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Book Marketing: How Lateral Thinking Boosts Keyword Success

Book Marketing: How Lateral Thinking Boosts Keyword Success

cover of when your life depends on it by brad borkan

Find out how Vikings are helping to see a book about the Antarctic!

Choosing the right keywords for book  marketing purposes is critical, especially in online advertising campaigns, but are you casting your net wide enough? ALLi author and decision-making expert Brad Borkan was surprised when what at first seemed outlandish keyword suggestions – Vikings, Moon Landings – lured in new and eager readers to his co-authored non-fiction book, When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic. Today he shares his case study to help other authors apply lateral thinking successful to their keyword choices.


Having finally taken the plunge and started running Amazon ads, I wanted to share what my co-author and I have learned about choosing the best keywords to achieve a healthy return on investment.

Some of it is counter-intuitive, reached only by lateral thinking, triggered by our use of KDP Rocket.

A Keyword Case Study

First, a bit of my background.  I have co-written a book called When Your Life Depends on It: Extreme Decision Making Lessons from the Antarctic.  It focuses on the life-and-death decisions made by the early Antarctic explorers and what we can learn from them for modern-day decision making.

Since I have a co-author, and our topic is fairly narrow – Antarctica, exploration, decision making, leadership and teamwork – we figured that between us we could quickly come up with at least 150 keywords.  For example:

  • image of man landing on moon

    Turns out the same readers who enjoy books about moon landings are great targets for Brad Borkan's book about the Antarctic (Image by @nasa via unsplash.com

    Expedition leaders: Scott, Shackleton, Amundsen, Mawson …

  • Antarctic locations: Ross Ice Shelf, Weddell Sea, South Pole, Beardmore Glacier …
  • Ships: Fram, Discovery, Endurance, Aurora, James Caird …
  • Conditions/risks: snow, cold, danger, crevasse, scurvy, frostbite …
  • Modern explorers: Ranulph Fiennes…

Easy, right? We listed at least 200 without breaking a sweat.

Lateral Thinking Inspired by KDPRocket

Then we decided that KDPRocket was relatively inexpensive so why not try it?  (Please note:  I have no affiliation to KDPRocket and they are not reimbursing me in any way to write this.)

Once armed with KDPRocket, I typed in various keywords.  It came back with all sorts of things that we thought were useless, or near to useless:

  • Words: Vikings, Normans, Mountains, Apollo 11, Apollo 8, Navy Seals…
  • Books: In or Out, The House, Into Africa, A Night to Remember…
  • People: Abraham Lincoln, Churchill, Napoleon, Steve Jobs, Ragnar Lothbrok …
  • Places we never thought to include: Alaska, the Oregon Trail, Northwest Passage…

Guess where we got the most clicks and sales?  It was a mix of the Antarctic words of course, but also words that seemed to us like nonsense from KDPRocket.

Who would have thought that the clicks and sales for a book on Antarctic decision making would come from Viking references like Ragnor Lothbrok, moon landing references like the Apollo series, and books about Africa?

Counter-Intuitive Keywords

image of Viking longboat on ice

(Image by @roanlavery via @unsplash.com)

Had we kept to Antarctic words, I am certain that our campaigns would not have been successful.  For those into numbers, our ads are running at an average of 37% ACoS, which means they are profitable.  We still have a lot to learn about ads and keywords, however, for us, the big takeaway was:

“Knowing your subject well is actually an impediment to thinking broadly about keywords.”

We were so focused on Antarctic words, we didn’t think about the broader context of finding readers across time frames or locations  – Vikings or Moon landings – until we used an external stimulus like KDPRocket.

In your genre or topic, what is your equivalent of Vikings or Moon landings?

OVER TO YOU Have you had any surprising successes with keywords that at first seemed unlikely? We'd love to hear about them!

#Indieauthors - having trouble picking the right keywords for your AMS ads? Read this insightful case study for some great ideas on lateral thinking - by @PolarDecisions Click To Tweet

From the ALLi Author Advice Center Archive

Author: Brad Borkan

Brad Borkan is the co-author of “When Your Life Depends on It”, which focuses on the real life-and-death decisions made by the early Antarctic explorers. His book has been endorsed by Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the world’s greatest living Polar explorer.

Brad’s interest in polar history started when he picked up an Antarctic book at the age of 8, at the local public library. His life-long fascination with how people and businesses can make better decisions led to a graduate degree in Decision Sciences from the University of Pennsylvania.

He has presented at Antarctic conferences in Norway, Ireland and the UK, and appeared on cable TV in the US, and on Internet talk radio programs. He also speaks at corporate events and business conferences – most recently to 370 people at Credit Suisse Investment Bank – on the themes of leadership, team work, and winning against the odds, all set in the exciting context of Polar exploration.

Earlier this year Brad was named as a Fellow of the Royal Geographic Society.

Find out more about his book at www.extreme-decisions.com.


This Post Has One Comment
  1. It is not clear whether obscure keywords like “Moon landings” and “Vikings” were of any benefit in selling a book about adventures in Antartica. I would have thought that readers would be very annoyed at having their time wasted if they were looking for those subjects, and finding stories about Antartica instead. And that doesn’t give me much faith in KDP Rocket. Happy to be convinced otherwise.

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