Book Optimization: Trending Categories vs. Low Competition
Disclaimer: I am not (currently) an affiliate of Publisher Rocket and get zero kickback from your clicking on my links, but I use it when I optimize my books, and I'll openly recommend it to anyone who wants to make this process faster and easier. Check it out if you're interested!
One of the easiest ways to sell more books is to focus on optimization. Choosing effective genres, categories and keywords can ensure that you write books that are in demand and that readers can find them easily, like having good SEO on a website.
There are tools to help with this, most notably Publisher Rocket by Kindlepreneur. But you don’t need to buy Publisher Rocket to get an idea of what’s selling and where you can edge out the competition.
Book optimization comes down to two factors: high search ranking (meaning everyone is looking it up) and low competition (meaning no one else is writing it). If you get those two right, you’ll have a bestseller on your hands, and you’ll make solid royalties on it in the meantime.
Here’s a breakdown:
High Search Ranking
When a lot of people search for one term on Amazon, its search ranking goes up. These terms and keywords are usually generic and simple phrases like “urban fantasy,” “vampire romance,” and “werewolves.”
At the other end of the spectrum, you could have terms like “western slipstream” or “steampunk ghosts” that, while they might be accurate descriptors of a completely brilliant and original work of literature, won’t get you very far. You’d be amazed at how few people pop onto Amazon to look for books about “steampunk ghosts.”
So high search rankings are good, and low search rankings are bad.
Note: I’m not saying you can’t write anything original or that you have to force yourself to write a lengthy werewolf saga if steampunk ghosts are much more your thing. You just can’t use unusual terms to market it. Look at the other aspects and appeal of your book instead and get creative.
How do you find high-ranking terms?
Publisher Rocket makes that easy. If you don’t have Publisher Rocket, you can check it out here (it’s okay, I’ll wait) or keep reading.
Check out the top books in your genre on Amazon, preferably self-published titles near the top of the page. Scroll down until you can see the categories listed. Then repeat the process for several other books.
This isn’t a guarantee of good terms, but you might be surprised at what you can dig up and how much more effective it is at selling your own book.
High search ranking is great, but keep in mind that the popular search terms change from month to month. Stay flexible and willing to move with the market.
If no one else is writing your kind of book, then you have no competition. That’s great—you can claim the #1 spot in your category, and that looks very good.
Unfortunately, if you did your homework from earlier and found the keywords and categories with the highest search ranking, you can bet that others have done the same and that you’ll have loads of competition.
Ultra-popular genres and subgenres can get saturated. If everyone leaps on board the same category, the readers will start with the most popular authors, and they might not make it down to you.
Which is more important: high search ranking or low competition?
Ideally, you want both. The easiest book to sell will be one that is in high demand but that almost no one else is writing—but sometimes that’s not possible.
If you’re scanning the store, you might find yourself having to pick one or the other: a popular genre that is swamped, or something niche with low competition. Is it possible to win with only one of the two? And if so, is either more important than the other?
Here’s the bottom line: if nobody is searching for your search terms, nobody is going to find and read your book. A swamped but popular genre is far better than a niche keyword no one will actually look up.
What if it's overcrowded? Writing in a saturated genre means you won’t get as much attention as you would otherwise, but readers can be obsessive, and often aren’t too picky about what they read as long as it’s in a genre they love. That being said, you can count on some spillover—and that in turn will lead to real fans.
There’s more than that as well. When you write in a more popular genre, it will be easier to find group promos with people who write similar things and expand your base. When you’re starting out and focusing on establishing yourself, this is an important piece of the puzzle.
As always, please share your thoughts in the comment section below. You can also click on the blue button to join my Facebook group for self-publishing fiction writers.