Monday, November 24, 2014

Categorizing you book

So, you know how it's hard sometimes to figure out what genre a book is in? Like is it fantasy, or magical realism, or urban fantasy, or paranormal? And even when you've got it figured out, the definitions can be so grey that other readers will completely disagree?

Now magnify that by seven and you'll have the issue of categorizing your book on Amazon.

If you've never uploaded a book to Amazon, here's how it works. You get two BISAC categories which are an industry standard and pretty basic. Think Juvenile fiction, Science Fiction. In addition to these categories, you get seven keywords that Amazon will use to put you into more detailed categories. And there's the rub, you don't get to select these more detailed categories. You have to know the right keywords to use in combination with your BISAC category to get you there.

Why is this important?
Regardless of your feelings about Amazon, you can't deny they are the biggest player when it comes to book sales. And for an indie or small press author who might have difficulty getting stocked in brick and mortar stores, they are going to account for the majority of your sales. Getting your book into the right categories means it will be easier for readers to find you. The more categories you're in, the more opportunities for readers to stumble across you while browsing for books.

When I initially entered my book, I didn't pay attention at all to the magic combinations and just entered in a bunch of keywords that basically accomplished nothing. I knew that, but with so many other moving pieces to loading the book, I had to let some things go. So now that all the final files are loaded and just waiting for release, I've gone back in to tinker with my results.

These are the results.

Before (with generic keywords that were already covered by my BISAC categories)

 After (with more specific keywords)
Sorry for the blurry images here. You'll see I definitely ended up in more categories, though I'm not sure I really expanded my reach by much.  Also, I have no idea how I ended up in Literature & Fiction. That sounds like the broadest possible category ever. There are still a few categories that I would like to be in that my changes didn't generate. From here, the next step is probably to reach out to Amazon directly to ask how to get my book in those categories. 

Until then, we'll see if this generates anymore activity.

When it comes to your categories, it's good to experiment here and see what works best for you. I've seen category changes make a huge impact on a book's ranking which can dramatically alter how often your book is seen and enhance your sales numbers.

But like everything else, be sure to make changes in moderation. If you go in every day and change your categories, you aren't giving your book enough time to see if the changes help or hurt. And, I can't stress this enough, you need to be honest with your keywords. There are some really small categories out there I could put my book in that would be sure to send me right to the top of the chart. But that doesn't do any good if Amazon browsers discover my book is nothing like the others in the category. You never want to trick your readers into buying your book. This should go without saying, but I'm putting it out there anyway.

While book category sounds administrative, it is definitely marketing and shouldn't be overlooked. Remember, discoverability is our biggest challenge, so anything we can do to increase the likelihood of readers finding us is a big step in our marketing efforts.


  1. Thank you for posting about this. This is something I've been puzzling over since I first read about it. How much time did you let lapse between keyword changes? Was it a week before you decided you needed a keyword change? Or longer? What is a good time length to test out keywords and keyword changes?

    1. The book was in pre-sale for a few weeks before I found time to mess with the keywords. In hindsight, I should have done this before loading it to the sight, but sometimes you do what you can and let some things go. I'll probably let these sit for the week. Mostly because I have a lot of other things to take care of that are more time sensitive. After Thanksgiving, I'll go back in and see if I can get into the other categories that I think fit my book well.

      I would say you need to give your book a good week in a new category before you go around changing it, but that's just me. This can quickly become something that sucks up a bunch of your time without accomplishing much.

  2. This might seem like an odd question, but does it have to be an existing category?

    The more I revise it, I'm finding it's kind of becoming it's own categorically non-categorized novella. I think I just made my brain hurt.:/ I think, and therefore it hurts. Even with the narrow scope of SF, I find it hard to really label it that.

    I guess coming-of-age. Though that's broad in itself.

    Or maybe a better way to put it, doesn't have to strictly fall into a category?

    1. For Amazon and other booksellers, you must choose a category that they have listed. The BISAC categories are standards in the industry and you can't change them. When it comes to querying or pitching your book to agents and editors, you can call your book whatever you like. If a genre doesn't quite fit, make your own. Just keep in mind, that information is there so the agent or editor has a better idea of what your book is about. If you go too far into left field they will be left confused rather than intrigued.


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