If you’ve ever set up your own book through Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP), then you know you can only select a maximum of two categories from a list that is not really complete. You might have noticed that your book’s listing page shows it ranking in categories you never picked during set-up, and you might have noticed that books similar to yours are ranking in categories that were never even available to you during set-up.
This post will explain, with screenshots, how you can find new categories and submit a request to be added to them. At the end of the post, I will talk about why authors want to do this, but for now, let’s assume you already know the why and just want the how. Let’s go!
PART 1: The How
One easy way to discover potential niche categories that might suit your book requires no technical skills, money, or specialized software. Just search Amazon for your topics or genres, click on any books that seem similar to yours, and look at their categories — which are shown in the Product Details of the listing.
Go deeper by clicking on the categories in those books’ listings and see the top 100 bestsellers in those categories, then explore what other categories those bestselling books are ranking in. You can pretty quickly build a list of niche categories relevant to your book. As I write this, the current limit is ten.
As you build your list, you need to be aware of two things. First, the categories for Kindle eBooks in the Kindle Store are not always the exact same categories available for print Books. They are two different “departments” at Amazon, so you need to treat them separately, both when you are researching and when you are requesting additions. For simplicity’s sake, I will limit my examples to ebooks. In the screenshot below, you can see how I went to a page that only shows me the bestselling ebooks (https://www.amazon.com/gp/bestsellers/digital-text/154606011) so I can see a hierarchy of ebook categories in the left sidebar.
Second, to avoid confusion about your request, you need to get the precise, accurate names of the categories. For example, see the screenshot below for the subtly different wording of the same category: “Biographies & Memoirs of Authors”. If you submit that category in your request, you might run into problems. Because as you can see in the hierarchy in the left sidebar, Amazon thinks the actual, precise, complete category here is “Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Biographies & Memoirs > Arts & Literature > Authors”. If you take the time to correctly map out that hierachy for your chosen categories, your requests have a better chance of going smoothly and correctly.
Once you have a list of up to ten categories that seem like a good fit, go to Amazon Author Central (https://author.amazon.com/home) and log in. If you don’t yet have an Author Central account, set one up! On the Author Central home page, scroll all the way down to the very bottom of the page and find the super-tiny link to “Contact Us”. Click it.
You will arrive on a page that has a list of reasons for contacting Author Central. Click the button for “Amazon Book Page”, which will then expand to show a more specific list, including “Update Amazon categories”. Click it.
The result will be a form that has some instructions in it. You will need to give your book’s ISBN (or ASIN for ebooks), the marketplace (.com in the USA), its format (ebook, paperback, or hardcover), and its current category. Then you provide your list of “Categories to Be Added”, with each category on its own numbered line. (The instructions in the form tell you all this.)
I won’t get into it here, but if your book is selling in other countries’ versions of Amazon — for example, at amazon.co.uk for the United Kingdom — then you can also request category adds in those regions, but you will need to research what categories are available in those specific regions. For now, let’s just keep it simple and complete the process for the USA.
The screenshot below is an example of a request I made, so you can see how I filled it out with accurate categories to avoid any confusion.
Once you’ve provided all the information, click the bright yellow “Send Message” button. That’s it! Author Central Customer Support will contact you soon by email to confirm the new additions, or communicate if there was any problem fulfilling your request.
PART 2: The Why
What is the point of adding more categories? The goal usually involves increasing sales or achieving bestseller status, or both. If you can rank higher on the list of bestsellers in one category, then you potentially increase how many people will see your book. The first page of Amazon’s bestseller lists in any category currently shows the top 20, so if someone is looking for good books on a specific topic or in a specific genre, they might consult that page — or any of the next pages that cover the top 100.
Some of the niche categories have relatively low competition to get on that first page or even get to number one. For example, one tool I’m trying out told me today that if I only sold 23 copies of a poetry ebook in 24 hours in the “American Poetry” category, then I would be number one. Even in hotter markets than poetry, some niches are easier to top than others. Broad categories such as “science fiction” and “horror” are insanely competetive, but what about more specific sub-categories such as “Space Fleet Science Fiction” or “Werewolf and Shapeshifter Thrillers”? Did you even know those categories existed?
Some people have criticized Amazon’s bestseller status as being meaningless because an author can “game the system” by putting a book in some utterly obscure and even irrelevant category. Other authors are paying thousands of dollars to marketers who promise to get that coveted bestseller status for them, no matter how briefly. But my example of “American Poetry” is a truly meaningful category for some of my books to be in, and if my software is correct, I wouldn’t need to pay thousands of dollars to be number one for a day. I could probably find 23 friends who would all buy the book for a dollar on the same day, and even if I paid them to do it, it would cost a lot less than three or four grand. (If your conscience is telling you that paying people to buy a book is shady, then it will be horrified to learn about Mike Pence’s bestseller. Or these other politicans. Or these ones.)
It might make sense for you to hire a professional marketer if you are aiming to rank in a highly competitive category where you’ll need to sell upwards of five hundred or a thousand books in a single day to hit number one. But with a little time for research and some inexpensive tools, you can easily find less-competitive niche categories that are still meaningful and appropriate for your book.