The recent Amazon category revolution, and what it means for you

As many writers have noticed by now, this month Amazon has been playing merry with its browse categories, deleting a couple, and adding a whole lot more. In the long run, this might well be good for writers, giving us more chances for exposure, but what a lot of us saw was an immediate and dramatic decline in sales. I think this mostly applies to those who had books in categories that were deleted, or whose books were reassigned to new categories, not necessarily the best or most appropriate. For example, at least one of my novels was being listed for a while under the category nonfiction/history!

If this kind of mix-up has happened to you, you might want to try changing your categories.

The new categories that Amazon assigned to books seem to be based on the keywords you enter when you publish on KDP. India Drummond has already written an excellent article about how to get your categories reassigned by changing your keywords, which you can read here. Another possibility is to contact Amazon directly with the information on which new categories you would like your book to be listed in. I have a longer post about doing this here, but if all you want is the direct link, that’s here.

As I mentioned in the older post linked to above, if your books aren’t exactly in the dozen sales a day plus realm, it makes sense to get them into categories with less competition. Check out this recent screenshot with the new fantasy categories:

See how many books are in “Paranormal & Urban”? And how many are in “Dark Fantasy”? If you’re not one of those kinds of writers capable of getting on top 100 lists against tens of thousands of other books, you might want to try and get your books into some of those smaller categories — assuming they fit, of course. Despite the lack of competition, I don’t think the “TV, Movie, Video Game Adaptations” would prove very effective for my Pendragon Chronicles novels. 🙂

Recently, a number of writers who have used the direct approach to KDP support have had problems with responses insisting they should change their categories through their Bookshelf — even when the category they want to be included in isn’t available through the Bookshelf. So these days when I request a category change directly, I always include the following sentence:

“These categories are not categories I can choose through my KDP bookshelf.”

One more thing to note, however (learn from my mistakes): it is not wise to try to contact Amazon directly regarding category changes for a lot of books at once. A number of my books were affected by the recent category changes, and trying to be efficient, I sent four posts to Amazon in one day. (For all of the books, I wanted at least one category that couldn’t be chosen through the KDP Dashboard.)

While writing a blog post a few days later, I noticed that these were the categories for Yseult, a historical fantasy set in the fifth century and based on the legend of Tristan and Isolde:

#17 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#56 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > Space Exploration
#60 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > First Contact

Needless to say, I did not request to have Yseult changed to “First Contact” — that was for Looking Through Lace. But I sent the requests on the same day, and Amazon support lumped them all together under one author, and I ended up with two epic historical fantasies listed in SF categories. Sigh.

I have since tried to correct the situation, and while I did get Yseult and Shadow of Stone into more appropriate categories, they are also still being listed in the science fiction categories I intended for Looking Through Lace and Beyond the Waters of the World. Here’s the current ranking for Yseult, for example:

#2 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian
#15 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Fantasy > Arthurian
#31 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Science Fiction > First Contact

Yes, it is back in Arthurian now, but it is still listed under First Contact. While on one level that might fit thematically, since Yseult is forced to move to a completely foreign culture, the novel is still not exactly science fiction. 😦

So if, like me, you write in multiple genres or even sub-genres, don’t try try to change too many books in different categories in one day by contacting KDP directly. That is apparently too taxing for the Amazon support folks.

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3 thoughts on “The recent Amazon category revolution, and what it means for you”

  1. Sometimes Amazon reminds me of this bumbling giant with self-serving, yet paradoxically good intentions, strolling through Lilliput, and not having a clue of how much it’s annoying the Lilliputians.
    Perhaps they thought Yseult is based on the fiction that Science and Magic are antiethical 😀

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