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Sell More on Amazon: Understanding Categories and Other Ways to Trigger Amazon

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October 31,2013


By Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

In last week’s article we discussed how looking at Amazon as a search engine can help you sell more books and this week we are going to examine the importance of book category selection.


If you’ve ever picked a category for your book and eBook you may have noticed that they don’t always match up. When I first encountered this I thought I was mistaken, turns out I wasn’t. Whether it’s a glitch or done intentionally, the categories for books and eBooks aren’t the same. But there’s a simple way to fix this, more on this in a minute.

Ideally when you’re picking a category you don’t want one with a broad, busy market. Ideally you want a category that’s narrow. Why? Because Amazon’s algorithm is pinged when a book hits the top of a category. The thing with categories Is that while it’s tempting to put your book into a massively obscure category, you need to make sure that the category is one that belongs with your book, meaning don’t put your business book under a category that’s dedicated to some other specialty even if there are only three other competing books.

Some experts say that Amazon can pull your book altogether. I’m not sure this is quite accurate, but I have seen books get moved to the “appropriate” categories if the author decides to shuffle the book somewhere just so it will hit top of market. Ready to start exploring the Amazon categories? Here is the link that’s essentially the hub to all of the Amazon categories:

Of all the work you do placing your book on Amazon, adjusting the keywords, etc., this might be the most key piece of marketing you can do so dig around in this list and make sure to put the book in the most narrow category you can. This will benefit your book tremendously. Also, as a potential reader previews your Amazon page, it’s also eye-candy to see low book ranking, meaning books that are in the top ten of the category. When I polled readers I found that they didn’t care what the category was, in fact most times it didn’t register. But when they saw #10 or #1 on a book page, it was often very helpful in making a sale. You see the ranking on the Amazon page, about halfway down:


Two final notes on categories, the first is that categories change. Dramas, for example, are no longer a sub-sub category in romance. I don’t know why Amazon does this but I suspect that shuffling around these categories is helpful to their internal system. Finally, I mentioned earlier that Print and eBook categories often differ. When you find the category you want for your book, the first thing you may want to do is go to your backend and make these adjustments, i.e. change this category.

However if your eBook is in the KDP system (Kindle Direct Publishing) you’ll need to email them through your Author Central Page. Just hit the “help” button (again from within your Author Central Page) and email their staff. Most of the time you’ll find the email is responded to and the category adjusted within 24 hours. They have a great response time, even better than through their publisher help page. If you don’t know what the Author Central page is just click here: You just use your Amazon login to access your page. Everyone has one, whether you’ve claimed it or not.

Other Ways to Trigger Amazon

There are a variety of other things you can do to help trigger the internal sales system at Amazon. eBook promos can do that (meaning freebie books offered through Amazon) but the eBook freebie days have to be promoted in order to be effective. How do you make your eBook free? It’s all done through KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing). You get up to five freebie days but I would only recommend using two or three at a time. Promote the book heavily on those days. Why? Because a high spike on freebie days can really benefit your book overall. I’ve seen momentum carry through from freebie days and trigger a quicker climb up the ranking once the book goes back to a paid version.

Also, price and category switching will help to shake things up, too. What this means is that you play with the pricing, moving it high and low again every 6 weeks or so. Also, you can shuffle a book in a category frequently, too. Though I’d recommend doing it just once every six weeks.

The idea is to send enough “juice” to your book through triggers that Amazon recognizes and responds to. Typically, though, you can’t do just one of these items recommended, you’ll need to do all of them - but not necessarily at the same time. I recommend you start with the keywords, then the category, then you can experiment with eBook promotion, category flipping and vary the book pricing. Give the process a week or so to “take hold” and then see what your efforts leverage in the way of visibility. The good thing about Amazon is that they don’t limit you to the number of changes you can make. Good luck!


Penny C. Sansevieri, CEO and founder of Author Marketing Experts, Inc., is a best-selling author and internationally recognized book marketing and media relations expert. Her company is one of the leaders in the publishing industry and has developed some of the most cutting-edge book marketing campaigns. Follow on Twitter @Bookgal.

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Google+ profile of Penny C. Sansevieri, Adjunct Instructor NYU & CEO of Author Marketing Experts, Inc.

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