Sunday, 27 May 2018

Amazon book tweaks — Categories, Keywords, reviews, and links

Following some discussions with Barbara Strickland (Amorina Rose's blog) about Amazon Categories and Keywords, and remembering some of what Lama Jabr explained in one Amazon publishing seminar, and after reading this article Six Things You Should Be Including in Your EBook (and Probably Aren't) by David Kudler, I decided to revise all three of my books for Amazon.

David Kudler Thanks

What I wanted to do:

  • Make sure I had links to each book in the series so far.
  • Follow the suggestion to add a review link right at the end of the book.
  • Make sure my categories and keywords were good.

It took me about a day to update the first book, four hours for the second, and an hour for the third. Hopefully this article will help you tweak your first book in less time than I took for mine.

The tweaking is in two parts: tweaking the copy of your MS (probably in .docx or .odt format), and editing your ‘book details' on Amazon.


It also occurred to me (largely because Barbara Strickland had recently commented on how attractive the covers were), that a thumbnail of each cover would make a more attractive link than just the plain text title. Like so:

Novels by L. J. Kendall

The Leeth Dossier:

Wild Thing

Harsh Lessons

Shadow Hunt

Violent Causes

(By the third book, I even realised I should include a link to my Amazon author page!)

While doing this, I found Calibre doesn't preserve hyperlinks on images when you convert to .mobi format, which is what I had been using for upload to Amazon. But the developer, Kovid Goyal, said that format was pretty obsolete, and recommended a different one. I tried epub, and that was just fine.

I wanted to put country-independent links to my other books, in each book. Links to the appropriate Amazon store for the reader's country.  I didn't want to do it through Amazon's OneLink system:

merely because I myself am leery of systems that earn money from people clicking on links.  Granted, I think it's only a few cents, and only if they actually buy the product, but still...  Maybe that's just me being weird, but maybe other people have a distaste for that, too.

Image composition on Linux

I spent some time grabbing images for those buttons to make my own.

I then spent 90 mins finding image editing software that would let me combine them together, for Linux. Lots were recommended, but apparently the idea of a canvas on which you simply drop some images and move them around is a bizarre mental model. Well, apart from the Gimp, but I thought if I could find any other program to do that, I'd probably save time compared to working out how to perform even that simple feat using the Gimp's diabolical UI.

In the end, I found the KDE program KolourPaint, which was very simple and intuitive — it was easy to open up images, and copy them onto a single canvas and then move them around.


Before I did any of this, I first contacted Amazon directly to ask if it was okay to use generalised links that pointed to the reader's local Amazon store, instead of to the US one only (say). I specifically asked if it was okay to use The representative responded and said that was fine.

E.g. the country-independent links for my books in Amazon look like this:

Wild Thing:

Harsh Lessons:

Shadow Hunt:

Previously my Afterword asked people to review the book, but didn't offer them any help to do so. In contrast, the Six Things article described how to construct a link directly to a "rate/review" page for your book so the reader just needs one click, with no typing or searching to arrive there.

I also added a note that reviewers will need to login (to Amazon or Goodreads respectively), to be able to write a review.

So the idea is to add a note at the end, saying something like:

"I hope you enjoyed reading this. If you did, consider rating and/or reviewing it. Thank you!"

(You'll need to sign in to your account(s).)

The Six Things article used an image to click on for the reviews, which I think is more appealing and ‘button-like' to click on than just text. So I grabbed some images from Goodreads and Amazon to make the buttons. I feel that's safe, as Amazon owns Goodreads, and I'm only directing readers to Amazon sites. If you're not selling through Amazon, of course you'd need to pick review sites related to your retailer.

Goodreads review

But the link structures for reviews described by the 2013 Six Things article have changed since it was written. E.g. for Goodreads they'd said:

… um, I can't find it, actually. Maybe David didn't spell it out? He does describe how to find the book ID, though. (You can find it out just by clicking on a Goodreads review link and inspecting the URL.)

Anyway, the review link needs to look like:<goodreads-Book ID number>
Just search for your book in Goodreads to determine your book's ID and examine the link. E.g. for Shadow Hunt the book link is, so the book ID is 34823396, and the review link becomes

Amazon review

For Amazon, you determine your Amazon book ID (ASIN) the same way: find your book and examine the URL.

The example book link is pretty correct, except the http has changed to the more secure https. E.g. Shadow Hunt is

But the link the article describes for reviews, "", is now quite different, and the Amazon review link is now coded like this:

E.g. since Shadow Hunt's Amazon ASIN is B06XVH355Q, the URL for its review is:

I also thought it made sense to repeat the links to all the books in the series at the end, since at that point the reader is more likely to know if they'd like to read more of your work.

Amazon Categories and Keywords

The categories & keywords topic is where things get interesting...

Amazon have a good help page about setting them up:

It turns out that everything on that page is essential reading. I had ignored it.  So my keywords were not doing what they should.  E.g. I didn't know you had to also apply one (or two) of your categories as keywords, for certain Amazon searches (category searches?) to work for your books.
Watching the video that's also on that page suddenly made a whole lot of things really, really clear.  E.g. the stuff at the 3min40s mark where she says something like "Words in the title, categories, and description, will already be part of the search criteria: try to say something new".  Also, she says you should play around with the keywords and see which work best — I've never done that!

It's worth watching — maybe several times.

Setting Amazon categories


"Browse categories are the sections of the Amazon site where customers can find your book. Think of browse categories like the sections of a physical bookstore (fiction, history, and so on).

"During title setup, you'll select a BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) code. The codes you choose, along with your selected keywords, are used to place your book into certain categories, or browse paths, on Amazon. After your book has an Amazon listing, your book's category will appear under the Product Details section of your listing. This will be the path a customer can follow to find your book. [...]

"You can choose up to two BISAC codes for your book. We may also assign additional browse categories depending on your BISAC selections and assigned keywords."

The article also includes tips on choosing categories, and you should definitely read it.

Setting Amazon Keywords

Also note the topic "Categories with Keyword Requirements." For sci-fi and fantasy that links to this page:

Now, for each of my books I'd just made up keywords that I felt best reflected it, and entered those. I suspect I'm not following best practice even now, but at least I'm choosing keywords from the above list. I assume these are words which are most used by readers in Amazon searches.

You might be able to discover them by typing a search term and seeing what words auto-complete in the Kindle store?

Here's my before and after list of keywords for each book:

Keywords — Wild Thing, before
Science fiction Urban fantasy
Strong female lead Magic
Near future Abusive relationship
Adult situations

Keywords — Wild Thing, after
cyberpunk Urban
Strong female lead paranormal
horror Coming of age
Adult situations

Keywords — Harsh Lessons, before
strong female lead some adult situations
some humor some violence
assassin covert agency

I also changed the category from Fiction > Science Fiction > Action & Adventure, to Fiction > Science Fiction > Cyberpunk

Keywords — Harsh Lessons, after
cyberpunk urban, fantasy
strong female lead paranormal
spy, spies, assassin, covert, agency bully, bullies, bullying

(I also made the same category change for Shadow Hunt.)

Keywords — Shadow Hunt, before
thriller cyberpunk
mutants wizard
magic coming of age

Keywords — Shadow Hunt, after
thriller cyberpunk
strong female lead magic, wizard, paranormal
spy, spies, assassin, covert, agency coming of age

So, that's it: a bit fiddly, bit not too bad. I don't expect dramatic changes, but hopefully the rate of reviews will climb from nothing (for almost a year) to a handful of new reviews!

To Do

What I've failed to do (yet) is add the attractive-clicky-button links to make social media sharing of your book super easy. I think that might even be the most important thing to do!

The Six Things article describes how to set up sharing links for Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.


Barbara Strickland said...

Amazing information. Thank you for sharing

Anna Hansen said...

Thanks for this post, Luke. There's a tremendous amount of fabulous information in it. I appreciate your sharing.