon book tagging is one that is free and easy. When shoppers search on Amazon for a particular word or phrase, such as “European travel” or “urban fantasy”, Amazon has hundreds or even thousands of books to serve up in response and has to determine how to order them. The frequency of related tags on a book is one of the variables in their secret recipe for ordering the list, and more importantly, it’s one of very few you can control!
You’re probably familiar with the term “tagging” as it is applied to images on social media sites like Facebook, or articles on websites like this one, or links on bookmarking sites like Digg. Tagging is the process of labeling something in order to increase the odds of people finding it. For example, this article is tagged with the words Amazon, tagging, tags, ebooks, books, book sales, and book marketing. I chose those words, because even if those exact terms aren’t used in the article, I know that people looking for this information will use some combination of those words to search for it.
So how do you get your work tagged on Amazon? The first step is to create some tags for it yourself. In order to tag an item on Amazon and have other shoppers able to see your tags, you need to have an account on Amazon on which you have purchased at least one item. Until you’ve purchased something, your tags display only to you and don’t increase your book’s popularity. Each person can tag an item on Amazon with a maximum of 15 tags, so start out by choosing 10-15 useful search tags for your book. For example, I tagged Little Miss Straight Lace
with tags I felt would be used by people searching for this type of novel, like “romantic suspense”, “medical mystery”, “multicultural romance”, and “abortion drug”. Other readers later tagged the book with words they felt were appropriate, such as “North Carolina”, “beach read”, and “Judith Krantz”. (Judith Krantz wrote epic tales of strong heroines back in the eighties and nineties; I assume that tagger thought my book was similar to hers.)
I do not
recommend choosing tags which are popular search terms but aren’t relevant to your book, such as “Stephen King” or “Twilight”. If readers are looking for these products and find yours instead, they won’t be delighted; they’ll be annoyed at being misled, and may take the time to vote down the irrelevant tag or even add a negative tag to your book, like “so-o-o not Stephen King”. Remember, any Amazon customer can tag your book with whatever they like, and negative tagging (“maltagging”) is an unfortunate side-effect of this freedom.
To add tags, look for the tag section of your book’s product page. If the book already has some tags, the section is labeled “Tags Customers Associate with This Product”. If it has none, the section is called “Tag this product”. Once there, just type your tags into the little box provided and click “add” (see red rectangle below). Hitting the T key twice quickly or using the “edit” link allows you to add or subtract a bunch of tags all at once in a pop-up window.
Once you have some tags on your book, they are listed out with little checkboxes next to them and with a tag count in parentheses after them, as in the image. The checkmark indicates that you tagged the book that way (green rectangle); if the box is not checked, the tag is someone else’s, and you have not
tagged it that way (purple rectangle). The count in parentheses is the number of people who have used that particular tag on your book. In this image, 171 people (including me) have tagged Little Miss Straight Lace
with “romantic suspense”.
The main book page will only show the 10 most common tags, but clicking the “See all tags” link will take you to another page that shows all your tags, in this case, 26. The “Agree with these tags?” link can be a bit confusing. It is not, as many think, a way of tagging the product. It is only a way of voting on existing tags. When you click that link, it displays arrows after each tag that allow you to disagree with or “vote down” a tag. This is useful in situations where you think a book has been mistagged or maltagged, as in my “so-o-o not Stephen King” example.
So now that you know all about Amazon tagging, will it help you sell books? Frankly, having tagged your book yourself isn’t much help. What you need is to have lots of people tagging your book. Once your book has a particular phrase tagged 50 or 100 or 200 times, it will start moving up in the results list for that phrase. For example, a search of books on Amazon for “mystery romance” (my second most common tag), brings up a list of almost 10,000 books, but Little Miss Straight Lace
is on the first page of that list (currently #12), in part because of the high tag count for that search term. While tag counts are only one element to the ordering of the results, they are clearly an important one, so be sure to read the follow-up article, Join an Amazon Tagging Thread
, to learn how to use forum tagging threads to get your masterpiece tagged and found.