These Amazon Category Hacks Can Boost Your Book Sales

Choosing the right Amazon categories for your book is such an important factor in your success. Being smart here can greatly increase your visibility, making your work more likely to be discovered, purchased, and recommended.

But if you make bad decisions here – or opt to do nothing at all – you can limit your book’s success. Sometimes you can even nudge Amazon towards recommend your book to all the wrong people! Which invariably fails, of course, and causes Amazon to think you have written a dud. Meaning Amazon is less likely to recommend your book at all. This is something you really want to avoid.

You should revisit your book’s categories on a regular basis. Not just to ensure you are maximizing visibility, but to check Amazon hasn’t placed you in a bad category. You need to know exactly which categories and sub-categories your book is in. (Amazon doesn’t make that part easy.) And then keep on top of changes to the category system as well.

The advice in this comprehensive guide draws from a book I wrote called Amazon Decoded. This book is the culmination of years of research. It breaks down exactly how the Kindle Store works, how you can design marketing plans which seduce the algorithms instead of fighting them, and the exact ways you need to tweak your metadata to get the biggest halo from every promotion you run.

I’m going to tap into that research today to explain exactly how you can get Amazon’s category system working for your book, instead of against it.

Here, you will learn why the Kindle Store is broken down into so many categories (and the massive opportunity this presents). How you only get access to a limited menu in KDP. The ways you can expand the number of categories for your book to 10 specific sub-categories – and more! Why it’s important to only place your book in relevant categories. And how you can remove your book from bad categories (and why that is important).

Yegads, that’s a lot – we might need a Table of Contents! Use this if you wish to skip ahead, but I strongly recommend reading the sections on relevance and bad categories. You might have the power now to add all sorts of categories to your books. However, use this power wisely or it could really backfire. I mean it! Read on for more on that and everything else…

The Power of Visibility on Amazon

Amazon sells a staggering array of products – around 350m at the last estimate. A beefy taxonomy is needed to classify everything. Shoppers need assistance finding what they are looking for. And Amazon’s data-hungry algorithms need assistance classifying everything appropriately. Primarily so it knows exactly what to recommend to each individual customer.

You can read a full breakdown of how Amazon recommendations work if you like. But what is most immediately relevant is the sheer size of the book category system… and the enormous value you can wring from it.

The Kindle Category System

There are over 8 million books in the Kindle Store. But it’s not just the number of books being published which has swelled; Amazon has been watching reader tastes become increasingly niche since the Kindle Store opened in 2007.

To make it much easier for these increasingly picky readers to find the specific type of books they prefer, Amazon now has 14,000 categories and sub-categories – just for books! Some of these are incredibly broad categories like Fantasy. Others are much more niche like Paranormal Romance featuring Demons & Devils.

Amazon calls these “Browse Categories,” and that name gives a hint at their value to authors – because readers really do browse these categories looking for books fresh to read.

While the Top 100 of the Kindle Store is probably out of reach for most authors, it’s important to note that each of these 14,000+ sub-categories has its own Top 100 Best Seller list – for both free and paid books – which gives authors a considerable opportunity for visibility. An appropriately sized pool for every book to play in, if you like.

Not only that, but many of the recommendations that Amazon makes to readers are category-based. You will not be eligible for them unless you are in that exact sub-category.

If authors are smart about their metadata, do their research, and add more relevant sub-categories to their books – and I’ll show you exactly how to that in a moment – they can exponentially increase their visibility on Amazon.

By adding more categories you instantly become eligible for a whole new swathe of bestseller lists and Amazon recommendation emails. This increased visibility will also add a a considerable halo every single time you have a sales spike, making every launch more profitable and every backlist promotion your run more lucrative.

Bootstrap Your Way To The Top

This is your prize: more sales, money, and visibility. As well as greatly increased likelihood that readers will organically discover your work and also that Amazon will recommend your work to readers as well.

This isn’t just an extra dollop of cream for the cats at the top table either. Because each category has its own Best Seller lists and associated customer recommendations, Amazon’s category system helps books bootstrap themselves to success, giving each book and author a smaller pool to shine in before tackling the bigger fish elsewhere.

But you will only benefit from Amazon’s category system if you make the right choices. Some of these niche Best Seller lists might not receive anything like the traffic of the bigger categories. But the competition is often much less fierce, allowing smaller books and authors to gain momentum… if they take the trouble to research appropriate categories.

It takes a little bit of time, and a touch of fiddling, but it’s all in the set-up. Once you have optimized your book’s categories, you don’t have to mess with it again – aside from checking in every year or two, perhaps, to see if anything should be tweaked.

There’s Just One Problem

When you first self-publish on Amazon, you are given a choice of just two categories from a very limited menu. This is often missing the specific sub-categories where you wish to place your book.

You may have noticed your book appearing in some of these sub-categories, even though you didn’t explicitly choose them. Perhaps you also appeared in some sub-categories you would rather you didn’t.

How do you get into all the categories you truly want? Which categories are good for your books and which should be avoided? What can you do to remove your book from inappropriate categories? And where can you find out which categories your books are in right now? (And why does Amazon make this so bloody convoluted!?!?)

Let’s break it all down.

Limited Category Menu When Publishing

Amazon’s category system might seem higgledy piggledy. But this is more a product of something being gradually added to over a long period of time, rather than designed by a drunk person.

The publishing interface on Amazon gives us little idea of the full power of the category system. We can only choose two categories when uploading our books. Not only that, it’s a very restricted list of categories – often containing rather broad choices like “Historical Fiction.” For some reason, Amazon doesn’t always let you drill down to the exact sub-category you want. For example, “Medieval Historical Fiction” is a category in the Kindle Store, but is not selectable when publishing your book.

Blame It On The BISAC

It’s not exactly clear why Amazon makes it so complicated. This list appears to be a legacy system as it is based on industry standard (BISAC) codes. Indeed, you may have noticed that this limited menu bears much more relation to the category choices on other retailers than it does to the actual category breakdown in the Kindle Store. Well, this is why.

We can grouse about such quirks but it’s important to recognize they present a big, fat opportunity as well. Most publishers and authors will pick two broad-ish categories from that list… and then leave it at that.

Whereas savvy self-publishers know there is a way to add many more very specific sub-categories that aren’t immediately selectable. Hello, secret menu items! And also ways to avoid bad categories, boost your paperbacks, and then tailor all that for different international markets as well.

How To Add Up To 10 Categories To Your Book

The method for adding additional categories used to be quite confusing – and it was never quite clear precisely how many categories you were allowed. Amazon has now streamlined all this considerably and the situation is much more straightforward.

You are permitted to place your book in up to 10 categories and sub-categories. To get the exact categories you want, you simply need to contact Amazon using the process below. It’s that simple.

All that messing around with keywords to get into certain categories is no longer necessary. (That system looks like it is being phased out by Amazon anyway.) However, that old keyword-category system can still cause authors issues, so we’ll return to look at it in a moment.

Step-by-Step Method of Adding Categories

For now, here’s the new, up-to-date process for adding categories to your books – fully Amazon-approved!

  • Identify the full category path for each of your preferred sub-categories. By this I mean actually write out Kindle eBooks > Mysteries, Thriller & Suspense > Thrillers > Political for each of your target categories, rather than just Political Thrillers – you will need this in a moment. (And if you need help researching the ideal target categories for your book, I have you covered below.)
  • Log in to your KDP account. Click the Help link in the top right, then the Contact Us button in the bottom left of that page (they don’t make it so easy to find). This is the direct link, if you are having trouble.
  • Underneath “How Can We Help?” select the first option “Amazon product page” and then “Update Amazon Categories” right underneath.
  • An email template will appear. Add in the ASIN for your book, and then the full category path for each category you want added. There’s some research tips at the end if you are stuck.
  • Ignore the section on removing categories… unless you have bad categories that you wish your book to be removed from – more on this too in a moment.
  • Click “Send message” and Amazon should sort this out for you in a couple of days. Note: depending on where you are in the world and what time of day it is, you may have the option of doing this by phone – it doesn’t matter which way you do it. Phone tends to be faster, but don’t expect the changes to be instant. They might still take a day or two to process fully.

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Just remember the most important thing: always keep it relevant. I’m serious about this. Don’t brush it off!

You don’t have to use all ten categories if you can’t find many appropriate ones. You need to be sure that your book is a natural fit for the categories you pick. A murder doesn’t make something a mystery and some light banging doesn’t make it a romance.

In fact, as you will learn in a moment, putting your book into categories where it doesn’t naturally fit might look like a quick-and-dirty way to pilfer some extra visibility (or to pluck a low-hanging Best Seller tag), but this can hurt you.

And it might attract Amazon’s attention – the bad kind of attention.

I hope I have attached enough warning signs to this idea, but let me say it one last time. You have the power to put your book into ten categories, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you should use it.

Now let’s look at how you can further expand visibility for your print books, and internationally, so we can mix some sunshine in with this pesky parade-rain.

The situation regarding print editions has been clarified too. Amazon says you are permitted up to 10 Kindle categories and 10 Book categories for each book – the latter being the category system which houses print editions and audiobooks as well.

This is where you can really gain an edge. While authors are starting to get to grips with the new category allowances for ebooks, most haven’t yet realized they can do the same with their paperbacks too – or that they can run through this process internationally also.

That’s right! You can – and should – repeat this process for each international market which is important to you.

In case you didn’t notice, the Kindle Store is broken down quite differently in each international market. I guarantee you that even if you have ten excellently chosen sub-categories for your work on Amazon USA, not all of those will be replicated in your UK, Canadian, or Australian editions, let alone non-English markets. So take the time to peruse the Kindle Store breakdown in territories which are important to you.

It’s completely up to you how many markets you want to repeat this process for. Just note that the benefits probably approach zero in the smaller, non-English-language markets. You should consider doing it for your primary print editions and your UK ebooks at the very least. However, those with foreign language editions should pay attention to the local language market for those books.

How To Check What Categories You Are In

“But wait,” you might have said multiple times during this article. “How can I find out what categories I am in?”

It’s a fair question, ever since Amazon stopped appending that information to every book page, much to the chagrin of metadata mavens and snoopers everywhere.

Officially, Amazon says that the only way you can find out which categories you are in is by emailing them and asking. However, there are unofficial ways – better ways.

If you already have Publisher Rocket (affiliate link), then you can use that to see what categories you are in. You can also check out any other book that catches your eye, for that matter. Or the level of competition in each category, how many sales you might need to hit the charts, and so on. The main feature of Publisher Rocket surrounds keywords. I’ve found it very helpful in identifying good keywords for my books, and just for generally understanding how readers use Search on Amazon. (I was genuinely surprised by the terms they use – it’s far different from Google.) It costs $97, but there is a 60-day moneyback guarantee if you don’t find it useful.

However, if you want a free option, then I strongly recommend bklnk.com. I use it all the time and recommend it. You can get results for any Kindle book or print books, and for the USA, UK, and Canada as well. Super handy.

Avoiding Bad Categories

You can end up in “bad” categories in two ways: either by accident or by choice. Let’s deal with the accidental cases first before whipping out our wagging finger.

The old system for getting into various sub-categories involved choosing certain keyword triggers (authors often called these “keyword categories”) from a list doled out by KDP. There were three major problems with this system. First, the list was inaccurate and incomplete and authors often had to guess at the keyword trigger. Second, this system used up valuable keyword space unnecessarily. Third, it often resulted in authors placing their books into inappropriate categories – completely by accident.

The keyword triggers Amazon selected were pretty common and generic terms. Meaning authors routinely ended up in categories where they had no intention appearing.

Furthermore, this keyword-category system didn’t just place books in the wrong categories – which is bad for the respective authors, but also the readers looking through that category searching for a new book – it also provided cover for those abusing the system.

Gaming The System

Some authors and publishers deliberately place their books in inappropriate categories in an attempt to game the system. It’s a lot easier to get to #1 in Fairy Tales than it is in Contemporary Romance. Those with more flexible morals have been putting their books into smaller categories with that in mind, regardless of how relevant that category was for their books, what a mess that made of the category for readers, or how hard they were making it for genuine authors of those types of books.

The situation is so out of hand right now that many authors think that an Amazon crackdown is coming. It’s not just the seedy end of self-publishing that’s to blame either. Established UK publishers are some of the worst abusers of metadata, in a nice change of pace.

Amazon Crackdown Coming?

Amazon has been slowly amending the terms and guidelines and help pages over the last while. You might have lso noticed some references to metadata infringements in the new Quality Dashboard. It currently only tracks things like typos and broken links. But you will see explicit references to metadata there as well. It appears that Amazon is slowly building out all the infrastructure needed to start policing things like mis-categorization of books.

So, ethics aside – always my favorite caveat – those who are miscategorizing their books to eke out some short-term advantage might want to start considering the long-term consequences. Amazon can be slow to click into gear with this stuff, but when it does, it can be ruthless.

But there’s one more reason why you should be careful where you place your books. The entire Amazon recommendation engine is built on relevance.

The Importance of Relevance

Some people will dump their books into any category going to gain advantage. They don’t care how much they mess up a category. Or what effect this has on genuine readers of that category (or authors trying to serve those readers).

But here’s the thing: they are only hurting themselves long-term. Even if you don’t care about the ethics around this, and I really wish you would, you are only grabbing some questionable short-term gains at the cost of some serious long-term pain.

Here’s why.

Amazon’s entire recommendation engine is built around relevance. Amazon doesn’t want to spam people with crappy recommendations. It knows the value of user trust in its recommendations and works very hard to personalize the Amazon site for each user experiencing it. Basically the equivalent of a bookstore rearranging itself so that your favorite books are always on the front table. That’s the aim, at least, and Amazon is the best in the business.

Don’t Feed The Beast Bad Data

I could write an entire book about this – and indeed I have: it’s called Amazon Decoded – but the short version is this. If you put your book in an inappropriate category all your are doing is feeding Amazon bad data. Do that, and will recommend your book to the wrong people.

Of course, if Amazon recommends your book to the wrong people, the conversion rate on those recommendations will be poor. Then it will be reticent to recommend your book further.

Even if you aren’t swayed by that, keep in mind the following. Amazon is probably going to start policing this stuff. There are all sorts of references now on the Help pages which hint at this now. The terms and conditions and in the Kindle Publishing Guidelines too. All sorts of references to the miscategorization of books and other metadata fouls like that. In other words, all signs point towards an impending crackdown.

All of which makes it exceedingly important that you know which are your ideal categories. Ones which will truly work for your book.

Researching Your Ideal Categories

It’s important to identify a list of target categories and there is only one way to do this: by taking your time to go through the Kindle Store and look at how it is broken down for your genre(s). Take note of any category or sub-category where your book would fit.

Some authors might struggle to identify more than a handful, whereas others will be overflowing with choices. Some genres have more granular sub-categories than others. And then non-fiction often has more places where a book could potentially be shelved without looking out of place. Author experiences will vary at this stage.

For those overflowing with choices: make a list of the must-haves and the maybes. Try to estimate how competitive each category is (i.e. look at the Sales Rank necessary to hit the Best Seller list). If you are really struggling to choose between several categories, perhaps consider having a mix of smaller categories where you could potentially chart now, and larger ones where you will benefit from extra visibility when you have a sales spike.

And for those authors struggling to find more than a handful of categories, keep looking! There are over 14,000 categories and you might find some useful ones if you search around. Amazon regularly expands the category system too; it’s good to check in on this periodically to see if new candidates have emerged.

Where To Find A List of Amazon Book Categories

To be clear, there is no list of categories anywhere that you can consult. A handful of websites purport to do that, but they are pulling from the limited menu available when publishing in KDP, rather than the actual category breakdown in the Kindle Store. Besides, all you need to do is head to the Kindle Store and nose around.

Looking for a list of categories is like trying to reinvent the wheel… while sitting outside a wheel factory that is handing out free wheels. (Don’t forget to repeat this process for print, and any international markets which are important to you.)

But hey, if you want to watch over my shoulder as I go through the Kindle Store and explain how you can find suitable categories, I got ya:

Your Action Plan: Category Optimization Checklist

This is fun because your action plan is to basically go through everything you just read in reverse!

  1. Research your ideal categories.
  2. Make a list of the must-haves and the maybes.
  3. Check which categories your books are in right now.
  4. Identify any bad categories you wish to remove.
  5. Email KDP with your list of category changes.
  6. Repeat the process for each book, and for any print editions or international stores you need.

And once your categories are updated, all you need to do is run a promotion and reap the benefits. And the most cost effective way to do that is with my curated and up-to-date list of book promotion sites.

One Last Tip

You can do all this in one email to KDP if you wish (you can even do all your books, all your print editions, all your international stores in one email – or even one call). Personally, I think the chance of errors is high if you go that route. I usually send one email per book to keep things straight – on both sides!

That’s it, I hope you learned a lot about Amazon categories today and how they can help you sell more books. I have a whole book like this breaking down the secrets of Amazon and showing you how to switch-up your marketing to seduce Amazon’s algorithms into recommending your book.

It’s called Amazon Decoded and I think you can pick it up pretty much everywhere for $4.99 or thereabouts.

Decoding Amazon recommendations

Feel free to leave any questions in the comments and I’ll respond if I ever stop eating for ten seconds.

David Gaughran

David Gaughran

Born in Ireland, he now lives in a little fishing village in Portugal, although this hasn’t increased the time spent outside. He writes novels under another name, has helped thousands of authors build a readership with his books, blogs, workshops, and courses, and has created marketing campaigns for some of the biggest self-publishers on the planet. Friend to all dogs.


31 Replies to “These Amazon Category Hacks Can Boost Your Book Sales”

  1. Hi David
    As a result of your advice above (and John Chapman’s,) I took another look at all aspects of my Amazon ad and made some changes. The good news is after just one week, it appears to be working (albeit on low numbers)! However, I seem to have a problem now which is the complete opposite to what most people have! I have a low CTR (0.13) but a high conversion (16.7) and I just can’t quite work out what this means and what I should do to leverage this.
    Any thoughts would be gratefully received.

  2. Thanks for the kind words about my free BKLNK site to research categories. Category research is available for the US and Canada (CA) stores. It used to be available for UK (United Kingdom) stores, but…

    BKLNK’s access to category lookups is via the Affiliate API interface. If you have an affiliate code for a particular country store, you can look up categories for any book (actually, any Amazon item). But, the Zon’s rules require that the affiliate code you use generates revenue for them. My US and CA affiliate codes generate the required amount of revenue, but the UK codes did not – so they took that away. And I don’t have the required minimum for other countries – although I have affiliate counts there.

    The only way to get categories from other country stores is if I got affiliate revenue from those country stores. The BKLNK site has a geographic-specific link with my affiliate codes for the visitor’s country. But there is not enough affiliate revenue in those countries to add them to the lookups used by BKLNK. Believe me, I’ve tried. (More info about all of this on the BKLNK site.)

    Note that I am not getting rich on any country’s affiliate code. My monthly revenue is well under $50 – in the form of a Zon gift card, so offsets a few of my Zon purchases. But, I’m glad to provide BKLNK for US and CA, and hope that UK will come back. It’s a tool that I use for my books, along with Universal Book LInks (with author affiliate codes included, if available). All of it free.

    Anyway, glad to help out with BKLNK. Self-published marketing is hard, so glad to provide a free tool to help out. Thanks for the kind mention in your article.

  3. I feel like I’ve missed a basic element. I’ve been doing the increased categories for each book. Today, the response said, you need to do this again for international sites.
    OK.
    But what does that look like? Do I just send the same email, but say please add to .co.uk? (Checking to make sure the categories exist there?) Does the string look the same?
    I use publisher rocket for my categories list. But I gather it doesn’t generate international categories?
    (I like your timing by the way. I came here to ask you about this, and you’d already posted!)

  4. I have a question about categories and characters within them.
    For instance, I have a series of vampire books. The category “kindle store > kindle ebook > science fiction & fantasy > fantasy > dark fantasy” shows 40k books listed, and that’s the end of the chain. But if you scroll down you can add the character “vampire” it drops down to 5K books.
    Are characters something we can add into the chain we send Amazon? Or will they add the book to the more broad chain, and rely on the meta data to link it to the character?

    1. I don’t see any sub-categories under Dark Fantasy. Can you link me to what you are talking about? You might be looking at the Popularity List or something else like that.

      1. Here is a link to one example. Sorry for the length. The path is Kindle Store, Kindle eBooks, Science Fiction & Fantasy, Fantasy, Fairy Tales. If you scroll down there is a clickable section marked characters. You’re probably right about this being the popularity list. I sometimes have trouble distinguishing the two. Thanks.
        https://smile.amazon.com/s?i=digital-text&bbn=169457011&rh=n%3A133140011%2Cn%3A154606011%2Cn%3A668010011%2Cn%3A158576011%2Cn%3A169457011%2Cp_n_feature_four_browse-bin%3A6602157011&dc&fs=true&qid=1620965370&rnid=6602152011&ref=sr_nr_p_n_feature_four_browse-bin_9

  5. I’m running into an issue with KDP. Currently my two books are listed in both children’s & teen categories. I have 12 categories showing up using bkink and some of them are quite bad.

    I did a lot of research to come up with ten categories for the two books and followed the steps to request the change and specifically asked for the bad categories (including the excess over 10) to be removed.

    I got this response:

    “I can understand that you would like to add children and teen categories for your books. Kindly note that Children categories and Teen and Young Adult categories are age specific, it’s currently only possible for one of the age-specific categories to be reflected on the website per book, so we’ll need you to write back to us and let us know which one you’d prefer to use. We suggest choosing whichever category most accurately reflects the *minimum* age audience for your book.

    Children categories : 2-12 years

    Teen and Young adult categories: 13-18 years

    In this regard, please write back to us with a confirmation of which of the below categories you wish to add to your book.”

    I wrote back stating my confusion since my books are both currently in multiple age categories and asked if the policies had been changed or if a mistake had been made with a former KDP helper, but just get a repeated copy & paste of the above.

    I had someone helping me when I launched my books and have only now just begun taking some courses to work this out and fix these problems on my own. I was hoping your article might touch on the age categories.

    My books are in that weird spot between middle grade and teen with some overlap (like Harry Potter, Fablehaven, Nevermoor, Percy Jackson, etc.) Kids as young as 11 and 12 like my books, but they have a good reader base in the 13 – 16 year old crowd too with adult cross-over appeal. KDP recommends I categorize them as children’s books (going with the youngest age range) but more of my readership is in the 13+ arena.

    I contacted KDP again for more information and finally got someone who said they’d look into this more and get back to me. I’m assuming I’ll need to pick a lane here, do you agree?

  6. I’ve been lazy or maybe overwhelmed with marketing lately. I’ve had Rocket for years but forgot about it. I’m going to give it a go and request additional categories for my books. Thanks so much for sharing your knowledge.

  7. Hi David
    I have my first novel “The Mystery Shopper & The Hot Tub” in exactly the correct ten categories I want for both e-book and paperback.
    HOWEVER, I have a horrible feeling that Amazon is using the word “mystery” in my title and thinking it is a mystery book – which it most definitely is not – and therefore recommending it and showing it to the wrong readers.
    What can I do about this?

    1. Hi Helen, I think I can put your mind at ease. Your book will not be recommended to mystery readers just because you have that word in your title. All that will happen here is that your book is indexed for search on that term. And all that means is that your book could potentially appear to readers who use the word “mystery” when using the search box on Amazon to find novels – but your book will be way, way down in the search results for that term, I strongly suspect, so you have nothing to fear here.

      1. Thanks David.
        In that case I am really beginning to get despondent. I have done EVERYTHING right. I have watched , digested and implemented all the advice from two courses on self publishing and advertising on Amazon – including yours, plus spent a year or so researching and reading to make sure I approach this in the most professional way with long term self-publishing in mind.
        1. I have a really good professionally designed book cover (other people’s comments, not just my own thoughts) and it has been professionally edited and proof read.
        2. My blurb was written by an editor
        3. I have a good website.
        4. I have had some great reviews – mostly 4/5* but cannot seem to get any more, despite the number of purchases.
        5. I have done a Kindle Countdown deal
        6. I have a free sequel readers can download at the end of my first novel in the back matter.
        7. I am getting some sign ups as a result of this.
        8 I have the book in all the right categories – as far as I am concerned, although it definitely crosses boundaries.
        9 I have done a 5 day book deal site promotion – sold around 150 books in total but only 4 since (16th April) and none over the past 2 weeks.
        10. I bought Publisher Rocket and selected 300 keywords and 900 ASINS using this for 5 x Amazon ad campaigns – result = 4 book sales at a cost of $75
        11. I even spent significant money (over £2000) on a publicist with no return.
        12. I am focussed, not naive, business like in my approach and I do have faith (not unfounded) in my writing.
        I am now at a complete loss as to what I should do next. I would happily pay for someone to re-visit what I’ve done and make changes but I have no trust unless they come recommended.
        Do you have any further suggestions?
        Many thanks
        Helen

      2. Hi Helen, first of all let me sympathize with you because it’s really disheartening when you work hard and do everything you are supposed to and don’t get the results you were expecting.

        However, the frustrations you are experiencing are completely normal when you have only one book out – and the answer to your predicament is almost certainly to write more books (and stop spending so much money on marketing until you have more books out).

        Let me also give you some more specific advice though:

        (a) don’t use publicists. I’m not convinced of their value to authors with lots of books out and definitely don’t recommend them if you only have one book out. I also think most publicists are only (sometimes) good at moving books for traditionally published authors as they tend to focus on traditional media attention… which tends to only move the needle for bookstore sales. Which self-publishers won’t really benefit from as much. And I’m skeptical that many of them are even that effective at that too.

        (b) rein in that marketing budget. I strongly recommend keeping spending to a minimum until you have more books out. As you will see in the future, it gets much easier to get readers to try your work when you have multiple books. It’s much easier to be discovered. You are more visible in the charts and on Amazon. And you have many, many, many more marketing options. Not only that, but you make much more money when you capture a reader’s attention because you simply have more things they can buy.

        (c) achieving momentum with one book is exceedingly difficult – like catching lightning in a bottle. I generally recommend not marketing aggressively until you have at least three books out there, because it’s so hard to generate momentum without multiple books, and without a series.

        (d) I’m not an Amazon Ads expert but it sounds like you are being a little scattergun in your approach there. I recommend checking out a more refined approach – Amazon Ads Unleashed by Robert J. Ryan is excellent and will show you how to run tighter, more relevant campaigns. Although all my advice above about having more books and reining in that marketing spend still applies.

        (e) You might want to remove that subtitle on your book. It’s against Amazon rules, and they could ding you for it. I know UK publishers do that stuff all the time, but you are taking a risk with it.

        (f) I’m not your target reader perhaps, but I found the random bolding throughout the blurb distracting.

        (g) On that note, while the cover is very pro I’m not entirely sure looking at this cover and title combination what the exact genre is. Cozy mystery? Rom-com? General humour? I think you need to speak to some readers/writers in your genre and be absolutely sure the cover/title combination works for your niche and clearly communicates what kind of book it is.

        It’s not my niche so I don’t want to say more and possibly lead you astray, but I do have a question mark there. (But more books is the bigger problem, I suggest.)

    2. I hate to tell you Helen but the book description at Amazon is a major problem. Amazon displays five lines of the description before a ‘Read more’ link. In those five lines the description must be enough to catch the attention of the reader and give them a “Wow! I have to read that.” impression. Formatting the description can reduce what the reader will see even more. Because of the formatting and numbered list this is all a reader will see:
      “Stunning. Couldn’t put it down. They’ll have to make a film about this!” Amazon reviewer 5★”

      Brooke’s a gorgeous young mum who lives in Essex in England. Her favourite things in life:
      1. Her baby, Paige

      That’s all a reader will see – three lines of not very enticing text. The content of the rest of the description is OK but you should move the editorial review and numbered list down and reword your first five lines. Try putting it through an online headline analysis for its use of emotive English. I also suggest you do some research on colour psychology and how it affects emotions. That greenish background to the book cover might not be having the best effect.

      1. Hi John
        Sorry only just seen your addition to David’s reply. Thanks for your input. I will take a look again at the formatting of the book description,although I am reluctant to change it becauseI looked at some of the best selling books in my genre and how they do their descriptions. Bookouture Publishers in particular are renowned with the success they have had with the way they do it, so I have followed their template. (Take a look for example at Kristen Bailey’s ‘Has anyone seen my sex life?’) Also, as well as the cover for my book, it has been through a focus group of readers of my genre – women’s commercial humorous fiction. They were given several options and the description you read plus the cover was unanimously chosen (they perfectly described what they thought the type of content was) and I have yet to come across a single target reader who has not loved the cover – to the point I recommended the cover designers enter it into a competition. The colours you see are used a fair bit at the moment in my genre, so I really don’t think it’s the cover. I still worry that the title of the book is misleading Amazon’s algorithms, despite what David says. When I check my titles ‘also boughts’ – they were 100% mystery thrillers! That can’t be right.

  8. How do I go about getting the categories in different marketplaces?
    Do I have to write to amazon.com, amazon.de, amazon.it …?
    Or one email to one amazon support place – whichever (Normally my place to go is amazon.de) and make a list like put the book at amazon.com there and there, put it at amazon.it there and there …
    Or is it best to write to authorcentral with my international list?

    1. You can either go via KDP or Author Central – it’s your preference. But if you are contacting KDP you just go to the KDP help page (linked to above), and use that to make all your changes – ebook, print, international, etc.

  9. Just by the way, you might notice some books with more than 10 Kindle categories. The cap on this appears to be a “soft” cap – in that you can exceed it. However, Amazon does advise the limit is 10 so if you do exceed it, inadvertently or otherwise, you are running the risk that Amazon will just strip categories from you to get you back down to 10 – and they will do that randomly and could pick your most important. So keep it at 10, tops. (That’s a max of 10 for Kindle categories, and a further max of 10 for Book categories, and that allowance is per Kindle Store, not spread across all of them – just to be clear.)

  10. When requesting updates by email, can we do more than one AISN per email? When I moved on to the second book on my list, I got a cooldown message.
    ‘You have already sent us a message.
    Please wait a few minutes before sending another.’

    I’ve got 22 AISN’s to update…

      1. I did a test this morning where I did a joint change for the paperback and eBook of one title. They had it done within a couple of hours. I think I’ll keep it to doing both versions of a book at a time. As you say, it’s too easy to get off track though there are barely more than 10 applicable scifi categories to choose from.

  11. Boy am I glad I always read emails from David. I just did an audit on eleven books, each with an eBook and paperback version. I had no idea what a mess my backlist is in. They have an overall average of just over 5 categories each and they’re pretty much half ebook and half paperback categories regardless of the format for each AISN.
    I even have three scifi books listed under “Textbooks>>Humanities”.
    I have a lot of change requests to put together!
    Thanks, David!

  12. I’m wondering since the link between Metadata and Categories is kind of unlinked now, what we should be using metadata for instead? Because researching Self Publishing it does feel like a lot of what it was being used for was to get into these categories, so if that’s not the case what other benefit should we be extracting from it?

    1. I’m not sure I understand. Do you mean “keywords” instead of “metadata”?

      If so, yes, one big effect of this new system is that it frees up all of your keyword choices now, and you can exclusively optimize them for appearance in Search. This will be much more important for non-fiction authors than fiction authors, but it’s worth taking the trouble to update your keywords accordingly (more in Amazon Decoded on keywords – maybe I’ll do another post on that soon though).

      1. Yeah I did mean keywords (though I do think keywords and metadata are always heavily linked when reading stuff about publishing)

        But thanks!

      2. Hey James – I’d view keywords and categories both as types of metadata (along with title, sub-title, price, author name, and a bunch of other stuff). Check out Amazon Decoded if you want a deep dive into the world of metadata, how Amazon digests it, how you can tweak it to your advantage, and a bunch more things like that.

    2. The PublisherRocket program mentioned in the article can research your keywords for you. If I type in ‘space battle’ I get a list of related keywords along with data such as dollar amounts of sales from that keyword and how competitive it is.

      1. It’s super handy and I’ve gotten a lot of value from it personally. I’d probably recommend it a good bit more forcefully if this was an article about keywords (or just for non-fiction authors).

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