For many years, Amazon has allowed authors to request their books be listed in up to ten Amazon categories. The biggest benefit of being listed in multiple categories is that it can improve the discoverability for your book when your book sells enough copies to appear in the top ten of a category. So when potential readers scroll through the category where your book is listed in the top sellers, the odds of your book being purchased increase greatly. Discoverability on Amazon is everything when it comes to attracting new readers.
In addition, when your book reaches #1 status in any category, it earns the bestseller tag and the tag stays there while the book is in that position. See Mark Paul’s book The Greatest Gambling Story Ever Told:
To be clear, the goal here is NOT to reach bestseller status for five minutes so you call your book an Amazon bestseller. We do NOT condone this as a marketing practice.
There is no long-term value of having a bestselling book in a small category on Amazon for an hour or a day. However, there is tremendous value in remaining in the number one position of a category over the long term because of the above designation and improved discoverability of your book. And if you can’t be in the number one spot, at least aim to hover in the top ten of at least one category.
Amazon Now Limits the Number of Categories for Books
A couple weeks ago Amazon changed its policies and no longer allows authors to request ten categories. Now, you can only choose a maximum of three categories, which means you must choose your categories carefully. Do not let Amazon automatically choose the categories for you because they will likely get them wrong!
If you have one or more books available for sale on Amazon, it’s imperative that you check each edition of your book on Amazon to see in which categories your book is listed. And if you plan to publish on Amazon in the future, follow these guidelines.
How to Locate Your Book’s Categories for Your Print AND Ebook (They’re different!)
Categories are listed on your book’s sales page on Amazon, about halfway down the page below “Bestsellers Ranks.”
I checked the categories for my book, The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan. The Kindle edition is listed in the following categories:
The only category I would question here is “Writing Skills in Advertising,” which is an odd choice. But because the book is ranked highly there, I need to decide if I want to keep that category or choose another relevant category where the book can also rank well.
Next, I checked the categories for the paperback edition of my book, which are completely different than the Kindle edition:
How to Decide on Appropriate Amazon Categories
The categories for “Writing Skill Reference” and “Fiction Writing Reference” don’t align at all with the focus of the book AND the book isn’t ranking well in these categories, so I needed to do some research.
I started by clicking on “Authorship Reference” to see what books are listed there.
This category features quite a few books about writing (not publishing), including many evergreen titles that will likely always be the leaders in this category. (On Writing Well and King’s On Writing are perennial favorites.)
Above the “Authorship” link, I clicked on “Publishing & Books” and found some titles that don’t belong here, especially in the top ten, including Easy Piano Songs for Kids, Native American Herbalist’s Bible, and Starting Medicare Smartly.
What a mess!
These category issues are likely why Amazon has changed its policy. Too many authors and publishers have been trying to game the bestseller system by choosing categories with little competition to list in with the goal of achieving bestseller status. Again, this is not a practice we condone at the Nonfiction Authors Association.
How to Choose Categories on Amazon MANUALLY
Once you’ve identified a list of current categories for each edition of your book, next you will want to see what other categories may be available within your genre. You can do this by looking up competing book titles and seeing what categories they are listed in.
Each time you discover a new category, click the link to open it in a new window. If there are perennial favorites that could stay there for a long time, you may want to choose other categories.
Category selection is tricky, especially when doing it manually. There is another way.
How to Choose Categories with Publisher Rocket
I purchased Publisher Rocket (just $97, affiliate link) awhile back, which is an excellent tool for locating categories and keywords. It identifies all the related Amazon categories and also shows you how competitive it is to get your book into the top ten in each category.
I began with a category search in Rocket for the word “publish.” I sorted the results by the number of book sales needed to get into the top ten of each category:
As you can see above, the “Book Industry” category is a good bet for my print book because it only takes two sales to be featured in the top ten and 16 sales to make it to number one. Plus, this category aligns with the subject of the book. I made note of this category and proceeded to continue researching.
Further down, I found the following:
The above category of “Authorship,” a sub-category of “Publishing & Books,” needs nine sales to make it to the top ten and 64 sales to the number one position. I made note of it for consideration.
At the bottom of the category list, I was disappointed to see the sales requirements for the “Writing, Research, and Publishing Guides” category:
This category requires 64 sales to get in the top ten and 100 sales to reach the number one position. When I clicked to look at the titles found in the top ten, I was surprised to see Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things, and John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air. Both wonderful books, but not about writing or publishing. My niche title could never compete with these top sellers.
This demonstrates why these category choices can be so frustrating and challenging! It’s important to do the research before settling on your categories.
Choose Different Categories for the Kindle Edition
Remember, each edition of your book is listed in different categories.
Kindle categories for nonfiction can be less competitive than print book categories. For the Kindle edition of The Nonfiction Book Publishing Plan, I located the following:
The “Nonfiction” category under “Writing, Research, and Publishing Guides” needs a single sale to make it into the top ten, and just six sales to reach number one status. Score! This is a perfect match for my book.
I proceeded with my research on categories for each edition of my book until I had compiled a list of potential categories and noted how competitive each is according to the Publisher Rocket data. Finally, I narrowed my choices down three categories for each edition.
How to Request Category Changes in KDP
If your books are published with KDP, you can now make the changes directly from your dashboard.
- Click on the ellipsis menu next to your title, and then click “Edit eBook details” or “Edit Paperback details.”
- Scroll down the page and re-check the field indicating whether or not your book is for an adult audience only.
- Further down you will see a field for Categories. It will show you some current categories your book is listed in, though perhaps not all of them. (Mine was listed in more categories than I saw in KDP.) There is a disclaimer showing that once you make changes to your categories, your book will be removed from existing categories.
- Click on “Choose categories.” You will see a drop-down menu where you can begin selecting your categories.
Here is what a category selection looks like:
- Follow the steps to add three categories. Once complete, click “Save Categories.”
IMPORTANT: Your changes will not be saved until you click the buttons at the bottom of the screen to “Save and Continue.” You will do this twice until you get to the final button that says “Publish Your Kindle Ebook.”
After a few days, check your listing to see if your changes have been incorporated! Changes may take up to seven days or so.
How to Request a Change in Categories for Your Non-KDP Book
Non-KDP authors can request category changes through your free Author Central account. In my experience, Author Central support often responds faster than the KDP support team.
Login to your Author Central account and scroll down to the bottom of the page. Locate the “Contact Us” link and click on it.
You will be taken to a screen where you indicate why you need support. Select “Amazon Book Page,” and then choose “Update Amazon Categories.”
You will be shown a screen with an email template, like this:
Here is the email format you will need to follow for your request:
Format: ASIN (or ISBN), marketplace, book format, category
Example: 0000000000, .com, paperback, Books > Literary & Fiction > Contemporary
Categories to be added (list each category as a separate line item):
Categories to be removed (list each category as a separate line item):
Note that you need to indicate which categories should be removed from your book listing. You also need to indicate the Amazon marketplace. “.com” is the US marketplace. If you want to update categories in other countries, you can request those here as well by indicating “.ca” (Canada), “.uk” (United Kingdom), etc.
IMPORTANT: Let support know you’re a non-KDP author, otherwise they may automatically tell you to make the changes in KDP. (This happened to me.)
After you submit your request, the changes should appear within a few days. If for any reason your changes don’t appear within a week and you haven’t heard back from support, submit your request again.
Once your categories are updated properly, keep an eye on your rankings. These are tabulated several times throughout each day so what you see in the morning may be different in the evening. Remember, the goal is not to be at the top of a category for a hot minute! It’s to hover in the top ten of one or more RELEVANT categories for the long term.
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