Getting Inside Amazon’s “Head” with Your eBook Category

Let’s face it, most authors scratch their heads when it comes to figuring out where they should be in the Amazon machine. Oh, they have a general idea … but how in the heck does one drill down into some of the odd-ball categories so frankly, they can own it. With the millions (yes millions) of books in the “e” world popping annual, claiming the top spot(s) in categories can push book sales. amazon logo
Doing a deep-dive into the backside of Amazon via the KDP Select dashboard, here’s what the folks at Amazon state via its link here:

“Selecting a browse category for your book is a lot like deciding where your book should be shelved in a library. 

When customers browse through the Amazon Kindle Store for books that might interest them, they are presented with genres and subgenres. By selecting browse categories, you decide which genres feature your book. KDP uses BISAC Subject Codes, an industry standard system, to help determine where your book should show up for browsing and searching customers. You can read more about the BISAC Subject Code system and see the most current list of Categories codes here:

When creating a new title in KDP, you may choose up to 2 categories for your book. To help determine which categories best fit your book, you may consider searching for other titles in the Amazon catalog that are similar to yours. You can then find the browse categories that are assigned to those titles by scrolling down the book’s detail page to the “Look for Similar Items by Category” section located at the bottom of the page. The categories you select for your book will be used to filter it into the most relevant customer searches and browse sections on Amazon. 

Choosing the Best Browse Categories 
There are three main criteria that will help you choose the best browse categories. 

• Picking the most accurate categories. Make sure the categories you’ve picked correctly describe the subject matter of your book.

• Selecting the most specific categories. It’s better to choose more specific categories instead of more general categories. Customers looking for very specific topics will more easily find your book, and your book will be displayed in more general categories as well (for example, a book in the “FICTION > Fantasy > Historical” category will also show up in searches for general fiction and general fantasy books). You should only select a “General” category if your book is actually a general book about a broad topic.

• Ensuring the categories you choose are not redundant. Since your book will be displayed in a variety of searches by choosing even a single category, you shouldn’t place it in both a category and any of that category’s sub-categories (for example, selecting both “FICTION > Fantasy > Historical” and “FICTION > Fantasy”). Even selecting just one specific, accurate category is preferable to selecting an inaccurate category just to have a second category listed.

Categories With Keyword Requirements 
In order to list your title in certain sub-categories, you’ll need to add Search Keywords in addition to the categories you choose for your title. Click a category in the list below to see the keyword requirements. The browse categories listed below are specific to with the exception of the Romance and Science Fiction & Fantasy categories which are also available for

Science Fiction & Fantasy 
Teen & Young Adult 
Mystery, Thriller, & Suspense 
Comics & Graphic Novels 
Literature & Fiction 

Series Categories 
We’re regularly adding to the list of Series categories, but we aren’t able to accept requests for new Series categories at this time. Please check back later to see if the Series you’re looking for has been added to the list.”

There you have it … Amazon is the author’s friend; understand how to use it—be very clear on what your keywords are so that you can connect with the right categories and sub-categories. With keywords, think as your would on a Google search—do you put in just one word, or a  potato headphrase?  Rarely does just a single word get you anywhere but in a labyrinth of names and options. With each new, descriptive keyword you add, you narrow the avenues that lead closer to YOU and YOUR BOOK. The more we learn about getting behind the scenes, inside the Amazon-meister, we can help ourselves and our book.

If your game plan is to position and dominate a category, you need to know which ones your belong in.

If you are doing an Amazon bestseller campaign run, here’s a reminder for the magic link to ID your category … and good luck! 




2014_JBriles-1Judith Briles is known as The Book Shepherd a book publishing expert and coach. She is the Founder of Author U, a membership organization created for the serious author who wants to be seriously successful. She’s been writing about and conducting workshops on publishing since the 80s. Judith is the author of 31 books including Author YOU: Creating and Building Your Author and Book Platforms (ForeWord Indie/Fab Book of the Year), Snappy Sassy Salty: Wise Words for Authors and Writers and a speaker at publishing conferences.

Become part of her inner circle by joining the Author’s Ark and exclusive monthly webinar and coaching event. Each summer, she holds Judith Briles Unplugged, a two and 1/2 day intensive limited to a small group of authors who want to be seriously successful. In 2015, the dates are August 27-29th.  Her audio and workbook series, Creating Your Book and Author Platform is now available. Join Judith live on Thursdays at 6 p.m. EST for Author U – Your Guide to Book Publishing on the Toginet Network at Follow @AuthorU and @MyBookShepherd on Twitter and do a “Like” at AuthorU and Judith Briles – TheBookShepherd on Facebook. If you want to create a book that has no regrets, contact Judith at

 If you are looking for FREE author and book coaching … call in to Judith’s Author Monday Mornings at NOON Eastern each Monday. The number is 218-632-9854; Access Code 1239874444 … have your questions ready–there’s a full hour to ask and listen.

Follow Me

Was this helpful? Get more FREE tips and insight:

Follow Me

4 Comments on Getting Inside Amazon’s “Head” with Your eBook Category

  1. Amazon is far from an author’s friend. There’s no price point at which Amazon will pay the as much royalty as Apple and often what Amazon pays is half what Apple pays. Here are the numbers.

    Apple pays 70% of retail at all price levels from $0.99 to $199.99 and not only charges no download fee, it offers generous images size limits (over 3 meg per image), so you can make your book look gorgeous.

    What Amazon pays depends on a book’s retail price and the file size.

    $0.99 to $1.99: Amazon pays only 35% of retail, half what Apple pays. Sell a 1,000 copies of a 99-cent novel at Amazon, you get only $350. Sell that same number of copies at Apple and you get $700. Who’s your friend, someone who pays you $350 for your hard labor or someone who pays you $700? The answer is obvious.

    $2.99 to $9.99: Amazon pays 70% of retail but also charges a grossly inflated deceptiely named ‘download fee.’ That fee is over three times what cellular companies charge for data downloads and over a hundred times what Amazon itself charges for data downloads on its own AWS. In practice that means an author may be getting only about 50% of retail. He’s also essentially being punished for making his book look better with pictures and graphics.

    $10.99 and up: Amazon only pays 35% of retail, again half what Apple pays. Create a specialized book, say a guide for nurses working with children who have a rare disease, and Amazon’s pricing will force the author to charge twice as much to recoup their investment if they sell through Amazon versus Apple.

    The same is true of textbooks. For a $50 textbook bought by a student, Amazon pockets $32.50 for merely processing a credit card transaction and doing a file download. The author and publishers only get $17.50 for writing, editing and publishing that book. That inflates the price of textbooks, with almost all the money going to Amazon. Can you spell ripoff?

    For those who’d like to see the actual figures, here are the links:

    That is why it is most emphatically not true that Amazon is an “author’s friend.” There are authors whose kids are going hungry this month because Amazon uses its market dominance to pay them far less than industry norms. You might even say that Amazon cheats authors and steals food from the mouths of babies to build those big skyscrapers they’re building in Seattle.

    Where did some authors get the impression that Amazon is their friend? Perhaps out of mistaken sense that the giant company accepts them and approves their books. They’re treating Amazon as if it exercised the same select-or-not prerogative that a publisher does when it chooses to publish their book or an bookstore does when it places copies on shelves. “Amazon loves me,” the author thinks, “Look they’re selling my book.”

    Not so. Amazon doesn’t choose. Amazon is a book junkyard. It’s virtual shelves include all sorts of ill-written trash and it doesn’t care. Why should it? For ebooks it’s making twice what any other retailer makes.

    Even more revealing, in the case of ebooks, Amazon treats every author as if what is or she created was the sort flimsy, cut-rate trash you might find as a 99-cent store. It pays authors far less than other retailers for the most obvious or reasons: because it has only poorly disguised contempt for what an author does. Look at the numbers above. They’d don’t lie Amazon views authors as little more than slaves to be paid a subsidence wage or less.

    My own rough calculations, taking into account Amazon’s huge economy of scale, is that Amazon is making twice as much profit per ebook sale as a company like Apple. And since the retail prices are the same, every penny of that profit is coming out of the pockets of authors. That is not the behavior of a friend. Even an enemy will often treat you better. It’s the classic behavior of a bully with a near-monopoly on the market.

    Given Amazon outsized market share, most authors do feel that have to publish through Amazon. But there are several things they can do to fight back.

    1. Release their ebooks through as many other retail outlets as possible. Smashwords is a good way to reach most of them with one file upload.

    2. Encourage those who buy your ebooks to, if possible, get them through other sources. Remind them that, if they like your books, they can put about twice as much money in your pocket by buying from someone other than Amazon.

    3. Pass the word about this along to fellow writers. Amazon will only change if their current policies begin to hurt their profits. Amazon does change, but only when pain is inflicted.

    4. If you have fans who’ll buy your ebook as soon as it comes out, delay the release through Amazon and sell first at the retailers who pay better royalties. Only when sales begin to slacken, release that ebook on Amazon. You’ll make more money.

    Long-term, we need laws that protect authors from Amazon’s predatory royalty pricing. If Apple pays 70 cents for a 99-cent ebook, then authors should be able to price that same ebook at Amazon at $1.99, so they still get 70 cents. The same is even more true of ebooks priced over $9.99, where Amazon’s profit margin is obscene. Amazon may be pocketing $40 for a textbook sale that costs them but a few pennies to process. That rips off students, a group that can ill-afford to pay so much.

    Spread the word: “Amazon is not your friend.” And steer as many sales as possible to other retailers.

    • Judith Briles says:

      Michael… this is all about ebooks… all good points and there are SO MANY other options out there for ebook placement these days. I agree with you about the ridiculous hacking that Amazon does with the payout ceiling and floors–if you want to talk price fixing: forcing authors to keep prices in the 2.99-9.99 range with the promise of reducing payouts by 50% is awful. With that said, Amazon has enable millions of authors to get their words out their. The payouts for print books are inline with other distributors (which is what authors should think Amazon is)–and they pay in 30 days after a sale–a HUGE change for authors … and authors know how many books have been sold if using Advantage or Fulfillment side.

      I just did an interview with Mark Coker of Smashwords who dug into some of the Amazon hiccups and gave an excellent insight to what’s going on in ebookland … here’s a Tweet I did:
      #Authors-learn why it is a mistake to go solo on #Amazon #eBook platform-listen to podcast:

      He’s the keynote at the Author U Extravaganza this year and I’m looking forward to it. Judith

  2. Great clear explanation, Judith, thanks for this post. I’m sharing with my peeps and blog readers. I’ve seen ebooks in wrong categories, and some even skip the subcategories. Thanks,

    • Judith Briles says:

      Thanks for the share Patsi … and here’s the secret–many a time, it’s the sub-category that does the driving. Always good to know who is at the wheel of the bus!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please prove you're human: * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.