When speaking about my book, Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers: But That's Not All They Do, I often get two responses, which is what prompted me to write the book to begin with.
Some shrug with a “So what? Categories are like Tags. Everywhere I place my book requires choosing categories. They are basically just another search engine assistant.”
For those wondering, search engines help guide people to find your book if someone types your topic into the Amazon search bar. But even if your book comes up in the search it may be buried on page 20 or 90 of the results. Categories are nothing like search engines.
The second response I usually get is from authors with a bit more experience selling books at Amazon, who know a book is tallied for category bestseller by outselling others within the same category. But unfortunately some have been taught that a smart strategy for ranking in this top-100 bestseller list is to pick the smallest category you can find, even if it’s not totally relevant to your book’s topic.
Their cry might be: “Close is good enough. Bestseller status at all costs.” This is very short-sighted, because category bestsellers are not the be-all and end-all of category purposes, and worse, this action can doom your Amazon book sales, which of course dooms chances for a bestseller.
When you understand the true function of Amazon’s categories and the core philosophy behind the system, you glimpse the enormity of their sales plan. With this glimpse you’ll see a whole new world, a world where Amazon becomes your personal book publicist. And it all starts with choosing the RIGHT category, not the smallest. I cover this in detail in my book, but let’s quickly synopsize two of the core concepts behind all of Amazon’s publicity plans for your book.
Amazon Publicity Functions are Drawn from Pool of Categories
Nearly all promotions choose which books to include from within the existing pool of categories. Amazon rankings depend on finding your book in the proper ones. Most everything throughout Amazon’s ingenious multi-layered publicity machine starts with and builds upon categories. Don’t underestimate this tool.
You need the RIGHT categories attached to your books (not the smallest) in order to find your readers. Only this tight targeting will kick start Amazon to begin publicizing your books globally on multiple levels AND in front of readers who give a damn -- which brings us to the next point.
Tight Targeting is How the Publicity Engine Rolls
Tight targeting is the fuel that controls and thrusts your book through the RIGHT layers of their many promotion opportunities. Amazon book categories are your only chance to set your book up for success in front of those who really care about your subject. Then their publicity machine pushes it through the next level of promotion, and the next, and the next…
Targeting is exactly how Amazon markets everything. From categories to Tags to Customers Who Viewed This Also Viewed, to their wildly successful direct mailings, many top-100 lists and on and on.
What Are the Consequences if I Choose the Wrong Categories?
What consequences can stem from wrong category choices? That’s the question that should be asked, not: how do I choose the smallest category with the least competition?
Certainly, we all want a bestseller. Gaining one, or more, is cause for celebration, but that is only part of the purpose of categories. Their 24/7 publicity is worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to an individual author. If your category is less than specific to your subject you book may well be dead in the sales waters already.
Tight targeting of your categories is the only goal. Never choose a category based on lack of competition. If your book is not in the most tightly targeted category, Amazon cannot successfully sell the book for you. It’s as simple as that.
Though you may obtain category bestseller status for a while, your success and your sales may well stall there. Try to sucker your audience and the system, and you may pay long term with poor sales and losing out on all of Amazon’s free publicity, or even worse.
Example of Arbitrarily Choosing the Smallest Category
For example, let’s say you placed your humorous novella in the category “Comic books” because there are only 91 other books to compete with. Humorous novel, comic book, graphic novel – close enough, right? (I’m not making this stuff up. I’ve heard of books placed in categories far more removed from the truth than this example.) You have already doomed your book’s success on several levels.
In just one of many possible scenarios, imagine you are a young graphic novel lover who receives email updates about his favorite categories, and Amazon’s algorithms have deduced “Comic books” is one of them.
Your humorous novel is prominently featured in his email, an email that is supposed to inform him of the newest comic book bestsellers. When he clicks on yours he will be angry that you wasted his time, and his money if he purchased it with one click without first checking it out.
You may become a blacklisted author. Don’t scoff. Though this is a worst case scenario, it is not an exaggeration. Savvy e-readers are so demanding of and involved with their online world that, without one lost second, he may leave a scathing review on your sales page, talk about you in several discussion boards, report you to Amazon, and blacklist you in ways and places you and I have never heard of. The damage may even be irreparable.
But let’s not forget that those readers who would have loved your humorous novel will not see it because you listed it in the wrong category. You will not even be considered for feature in millions of email promotions to those looking for precisely your genre. You will not appear in the categories your readers would search for throughout any other top-100 list. These are all Amazon promotions meant to sell your books and they do their jobs well, but only for books in their appropriate category.
So, the goal is NOT just to quickly gain a false category bestseller at all costs. Bestsellers come mostly from steady sales long after your book launch blitz. Your tightly targeted categories will grease the way to those sales, propelling your book into a publicity campaign like you’ve never dreamed of, courtesy (and cost) of Amazon.com.
Aggie’s Bio: For decades peers have described Aggie Villanueva as a whirlwind that draws others into her vortex. And no wonder. She was a published author at Thomas Nelson before age 30 and commenced to found local writers’ groups, the Mid-America Fellowship of Christian Writers three–day conference, taught at nationwide writing conferences, and published numerous newsletters for various organizations.
Aggie’s 2012 book, Amazon Categories Create Best Sellers: But That's Not All They Do, teaches authors to render Amazon.com their personal book publicist by employing the perpetual reach of book categories. With the exception of five days, this book hit immediate Kindle bestseller in three categories, and held steady in 1-3 categories for 36 weeks. The Amazon print version has repeatedly done short stretches as a category bestseller too. And both digital and print continue to show up intermittently as Kindle category bestsellers to this day.
Thomas Nelson published two of Villanueva’s novels in the 1980s. She is now an award-winning, bestselling Indie author of fiction & non fiction bestsellers. Rightfully Mine, and The Rewritten Word, each became bestsellers in three Amazon print & Kindle categories within weeks of publication. The Rewritten Word held bestseller status steady in 1-3 categories for over 21 months, and won the 2011Dan Poynter Global eBook Award in the Writing/Publishing category.
Across the Web Aggie teaches how authors can attain the same things through author publicity. Villanueva founded Promotion á la Carte, author promotional services, July 2010 and for the next 2 years was voted #2 & #4 at Preditors & Editors in the Promotion category (this company is now on sabbatical). Villanueva is also a critically acclaimed photographic artist represented by galleries nationwide, including Xanadu Gallery in Scottsdale, AZ.
For more information you can contact Villanueva at firstname.lastname@example.org.