Google Keywords and Insights – Valuable Tools For Indie Writers!

Every once in a while, I have to admit I’ll buy those certain self-help books. You probably know the kind I’m talking about. They’re the kind of books geared specifically toward people who have the dream of writing, of being a best-selling Kindle author like Amanda Hocking, H.P. Mallory, J.A. Konrath, etc., and every single one of those books purport to tell you how to get there, how to rise to the top, and how to successfully market your book.

Of course, there is no blueprint path to success. Well okay, there is a blueprint, but it’s largely dependent on how you build the house and use the materials that counts.

That’s not to say that none of those “how to be successful!” books contain important advice, because many of them do. I have one on my Kindle written by H.P. Mallory herself, entitled Quit Your Day Job: A Guide for the Self-Published Author, in which she explains all the various starting points we all are pretty much aware of. You must have a Facebook, a Twitter, a personal blog, professional-looking books and covers, and perhaps the hardest rule to master: use tag words appropriately.

Now that sounds pretty simple and straightforward, right? Not necessarily.

I know this for a fact, because I’ve changed my keywords many times with varying results until I started to finally get steady sales. Now I am by no means an expert on this, nor have I sold loads of books myself. What I have learned, however, is that keywords themselves are crucial, as are the keywords you can assign to your book on the Amazon product page for people to agree with. If more people start agreeing on the tags, your book has greater chances of getting noticed. The catch is, you only have so many ways to really get this right. The better side? You have an infinite number of chances to do so.

First, let’s look at Amazon KDP. You are able to choose up to 7 keywords to help direct people to your book. On the product page, you can use up to 15 under the “Tags Customers Associate with This Product” section. Of course the question we all have to ask ourselves is, “How should I tag my book?”. It sounds like a simple question, right? Not always. Here’s an example:

My book Blue Car Racer is currently tagged with the following: teen, gay, domestic violence, abuse, high school, adolescence, young adult. These are all simple terms of course, and my trial/error method of getting to them wasn’t easy.

Now here’s the tricky part. Should I be tagging it “domestic abuse” or “domestic violence”? They almost mean the same thing. “Gay” or “homosexual”? Should I even be tagging it as “gay”, being that it’s more of a minor theme in the book? Should I use broad search terms or more targeted ones?

Thankfully, you can dispense with the headache for a bit, because Google provides two extremely helpful (if underrated) tools that can aid you in placing all the pieces right in this horrendous puzzle called self-publishing. They may not guarantee you success, but they will pave a path to figuring out how to be successful, and trust me…in the end, you’ll find yourself putting down that self-help book of advice, because there’s more than one way to be successful. I haven’t seen any indie author that used the same straight-cut formula to become successful. We all should use the same basic tools, but it involves a lot of trial and error.

That said, here’s one of the things H.P. Mallory suggests in her book on the section about tag words.

Google Keyword Tool – This tool can be used to type in your tag words, and a list will pop up telling you how popular those search terms are. It even suggests other keyword ideas for you, and gives stats on global and local monthly searches using your terms as well as highlighting the competition level for each. The more you can use that fit your book and preferably are rated low under the competition column, the better. Try to use both specifically-targeted as well as more broad keywords.

Google Insights – What this one does is a bit similar, but this is for after you’ve compiled your list of keywords. Basically, you can type each one into the search field and filter results for the category, location, and any period of time ranging from 2004 up until the current month. What then pops up is a graph that shows you the popularity of the term over the period of time you specified. It also breaks it down into regional interest and top searches using the term.

I haven’t exactly tried this method yet, but in my opinion, these tools can really help if you’re confused about how to tag your books, and I frequently am.

Before you try all this though, here’s a few good books I recommend that have helped me along the way:

The Taleist Self-Publishing Survey
Quit Your Day Job: A Guide for The Self-Published Author
Social Media Marketing for Writers

Good luck and happy marketing =)


A Brief Introduction To Me & My Books

Hello everyone! So far, this makes blog #3 for me as an author. I do have one on Blogger, but I haven’t been using it lately. Truth be told, I’m more of a Tumblr guy, though that one is more of a personal/artistic endeavor than I intend this to be.

First of all, I suppose I should say a little about me. I’m currently 26, I live in Allentown, Pennsylvania, and I have been a writer and poet for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until a couple years ago that I decided to start writing seriously. I got into self-publishing thanks to the help of my dad showing me a newspaper article about Amanda Hocking, and I’ve since learned quite a bit about the publishing business thanks to authors like J.A. Konrath. Within the course of a year, I finished my first novel entitled The Orphaned Ones, from which the quote in my header is taken. I did release it for a time on Amazon Kindle to test the waters, but I have since taken it down for very rigorous comprehensive editing.

The Orphaned Ones will be the first book in a series of 7 planned full-length novels and 1 novella concerning a group of vampires known as Orphans who have been abandoned by their makers and are mercilessly hunted down by an opposing organization called the Council. Much of the story takes place in the midst of World War II, but the history of some characters extends back to the Dark Ages and all throughout time up until 1950.

The second book I wrote, Blue Car Racer, is a young adult fiction novel about bullying which takes place in a small rural town in the early 1990’s. Earlier this year, I entered it in Amazon’s Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) contest for publication by Penguin Books. I was ultimately cut, but I’m still proud to say that Blue Car Racer churned ahead up to the semi-finals. It is currently available on Amazon Kindle here.

I can’t say that I really have a favorite genre to write in, though I find YA is the easiest. Horror is a bit more of a challenge for me, though I think it largely depends on what the writing style is and the time period in which it takes place. Science fiction has always been an interesting realm for me, mostly because it’s the first genre I really got into as a kid. I remember reading Star WarsThe Tripods Trilogy, some books from the Aliens franchise as well as Predator when I was in middle and high school.

Another series I’m working on is called The Chronicles of Burntown, which is a post-apocalyptic sci-fi story about a rural town in Mississippi called Kentsburg, but is later renamed Burntown by the main protagonist. All of their electronics and cars have stopped working after an unknown event they call “The Shock” occurred, and many of the kids’ parents have died off in the ensuing months. The teens take to drug and alcohol abuse as a means to cope. Meanwhile, some of them begin finding large circular devices planted out in the fields and attempt to piece together what happened. The concept is to construct a 10-part Kindle serial where each of the characters gets to be narrator.

You could say I already have a full plate with these ideas, but trust me, it’s more like a banquet! I suppose I’ve more or less been trying different things in the field of self-publishing because I refuse to believe that there is such thing as a set path to success in this business. I’ve seen many authors try a different approach, then another, then another. Ultimately, everyone will choose what works best for them. My latest approach is to stop all this madness of promotion and marketing I’ve been attempting, because for me, it takes away from writing anything else.

Some authors are self-publishing gurus, some promise to sell you their secrets for the low price of $79 per e-book/audio session/subscription/seminar, some give you great advice that works for under $2, some just say “keep Tweeting” or what have you.

What I’ve come to learn is that virtually NONE of these methods are 100% effective, because it all comes down to one person, and that’s YOU. You’ll find what works best for you on your own time. That’s my advice, and I’m not even successful yet, but I’m certainly learning =)

Anyway, this is me: Peter von Harten, a poet/author/cinephile/electronic musician/equal human rights activist/lover of Applebee’s half-price appetizers and microwaveable steamed-vegetable bags.

I hope you like what you’ve read so far (given that this first post is quite informal), because you’ll be hearing a lot more from me! =)

Current planned novel projects:

  • Otherworld series
  • The Orphaned Ones series
  • Providence, A.D. series
  • The Swarm
  • Fluke
  • Dr. Westley’s Child
  • The Women Who Write Letters
  • On Vulture’s Wings
  • Eristad, God Of The Underworld
  • 8mm
  • Gone By Nightfall short stories
  • The Chronicles of Burntown serial