Amazon Categories – Why You Need Them Even Though You’ll Hate Every Minute

amazon categories

As great as Amazon is to get your book easily out to the public, there are some things that can drive you nuts through the publishing process. And one of them is the Amazon category designation.

What are Amazon categories and why are they important?

As Amazon states, it’s like deciding where your book should be shelved in a library. So if you’ve written a science fiction novel, you would place that in the science fiction section. That way, people searching for books can find your book easier. The funny thing is that I personally have NEVER ever searched for a book this way – I’ve always just typed in some keywords into the search field and started filtering that way.

But assuming there is value in categorizing your book, let’s go through one scenario. If you’re on Amazon, you simply click on the ‘Shop by Department’ button at the top left and then select Books. From there, you can select Books again (as opposed to Kindle Books or Children’s Books, etc). You would just keep drilling down to all the subcategories.

At the time this article was written, if you categorized your book as Science Fiction & Fantasy, you would be lumped in with 203,777 other books. Fat chance your book is going to get noticed that way.

Now, if you went down a sublevel to Science Fiction & Fantasy / Science Fiction, you would be competing against 93,557 other books. Still a daunting number.

And if you went to the 3rd sublevel of Science Fiction & Fantasy / Science Fiction / Adventure, you would be up against 21,246 with no way of going down to a fourth level.

A customer could then sort by average customer reviews or language or if it’s a series, etc. Hopefully, that will get the user much closer to your book.

Category Advice

Now here’s where it all gets crazy.

  • Amazon does NOT use the same categories for Kindle Books as it does for traditional paper books. So if you are categorizing an ebook, make sure you drill down under the Kindle Books category. I can’t hazard a guess why this is the case.
  • When you are in KDP inputting all your book settings, Section 3 is ‘Target Your Book to Customers.’ DO NOT USE THIS. They don’t match up with the categories on the site. The key for this is to set your category as ‘Non-Classifiable.’ Once you have published your book under that non-classifiable category, you simply use the Amazon contact form and tell them the exact categories you want them in. In our experience, they typically get back to you within 24 hours although the changes can take much longer. Amazon says it will take between 24-72 hours for the changes to take affect. Our experience has been all over the map.
  • You only get 2 categories for your book. You’ll see other books with possibly 5 categories. The reason is because Amazon reduced their guidelines from 5 to 2. Some books seem to be grandfathered in to 5.
  • Just because you’ve gone to your book’s product page and confirmed your book is correctly categorized, you should look at it once a week. We had a baffling experience in that Amazon actually deleted the category our book was in. And this was a week after we had them change it to those categories. When we sent them an email requesting that they put our books in those categories, they told us those categories didn’t exist

Why should you bother with Amazon categories?

At this point, you’re probably wondering why you should even bother, especially if you’re just going to put yourself in a category with tens of thousands of competitors.

The reason is because if you do it right, you’ll find two good relevant categories with only one or two thousand competitors. From there, if you can market your book using tactics like Kindle Free Day promotions, your book can be vaulted into ‘top seller’ class in your category. And once that happens, lots of good things can happen. Mainly, your product page will list you as a top seller and that will work for you.

For example, Amazon has a ‘Top 100 Free in Kindle eBooks section. They also have a ‘Top 100 Paid in Kindle eBooks’ section. You can find them here. So if you can get to top seller status in a genre/category, you’ll be promoted by Amazon themselves and that’s something worth working for.

So even though Amazon categories continues to drive us crazy, it’s definitely worth constantly pursuing the dream of being in the Top 100 PAID list.

Good luck!