Authors Need Discoverability More Than Findability

What is this "discoverability" and "findability" stuff?  A new language?
As ugly as some think of them, it seems essential to use these two words to show authors (and other business people) how important discoverability is. 
Most of us authors (or our publishers) use "findability" well when they put all a book's metadata on the Web and on specific sites so readers can locate exactly what they're looking for…" even [when they don't have] complete information about the book. In this instance "metadata" includes all the stuff like categories, ISBNs, titles,—the specifics about your book.

"Discoverability" is the kind of access a reader might have when she isn't looking for a specific title, author, or even a specific category but something related to her search pops up. We authors hope that will be our book!  Categories can help with this exposure but things like keywords, great pitches and loglines, benefits, etc. that appear on your Amazon page, your social networks, your online bookstore profile and buy pages work even better.


Chances are—your title isn't as well known as you'd like, so you're after "discoverability."


I'm thinking most authors would get more out of the concept if we call it "serendipity." In other words, we have to work everything we can on the Web so that even those who aren't looking for us find us and that our "brand" (the Frugal Book Promoter is full of information on great branding for books!) will be clear to him or her immediately. That includes learning to play to the search engines using the dreaded "keyword concept" in all of our content.


Of course, some use Search Engine Optimization experts to do this for them. But I think you probably know more about what your book (and your career) is about than many SEO guys or gals. And there is plenty you can do to be discovered serendipitously that SEO doesn't fit into the job description of SEO professionals. In this article, we'll concentrate on online bookstores, but you can generally apply these ideas to your Web site, your social network profiles, and anything else you do online.


1.   Get your book categorized in three different categories on Amazon and other online bookstores that offer this categorization feature to organize books. The online bookstore's search engine is a little like the library's catalog—only faster. You want to be associated with genres and categories that people search for. But you want each category to be refined down to the category with the least competition in it—as long as it applies to your book. This is what my categories for The Frugal Book Promoter look like on Amazon. I'm not too happy with the last one, but I really, really needed a subset with fewer books in it than I could get with the obvious:



       Look for Similar Items by Category

Keep in mind that the people who might be looking for your book (or not know they are looking for your book) may very well not use the same jargon you use. Example: For my book they may think of the word "advertising" before they think of the word "publicity" or even "promotion."


2.   When possible use keywords in your title, in your subtitle, on the back of your cover and in your book description. And, yes, in the endorsements and blurbs you use.

3.   Use as many of the little benefits that online bookstores offer as you can. There is lots of Amazon-specific information on doing this in The Frugal Book Promoter ( like reader reviews, Listmanias, the add-an-image function, and the like button (which appears to be disappearing these days!). Even a few "Add to Wish List" entries can help the logarithms on Amazon.

4.   Participate in Amazon comments when it is pertinent, but not in a negative way. You'll find those at the end of each review.  Add helpful information and compliments to related books when you can. They link back to your Amazon profile page.

5.   And, about that profile page! Check it every so often to see if it needs updating. And be sure to feed your blog to it! That keeps it active.

6.   A rarely used function on each Amazon buypage is the "Start a discussion" section. Try to get someone to start one. Warn them that one must scroll down to find it.

7.   Vote on reviews that you like best on your own buypage and get others to do so. This could push that review (along with all of its keywords) to the top of the review offerings.


Now you know what to do with Amazon, apply your new skills to other things you are doing on the Web. And then here's another little tip directly from The Frugal Book Promoter. You don't have to be actively engaged in a social network to have a very nice profile on the site with lots of links back to your other networks and your Website. Make it your business to add a profile to something new every so often.

----- Carolyn Howard-Johnson, author of This Is the Place; Harkening: A Collection of Stories Remembered; Tracings, a chapbook of poetry; and how to books for writers including the award-winning second edition of, The Frugal Book Promoter: How to get nearly free publicity on your own or by partnering with your publisher; The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success; and Great Little Last Minute Editing Tips for Writers . The Great First Impression Book Proposal is her newest booklet for writers. She has three FRUGAL books for retailers including A Retailer’s Guide to Frugal In-Store Promotions: How To Increase Profits and Spit in the Eyes of Economic Downturns with Thrifty Events and Sales Techniques. Some of her other blogs are, a blog where authors can recycle their favorite reviews. She also blogs at all things editing, grammar, formatting and more at The Frugal, Smart and Tuned-In Editor .


Karen Cioffi said...

Carolyn, this is excellent information. Most of us don't think of the difference between 'findability' and 'discoverability,' and there is a big difference.

I've been reminded twice this week about using Amazon author pages. I set one up years ago then forgot about it. Time to get to it!

Magdalena Ball said...

Excellent suggestions on using Amazon better, Carolyn, and the usual wealth of detail and ideas to improve the chances of a serendipitous discovery.

Kathleen Moulton said...

"You don't have to be actively engaged in a social network to have a very nice profile on the site ..."


LV said...

Very interesting and informative post.

Debbie A Byrne said...

Great advice!

hpvanduuren said...

Thanks, interesting info,

(Btw. also when Selling Stock Photo's on a Micro Stock site, than in a somewhat similar way - Discoverablility - is also something to keep in mind.)

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