Part 22: decide on your book’s category, keywords, level of copy protection (DRM) and price.
You can nominate two categories (compulsory) and up to seven keywords (optional) to help customers find your ebook.
Categories and keywords
There are a few factors to consider here:
1. There are some categories that you can’t access from the KDP dashboard. For example, the category:
Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children's Chapter Books > Ages 9-12
is not available to select. If your desired category falls into one of these ‘lost’ areas, you need to contact Amazon directly, once you have uploaded your book, and request a category change as described here and here.
2. Check the categories you are thinking of using to assess how crowded they are. Author after author state that one of the keys to getting initial attention for your ebook is to choose as narrow a category as possible. Sure, there’ll be proportionally less foot traffic through those areas of Amazon, but you will be in a smaller pool of books and rank much higher than you would in the general categories.
Think of the times you’ve perform a google search – how many pages of results are you willing to wade through to find what you want? Or, metaphorically, imagine that you are in a crowd of people at a gig and need to get the attention of someone standing on a stage (the reader). Would you rather be in the first couple of rows in a small live venue, or at the back of a festival crowd, trying to shout over the thousands of people in front of you?
I quickly dropped the ‘Ages 9-12’ category mentioned above when I saw that it contained more than 5,000 competing titles. By honing the categories, though, I was able to find two much less crowded areas:
Kindle store > Kindle ebooks > children's chapter books > humor = 301 titles
Kindle store > Kindle ebooks > children's chapter books > people & places > where we live > farm life = 105 titles
3. Make sure that your categories aren’t referring to an Americanism which you assume has the same meaning as your country’s definition of the word. Saving Davey Gravy is about Australian rules football. If I had used
Kindle store > Kindle ebooks > children's chapter books > sport > football
as a category, it would be placed with a multitude of other books about American football (a barbarous game we refer to as ‘gridiron’), where it would have had about as much appeal as drag racing at a drag show.
4. Use keywords! They may be optional, but they’re going to help so many people find your book in return for only a few minutes of your time. Take care with them. If I used ‘AFL’ as a key word, then my title would be drowned out by books on American football (also, naturally, called AFL).
By using ‘Aussie rules football’ as a keyword, a remarkably underused category for what is an extremely popular local activity, I immediately ranked #3 in ebooks, #15 in books and #26 in all items for that search term. The seven keywords I used were: aussie rules football, funny childrens books, farm life, sports childrens books, trouble at school, humor childrens books, and australian rules football.
5. How do you decide which keywords to use? Jim Edwards has come up with an elegant solution – let Amazon’s search suggestions autocomplete your keywords. That is, begin to type the keywords you think you should use in the Amazon search bar, and see what the autocomplete algorithms come up with. If it returns no results, then you are probably thinking of a term which is rarely used by customers.
Digital rights management and pricing
All data seems to suggest that the sweet spot for new authors on Amazon is US$2.99. It seems to be a ‘default’ pricing point in the minds of consumers (I would argue that it is the baseline for ‘quality’ in many consumer’s minds, or the point at which consumer concern shifts from cost in money to cost in time expended by reading, i.e. they would prefer to pay more to have a better chance of buying a well written and edited book that they’ll enjoy). You’ll also have the option of enrolling in KDP Select for a royalty rate of 70% and a royalty return of more than US$2 on each book sold.
Mark Coker’s statistics deal specifically with ebook sales on Smashwords (a smaller, EPUB version of Amazon), but they are very relevant:
“One surprise, however, was that we found $2.99 books, on average, netted the authors more earnings (profit per unit, multiplied by units sold) than books priced at $6.99 and above. When we look at the $2.99 price point compared to $9.99, $2.99 earns the author slightly more, yet gains the author about four times as many readers. $2.99 ebooks earned the authors six times as many readers than books priced over $10.
“If an author can earn the same or greater income selling lower cost books, yet reach significantly more readers, then, drum roll please, it means the authors who are selling higher priced books through traditional publishers are at an extreme disadvantage to indie authors in terms of long term platform building. The lower-priced books are building author brand faster. Never mind that an indie author earns more per $2.99 unit sold ($1.80-$2.10) than a traditionally published author earns at $9.99 ($1.25-$1.75).”
The powerpoint slideshow on that page, though dealing with romance sales on Smashwords, is still very much worth clicking through.
<rant> People. hate. DRM. full stop. Customers want a simple, intuitive shopping experience where they feel they are paying a fair price for goods. The music industry refused to do this, and caused itself untold harm in the process.
Compare the horror stories of music DRM (I still refuse to buy anything from Sony BMG after having to spend a couple of days cleaning up my PC after their infamous rootkit trojan) to wildly successful online computer games store Steam. Steam gives consumers games at a price they consider fair, with an intuitive interface, and without heavy handed anti-piracy measures. People are flinging cash at them as fast as they pull it out of their wallets.
My belief is that authors should not enable DRM on their ebooks. People who pirate on general principles will always find a way around anti-piracy measures. For them, the motivation is in getting something for nothing and sticking it to what they see as faceless corporations. Honest consumers, on the other hand, sometimes fall foul of DRM through no fault of their own, which almost always results in terrible publicity via social sites.
What I think is more effective than DRM stick is the carrot. Appeal to people who may be reading your book for free: a kind of, “I’ve done you a favour, perhaps you can do one for me?” approach. In the back matter of SDG, I wrote:
“If you're reading a copy of this book that you haven't purchased, that's okay. I'd rather people read my books for free than not read them at all. If you liked Saving Davey Gravy, consider leaving me a review or buying one of my other books (when they are published). Thanks.”
Piracy may hurt the authors who have a large market reach, such as Stephanie Meyer and JK Rowling. For the average author, however, the marketplace is effectively an unlimited resource – what is limited is how far you can spread your books through it. If you take 100 people who read your pirated book (and would not buy it anyway), and you get just one of them to write a review, which attracts 10 people to buy your book who otherwise wouldn’t bother if the positive review wasn’t there … you haven’t lost 100 sales through piracy. You’ve gained 10. In this case, for new authors whose books have a price, piracy creates a net gain of sales. </rant>
If you sign on for KDP Select, you receive much higher royalty rates and other perks in return for exclusivity – you will not be able to sell your book elsewhere, even in EPUB form, for 90 days after you accept the agreement. It’s difficult to recommend a direction with this without knowing your particular circumstances and publishing plans. Many indie publishers do recommend it, however (and most seem to say that it is a good idea, especially for new authors): see the following posts on The Passive Voice and M. Louisa Locke’s site.
Proceed to Part 23: ‘Amazon Author Central’, or return to the article index.
While I’ve endeavoured to provide you with accurate information, what is considered ‘accurate’ will change over time. If I’m wrong, or you’d like to ask a question or share your thoughts, I’d love to hear your take on things.