Many people talk about the top 100 Bestseller list on Amazon’s Kindle store like it’s the epitome of success for self-publishers. It’s not.
Category ranking isn’t a good indicator of your book’s success compared to keyword ranking, because I can easily rank within the top 100 for an unpopular category and still not make much money. On the other hand, I can be nowhere near the top 100 of any category within the Kindle store and still make a few hundred every month from a book that successfully ranks for a good keyword.
The problem is, ranking for a keyword is a lot harder said then done, when you don’t know what you’re doing.
So here are a few Kindle publishing mistakes I see many inexperienced self-publishers do that prevent their books from ranking high.
You’re not using your 7 keywords effectively
When you upload your book to KDP (Kindle Publishing Direct), Amazon allows you to add seven kindle keywords. These seven Kindle keywords don’t appear to anyone on the Kindle store, but they have a big impact on how well your book will rank for your desired keyword.
Many publishers get lazy and half-ass this step, which doesn’t make sense to me. You already worked so hard producing the book and finding the right keyword to target, why suddenly half-ass the final step of the process!?
These seven keywords can’t include the actual keyword you are targeting. Kindle publishing guidelines require you to not include any terms within the 7 kindle keywords to appear within your book’s title. (though some publishers ignore this, thinking having the keyword appear in the list will help. It doesn’t, it actually means your book has one less keyword associated to it)
The best way to use your seven Kindle keywords
These seven kindle keywords work best when you do competition analysis. As mentioned from above, the seven kindle keywords a self-publisher uses aren’t visible to anyone but yourself and Amazon, so it’s a big tricky, but not impossible.
Your goal is to find the other keywords your direct competitors are appearing for as well.
For example, if I was to target the keyword “Bass fishing” (For this example purposes only, I don’t know if it’s a good one or not), I would make a note on who is currently ranking well for this keyword and try to find the same books using different keywords.
Once you find these other keywords you then proceed to analyse how good they are. You don’t consider the profitability of the keyword, instead you consider the traffic size the keywords are able to pull in for you. A good indicator is how many total search results the keyword gets and the BSR number of the first few results. This is enough to let you know if this is a popular search term.
Remember: popular keywords just means there’s a lot of traffic, but it doesn’t mean you can make money from it because of the competitiveness
You’re choosing irrelevant categories
Many self-publishers aim to get their book within the top 100 best seller list for a Kindle category. And the well known advice many have received from ill-informed articles or videos, was to choose the least popular categories. Even if they’re irrelevant to your book’s topic.
Suddenly you got kid’s books appearing in Greek history or a recipe book appearing under law.
Why do self-publishers do this? I have no idea. Well, okay I do. The train of thought is that getting the top 100 best seller badge would encourage prospective customers to buy your book over your competitors. It seems to make sense, because if gives your book credibility.
The only problem with this is, you must rank your book near the top of your target keyword for that best seller badge to have any useful effect.
No one is going to purposely buy your book with the best seller badge if you’re at the bottom of the page. But the badge may be able to sway some extra sales if you’re in the 5th, 4th or 3rd position on page 1.
If you know how to launch your book on the Kindle store properly you will generate sales regardless of the badge and if you use relevant categories to list your book, those sales give you the opportunity to list on the top 100 best seller list within the RIGHT category. Meaning people who actually browse the best seller lists are more likely to buy your book because it’s relevant.
You’re using all 5 free promo days
Self publishing on Amazon Kindle direct publishing platform doesn’t just allow you to sell your books, but also lend them out under their KDP select program. By joining the program, you can make your books free for up to 5 days.
Many self-publishers who take the time to learn how to market their books and rank well will join the program. This way, they can promote their book for free to encourage “sales”. The mistake here is using all 5 days Amazon provides.
Without mentioning too much (because it’ll be unfair to my students who have paid for my course) The Amazon kindle store algorithm no longer favours free books and cheap books. Your book doesn’t actually rank while it is free. If you were to search for your book while it’s free, you won’t be able to find it.
Everyday after publishing is precious time to rank on the kindle store search engine. Don’t use all 5 days, instead use 3.
Your book isn’t optimised for your keyword
Your book needs to be optimised for your target keyword to rank effectively. This means placing the keyword in the right locations.
Many people know to put the keyword in the title of the book, but the best practice is to have your book title to be nothing but the keyword. Your subtitle can be the vague abstract title you wish, but the title should always be the exact target keyword you want to rank for and nothing else.
In addition to the title, your keyword should appear within your book description at the top and somewhere in the middle as well. Of course the way you place the keyword should be natural and make sense.
Other things to check for is your book cover design to include the keyword for a quick visual cue.
You will find it hard to rank without proper placement of your target keyword within the product.
You didn’t respond to your sales numbers
As mentioned above, Amazon has a very obvious bias towards higher priced books now. But this doesn’t mean you can blindly start charging $5 for your book if no one is willing to buy your book for $5. Especially a book that hasn’t ranked yet.
Instead you have to actually do a bit of work in this very passive income stream model. You need to pay attention.
Within your KDP account, Amazon provides dashboards that show you how many copies each book has sold on a day to day basis. You need to pay attention during the first 1-2 months of launching a new book and adjust the price points accordingly.
More importantly, when to increase your prices to stay favourable to Amazon’s algorithm and continue to rank highly for your keyword. Books that are consistently selling 3+ copies a day should have a final price point higher than $2.99. (Keep raising the price until your sales are the most optimised point for profit:search result ranking)
Quick tip: never decrease your price. Price changes can only go up, never down.