I don't know about all of you, but I read a bit from most genres. When it's time for me to pick up a new book, I usually ask myself what I'm in the mood for - romance? mystery? SF? Something funny or something serious? An old favorite author or someone new to me? Then I hit the shelves or flip through the Kindle to see what might strike my fancy.
Sometimes, I look at everything I already own and can't find exactly what I want. You know how it is - you're hungry, but nothing in the house sounds good, and you could really go for a hot fudge brownie sundae, but you're too lazy to make the hot fudge or the brownies. When this situation arises - the book one, not the sundae one - I hit the interwebs and my favorite place to shop for books.
But let's face it - it's still not the easiest thing in the world. It's not like when I used to go to Borders - wander the stacks, pull a book off the shelf to see the cover and read the back, and find something sparky. I mean, the online stores do an excellent job of showing me what might be similar to what I've already bought. Like this? Well, try that. And I've found some good books that way. But no. I'm talking about when I have a taste for something unlike what I've recently purchased. Cuz sometimes I have a taste for scallops, but I haven't had scallops in forever (or maybe because I haven't had scallops in forever) and so the online store doesn't know I like them. Ya know?
That's where the ol' search thing comes in. Have a taste for something like that book you read about the veterinarian in Australia who makes housecalls in the Outback? Search veterinarian Australian outback. And maybe throw in humor, if it's humorous, or adventure, if it's adventurous. Tada.
But that's where some authors fall down a little. We only have 7 'keywords' available to make our books easier for the readers to find. (I put quotes around it because it's also key phrases and not just single words.) And from what I've read, we're not using those keywords effectively.
If you've written a military thriller set in Iceland where the retired female officer hero has a puffin and works as a clown on the weekends, that's a lot of keyword fodder there. BUT if you've already but your book in Thrillers > Military, you don't need to waste your keywords on those two. The book's already going to be in that search. From what I understand, you want to use those items that set your book apart from other military thrillers. 'Female protagonist' would be a big one - because, let's face it, there aren't a lot of those in military thrillers. Then you have to ask yourself if puffin would work, and it would - but it's too narrow. 'Pet bird'... 'unusual pets'... Think about what the readers would be typing into the search box. Think about what you might use to find a book like yours. Go to the retailer and see what different searches yield, and if your book is already published, see where your book lands on the search results.
'Genie suspense' landed Wish in One Hand at the top of the search, btw, which is a good thing. 'Supernatural suspense with dogs' landed it at the fourth one down - also good. If you try a search where you think your book ought to be and your book isn't on the first page or two of results, you need to think about refining the keywords. The broader the search - 'supernatural suspense' for instance - the farther you're going to be down the list unless your sales are already totally awesome and then you probably already have what you need. That particular broad search put me too far down to bother with. :shrug:
Anyway, it all depends on what you're looking for as a reader and what you're trying for as a writer. Keywords are called 'key' 'words' for a reason.
What keywords do you use to find books to read? What keywords to you use to help readers find your books?