Cheat sheet. Use it once you’ve read the rest of this post!
In my last post, I covered the general rules of choosing the right genre for your book. I spoke briefly about Amazon’s categories. I’ll go into more details now.
The ground rules for Amazon categories are simple:
Every genre on Amazon gets to have its own tidy list of popular titles.
Each of these lists is often visited by fans of those genres.
Amazon scours their popularity lists for books to promote.
So how do you show up on a popular Amazon list?
Choose the right genre when you publish your book on Amazon.
Once you’ve identified which genres you belong in, you need to decide which genre is easiest for you to get in the Top 20. We’re shooting for the Top 20 because that means your book would show up on the first page of that genre’s Amazon page.
Good place to be…
After we find the easiest genre to place in, we’ll shoot for a tougher genre. Just to keep things interesting!
How to choose the right genre for your book on Amazon
Okay, let’s say we write a Mystery ebook for kids with a female detective (like oh, say, Shirley Link). Here are some of the possible categories on Amazon. I dug these up by rummaging through Amazon’s genre lists (seen on the left hand side of this page)
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Action & Adventure
Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Beginner Readers
Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Chapter Books
Kindle ebooks/Literature & Fiction/Women’s Fiction/Mystery, Thriller & Suspense/Women Sleuths
Any of these genres would work for the book. So how do we choose which genre we can get to #20 in?
Using Theresa Ragan’s sales estimator, I get a ballpark idea of how many books I’d need to sell to crack the top 20 of each possible genre.
So the #20 book in Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives/Detectives is Nancy Drew & The Bungalow Mystery.
But, more important to us is the book’s overall Kindle rank of 39,589 (see image below).
Checking Theresa’s sales estimator, this means the book sells between 3-15 copies per day.
Nancy Drew: The Bungalow Mystery sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:
On the other hand, Kindle ebooks/Children’s ebooks/Mysteries & Detectives is a tough one. The 20th ranked book has an overall Kindle sales rank of 3,239. This means the book sells between 30-50 books per day.
Spirit Animals Book 1 sales rank info from the book’s product page on Amazon:
I think I can manage to sell 3-15 books per day, but 30-50 will take some ingenuity. If I can find a way to crack the tough Action & Adventure Top 20 list then that will mean much more exposure to more people. I’m willing to claw my way up that genre’s listings over the long haul. One good sales day could be a game changer.
It’s fine to choose low-popularity genres for your picks. You’re more likely to be seen by fans of those genres if you rank high! But don’t be afraid to experiment if you’re not happy with sales. Yes, it’s possible to lose sales because you’ve changed genres, but if you do it with a marketing plan to back it up then you can gain crucial customer knowledge.
If you have any questions, please ask them in the comments. Don’t forget to use the cheat sheet above. And pass it on to a writer friend.
Thanks for reading!
By Ben Zackheim
Helpful tool: Sign up for EBookTracker to get details on any book’s ranking over time. The tool won’t help you see actual sales, but it will give you insights around your favorite genre’s movers and shakers.
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How important is book genre?
Here’s a worst-case scenario:
1974: Stephen King’s first novel, Carrie, is released. The publisher lists it as a Biography by accident. The book sits on the wrong shelf across the country.
2014: No one knows who Stephen King is.
Yes, that’s an exaggeration, but when you choose the wrong genre for your books on Amazon you’re choosing the wrong shelf. Simply put, that could destroy the book’s chances.
Luckily, we can change genres as often as we change writing software. Every online retailer allows you to genre-hop until you find your right audience.
5 simple steps you can take to choose the right genre:
1) Go to a bookstore!
Okay, this is going to sound trite. If it does, then head to #2. But it worked for me! If your book was inspired by a particular novel or author, then go find them on the shelf.
Now imagine that your book sits next to it.
Does it feel right?
It sounds loopy, but it really works! Especially if your book is a mix of many genres.
Click on the genre you chose in #1 and study the sub-genres on BISG.
Then bookmark BISG! Why? Because new genres pop up every year. The BISG site is the most transparent method of spotting a new mainstream, “official” market for your work.
And guess what? Most booksellers comply with the BISG list!
3) Head to the major online booksellers and find your niche.
These sites are your stores. You get a place on the shelf. You get a small display. You get a few seconds to make the sale. So know your store.
Luckily, with the BISG list you whittled down the choices so you don’t need to dig as much now that you’re about to dive into the morass of online bookstore genre lists! How big a mess are they? Well, here’s the Mystery genre list of four top online stores.
And check out this small taste of what genres each store offers: (all lists are from April, 2014)
Amazon genre list
[showhide type=”genrelist” more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Amazon genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide Amazon genre list” hidden=”yes”]
#s in parentheses are the total number of titles in that genre
Arts & Photography (939,077)
Biographies & Memoirs (691,601)
Business & Money (1,967,372)
Children’s Books (1,110,182)
Christian Books & Bibles (652,410)
Comics & Graphic Novels (410,241)
Computers & Technology (496,343)
Cookbooks, Food & Wine (187,337)
Crafts, Hobbies & Home (430,882)
Education & Reference (4,512,483)
Engineering & Transportation (710,286)
Gay & Lesbian (52,727)
Health, Fitness & Dieting (610,932)
Humor & Entertainment (453,318)
Literature & Fiction (3,178,315)
Medical Books (771,156)
Mystery, Thriller & Suspense (272,265)
Parenting & Relationships (165,447)
Politics & Social Sciences (1,597,281)
Religion & Spirituality (1,271,853)
Science & Math (1,518,315)
Science Fiction & Fantasy (287,324)
Sports & Outdoors (254,091)
Teen & Young Adult (279,009)
Barnes & Noble genre list
[showhide type=”genrelist2″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Barnes & Noble genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Barnes & Noble genre list” hidden=”yes”]
Art, Architecture & Photography
Bibles & Bible Studies
Business & Money
Computing & Internet
Cookbooks, Food & Wine
Crafts & Hobbies
Education & Teaching
Fiction & Literature
Health & Fitness
Home & Garden
Libros en español
Mystery & Crime
Politics & Current Events
Science & Nature
Science Fiction & Fantasy
Sports & Adventure
Kobo genre list
[showhide type=”genrelist3″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Kobo genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Kobo genre list” hidden=”yes”]
BIOGRAPHY & MEMOIR
Artists, Architects & Photographers
Composers & Musicians
Entertainment & Performing Arts
BUSINESS & FINANCE
Career Planning & Job Hunting
Entrepreneurship & Small Business
Finance & Investing
Human Resources & Personnel Management
Industries & Professions
Management & Leadership
Marketing & Sales
COMICS & GRAPHIC NOVELS
Crime & Mystery
Gay & Lesbian
FICTION & LITERATURE
Essays & Letters
Fiction – Young Adult
Literary Theory & Criticism
Movie & Television Tie-Ins
KIDS & TEENS
Beautiful and Interesting
Comics, Graphic Novels & Manga
Français, Español and more
Knock knock, Who’s Funny?
My Family, My Feelings, My Friends
People and Places
Sports and Recreation
Two Wheels, Four Wheels, No Wheels
MYSTERY & SUSPENSE
Art & Architecture
Family & Relationships
Food & Drink
Health & Well Being
Home & Garden
Reference & Language
Religion & Spirituality
Science & Nature
Social & Cultural Studies
Science Fiction & Fantasy
SCI FI & FANTASY
Smashwords genre list
[showhide type=”genrelist4″ more_text=”>>Click this link to show the Smashwords genre list” less_text=”>>Click this link to hide the Smashwords genre list” hidden=”yes”]
African American fiction
Cultural & ethnic themes
Gay & lesbian fiction
Graphic novels & comics
Humor & comedy
Mystery & detective
Themes & motifs
Thriller & suspense
Young adult or teen
Antiques & Collectibles
Art, Architecture, Photography
Business & Economics
Computers and Internet
Cooking, Food, Wine, Spirits
Education and Study Guides
Engineering, trades, and technology
Gay and Lesbian
Health, wellbeing, & medicine
Home and Garden
Politics and Current Affairs
Relationships and Family
Religion and Spirituality
Science and Nature
Sex and Relationships
Sports & outdoor recreation
The lists above don’t include all sub-genres! So yeah, there are a lot of options. Again, BISG will help you focus.
4) Choose every single genre that makes sense.
Every. Single. One.
That’s probably a lot, and that’s okay. Write the list down somewhere safe. You’ll need it for #5.
Each online seller allows you to choose a different number of genres. Choose the genres that feel right. Or choose the genres that solid data supports.
Important note: Make sure your honest with yourself and choose a genre that actually fits. Just because your book includes a cameo of a handsome vampire doesn’t make it a New Adult Paranormal Romance. If you choose the wrong genre for your book you will hear from the readers — with bad reviews (see #5 for my experience).
Important note #2: Some bookstores don’t allow you to choose the precise genre you want. In this case, write to their support team and tell them you’d like placement in a certain genre. They’ll do so, but it may take a while.
5) Measure performance and make changes
This might be controversial advice, but it makes sense. If you don’t think your book is finding an audience in the genre you picked, then consider changing to another one.
[blockquote author_name=”” width=”50%” float=”left”]Upside: You might hit the nail on the head.[/blockquote]
[blockquote author_name=”” width=”50%” float=”left”]Downside: You might disrupt any momentum you were getting in the genre (which is info that none of these stores shares with us).[/blockquote]
I changed genres for the Shirley Link series on Amazon from Young Adult Mysteries to Kids Mysteries. I was getting a lot of downloads in Young Adult, but most of my reviews were *enh* to awful because young adults thought my books were too young for them. While I haven’t yet shown in the top seller list on Kids Mysteries, I’ve seen excellent reviews since I made the move.
It’s a tough call, sure. But if your book isn’t moving after a couple of months, try changing one of your sub-genres before you spend cash on a promo.
What tips do you have for genre seekers? Help out a fellow writer in the comments.
By Ben Zackheim