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Here's another self-publication lesson I learned the hard way....

I've been hard at work getting Bitter People Without Souls ready for publication, and I stumbled across a fascinating and terrific resource on Amazon's Kindle site.  Turns out I made a crucial mistake when I was publishing I Need a Job:

I totally misunderstood how keywords work.

This post is more an advisory for any other self-publishers out there who are getting ready to put something together and who may be blundering their way through the process just as I was.  If you're using Kindle or CreateSpace, you will find at some step in the process that they will ask you for various descriptive data on your book.  This includes the title, a BISAC classification, a book description, etc....

...and keywords.  CreateSpace lets you choose up to five of them, and Kindle lets you choose up to seven.

Back when I was publishing I Need a Job, I completely glossed over the little "What's This?" link that takes you to the site I linked above, and I just assumed that by "keywords," they meant "various topics that your book covers."

As it turns out, it's actually more mechanical than that.  Partly the keywords are there so people who search by keyword will find your book, but Amazon also has algorithms to automatically categorize your book into more specific subgenres and sub-subgenres based on specific key phrases.  If you don't enter those exact terms, your book will probably not get caught in their filter and it won't be listed.

So, for example, let's look at some of the things I could have used as marketing angles for I Need a Job. The obvious points are that it's a comedy and it tackles a coming-of-age story.  It's about employment.  It touches on familial and romantic relationships.  It's got a female protagonist.  So you could potentially categorize it any number of subgenres relating to these themes.

But if I actually want it to appear in a "Coming of Age" or "Career & Workplace" or "Romance" or "Women's Literature" sub-category, I'd have to actually use the keyword "coming of age" or "career" or "romance" or "female protagonist."  If I instead write something like "bad job" or "recent graduate" (which I did), then Amazon won't categorize it anywhere specific - it'll just bring it up in the search results should somebody be searching for "bad job."

To date, I Need a Job has still only sold about 40-ish copies, some of which probably don't count since I think they were doubles from one or two people.  I won't say it's entirely because I didn't categorize it correctly, but that might have been a factor.  Who knows?  Now that I've applied some keywords that actually make sense, maybe a few more people might see it and possibly give a crap.

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