Defining your genre poses a challenging and painful task for many writers, and I am no exception. The choice of genre not only helps potential readers find the types of books they are most interested in reading, but it also now plays a critical role in the sales and marketing process on Amazon.
Over the last month, in anticipation of launching my debut novel, Providents Awakening (postponed until further notice), I researched the genre topic extensively, learning some do’s and don’t’s, and had a small epiphany regarding how to describe my own novels.
Choosing Your Browse Categories on Amazon
From Amazon's KDP Help Topics
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 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 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.
In the past we had allowed up to 5 categories. Here are some common questions and answers to concerns we heard about this change:
What will happen to my existing books that have 5 browse categories selected?
KDP titles published with five browse categories will retain their original category assignments. If you choose to update the original browse categories for a title in the future, you will only be able to select two categories that correspond with your book.
What will happen if I make changes to one of these books with more than 2 categories?
Updates you publish to a previously published KDP title will not affect browse category assignments unless you are updating existing browse categories.
Birth of the Science Faction Thriller
With my car parked in front of Starbucks the day after Christmas, engine running, caffeine beckoning me from inside our generations version of McDonalds, I finished up a telephone call with Angela Porter, a Publishing Consultant at Archway Publishing, the new service launched by Simon & Schuster to assist authors who are more often choosing the self-publishing path. Angela asked me in which genre my books reside, and I found myself stuttering as I fumbled for the answer. While I had successfully selected the collection of genres and sub-genres for my books on Amazon, I realized the failure of that exercise to provide me a quick answer when describing my books to an actual human being. While some authors just know their genre — romance, science fiction, “It’s about vampires” — I was plagued by a common fate of many authors: Genre Straddling.
Genre straddling happens when an author doesn’t write stories crafted to fall neatly into a single genre. Maybe their story features a vampire romance on a space ship while trying to overthrow the government. What genre do you place that story?
Well, my epiphany after finishing the call with Angela happened when the genre description of “Science Faction Thriller” occurred to me. Now I know that this isn’t an actual genre that can be selected on Amazon, but it does solve my problem of having a ready response when someone asks me what type of books do I write.
So what is a Science Faction Thriller? It’s a book based on premises of current scientific understanding within the realm of possibility. The story may stretch scientific understanding to its breaking point, but it still leaves room for a toe-hold of plausibility. And it’s a thriller, meaning fast-paced, edge of your seat, action and intrigue.
So there you have, my solution to the “What genre are your books?” question. If you’re an author struggling with the same conundrum as was I, hopefully this little tale will provide you a whiff of inspiration.
Wishing you health, happiness, peace, and love,
Craig Allan Teich