It Started With ‘The’
There is an awkwardness as you stand in front of the bookstore information clerk trying to describe a book you can’t remember the name of. You think it started with ‘The’. And the author’s name was possibly Hobbs, but you’re not quite sure. All you know is your friend described exactly what the book was about, in wonderfully vivid, exciting detail (using the author’s carefully worded pitch….). It is a historical novel, based in Elizabethan times, it’s a thriller because someone is murdered and it has an unlikely sci-fi twist that includes a UFO sighting. Or it’s a book on fashion design specifically for making dog clothes. Or a book on how to make landscaping Feng Shui compliant. After searching through the computer the clerk finally shrugs and with a very pointed look, stares over your shoulder at the next customer. As you shuffle out of the store, muttering insincere thanks, you decide, ‘Bugger it, I can’t be bothered.’
The same goes for searching, without help, through the online search engines. All except this method generally involves less awkwardness and more frustration. To the point where the searcher will not only decide to give that book a miss, they will actively hate it for wasting so much of their time. Making your novel easily found on the internet is more crucial then media attention, it is even more crucial then distribution. Because if you don’t target your keywords to the market that will buy your book, you will be shooting blindly at people who don’t give a brass wazoo about what you write. Get your keywords right and you get people like me, with the memory of a grandma with Alzheimer’s, finding your book in the first search. You get it right and all those people looking for mountain biking, fantasy thrillers, sci-fi crime or a light hearted pick-me-up will be so excited they didn’t have to waste time looking for what they want that they will snap your book up without a thought.
So before you even go a step further, before you even let your tummy expand an inch forward, take your proposal and your market research and jot down as many keywords as you can find. These are JUST WORDS. Perhaps three word phrases max. They should cover themes, genre, content, passions of your target audience. Basically what your novel is at its essence, what will bring people to it. Those free keyword tools will give you a fairly good idea of the terms that people search for so you get the right words to describe your work. If you have at least 30,000 people per month searching for what you have, then you will more likely than not do very well, if the number of searches is less you will need to be very specific about what words you use and where your groups interact online.
People search in keywords and they expect you to have categorised your work accordingly. People don’t look for the words ‘peril’ or ‘danger’ or ‘fantastic’. They look for topics and content and similarities. You can have the best synopsis in the word but it doesn’t matter one bit if you’re keyword isn’t typed into the search by a prospective reader. This is how you target your market and wave your red flag. This is how people in forums discuss your work.
This is how the search engines like Amazon, the iPad store, Google and Yahoo! spit out their results. They don’t wave a magic wand, they don’t partake in a bit of voodoo; they search methodically, like the machines they are. And for you to rank highly you need your major keywords everywhere! They need to be in the synopsis, in the title, in your advertising, in the tags on the e-book stores, in your website address, your blog name, your blog’s website address, your Facebook page, your Twitter bio, your pitch, your forum posts, tattooed to your forehead, EVERYWHERE!
The more prominent they are the better chance you have of being found. Of course you have to balance being enticing and creative with the keywords. But if you make it too hard to be found, then that person who was looking for your Feng Shui garden advice is going to look somewhere else. Because frankly, they don’t feel like looking the idiot in front of a pimpled, arrogant, teenage sales assistant.
TOMORROW: The importance of a good front cover.
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