The Amazon book categories you choose will have a direct effect on whether or not you become an Amazon bestselling author.
Choose the wrong one, and no matter how many books you sell, you won’t become an Amazon bestseller. Choose the right one, and you could become a daily bestseller with minimal marketing or effort – yeah, it can be that easy…but only if you know what you're looking for.
In truth, there is a lot more to choosing Amazon book categories. There are secret Kindle categories that Amazon doesn’t tell you about when publishing, and the simple fact that you can only have 3 Amazon Book categories and ebook categories legitimately, makes it all the more important to choose carefully.
More importantly, Amazon has made some changes to the way they do categories.
And in this article, I will show you all of that, plus more.
In this article, you will learn:
- Exactly what categories can do for your book
- How to find the best categories to make you a bestseller
- Secret Kindle Categories and how to get them
- How to see all the categories a book ranks for
Table of Contents
- How to Become a #1 Bestselling Amazon Author
- How to Find the Amazon Book Categories
- WARNING: Choose Your Categories Wisely
- Step 1: Research Potential Book Categories on Amazon
- Step 2: Check the #1 Best Seller in that Category
- Step 3: See List of All Amazon Book Categories
- Step 4: Adding the Categories to Your Book in KDP
- Extra Tips and Tricks to Amazon Book Categories:
- Now Go Get Listed For Your Ideal Categories and Become a Bestseller
Being a number #1 bestseller on Amazon isn’t just about the cool points, it also helps you sell more books as well.
However, how does an author not only ensure they make that rank, but keep it too? Well, let’s dive into how Amazon chooses which book is the #1 bestseller of a category. It all starts with your book’s Amazon Best Seller Rank (ABSR).
Amazon assigns the ABSR of a book based on how many sales or downloads it has had over a certain period of time as compared to all other books on the Amazon market. With this, if you have an ABSR of 1000, then it means that at that point in time, there are 999 books on Amazon selling better than you. If you have an ABSR of 1,000,000, then it means there are 999,999 books selling better than you.
So, if your book has the LOWEST ABSR of all books that are attached to an Amazon category, then you are the #1 best seller in that category. It is that simple.
So, choosing your Amazon Kindle categories or book categories will have a direct effect on whether or not you become a bestseller.
Here’s an example:
If you choose a category where the #1 book in that category has an ABSR of 2,000, then you’d need to have an ABSR or 1,999 or less in order to be the new #1. Using my kindle calculator, you’d find out that you’d need to sell over 90 books per day to reach that.
However, if you choose a category where the #1 book has an ABSR of 70,000, then all you need is an ABSR of 69,999 or less. Again, using my calculator, that’s only 3 books a day.
Big difference, right? 90 books vs 3 books?
So, the category you choose has a DIRECT effect on whether you’ll become an Amazon Best Seller and get that attractive bestseller tag. Now, let's look at how to find the best Amazon categories for your book or ebook.
There are two steps to finding out how to choose a good kindle category or Amazon book category. Follow the steps below:
For this, I will be using an example. In this example, I will be trying to find a good category for a language book:
But First, the Old Way
Okay, so back in the day, Amazon had a confusing system by which authors could choose their categories.
First, they would go into their KDP dashboard, and choose from a list of BISAC categories. This was crazy because there are only 4,800 categories, but Amazon actually has over 11,000 on their store.
From there, Amazon would take from your BISAC selection and put you into an Amazon category. Then, those that knew of this, could use a special form to contact Amazon and request a change of categories, and even addition of categories.
However, Amazon has removed this capability.
So because Amazon has removed this option, I'll walk you through a more complete process of finding potential categories.
The New Way
Instead, here is the step-by-step process to research, find, and select Amazon categories:
- Research a list of potential book categories
- Check for the #1 best seller in your chosen categories
- See the list of all Amazon book categories
- Add your categories to your book in KDP
Let's get into each step.
WARNING: Choose Your Categories Wisely
Because Amazon only allows three categories (where they used to allow ten), this makes it even more important than ever that you use a program like Publisher Rocket to select your book categories.
And with Rocket's Category Insights tool, it is easier than ever to not only see the performance of a category today, but also whether that category is growing or shrinking.
If you see a category with an upward trend like in the image above, that might be a good sign that your category is a good one to invest in for the future.
Additionally, I have some specific advice to get the most out of your categories.
- Pick Relevant Categories: Authors have been miscategorizing their books (in the hopes of ranking well in low-competition category) for years now. This will not work for you in the long run. Only pick categories that are relevant to your book. Otherwise, Amazon might boot you from the categories, or place you in other categories that you simply do not want.
- Niche Down: When entering your categories, you want to drill down as far as you can go into the subcategories. These will not only have the least competition, but it will give Amazon a better idea of what your book is about. Plus, if you pick a subcategory, Amazon automatically includes you in the broader categories above it.
- Think Outside the Box: While your book may best belong in a high-competition category, there may be other niche categories that you belong in. For example, if you write an epic fantasy, the category of “Epic Fantasy” will likely be crowded. You should still select that one, because it's the most relevant, but maybe your book has Norse Mythology elements as well. In that case, you could select “Norse Mythology” as a second category. Try to pick categories that represent a broad array of interests, rather than three that are all closely related.
Ultimately, picking and choosing your categories is going to be a much more meticulous process. You will want to pay extra attention to Publisher Rocket to analyze the data and only pick the category that best matches your book, but also some categories that are niche and growing over time.
Additionally, this presents a good opportunity to search for new categories that need more books, which you can then target and write yourself.
But even then, there are some major issues with the category options that Amazon gives you, and there are a few things you need to know about this:
Secret #1: 54% of Categories Are Duplicates
Many authors don't realize that the MAJORITY of categories on Amazon are duplicates, meaning that if you select 2-3 of these as part of your three categories, you are really selecting only one.
For example, these three category strings (which can all be selected independently as three categories in KDP), all lead to this single page.
- Books › Mystery, Thriller & Suspense › Mystery › Historical
- Books › Literature & Fiction › Historical Fiction › Mysteries
- Books › Literature & Fiction › Genre Fiction › Historical › Mysteries
Now you may be thinking that I’d recommend staying away from duplicates. Actually, no. They can be a good thing!
First thing about duplicates is that when you select a duplicate, Amazon won’t allow you to select another duplicate of that category.
Furthermore, if you’re in a duplicate placement, if your book’s sales do really good, then you will show up in the sub-categories in all the duplicate strings. So, knowing which ones are duplicates and the possible category strings you can be a part of is a good strategy.
Now, the only manual way you can figure out whether something is a duplicate is by clicking on a category placement in KDP and see if other categories are greyed out. But this can be problematic because many times duplicates are in different subcategories and even broad categories.
(Good luck trying to find them all, too – we even saw one category with over 15 duplicates!)
However, with Publisher Rocket this is incredibly easy. As you can see in the screenshot above, Publisher Rocket will mark if that category is a duplicate and by hovering over it, you can see where the other duplicates are listed. The best option is when you find a duplicate that not only the other duplicates fit your book, but they are in other sub categories and even broad categories. Then you’re book gets even more coverage.
Secret #2: 27% of Categories are Ghost Categories
This is another EXTREMELY important piece of information. Over 27% of Categories that you can select in the KDP dashboard are what I call a “Ghost Category.”
These are categories where if your book is listed in it, you can't get a bestseller tag for it.
For example, this is what a normal category looks like:
And here is what a ghost category looks like:
Notice that in the ghost category it doesn’t even have a name. The Ghost category doesn’t have a category path on the left either. Furthermore, you can’t find the ghost category in the category path in the normal.
That’s because it isn’t really a category.
What’s worse is, because of this, a shopper on Amazon can’t even find this category page. They would just have to know the link.
So, ghost categories not only don’t let you get a bestseller tag, shoppers can’t even find your book in that ghost category. And 27% of categories that you can select in KDP are like this.
Essentially, ghost categories don't directly benefit you, and basically have you compete only in the subcategory above it. However, they might be necessary as the only way to get into the desired category above them.
More importantly, you should absolutely NOT select multiple ghost categories inside of one placement.
For example, all three of these placement categories in the above screengrab are Ghosts, and if you selected all three, you'd basically be wasting your three choices, and just be put into Paranormal & Urban (the subcategory above it)… and that's it!
Secret #3: Amazon Chooses How Many Categories You Can Be In
What we've seen from our data analysis and in discussions with a lot of other authors, is that you can choose your 3 categories, but Amazon makes no guarantees that you will be placed in those categories.
In fact, we've often seen Amazon place your book in additional categories that you didn't select.
That's because Amazon is not just pulling from your chosen categories, they're looking at the big picture. And they even explicitly state in their TOS that they reserve the right to change the categories you are in:
So keep that in mind, that Amazon might also be selecting the most appropriate categories based on:
- Your selections
- Your book description
- Your book's content
This is another reason why you should not be deceptive in your selection of categories. Because if they aren't accurate and relevant for your book, Amazon will likely figure this out and take you out of those categories.
So this is good news and bad news: The good news is that you might be able to get into other categories by carefully optimizing your keywords and other content. The bad news is that you're not guaranteed that even your 3 chosen categories will be accepted.
Step 1: Research Potential Book Categories on Amazon
Did you know there are over 11,000+ Amazon Categories? But sadly, Amazon doesn’t just list them all in one spot somewhere (except that this program does, incase you want to see all 11,000+)- if they did, I’d be a super happy camper.
Instead, we need to ‘find’ pertinent (but niche) categories.
Option 1: Find Categories for Specific Books
So, to start this, we’ll begin by typing into the Amazon search box any words to describe our book. Our goal is to get a list of books that are similar to our book.
I will then systematically go through each book and check their category list like below:
Doing the above, I checked out other books and found the following categories:
- Language Experience Approach (Kindle Store)
- Education Reference Books
- Language Instruction – Miscellaneous (Kindle Store)
- Foreign Language Study & Reference (Kindle Store)
- Linguistics Books
- Test Preparation Books
- Pedagogy (I actually had to look up what this word meant..haha)
- Study & Teaching (Kindle Store)
- Words, Language & Grammar Books
- Memory Improvement (Kindle Store)
Option 2: Browse Through Amazon's Categories
Another option is to simply browse through Amazon's categories by going to the sidebar and drilling down until you find the specific categories that you want. See this image:
Option 3: Use Publisher Rocket to Search Categories
The above two options take a LOT of time to work through. You can save hours of time spent searching through books and categories by simply using the category feature in Rocket.
And not only will Publisher Rocket show you all of the categories that are duplicates or ghost categories, so you can make more informed decisions on whether to select those categories or not.
Step 2: Check the #1 Best Seller in that Category
Now that we have a list of potential categories, it’s time to see which one has the best chance of making me a consistent bestseller. To do this, just click category link on a book's sales page. This will take you to the list of Bestsellers for that Category.
Next, click on the #1 best selling book in that Amazon book category. Now, go down to its ABSR and record that number next to the category name in your notes. This is the ABSR number you’d need to beat in order to be the #1 bestseller.
Once you have a list of all the categories and their #1 best seller ABSR, place them into the Kindle Calculator below or here and it will tell you how many books you’d need to sell today in order to be the #1 best selling author in that category.
Once you’ve done that, look over your list and choose the ones that best represents your book and have the highest ABSR.
Using my example above, I got the following results:
Amazon Book Categories
|Category||ABSR||Book Sales To Be #1|
|Language Experience Approach||10,567||15|
|Language Instruction - Misc.||19.761||13|
|Foreign Language Study & Reference||268||386|
|Study & Teaching||15,304||14|
|Words, Language & Grammar||1,810||94|
Looking at this list, my best kindle categories for becoming a #1 bestseller are:
- Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Reference > Foreign Language Study & Reference > Language Instruction > Miscellaneous
- Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Reference > Words, Language & Grammar > Study & Teaching
Now, if my book was categorized for these two, all I’d need to do is sell about 13 books and I’d be #1 🙂
*Don’t forget there are different Category strings for ‘books' and ‘Kindle books' on Amazon. They look like this:
And sometimes they have a Kindle version of a category, but not a book version (or vice versa).
So, if you have a soft or hardcover book, repeat Steps 1-3 for ‘books' now that you’ve identified kindle categories. If you don’t have a print book, then you’re good to go.
The Easier Option
Once again, Publisher Rocket makes it much easier to collect this information. Rather than go through the complex process listed above, all you have to do is select the category you are interested in, and Rocket will show you exactly how many books you need to sell in order to dominate that category.
Once you have that information, along with all of the other helpful data that Rocket gives you, you can easily find those categories that are the best for you and your specific book.
Step 3: See List of All Amazon Book Categories
Remember, there are over 11,000+ categories on Amazon. To do the steps above correctly, it could take you hours for clicking around and hoping you find the right category. The worse part is, Amazon doesn't show you every category in one spot.
And sadly, there is not list for every Amazon Book Category or Amazon Ebook Category….except for one: Publisher Rocket.
One particular feature of this award-winning software, is that it lists every possible Amazon book, ebook, and Audible category on Amazon, and tells those valuable numbers we discussed above. You can see exactly how many books you need to sell in order to become the new #1 bestseller. This feature is a favorite amongst both publishers and self publishers alike.
You can also arrange the book categories from Easiest to Rank #1 to hardest. Check it out:
See, just like that, Publisher Rocket will immediately:
- List all the categories books show up for
- Tell you how many books you’d need to sell in a day to be #1
- Tell you how many books you’d need to sell to be in the top #10
And just like that, you can now select the best categories for your book and know exactly how many copies you’d need to sell in order to be #1 or just to make it in the categories' Top 10 – all with a simple click of a button.
Percent KU and Percent Large Publisher
Additionally, you can analyze all of the categories for the percentage of top books that come from a large publisher or are enrolled in Kindle Unlimited.
This should give you a good idea on whether you should enroll your book in KU or publish wide.
Talk about a major time saver, as well as some good data!
Historic Category Data
With Rocket's new historic category data, you can now see the history of the performance of all 11,000+ categories over time, as well as additional insights to help you make wise decisions for your book and how it should face the competition.
With this new data, you can now see the following in one convenient place:
- The # of sales to get to #1 or #10
- The percentage of bestsellers enrolled in KU
- The percentage of bestsellers that come from large publishers
- The average price for both indie and large publisher books in that category
- The average age of books at the top of that category
- The average rating of books at the top of that category
- The average page count of the top books
- A trend line of sales for books in that category
- Unique overview and insights data tailored specifically to that category
Step 4: Adding the Categories to Your Book in KDP
Update: In the past, Amazon let you reach out to them directly in order to add up to 10 Amazon categories. As of May, 2023, they let authors add the categories themselves, but only 3, and they no longer take requests to change/update a category.
In your Amazon KDP Dashboard, you have the option of selecting up to three Amazon categories for each book.
You can read about how to do this in Amazon's documentation, or follow these steps:
How to set up categories for a title:
Note that these instructions work for new titles and for existing titles. Just understand that with existing titles, you may be replacing categories you already selected.
Step 1: From your KDP Dashboard, navigate to the “Book Details” page, which is also the first page that you see when starting a new book.
Step 2: Choose your preference for Sexually Explicit Images or Title, which will then enable the Choose Categories button. Note that your categories will be more limited if you select Yes for sexual content.
Step 3: Under the section labeled Categories select the button that says Choose categories.
Step 4: Select your main categories and subcategories. You'll want to niche down as far as you can go to find your categories, then select from the check boxes the categories that you want the most.
Step 5: Repeat with other subcategories. You may not find all your categories within a given subcategory, so in this case, you'll want to hit the button that says Add another category to find another subcategory that your book can live under. All of your selected categories will be displayed at the bottom of the window.
What Categories Are Available?
Because some categories require various restrictions in some areas, Amazon does have additional guidelines for certain categories. These include:
- Children's/YA Categories: Books that are meant for Teen or Children's audiences will not appear unless you have set the recommended reading age for something under 18 years old.
- Comic Books/Manga/Graphic Novels: Books in these categories should be genuine comic books, not just illustrated books. Amazon says they must be a “fixed layout comic format book.”
- Kindle Singles/Short Read: These categories are assigned by Amazon themselves, and are not available for authors to select.
- Companion Books: These books like summaries, study guides, or analysis books can only be added to the “Study Aid” category on Amazon.
Extra Tips and Tricks to Amazon Book Categories:
- The ABSR changes every 2 hours, so what it takes to rank #1 can change as well
- New books enter the market, which can quickly change a GREAT category into a super hard one. Keep an eye on your categories and change as necessary
- Having tools like Publisher Rocket can make selecting or changing categories very fast, efficient and effective.
- Make sure you are moral about your choices…nothing grates my cheese more than seeing books that don’t belong in a category taking up the spot
- Don’t forget to do the same research discussed above but for ‘books' if you have a print version
You may have heard the term “BISAC categories” thrown around before. These have long been the industry standard for selecting categories. And even Amazon used to use these when you would upload your book to KDP. The categories you would select there were BISACS, not Amazon categories.
But that changed in June of 2023 when Amazon changed their system to use their own Amazon categories instead. This was a great change for authors, because it allowed authors to drill down to a more specific and appropriate category.
Now even though you only select 3 categories, it is possible that Amazon might automatically place you in more (although this is not guarantied). So how would you see all of those categories if you're placed in them?
We can see three listed categories on the main Amazon page, but you couldn't figure out how to see them ALL–until now. In this video, you will see exactly how to see all the categories a book is listed for:
If you don't have Publisher Rocket, there's another way you can check if Amazon has put your book in the 10 categories you've selected, though. Nerdy Book Girl has created a tool that tells you which categories your book is in. All you have to do is input your book's ASIN or ISBN-10. You can check it out here.
Now Go Get Listed For Your Ideal Categories and Become a Bestseller
So, now that you know the power of categories and what it takes to rank #1 for a specific Amazon Book Category, it’s time to take action. Of course, as bestselling author, Jeff Goins says, “before you can launch a bestseller, you need to write a bestseller.” Then you need to implement these steps to find the best book category for your book.
Now, whether you’re using a tool like Publisher Rocket or doing it by hand, it’s important to keep checking your categories so that you can always ensure you stay at #1 and gain those extra sales because of it.
Publisher Rocket can save you hours of researching for the best category. Increase your Category research efficiency and effectiveness for a one-time fee of ONLY $97. Soon, we will be making it a subscription. So lock in your lifetime access now!
And with that, you should have no problem landing in the #1 bestseller position.