If you're a self-published author aiming to maximize visibility and sales on Amazon, you must pay attention to the recent changes in how Amazon categorizes books. These changes have significant implications for how readers discover your book.
Amazon's recent adjustments limit books to appear in only three categories. Previously, authors would choose BISACS and then they could add up to ten categories.
What to Pay Attention To
The following points are from Dave Chesson’s new video, where he discusses these changes more in depth.
1. Category duplicates
Out of the categories listed in KDP, 54% are duplicates, but Amazon let’s you choose them anyway. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing because if you’re in a duplicate placement, and you’re sales are good, you can show up in both duplicates.
Also, Amazon won't allow you to choose the same sub-category twice using different methods. So you don't need to be concerned about accidentally picking the same category twice.
2. Dead end categories
These are categories that you can’t actually rank in or get a bestseller tag. They don’t have a name like normal categories.
27% of the categories in the listings lead to dead ends. These categories direct users to pages that didn't actually feature any Bestseller Lists.
For example, a normal category would be: Comics & Graphic Novels Best Sellers, but a dead end category would be just Best Sellers.
Watch his video to spot this elusive categories.
3. Amazon category verification
Now, although authors can choose their categories, Amazon may choose not to place their books in those categories if they’re not fit for them. And they reserve the right to do so.
How does Amazon make a decision for your book? It uses keywords you used in your book to decide which category is best for your book.
Even if they limit your book to three categories, Amazon has two other options when uploading and categorizing your book: Subcategory and Placement. They help you classify your book better.
You can find out which categories your book appears in by checking its product page on Amazon.
Amazon pointed out two things:
- There is no use in addressing team support. They cannot override the automated categories.
- The categorization is decided based on “customer activity.”
Amazon states that these categorizations are based on “customer activity,” which could mean activity from three sections from Amazon: “Also Boughts,” “Also Vieweds,” and “Also Reads,” but Amazon did not state this very clearly.
Age-Range Specifications: A New Curveball
Amazon is now taking steps to separate categories based on age ranges like children's, middle grade, young adult, and adult. While adding an age range remains optional, doing so can affect in which category your book appears.
What About Book Visibility?
If your book appears in only three categories (or three bestseller lists), it has a more limited visibility. But it also means authors can’t flood all categories just to rank in any of them. Amazon calls this “category stuffing”, a practice used to artificially inflate a book's visibility.
A Silver Lining: Opportunities Amid Challenges
These changes may be a good thing.
For mid-list self-published authors who have struggled due to category stuffing by irrelevant books, the new system could provide a more level playing field.
However, the shift makes it more difficult for any author to dominate multiple bestseller lists.
The alterations could also have a varied impact based on whether your books are exclusive to Amazon or available on multiple platforms. Wide distribution may offer a buffer against these changes.