Writing: Importance of Book Categories

As the title says, this post is writing-centered. Specifically, it’s about the importance of book categories, especially when it comes to Amazon. I’ll even admit it was inspired by a post I just read over at The Passive Voice. I’m not going to rehash the entire post, just make a couple of observations and leave a warning.

As every indie author knows, when you set up a book for sale, whether it is on Amazon or one of the other storefronts (or through one of the sites that will distribute your book to those storefronts), there are a number of things you have to do. There are the things you’d expect: uploading the cover and interior files, adding the product description, deciding publication date, price, etc. But you also have to list your key words and book categories. Each storefront/site has different rules and will allow you a different number of both. That is one reason why it’s easier to use a site like Draft2Digital because you fill it all out once and then the information is sent to the various storefronts and they list as many as they can.

Amazon is sort of the outlier in some ways. I know that doesn’t surprise a lot of you. When you set up a book, you are allowed two–TWO–book categories and seven keywords. For those of you unfamiliar with what I mean by book categories, those are what you see when you look at a book’s ranking and see something like this:

That’s the ranking this morning for Nocturnal Origins, but it also shows three of the 10 categories the book is listed under.

So how did I get the extra categories? I asked for them. The article PG references in the above link gives you the info you need to ask for the extra categories and also gives you some excellent links to learn what categories your book is listed under (and it amazed me to find some I didn’t ask for when I first started studying and updating my categories) and how to find what categories similar books are listed under.

I especially like the link to Book Category Hunter. That site has been a godsend for this task.

Now, I do want to add a big caveat to all this. It is something I learned first-hand and something I’ve seen more and more authors discussing over the last six months or so.

Manipulating book categories to get into small, or niche, categories in order to bet the Top 10 or even #1 Best Seller tag isn’t anything new. Folks have been doing it as long as Amazon has allowed categories outside of the BISACS list. There have been a number of writers–and I use that term loosely—purposefully putting their books into categories where they don’t fit just to take advantage of the smaller category size.

Amazon started clamping down on that when readers started raising a fuss. Now, this being Amazon and so much of the “research” into whether or not a book is in the right category is initially done by bots, mistakes happen. Several months ago, I received an email from Amazon saying I was in danger of having my account shut down because one or more of my books might be listed in the wrong categories. I immediately contacted Amazon and found out they couldn’t tell me what book(s) had been flagged. I was also told it could have been a glitch. I figured it was the latter but made sure the categories fit the books.

Other authors have had books removed from sale and, in some instances, accounts suspended until they updated the categories. They weren’t happy and I don’t blame them, especially those who had done nothing wrong. But I understand why Amazon is doing it. After all, the customer experience is what keeps the buyer coming back to the site and, tbh, to our books. If we write a hard science fiction novel but list it in romance, we’re going to piss someone off, especially if there is not a hint of romance in it.

So, yes, go check your categories and take advantage of being able to add to them. It does help your discoverability on Amazon and that, in turn, can have a huge impact on your sales.

But do so with the caveat firmly in mind. Don’t try to get cute.

Now, I need to get back to work. Until later!


Featured Image created using Midjourney AI (and go buy Jack Wylder’s book on AI prompt mastery).

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