I have mentioned the importance of Amazon Categories as far as rankings are concerned in my post, I Just Published my Book. Now What?

Here is a rough guide to how many copies a book needs to sell to reach a certain rank in Amazon US, courtesy of Jackie Weger.

Amazon US rankings | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

This daunting figure, however, is only true when one thinks of the major categories – eg. “Books > Literature & Fiction.” The further one goes down the various subcategories, the easier it is to reach #1 in that sublisting.

I recently came across a great post on the subject by Jen Bresnick, so I thought I’d revisit this topic with a detailed how-to.

What is my Category?

When you look up a listing for a book on Amazon, scroll down past the reviews to the section titled “Look for similar items by category”.  If you visit the page for Jen’s The Last Death of Tev Chrisini, for example, you’ll see this:

Amazon categories | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Image: Jen Bresnick

The book is listed under an increasingly specific series of categories, including epic fantasy and sword & sorcery.  But anyone who has gone through the KDP publishing process knows that sword & sorcery isn’t a BISAC category, and you can’t select it from the list that looks like this:

Amazon categories | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Image: Jen Bresnick

BISAC Categories

You can select two BISAC categories, and they’re all relatively vague.  BISAC codes are assigned to help publishers and libraries make sense of book subjects for the purposes of developing metadata.  Amazon uses BISAC codes only to some extent. However, they also have their own internal ranking and categorization system that determines the all-important Top 100 lists.

So how do you further specify your genre?  It’s actually pretty simple.  Go back to your book listing and click on Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy.  You’ll get a page like this:

Amazon categories | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Image: Jen Bresnick

But look on the side, where those convenient red arrows are.  Look at all those options!  Broad things like epic, historical, and paranormal are there, as determined by BISAC, but check out those other ones!  Arthurian!  Fairy tales!  Superhero!  And better yet, look at the relatively small number of books in each of those categories, as compared to a broader BISAC designation.  If you write an Arthurian fantasy, you’ve only got 400 other competitors for a spot on the Top 100, as compared to 12,000 epic fantasy novels.  Much better odds of making it to the front page, right?  That makes you much easier to find when readers who just want to hear about Camelot come looking for a new story.

Now, here’s what you do.  When you’re publishing your Kindle book, and you’ve filled out your BISAC options, you’ll see an unassuming little box for seven keywords right underneath:

Amazon categories | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Image: Jen Bresnick

Jen’s Example

Jen’s The Spoil of Zanuth-Karun is basically about a young man navigating a world of chaos, and learning the meaning of responsibility, courage, honor, and duty along the way.  So, she chose “coming of age” as one of her targeted categories and see what happened:

Amazon categories | From the blog of Nicholas C. Rossis, author of science fiction, the Pearseus epic fantasy series and children's books

Image: Jen Bresnick

All you need to do is make sure that your keywords match a category on that extended meta-list, and you’re good to go.  Jen only had to give away seven copies of her preview in order to make it onto this list, and anyone looking for a coming of age story will see it right there in front of them.

A helpful guide

I’ve already mentioned this in my previous post on the subject, but it bears repeating:

To help you with categories, I’m including a MS Excel spreadsheet with all of Amazon’s book categories/subcategories, listed according to competitiveness: categories at the top are the easiest to break into. Although the spreadsheet only includes data on Fiction categories, the information in this post also applies to Non-Fiction ones.

Update: Author Sarah Potter reports the following:

“You can also email them at KDP and ask them to add some additional browsing categories. These won’t show up where the rankings are, but if you scroll down the page to “Look for similar items by category”, you’ll see them there. Originally, I had three browsing categories at the bottom of my product page, but now I have 8 on the UK site and 7 on the US one.”

I hope this little walk-through helps you in your quest to find the right audience. Use some of your keywords as a simple way to get your book in front of the right readers.  After all, that’s what keywords are for!

You can check out Jen’s blog and her full post here.

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