Tagging For Amazon

I’m curious about tagging. Not the kind of colourful graffiti you see on trains, underpasses and flyovers but the tags used on books sold through Amazon.

I’ve been browsing a few forums as part of my journey into the world of indie publishing – like everyone else I want to discover the magic solution that’s going to flag my books up for millions of readers.*

Some indie authors seem to think tagging each other’s books on Amazon will help get sales. One forum I’ve seen has a spot where authors post links to their books and fellow members go on reciprocal tagging sprees.

If I understand correctly – not guaranteed – then the principal is to use a tag that links your unknown work (and little-known name) to bestsellers by household names. Then, when Amazon customers who’ve bought said bestsellers are browsing, they’ll use tags to find similar books and, lo and behold, your novel pops up on their screen.

The suggestion also seems to be that you don’t just use common tags. After all, putting your novel in the ‘crime’ category isn’t going to thin the field very much.

However, I don’t get it.

I’ve been looking at Amazon listings for a few recent bestsellers by well-known authors and… guess what? They don’t really have many tags!

Just to take a random example – The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton. It’s had 299 reviews on Amazon’s UK site. There are 44 tags with the author’s name and 16 with ‘historical mystery’. Clicking on ‘historical mystery’ brings up 795 other books (most by people much more famous than me!).

There are no unique looking tags next to Kate Morton’s book. So how does this tagging help? It may also be a mystery to me because that’s not the way I shop – just because I’ve enjoyed one novel does not mean I’ll automatically look for something similar for my next read. In fact, I’ll probably look for something totally different.

Maybe I’m missing something. Can anyone explain?

(*Sadly, I’ve got a suspicion the magic solution doesn’t really exist. Just the need to put in lots of hours of work.)

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3 responses to “Tagging For Amazon”

  1. constantwriterjl says :

    I was under the impression that tags were supposed to help with the search function on Amazon rather than the “related books” thing. Sort of like how keywords help Google index a website and push it higher on their search results ranked for that keyword. I think the more people who “agree” with your tags makes it like Google’s +1 that pushes it higher up in the search results.
    This is all second-hand info that I got from another indie author, but even if the system doesn’t make sense to us, I’m sure tags and likes on your Amazon book page can only help in the long run!

    • Huw Thomas says :

      Thanks, Jessica. Not sure I’m much wiser but I’m sure there must be a reason for it otherwise so many people wouldn’t spend time on it. (Surely?)
      It’s all a learning curve – I’ve still got no idea what Google +1 is!

  2. Jennings says :

    I agree with the confusion. If you don’t use common tags, then who’s going to use those tags to search? And if you use common tags (ie in historical romance there are thousands), then you get lost in the rankings. I also agree – I think there’s no magic bullet, just a lot of tedious work!

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