Nick Daw's Writing Blog - Inside the writing world of Nick Daws
Receive this blog by e-mail!  Enter your e-mail address:   

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Amazon Tagging - Is the Party Over?

I've written about tagging on Amazon a few times - this post on my blog and this guest post on Tony Eldridge's blog, for example.

I'm a big fan of tagging to help publicize your book - or Kindle e-book - on Amazon, but a recent post on the CreateSpace forums (the print self-publishing service owned by Amazon) suggested matters may be about to change. I've copied the relevant part of the post by "CreateSpaceKate" below:

“We’d like to provide a little more information about the Tag feature on Tags are not intended to be used as a method to promote your titles. The tagging activity occurring in this thread does not follow the terms of use for the Tag feature on and could be considered abusive. You can learn more about the Tags feature by visiting

For this reason, we are locking this and all threads that organize this type of tagging, and future threads of this nature will be deleted from our Community. We encourage you to share your work with each other and discuss marketing and promotion ideas, but organized manipulation of any feature is not something we will permit on our boards. Website features and tools should be used as intended.

We understand that you have put a lot of time and effort into this thread and that it can be quite a challenge to increase the visibility of your work. We hope you will check out the tips we provided which may help improve your titles’ searchability on and continue to support each other’s success.”

This announcement has caused shock waves across the writing and self-publishing community. Services that facilitate reciprocal tagging are having to consider their positions, and I heard today that Tag My Book on Amazon - a well-established service that promoted the responsible use of tagging - has decided to cease operations.

My first reaction, I admit, was deep disappointment that an easy, free and ethical method for authors to help publicize their titles on Amazon was coming to an end. However, on further consideration, I'm not sure it's quite as cut-and-dried as that.

For one thing, there is no mention of any third-party sites that facilitate mutual tagging - only topics on Amazon's own forums are referred to. None of the third-party sites have been asked by Amazon to stop operating, as far as I know. Tag My Book on Amazon, according to this post by its owner, Todd Fonseca, has closed solely in response to the forum message copied above.

Neither has there been any "official" announcement about this from Amazon - just that single, low-key post in a self-publishing forum. And finally, there is no mention in the post of any sanctions being taken against authors using this method to promote their titles - it's just the forum topics promoting mutual tagging they want to see the back of.

So what can we conclude? It seems to me that Amazon has been embarrassed by some of the "tagging parties" that have gone on via its own forums. These have resulted in some self-published books getting literally hundreds of tags, not all of them strictly relevant to the title in question. This has pushed them above best-selling authors with traditional publishers for the tags concerned - thus skewing Amazon's own search results, and potentially resulting in reduced profits for the company when lesser-known titles pop up first in searches.

For these reasons, it's understandable that Amazon doesn't want to be seen condoning such activities on its own forums. But that doesn't mean tagging is going to end any time soon. It's a popular feature with both authors and readers - and Amazon in any event have no control over third-party sites, or even individual authors who encourage their friends and colleagues to tag their books.

And, in any event, I'm not at all sure they would want to interfere in such matters. Self-publishing (and self-promoting) authors contribute a substantial amount to Amazon's income. It doesn't seem to me that it would be in Amazon's best interests to make their job any harder.

For now, my view is that tagging remains a useful and legitimate promotional tool for Amazon authors, whether published or self-published. It's a good way to help potential readers find your titles, and to boost their visibility. But this is perhaps a warning to authors from Amazon that it shouldn't be used excessively or inappropriately.

Incidentally, although Tag My Book on Amazon has closed, other services that promote reciprocal tagging are still running. This topic on the popular Kindleboards forum for Kindle authors is one example. There is no indication that this will be closing down, although it's always possible in future, of course.

I'd be very interested to hear your views about all this. Will you (still) use tagging to help promote your titles on Amazon in future? And what about reciprocal tagging services - would you still use them, or do you regard this now as too risky or unethical? Please post any comments below!

Photo Credit: End of Party by Juliana Coutinho on Flickr.

Labels: , , , ,



Anonymous Selena Blake said...

The organized "tag me" forums have always given me a weird feeling. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it one way or the other. But I don't have a problem tagging friends and that sort of thing can be discussed via IM or email. It'll be interesting to see how this all plays out. (And FYI, my books should be tagged under paranormal and romance. LOL)

1:36 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Selena. Nice bit of self-promotion there ;-)

4:22 PM  
Blogger Christopher Wills said...

Interesting topic. I've got some people to tag my book and although this has meant it has appeared on the first page of the tagged list for that word, it doesn't appear to have increased sales as far as I can see.
I liken putting a book on Amazon to having it in an unopened box in the cellar of a bookshop. Nobody is ever going to find it unless someone knows it is there, so anything to raise the profile must help. I suppose my book is not very sellable. My next book however....:)

10:12 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Thanks, Christopher. Sorry tagging hasn't helped your sales especially. It's an unpredictable business at the best of times, book marketing. I did find tagging very helpful with one book of mine. It was written under a pen-name, and for various contractual reasons I wasn't allowed to admit to being the author. Tagging was one of the few promotional methods I could use, and it seemed to work well at priming the pump. The book now sells steadily, if not exactly spectacularly.

I think part of the key with Amazon is to get those first few sales (and reviews). This puts your book on Amazon's radar, and makes it more likely they will promote it themselves with "you might also like..." recommendations and similar. I've even heard it suggested you should buy a few copies of your book yourself initially, to set the wheels in motion.

Anyway, good luck with your current book, and your next one!

9:23 AM  
Anonymous writing job said...

Thankyou for your blog and the info on amazon

12:48 AM  
Blogger David Callinan said...

I've just across this business of mutual tagging. If a writer bought ad space on Amazon it would not be deemed to be giving them an unfair advantage over those that didn't or can't afford to.

Promotional activity is always unequal and making your book as visible as possible amid the thousands of indie titles out there seems reasonable. Buyers will still buy the books they want to buy. Tagging should be seen as a service.

I still cannot work out the system. The author puts up 15 tags and presumably Amazon prevents he or she endlessly tagging their own books.

So, another author goes to the book page and then what?

Do they enter the same tags as the author to get as many hits on the same tag?

Or do they so something else - different tags mayba?

11:11 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Hi David

It's no mystery really :-)

Amazon does impose certain limits on how many tags anyone can apply to a book. I think it's 15, although I'm not certain about that (Amazon has a habit of changing the rules quite regularly without telling anyone). The same limit applies to everyone, whether you're the author of the book or not.

And yes, another author (or anyone else) can then visit the page and apply the same tags or different ones, up to the usual maximum.

For the author, it helps to have multiple tags, because the more tags you have for any particular keyword/s, the higher up your book will appear when someone does an Amazon search on that tag.

Usually, in mututal tagging proposals, authors will specify what tags they would like their books given.

Hope that helps clarify matters for you.


8:33 AM  
Blogger Darlene said...

Why is it that tags appear on some Amazon book pages, but not on others?

9:12 PM  
Blogger Nick said...

Probably nobody has yet applied any tags to the book in question. AFAIK, it's possible to apply tags to any book (or ebook) in the Amazon store.

8:27 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home