Amazon Categories are Key

A Year in (the) Rear-view New Bayou Books

This episode is also available as a blog post: https://newbayoubooks.com/2022/03/07/a-year-in-the-rear-view/
  1. A Year in (the) Rear-view
  2. Be Prepared to Say Goodbye to Old Habits and Friends (and Welcome New Ones)
  3. The Meaning is in the Commitment
  4. Is this a Hero’s Journey, and if So, Who is the Hero? (Surely not me?)
  5. All Saint's Audio–Pages 1-14 (episode 1)

“Every great company, brand, career has been built in exactly the same way: bit by bit, step by step, little by little.”

– Seth Godin

Okay, so last week I talked a little bit about Amazon categories. Remember that? Of course you don’t! Neither do I. 

The main point was simply that they seemed to be pretty important. I didn’t have too much to offer on the subject then because I’d only researched the topic, but had not actually tried working with Amazon to update the categories for either of my books. 

Well, I’m a bit less ignorant now, because this week I did precisely that: had my most recent book, All Saints’ Day of the Dead, added to seven additional categories. And I saw an immediate spike in readership. It’s been three days since the changes took effect, and my “pages read” graphs for each subsequent day is significant (for me, at least). 

Here’s a breakdown of what I learned: 

The categories are different for Kindle and Paperback books. For me, this is counterintuitive, and definitely not something I would have noticed on my own. But it’s true. If you go to the Amazon page and start browsing in the books section, you will notice that you can down-select for Kindle, Paperback, Hardback, and other formats. And if you toggle between Kindle and Paperback, you will notice that the categories change. So the bad news is you have to research the categories your book will best fit into in two distinct phases. But the good news is, if you have a Kindle and a Paperback version of your book (and with print on demand, there’s no reason not to), you may end up in more than the seven additional categories. 

The number of books in each category varies widely. I suppose this is an obvious point to make, but I think it’s pretty important. As you down-select into more specific categories—from Literature & Fiction to Genre Fiction, then to Friendship, for instance—you’ll notice the total number of books in that category change. As of now, Amazon shows more than 80 thousand titles in Literature & Fiction. Within Genre Fiction (a sub-category of Lit & Fiction), the number goes down to 70K. In Friendship, that number is a mere two thousand. 

To my mind, the game here is to get your book into the smallest, relevant categories available. I’m an unknown writer with two unknown books in the market, so I want to be in the smallest pond possible. That will give me, I think, the best chance of getting noticed. 

Updating the categories gives you information you can use. The last big take away for me is the simple fact that, now that I’ve updated the Amazon categories for All Saints (I haven’t yet done the same thing for Tattoos and Tans, but I certainly will), I’m in a position to follow the experiment. I can watch my Kindle pages read report (the technical name for it is “Kindle Edition Normalized Page (KENP) Read”) and see what happens. And then potentially make adjustments as I gain new insights. 

One thing I’m not sure about is whether or not you can determine exactly where readers find your book . . . taking a quick look at my KDP dashboard, it does not look like there’s a way to do that. I suppose if you had the necessary patience, you could have Amazon add one additional category at a time and then see what happens. If you’ve tried that, let me know how it worked out. 

Okay, that’s about it. Kind of a boring blog, but I do hope you found it useful. 

This week has been kind of a watershed for me. In addition to the categories thing, I spent some time setting up a give-away on Goodreads, and also self-nominating for an independent book award. Overall, the big insight I had is the simple fact that the priority for me now is simply getting eyeballs on the book. That’s it. 

Right now, it’s not actually about sales. Rather, it’s about pages read. It reminds me of Seth Godin. His basic message for people in creative businesses is produce good art, get it in front of people, consider constructive criticism you receive, and then do it all again. Selling art, like most things in life, is a process. 

Is it really that simple? I’m not sure there’s anything simple about making good art, but I do believe you get better with repetition. So for me, it’s time to start writing the next book. 

See you next week!

Published by New Bayou Books

JR Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is simple: to great writers out of the shadows to carry on the Louisiana literary tradition.

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