KWE Publishing Newsletter - 06/15/23
As we recently shared in one of our newsletters, Amazon announced that it would change the way it categorizes books (both physical books and ebooks, which are often uploaded through Kindle Direct Publishing, or KDP).
What does this mean for authors? Essentially, Amazon previously allowed authors to use up to ten categories to help readers find their books if they made a request through Amazon's messaging system; otherwise, two categories were used by default.
Since many authors are unfamiliar with the ins and outs of how Amazon categories work (which is totally understandable—these categories and their functions can be surprisingly intricate!), we wanted to explore this topic a little more to familiarize our readers with the subject!
As a caveat, we want to add that what we're sharing is based on Amazon's practices at the current moment; Amazon may make changes in the future that impact the way categories work—but if that happens, we'll make sure to share that info, too!
And one more thing before you worry too much about categories: your publisher will typically be the one who determines what categories to place your book in. This is because publishers often have access to tools that provide us with data about each category. This means there shouldn't be much for you to do on your end unless you're self-publishing a book, in which case you'll choose each category yourself. Again, we just want to keep you informed of some of the behind-the-scenes changes going on in the industry!
So, why are categories important, and what do they do?
Category ranking only relies on how well your book is selling comparatively.
As Dave Chesson at Kindleprenuer explains, "Your book category ranking is solely dependent on your book’s Amazon Best Seller Rank (ABSR) as compared to the other books in that same category."
So if your book is the number one best-seller in its category, that doesn't mean it's the number one best-seller on all of Amazon; it just means it sold the most books in that particular category.
Different categories often determine how easy it is to become a number one new release.
Prior to this new change on Amazon, the ability to add up to ten categories (if you requested to do so through KDP's "Help" feature) meant authors were more likely to hit the number one new release in niche categories.
For example, to be the number one new release in the made-up category of "books about cats with jobs," you may only need to sell two books because there were only five books in the entire category. However, if you wanted to be the number one new release in "books about cats," you might have to sell 500 books because the category was saturated.
Now, Amazon defaults to allow authors to use three categories with subgenres and only three categories. This means authors will need to be more selective about the categories they choose.
However, this on its own shouldn't have much impact on the sales of your book—just on the likelihood of your book being a bestseller in its category.
And while this may initially sound like a negative thing, in some cases, having fewer categories could actually benefit authors! As Karen Ferreira, CEO of Children's book Mastery, explains, "In September 2022, Amazon made a change to limit the display in bestseller lists to three lists per book. K-lytics (they study book marketing and sales trends) found that this resulted in many high-ranking titles (like Harry Potter) that were on just about every bestseller list [being] removed from most lists...meaning other, smaller titles could now rank higher on the charts."
Here's some more good news: your book's keywords are often what help readers find your book.
The keywords you use to describe your book help readers find your book when they search certain terms on Amazon. While your categories might play a part in this—a book that's number one in its category is more likely to show up in a search than a book that ranks low in its category—using the right keywords can actually result in more sales...
And more sales mean your book will be ranked higher in its category.
So while all of this might sound a little confusing, at the end of the day, what you need to know is that your book can only be categorized into three category genres/subgenres, so while it might be harder to be a number one new release in a category, keywords can help you boost sales (and therefore up your ranking in categories, too).
Did you know about these recent Amazon changes? And what questions do you have about categories and keywords?