You probably already know that Amazon is a huge bookseller, but did you know they’re responsible for over 60% of all online book sales?
This goes for print sales as well as e-book sales. Regardless of format, they’re absolutely dominating the online bookselling industry right now. That information might make you delighted or bum you out, but either way, one thing is clear: if you’re a self-published author, understanding Amazon’s marketplace is an enormous tool to have in your arsenal.
Figuring out how to use Amazon effectively can expose your book to tons of new readers. Self-published authors who master the marketplace can turn a huge profit on e-books alone if they know how to play their cards right.
How is it done? Well, you need to understand Amazon’s categories. Knowing what they are and how they can help you out can make a world of difference in how your book performs.
In this article, we’ll cover what Amazon’s book categories are and how they work, how to pick categories for your book, and how to use categories to your advantage.
This guide to Amazon book categories covers:
- What are Amazon book categories?
- How many categories of books are there on Amazon?
- What are the most popular book categories on Amazon?
- What are Amazon book subcategories?
- Why do Amazon book categories matter for authors?
- How to choose the best book categories on Amazon
- Tools for choosing better Amazon book categories
What are Amazon book categories?
Categories, on Amazon, are sort of like book genres. You wouldn’t want to walk into a bookstore and be faced with a thousand books arranged in absolutely no particular order. This would make finding what you want nearly impossible, and it would make placing your own book on the shelf difficult, too. Physical bookstores use genres to sort their books, and Amazon uses categories.
How many categories of books are there on Amazon?
For books alone, there are over 16,000 categories currently listed on Amazon.
That sounds like a ton—and it is! But there’s no need to panic. This includes both enormous genres (like fantasy, horror, or thriller) as well as extremely niche subgenres. Because of the sheer volume of books and ebooks available on Amazon, having a ton of categories helps the site sort these books out in a way that makes them findable.
A physical store can afford to use broad genres to sort books because there usually aren’t that many books to sort, generally speaking. Amazon, however, has countless books to offer. Having just ‘fantasy’ wouldn’t be of much use. You’d still have thousands of titles to sift through. Giving books more specific categories makes both writers and readers better able to locate them.
What are the most popular book categories on Amazon?
Due to the sheer number of categories on Amazon, it can be tricky to figure out which categories are the most popular right now. However, there are a few ways to figure it out, if you’ve got the time.
The first way (and my personal favorite) is to do some light Googling to see if anyone else has already figured this out. And great news! There are a ton of different ones you can find online, but this one gives you a solid idea of the marketplace. Here are the most popular categories for fiction and nonfiction, according to this article:
The second way to check for bestselling categories is to check the bestselling page. Amazon’s Best Sellers chart will tell you which books are selling the most right now. While this doesn’t tell you which categories are performing best overall, you can still use this page to get a sense of which books in which categories are performing well right now.
As of 10/30/2021, the bestselling books on the Best Sellers chart included the following categories: children’s humor, children’s art techniques, television comedy, and epic fantasy.
You can also navigate to specific category pages to see which subcategories are doing well. For example, if I click over to ‘United States History,’ Amazon will give me a list of featured categories associated with this category, as well as a list of bestselling titles under that category.
Here’s what pops up for me under ‘United States History’ as of 10/30/21—this will obviously vary a lot based on which category you’re checking out and when you’re checking it out.
What are Amazon book subcategories?
Earlier, I mentioned that those 16,000 categories also include subcategories. But what are those?
Basically, they’re like subgenres. Subcategories are secondary categorizations for books. A book might be categorized as fantasy, then historical, then romance. On Amazon, subcategories are listed from least to more specific. In other words, the first category will be the most broad, and the last category will be the most niche.
Let’s use The Keeper of Happy Endings by Barbara Davis as an example. Here’s what this book’s page looks like:
In the top left-hand corner, you can see Books > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction. Books is the broadest category, while genre fiction is the most specific.
To take this a step further, let’s quickly discuss duplicate categories and ghost categories.
Sometimes, there are duplicate subcategories. Amazon won’t let you select the same category twice, but if you know it’s a duplicate that shows up in multiple places, pay attention. It can actually be a good strategy to pick one of those categories because if you begin ranking in one of them, Amazon can pass that ranking and strength over to the other duplicate category. So, essentially you have a chance of getting a two-for-one.
One thing to avoid when choosing categories: don’t choose a ghost category. Dave Chesson coined this term, “ghost categories,” and what he’s describing is basically like a dead zone in Amazon. When you search for the category, no header comes up with listings and rankings. He claims that about 27% of categories fit this description.
Check out Dave’s video for more information about the Amazon ghost and duplicate categories.
Why do Amazon book categories matter for authors?
So, now you have a basic understanding of what Amazon’s categories are and what they’re for. Here’s why this is so important to you, the self-published author.
Remember the bookstore metaphor from earlier? If you were selling your book in a store, you’d want to make sure it was put somewhere that makes sense. If you get super lucky, you might get your own display, but you at least want to make sure your book is visible and shelved alongside similar books. This way, customers who love your type of book are more likely to come across it.
It’s the same on Amazon. You want to make sure you’re categorizing your book alongside similar types of books so that your readers will come across it in their searches or recommendations. Using categories to your advantage will also help readers find it more easily when they search for it. Picking the right category can also help you become a bestselling author (although it’s not super helpful to become a best-selling author in an incredibly niche subcategory—if you only sell two books but make a niche bestseller list, you still only sold two books).
How to choose the best book categories on Amazon
Let’s talk about how to make sure you’re choosing the best possible categories for your book on Amazon. You can abuse categories to force your book to become a bestseller in some niche category, but this isn’t actually going to help you sell more copies or grow your reader base.
Thankfully, Amazon has some helpful tips for picking out the right categories for your book.
How do I choose a book category on Amazon?
On Amazon’s ‘Browse Categories’ page, they break down the best methods for picking your book’s category.
What can we learn from these guidelines?
First, we learn that not only will choosing inaccurate categories make it difficult for customers to find your book, but it’s also against Amazon’s policy. While plenty of authors do take some creative liberties when it comes to choosing categories, there’s a world of difference between stretching and outright lying. On the other hand, choosing accurate categories is extremely helpful.
Not only does this help customers find your book when they search for it, but it also helps Amazon recommend your book to people who might be interested in it. This is the major downfall of adding super niche subcategories or false categories to your book. For interested readers, your book will essentially disappear, since no one’s likely to go looking in those super-specific places.
Second, we can see that specificity matters. Avoid ‘general,’ since Amazon includes this already, and instead opt for more specific genres and categories like they’ve listed in their example. This is especially important when you’re picking categories for publication, since you publish with two categories. If you’re wasting one of them with ‘general,’ you’ve only really got one category working for you. Check out the other published books in categories that you think might fit your book, and if they seem to match up, that’s probably your best bet!
Finally, while it’s important to make sure you’re adding the correct subcategories, it doesn’t actually benefit you to tack on needless categories for the sake of doing so. If you’re adding a subcategory, it should be something new, and not something already included in another category you’ve added. Since you’re only allowed a certain number of categories, it’s important not to waste space adding information that won’t actually help you out.
How many categories does KDP allow?
This brings us to another important point. How many categories does KDP allow?
In total, you’re allowed three. Again, you can only include three categories in KDP.
It might seem to pick just three categories out of thousands, but in reality, the process isn’t so hard. Once you know which categories you’re starting with, click around for books similar to yours. Look at which categories these books are listed under, and get a sense for what those categories look like and how much traffic they get.
Go to the next section of this article to learn about tools that will make your research easier.
Tools for choosing better Amazon book categories
We’ve covered a ton of ground here today, but believe it or not, this is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to choosing better Amazon book categories. There are plenty of people out there who have developed entire systems for checking out which categories are performing well, applying those categories to their books, and getting themselves on bestseller lists which actually grow book sales on Amazon.
So, here are a couple of tools for your personal reference!
You can use tools like Publisher Rocket if you really want to dive deep into the categories of Amazon.
This video on Amazon’s ‘Browsing Categories’ site also contains a ton of information regarding how categories work, how metadata works, and how you can use it—it’s a longer watch, but it’s got a ton of foundational information that will be super helpful, so it’s worth the extra time!
If you want to go deeper on Amazon book categories, Scott Allan — a multiple bestselling author, with books translated in other languages, and a coach at our company — walks you through how to get into better categories on Amazon for your book. Being discoverable will help you sell more copies and become a bestseller.
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