By Ivan Meakins
Amazon KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) has updated its process for book categorisation and is now limiting books to only three categories in the Kindle store.
This is BIG news for authors who are publishing on KDP.
Previously, authors could select up to ten categories for their books. This means you could afford to scatter your book in some fairly random, non-competitive categories and hit number ones with relative ease.
Ranking on Amazon just got harder
Amazon has decided (rightly so, perhaps) to improve the browsing and search experience for customers by reducing clutter and ensuring that books are placed in the most relevant categories.
This means that authors are going to need to take a lot more time to pick the right categories for their books to rank in. If you take the time, do your research and choose wisely, it can ultimately lead to better visibility and sales.
On the other hand, a haphazard approach to picking categories can leave you with no one being able to find your book, and a poor ranking too.
So, ranking on Amazon just got a whole lot more complicated.
The good news is that this blog is going to show you exactly how to approach your category selections with this new rule in place.
A better interface for selecting categories
The one major benefit to this new update is that you are now about to pick three, actual Amazon categories for your book during the uploading process rather than the BISAC categories – which didn’t really matter. These old categories did not reflect the actual categories on Amazon. When you selected them, you used to end up in random categories that were loosely based on the one you chose – not ideal.
This is what it looks like now on your KDP Bookshelf:
This is SO much nicer than it looked before and means you can add your book to real, relevant categories straight away.
No more writing to the Amazon team every time you want to change something and having to wait 72 hours for them to change it for you manually… *Yawn*.
Instead, you can control your category selection directly from your bookshelf.
So that is the good news.
The not-so-great news for authors is you are limited to three categories.
Choosing your categories wisely – rubbing shoulders with the greats
Back in the day, it didn’t really matter if no one found your book in a few obscure categories, you had ten to play with.
Now, however, every category is going to count. You are going to need to put a lot more thought into which ones you choose in order for your book to be visible AND rank well.
The thing is, a popular category is competitive, but it’s also where most of your readers are looking. So you are going to need to strike the right balance between competitiveness and popularity.
Here is an example of a popular category, Careers (in Business, Finance and Law):
If you take a look at any of the titles in the top ten, you will know it’s going to be a very tough job to rank well here. You can find out how competitive it’s going to be by clicking on the top titles and looking for each book’s overall bestseller ranking:
This is for “Can’t Hurt Me” as of June 2023:
This means it’s (deservedly) ranking 79 out of every single book published on Amazon – go on, Goggins!
Adding your book here means you may not rank very high in this category, but it is a great category to help shoppers find you if you have a book about Business/Careers.
So ideally, you want to list your book in at least one category like this for visibility. Also, it’s very exciting to have your book do well here and rub shoulders with the big players – that will make great social media content. Just like we did with Tom Soane’s book “The Anonymous Landlord”:
Avoid pooping cats
Even though “The Anonymous Landlord” hit number one in a few other categories, the fact that it was right up there with the biggest books on this topic was a big win, and potentially held more sway than hitting number one in a more obscure category where the books looked like this:
After all, does it really matter if you are ranking number one in a category that has “Pooping Cats Calendar 2022” as number eight? 😅
(Full disclosure, this was back when we could choose ten categories, so we had to put it somewhere…)
Personally, shouting that you hit number one in a category like this doesn’t really do much for your reputation, and you would be better off celebrating that you are in the midst of some truly great titles, like the ones in the previous picture.
So, now that we only have three categories to pick, no more Pooping Cats. Make sure you have at least one big, meaty category to sink your teeth into.
Picking the right balance of competitiveness and visibility
Your next two categories may want to be a little less competitive, but still give you good visibility.
Try looking for some more niche categories relevant to your book that it might do well in, where the top ten overall rankings are a little lower.
For example, perhaps you have a business book which focuses on developing startups. Careers would be a nice one to enter, but how about something a little more niche to cut down the competition?
Here is an example:
These books look a lot less competitive than the other category but are also highly relevant to our field.
And, if we take a look at the overall ranking of the number one book “Think and Grow Rich”, we can definitely see an opportunity here:
In our experience of helping authors rank on Amazon, the 5,000 mark is a very realistic target to beat with the right marketing campaign. And we did just that with “The Anonymous Landlord” back in April:
Just do your homework
Even though the landscape for picking categories has changed, the main thing to take away from this blog is to do your homework. If you wanted real success in your categories, you would have needed to do this before the update too, but now it just means you have to think harder.
Make sure you are placing your book in the most relevant categories, but are also looking for those opportunities to climb the charts where you can.
Don’t aim for the most obscure ones just because they aren’t competitive, as this can really hurt your book’s visibility online if they are the only ones you are ranking in.
One big benefit of this update is that there will be a lot fewer books in some categories as authors are more careful about what they choose, which may offer new opportunities for a book that has a niche message.
Categories alone don’t make a successful book
If you have the right marketing campaign set up and are putting the work in to promote your book outside of KDP, you stand a great chance of climbing the rankings in a well-placed, relevant category.
One tool I highly recommend for authors looking to get a better insight into categories is Kindlepreneur’s Publisher Rocket, which provides data on the number of sales needed to reach number one in any given category, as well as popular keywords, etc.
Overall, this update is a good thing for most authors out there who are taking their books seriously. It just means you need to put a little more work into choosing where you want to rank.
And, just like before, category choice alone isn’t going to make your book a success. Successful authors (even the ones with publishing deals) orchestrate a carefully planned and well-executed marketing strategy.
Without this, your book will just be collecting digital dust on Amazon’s bookshelves for eternity.
Hope this was useful.
For more help on how to run a successful book marketing campaign, check out this blog we wrote a couple of weeks ago.