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.
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:
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:
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:
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:
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:
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!
Terrific advice, Nicholas. I will do this when I post my next book! Then revise the others..
Yay! I’m so glad you found it useful 🙂
Thanks for this helpful information, Nicholas. The trouble with sharing it is that it make more competition!
Yep. But that’s what makes it all worthwhile, right? 🙂
Ha! So obvious really. Thanks Nick
Isn’t everything – in retrospect? 🙂
Story of my life for sure!
Oh, this is good stuff, Nick! I’ve been wondering how to put my book in a more specific category, and now, thanks to you, I know! 🙂
Yay! Glad to have helped 🙂
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.
Didn’t know that; thanks for sharing! I’ll add it to the post 🙂
Hi again NIcholas. I just didn’t some experimenting. After the lengthy reply I left you. I came back here in Internet Explorer and the file opened! So not Chrome friendly perhaps? 🙂
Oh, right! I am using Chrome as we speak, and it worked for me, so you probably need to let Chrome know how to handle Excel files.
Never mind all that now, though: I’m just glad it worked 🙂
Thank you for your help. Is this a complicated thing telling Chrome to open excel files? LOL
I wish I knew – mine seems to do so automatically. Or I set it up ages ago and don’t even remember how 😀
I shall investigate 🙂
Great post again as always, Nicholas! It spurred me to revisit my categories to see if there was anything I could do to improve my rankings.
When I expand the menu on the left, I see the additional subcategories, but I don’t get the “counts” associated with them. Do you know if this is a setting that needs to be changed somewhere at the account level? Or perhaps I’m just looking at the wrong page? (I get there, I scrolled down to my subcategories on my book’s sales page, clicked one in the chain, and that brought me to the page in question.)
I get the numbers by following the following sequence:
I went to my book, then clicked on Kindle eBooks (2nd option in the top horizontal menu) > Science Fiction & Fantasy (at the left menu) > Fantasy (left menu)
Brilliant! That worked! Thanks!
I don’t have a book out, Nick, but I’m sure if I did, I’d be a shoe-in for #1 in Fiction > Domestic Appliance Thrillers > Dishwasher Conspiracies > Paranormal Romance.
Damn, now I want to read it! Hurry up and write it already!
Thanks as always for your excellent shares. I seem to be unable to open the excel spreadsheet link you have highlited. I think I’ve had this problem here before with your excel link. What am I missing? 🙂
Erm… I need more info on your computer, namely is it a tablet or desktop? Also, your operating system, browser and whether you have MS Office installed or not.
Hi Nicholas, thanks for responding. Okay, I just went back to your page on my desktop ( yesterday I was on my Windows 10 Surface Pro which does have excel and word. Today I’m here on my windows 8.1 desktop with Word also installed here. I’m using Chrome browser because about 2 months ago, Internet explorer doesn’t let me ‘like’ on blogs from there.
I just tried clicking the link again, the only thing that happens is the same blog page reopens?
Could you please try right-clicking on the link and saving the file on your desktop, then opening it from there? Sometimes the browser integration misfires.
A pleasure! Hope you find it useful 🙂
Thanks, Nicholas! What are the column headings for the rest of your columns, though? I can’t figure out what they are (Columns D and beyond)? Please advise!
Just ignore those – all you need is columns A-C.
Excellent advice, Nicholas. I shall be doing some updates today 🙂
Yay! Glad you found it useful 🙂
C.S. Larkin is doing a course on keywords, categories, and so much more.
Her blog, https://www.livewritethrive.com/ , is an amazing resource – one of the best around!
As always, your sharing of tips and valuable information does you credit.
Best wishes, Pete.
Thank you so much, Pete 🙂
Thanks, Rossis. This is invaluable. I once did a post on keywords and it has been one of my most popular. Authors need this info and it’s so obscure in the Kindle instructions.
Yes, that’s a big problem when setting up one’s title, especially for newbies.
I’m supposed to know this stuff, but a comprehensive reminder is always welcome. Thanks!
You sure do know it 🙂
A great share, Nicholas. Categories and keywords are important to the reader who is trying to find a book they have a high chance of enjoying.
Couldn’t agree more. Which is why it’s one thing to target a relevant category with little competition, and quite another to target a category that has nothing to do with your work, just so you can dupe people into buying your book. I should probably mention this somewhere, come to think of it…
Some valuable information here, thanks for sharing it!
Yay! Thanks 🙂
As someone getting ready to publish first novella and trying KDP for the first time, this is really useful information, Nicholas.
Yay! So glad you found it helpful 🙂