Friday, July 15, 2011

How Do We Effectively Promote? Or...Let's Talk About Tags on Amazon

This summer, I've read no less than a dozen articles about promoting yourself and your book. Most of the articles have been very good, listing concise ways to accomplish the one important goal when your book has a release date. These articles appeal to me just as how-to article always have. I'm a self-learner.

I believe I have all the steps memorized. Yet, I find myself turning into a lackadaisical author who loves to write, sign contracts, edit (yes, I like the editing process—if I have a nice editor who doesn't scold me), see a book cover for the first time, but then….the difficult part stares me in the face.

How do I promote this book? As of this month, I now have eleven releases scattered among six publishers. Some have done fairly well; others seem to sit there. I admit, like most of us, that I have my favorites, those I wish more and more readers would find.
In addition to the usual website, blog, FB, Twitter, LinkdIn, various Yahoo loops, and a few .ning loops, there are numerous tricks to the trade that I vaguely understand, but I don't have the energy to implement them.

For example, Tagging on Amazon: Theoretically, "tags" help sell our books. I've read explanations by other authors, and always wonder…"exactly how does this work?" Here is Amazon's explanation about tags:

TAGS: Find other items with similar qualities: Are you a photography enthusiast? Find a photography book that you love and tag it with the category "photography book." Click on the "photography book" tag you created and see other items that were tagged similarly. Because people's tags are (by default) visible to others, a great effect of tagging is that you can navigate among items through other people's tags. Add a tag and check out what other items people have tagged as "robot" or "gardening" or "chocolate." Also, you can assign as many tags as you wish to each product, so tag away!

I was under the impression that the more your friends tag your books, the higher your book rises in the "ranking,"--do they mean "numbering?"-- thereby making it easier to find. Hmmm. I'm not sure about that. The process seems nebulous and bewildering. And this explanation from Amazon does not mention repeating one tag many times.

With my scientific background put to use, I tested this phenomenon the best I could, and this is what I learned:

Suppose I was a customer looking for Western Historical Romances. Using Books/Kindle Store, I would type in "Western Historical Romances." Up pops a list of hundreds of WHR novels in numerical order. How does a book get a number? By the number of times WHR has been clicked on the tags? No, I don't think so.

First, there are Rankings on your Buy page for each book as to where it stands among the millions of books on Amazon. I usually just look at the Kindle books because for romance books, more are sold for the Kindle than the prints. This ranking will appear as something like #1000 in the Kindle store.

Then there are numbered lists for every category imaginable. Examples: (I left out the author's name)

Category: Western Historical Romances:
1. Wild Montana Sky Series-Ranked #315 in Kindle Store (on this buy page, WHR was clicked 9 times)
2. Her Montana Man-Ranked #22,004 in Kindle Store (on this Buy page, WHR was clicked 0 times—in fact, this book had no tags at all)
3. Widow Woman-Ranked #7,548 in Kindle Store (on this Buy page, WHR was clicked hundred over a hundred times.)
(This list contained about 500+ WHR.)

So for this category, the numbers tell a story: Her Montana Man, had No Tags At All, not even for WHR, yet it is numbered one above Widow Woman that had WHR clicked over a hundred times. If tagging helps, then shouldn't Widow Woman be above Her Montana Man? In fact, shouldn't Widow Woman be in the Number 1 position under Western Historical Romances?

Why am I bringing this up? For the simple reason that I feel somewhat amiss because I don't tag books unless I'm on that Buy page for some other reason and I think of it. The practice seems time-consuming, and unless someone tells me otherwise, I just don't believe it's so necessary.

If anyone sees a flaw in my logic, please point it out.

If anyone understands how a novel is assigned a number under a category, please point it out.

What is your position or belief about Tags on Amazon?

Thank you—
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas


  1. I'm with you, Celia. I like to support my fellow writers, but I think commenting on their blogs is a more effective use of my time than tagging their books. I got curious when a few authors posted really outstanding sales. I checked amazon and saw that their ranking was much higher than mine. However, they didn't seem to have high counts on their tags. Doesn't seem like one has anything to do with the other! If you figure out what does increase sales, let us in on the secret!

  2. Jannine--as long as you agree that tagging doesn't increase our ranking resulting in sales, then we're on the same page.
    Oh, I'll never figure out what increases sales! If I ever learn the secret, I'll tell the entire world!
    Thanks for your support! Celia

  3. I am not sure I understand that whole tagging procedure. I tagged a lot of authors just because they asked me to. I didn't bother asking for tags at first. Then I did. Did it help my sales? I don't think so.

  4. Great post on a topic that baffles us all...or at least me. Thanks

  5. I as baffled and bewildered as you are, Celia. I admire you for going to the Kindle site and running an experiment. I can't tell you how many loops I'm on where people are begging to be tagged.

    As usual, I'm one step behind the techno power-curve, but you know what? I'm starting to care less and less about that.

    Let's all just write great books. Wouldn't it be wonderful if that was enough?


  6. MONA--I don't think it really helps, but I'm not 100% sure. As I understand it, the tags allow you to find other similar products for whatever you're looking for. The numbers especially don't seem significant. Anyway, I don't see any advantage to it enough to spend a lot of time doing it. Celia

  7. Hi, James--glad to meet you. That's me, too--baffled--by more than that one thing, too! Celia

  8. MAGGIE--I agree, let's write more. I do like to support my fellow authors, for sure, and I do in as many ways as I can when time allows. I just don't want to spend time on something that I'm uncertain of its benefits. Celia

  9. It's all a mystery to me, Celia. Of course, I don't have books out there yet so have no experience. It seems selling and catching the eye of a perspective buyer is a crap shoot anyway. I know I buy books of friends to support them and am pleasantly surprised when I end up loving their work. I tell friends or make suggestions when friends ask who I recommend. That's about all I know on this subject.

  10. PAISLEY--you know the most important thing that promoters tell us--that word of mouth is the best way to make sales. Even that has it's shortcomings, but still it seems to be the mainstay or promotion.
    I do as you do--listen to recommendations and give them, too.
    Thanks for your input...Celia

  11. I too went and did the tags which didn't help. Even if your book comes up doesn't mean it will sell. Love the post Celia.

  12. Thanks for soothing some of the underlying guilt I feel for not doing ALL the things we're SUPPOSED to do to promote ourselves and our books! I, too, find the promotional path strewn with potholes and somewhat exhausting--despite having a file drawer full of articles, ideas, etc. It would be nice to sit down with other authors and discuss what works and what doesn't! Great post, Celia!

  13. STEPHY--thanks! I wish I could wave a magic wand and a little genie would tell me what works and what to do. At this moment, though, I don't know what else to do except what I have time for--just like you. Celia

  14. JUDY--I actually did this to soothe my own guilty feelings! I always feel badly if I ignore someone's pleas for help or assistance. I do want to do everything I can...but sometimes we have to stop and decide if it's good enough to contiue. I still don't really know for sure.
    All I do understand fully is the description Amazon gives about Taggin--that, I get.
    Thanks for commenting--Celia

  15. I'm with Mona on this one. I tagged people because I was asked to. I had the time and I thought why not, it couldn't hurt, right? So I can't really say it doesn't, but I haven't noticed an increase in sales at all from it.

    Great post, Celia. :)

  16. Good information, Celia. I am also scratching my head. Until a month ago I lived a deliriously happy life, unaware of what tags were at Amazon. Now, I feel like i've got some crazy race to catch up in, and I am glad to know, that I can slow down because there is no rhyme or reason about tags.

    Thanks for doing the research!

  17. Celia, thank you for taking one thing off my to-do list. I was cringing at the thought of asking for tags - I hate putting myself out there. Now that you've put their effectiveness into question, I'll relax and work on my next book.

  18. Great post Celia--and at a time I was just getting into tagging. Whew--time saved!

    So, you mentioned having all the steps memorized, and some of the great articles about self-promo. Do you have a blog post about this already, or can I request one if you don't? :)

  19. Thanks Celia, this really clears it up for me. I appreciate your time in figuring this out. I'm going to tweet your blog.

  20. As a customer I used tags to find books. It allows one to drill down to the type of book I am looking for. Example I was wanting to read a Highland Historical romance. I used tags to sort through all the books out there.

  21. I am so glad you did this because I wasn't really sure this was helping and if I was wasting a lot of time on it.

    So how do we get that magic word of mouth going? I want to believe "if you write it, they will come" but they got to find it first.

  22. JOANNE--I was not a born skeptic, but I have developed into one. Plus, I have a deep need to understand what I doing and if it's of value to me. Thanks--Celia

  23. LYNNE--"the more you know" catchy phrase we see on TV isn't necessarily a good thing. I hope this easy and do your own thing. Celia

  24. LU/Grace--there's probably a lot of things we're doing with no results, or not enough to count. I, too, sometimes feel like I'm on a merry-go-round and really, really need to get off for a whiel.
    Thanks for your input-Celia

  25. STACY --goodness no, I don't have a perfect list! Every article I read say basically the same thing--those that you and I already do--I always hope I can find something else that will produce results without sucking up my time.
    Bottom line--that's what I want--get the time suckers out of my daily routing. Not easy when you love social networking! Celia

  26. NANCY--you're going to Tweet my blog? Oh, bless you, dear heart! That's something I do think I should look into more. It seems to be a growing phenomenum. Celia

  27. Hello, Aggie Meg! You got it--that's exactly what tags are for--that's Amazon's description. It says nothing about increasing sales or making our book rise in the rankings. Thanks. Celia

  28. CLOVER--yes, I know. I heard and read too many authors expressing doubts that it meant anything, but reluctant not to do it. We don't have to announce to the world that we don't want to--just don't and the world won't crash in. I know there are many who do involve themselves, and I wouldn't denigrate them for anything. I'm sure I do stuff on a daily basis that someone out there say, "wow, she's way off base."
    Do what you're comfortable doing.

  29. Celia, very enlightening. I still don't understand tagging and I'm not sure how it helps, especially with your investigation. Thanks for bringing this up. I don't think tagging ultimately helps. I think name recogniation through word of mouth is the best.

    For us, it's just have an internet presence. Be personable and approachable. I think that may work better than tagging but time will tell.


  30. Hi, Steph--like you, I'm still uncertain. Yes, my little test gave me another view of tagging, but ultimately we need a genius mathematician to figure all this out. Where is Albert Einstein when we need him?
    Even with everything I've said, if I'm on someone's Amazon page looking at a book, sometimes I do scroll down and tag or agree. If I'm there--why not?

    There still may be some magical thing we can't decipher--I like your take, that word-of-mouth and helping each other on blogs are certainly positive actions.