How to Identify and Use Keywords for Your Book

Writing a blurb is one of the most difficult aspects of a writer’s journey. It becomes even more complicated if you’re attempting to elicit a specific response from potential readers or launching your own book.

A good way to hit both of these marks, and more (explained later), is to use keywords specific to your genre.

What is a keyword?

A keyword, in the context of search engine optimization, is a particular word or phrase that describes the contents of a Web page. Keywords are intended to act as shortcuts that sum up an entire page. Keywords form part of a Web page’s metadata and help search engines match a page to with an appropriate search query. –Techopedia

To put in laymen’s terms, keywords tell search engines (or, say, Amazon’s search feature) which pages have the information someone may be looking for.

A Rudimentary Tutorial

Keep in mind, I’m not a marketing pro. These are very basic tips and tricks. If you ARE a marketing pro–or know anything more or other than what I presented above–share your secrets!

How are keywords used?

When you create a book in Amazon KDP (I’m not sure about other platforms), you have the option to enter seven keywords. These keywords not only help the search function, but will also help list your book under other genres than just the two you’re allowed to select.

Using keywords in your metadata and your blurb will also give your more visibility when someone searches for something resembling your book.

But what does this mean for YOU?

Before you toss your hands up and grumble about this being outside your scope or too technical, hear me out: keywords are not only for SEO (search engine optimization), but also works like Pavlov’s bell: Readers of a genre are conditioned to have certain expectations when they read certain words or phrases.

(*whispers* Agents are the same.)

Therefore, if your blurb or summary contains the same keywords as, say, the top ten best-sellers of your genre, the reader is more likely to believe your book will be of similar quality.

How do you find keywords?

Well, the easiest thing to do would be to Google “best keywords for [enter genre here].” But that’s just silly. Or, worse, outdated or just plain wrong.

The best way to find keywords is to break down your audiencegenre, and plot. Remember: MG, YA, NA, etc. are your audience, not your genre. Horror, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Erotica, etc. are your genre. These should be your first keywords (although adult doesn’t seem very useful). Dig deep into the genres listed on Amazon (which actually go A LOT deeper than KDP allows us to use). Get to the finest detail you can get. For example:

Romance > Historical > Ancient World (which, shockingly, does not have as many Romans or Greeks as one would think!)

Category Keywords

Once you have your audience and genre, use specific aspects of your plot. Let’s use the example above:

We have a historical romance featuring Romans, so toss in Romans or Rome or Roman Empire. The plot I have in mind features a Germanic tribe as well, but I’ll just call them Vikings, since that’s also a hot keyword, and not too far from the truth. It features a Romeo & Juliet-type romance, so I’ll also throw in Enemies to lovers, a tried-and-true romance trope. There’s a politically-arranged marriage, so arranged marriage, also a romance favorite, is included. There’s an aspect of suspense, so toss in romantic suspense as a subgenre. There’s also an aspect of royalty or nobility in there, so I’m going to pull Royalty & Aristocrats from Amazon’s suggested list of “Romantic heroes.”


NA new adult, romantic suspense, Roman Empire, Vikings, enemies to lovers, arranged marriage, Royalty & Aristocrats

(This is a book I intend to write one of these days. It’s going to be awesome. If you want to see it sooner than later, invade my Patreon and let me know!)

Another great way is to explore the advanced search options Amazon has on the left, where you can narrow done books by tone and other aspects, such as “setting” (suburban) and characters (female protagonists).

Blurb Keywords

Once you narrow down your genre as far as possible, pick a book in that category and scroll down to the product details and click on the genre under the ranking. Now you should have the current top ten in the genre. Open the top five (excluding bundles) in separate tabs and scroll down to their blurb.

If you’re self-pubbing and you don’t have direct access to select these categories, use them as your keywords!

Jot down a list of seven words that occur most often in each blurb. Use your discretion, because the narrower the genre, the more likely someone landed on the bestseller’s list using a promotion or clever advertising. If the blurb is horrible, just open the next book.

Now, see if there’s a riveting way to apply these specific phrases to your plot.

Since I’m currently rewriting the blurb for my relaunch of COLOSSUS, I’ll use that as an example:

Abducted and held captive, four high school seniors are forced to entertain the malicious appetites of an unpredictable predator. He calls himself Rhodes. They call him Colossus, the looming, threatening figure teetering on the edge of madness.

Heather Stokes, no stranger to tragedy, does all she can to protect her friends, risking her life and sanity. As days of torture drag into weeks of Hell, both Heather and Rhodes realize that they are in over their heads, and it is possible that none of them will survive.

COLOSSUS is a brutal psychological thriller that will have fans of Gillian Flynn and James Patterson adding a new name to their list.

Since KDP won’t allow me past thriller > suspense > horror and literature & fiction > horror, I’m going to use “serial killer” and “kidnapping” as two of my seven keywords. That means I have to swap out “abducted” for “kidnapped” in my blurb. (“Abducted” sounds more like aliens are involved, anyway.)


Since this ended up being an exhausting chore, I went to and made a word cloud, excluding plot-specific details and the most basic words. There are other ways to do this, but this is the most aesthetically-pleasing.


This doesn’t include the vocational and regional identifiers–which they all had. I already identify them as high-school students, but that means I may also want to state they are in the affluent suburbs of North Atlanta.

The five top phrases were:

  • 12 killer
  • 7 life
  • 5 serial
  • 5 body
  • 4 beautiful

Some of these don’t seem very useful, but what I found at the bottom of the list caught my eye:

  • heart-stopping
  • stomach-churning
  • uncompromising
  • white-knuckled
  • unforgettable
  • disturbing
  • relentless
  • unsettling
  • horrifying

So, I have my seven keywords, but I also have some phrases I want to include because they make ME want to read these books (and, yes, I ended up with three or four new books on my wish list).

Keywords: serial killer, kidnapping, disturbing, noncon, dubcon (I know they’re horrible!), Atlanta (or suburban), female protagonists (one of the mystery subcategories)

Lured away from safety by their own goodwill, four high-school seniors from the affluent suburbs of Atlanta are kidnapped, tortured, and forced to entertain the malicious appetites of an unpredictable predator. He calls himself Rhodes. They call him COLOSSUS—looming, omnipresent, and threatening to collapse into insanity.

Heather Stokes, clever, resourceful, and no stranger to tragedy, is willing to risk her life and sanity to protect her friends, but as the month hurtles the four toward their likely deaths, their worst nightmares become increasingly real—even for Rhodes: All of their efforts could be in vain, and it is likely none of them will survive.

COLOSSUS is an uncompromising, white-knuckled serial killer thriller, featuring unforgettable, familiar characters and an unsettling, nightmare-inducing antagonist. A must-read for fans of James Patterson’s KISS THE GIRLS and Thomas Harris’s RED DRAGON.

I’m still going to work on tweaking this, but I’m happy with the progress. If you notice something or have any comments, please post it in the comments below!


What is Jette up to?

  • I just released a historical romance/suspense novelette entitled Assassin’s Arrangement. If you like my content, spread the word so I can continue writing, and… you know… eat.
  • I sent Two Guns to my editor, and she is loving it! She read COLOSSUS beforehand and was thrilled. I’m sad I couldn’t afford to go with my usual editor, but I’m glad to have someone new who is invested in the franchise.
  • I did a Tweetstorm about what I’m doing in preparation for relaunching COLOSSUS, and it got a lot of response. I will probably blog about that next week!
  • I am going to create a newsletter and a mailing list, but jumping into the unknown is not my strong suit. Guidance and tips on this front would be appreciated! If anyone is willing to reach out and hold my hand through this process, I’ll love you forever.

Want more?

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Check out my Wattpad and publications on Amazon! Click on the covers for the individual links:

colossus Flint Ranch Salvage

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