About those Kindle categories

A week ago I finished the first draft of what I’m provisionally calling A Trail of Dragon Scales, and this time I’m doing something a little bit different after that. The first couple of days went as usual: a euphoric sense of accomplishment, slight mystification about why nobody is having a parade for such a fine fellow as I am, the dawning realization that we don’t actually have any champagne… After a few days of trying not to break an arm patting myself on the back, usually I pull up my socks and get started on the next book.

But if you count Dragon Scales – and I do, because it doesn’t appear to need any structural editing, just the usual reading and re-reading for minor fixes – I currently have four completed books in the publication queue. Even I can’t create a sense of urgency about finishing another one in the next couple of months. And the next book isn’t helping out with that, either: there’s this one major theme and resolution floating around in my head, surrounded by huge gaping bubbles of nothing where the rest of the plot ought to be.

And, you know, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Cookies to bake, grandchildren to spoil, all that good stuff.

So I made an Executive Decision: any time I’ve got four books waiting for proofreading and covers and formatting, I’m taking a month off.

That worked fine for the week of babbling idiocy that frequently follows a prolonged writing push, but I started getting twitchy yesterday and revised the plan. Okay, for the rest of the month I will spend half an hour each day fishing around in my subconscious for the rest of that missing plot, and I will do… something… about marketing and promotion every day. Follow up on some of those programs that are recommended for tracking sales or picking keywords or whatever, evaluate some promotion sites, learn how to do Amazon ads. Whatever. I’m just trying to tame the general topic, which right now looks to me like a writhing mass of tentacles straight out of Cthulhu, into… well, at least into a collection of subtopics that can be addressed one at a time. Each of which will, most likely, also look like a writhing mass of tentacles, but you have to start somewhere, right?

For yesterday’s effort, I signed up for a month’s use of Kindle Ranker and began slogging through their article, “Choose the right niche categories to help promote your book.”

My last five indie publications, and the four books in the queue, are all fantasy. Can Kindle Ranker help me choose good subcategories?

Hmm. The article recommends I sort fantasy categories based on the rank of the 50th book in each category, because apparently my books will die in darkness if I can’t get them ranking at least that high. Okay, done that.

Now they estimate how many sales per day it should take to achieve that golden 50-or-higher ranking, and recommend that I concentrate on categories requiring not more than 10 sales per day. Sounds reasonable; on days when all my published books combined make 10 sales/day I think I’ve died and gone to heaven, so there’s no point aiming higher than that. And according to their estimates, there are actually categories where as little as 1 sale a day will get my book into that sweet spot on the list! I’ve got it made… or do I?

But now… ah, as usual, the devil is in the details. Kindle Ranker tells me that if I can get my book into “Books > Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction” one sale a day will get me on the list. Hmm… Could I claim that Mr. M., the turtle mage with the prosthetic snake body, is actually transgender? No? Pass.

Other hot categories include “Books > Religion & Spirituality > Literature & Fiction > Science Fiction & Fantasy” and “Books > Reference > Encyclopedias & Subject Guides > Science Fiction & Fantasy,” and I’m beginning to feel that I ain’t got no home in this world anymore.

Finally I get to “Books > Teens > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Contemporary,” which promises a 50th-place ranking if I can sell 3 ebooks a day. I’m not quite sure about the “Teens” part but by now I’m willing to stretch the definition.

Alas, the next category I think I can lay claim to without lying is “Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Science Fiction > Humorous,” and that requires an estimated 9 ebooks/day to get into the top 50. And since no title of mine is currently selling anywhere near 9 ebooks a day, what good does it do me to put it in that subcategory?

Just looking at one variable in Kindle Ranker has wiped me out for the day, and I’m left with the disgruntled feeling that the entire exercise adds up to, “If you can sell a lot of books, this magic tool will help you sell a lot of books.”

Maybe I’ll scrap that unplotted next book and work on a Christian erotic fantasy involving LBGTQWERTY characters in a gaming scenario from “Call of Cthulhu.” According to Kindle Ranker , that should earn a high ranking if just one person ever buys it.


14 thoughts on “About those Kindle categories

  1. I’ve had a couple people nudge me toward trying different (additional) key-words and categories for the Shikari series. I tried “occult” for the Familiars, but most of the titles in the top 50 are horror, which doesn’t really fit the stories. It’s a challenge.

  2. So tell me, are Books > Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Books printed upside down and backwards? Or is the binding just on the right-hand side instead of the left? Or does page 1 start in the middle of the book and the pages are numbered alternately as they progress to the cover? Maybe I’m too old school, but I always thought that the categories read Books > SF&F > and whatever the subgenre was. And LGBTQ wasn’t a top level genre under any conditions, except when it came to putting adult magazines in the top rack and covered up.

    1. When I was at Amazon, I worked a lot with the folks who managed the taxonomy. (They were a weird bunch.) However, their work seems to have been pretty good in general; tests showed that when a product had the right categories, it could triple sales, so the company worked hard to nudge sellers to put the right categories on their products.

      In this case, I see the top-level “Science Fiction & Fantasy” category has just two subcategories: “Science Fiction” and “Fantasy”. My guess is that that’s where Amazon expects SF/F fans to look. I could argue that more subclasses might help, but since the taxonomy is created and maintained manually, that’d be a big deal to do.

      There’s also a “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender eBooks” top-level category. That also makes sense, since there’s a market segment that will start there. (I actually don’t, but I never use the taxonomy myself at all.) Then a bunch of top-level categories (including SF/F) are repeated at this level. It’s as though they built a whole little store off to the side just for things of interest to LGBT people.

      My guess is that they tried this both ways (the other being having LGBT as a subcategory under each of the main categories) and discovered it didn’t result in as many sales. That’s how Amazon does most things, after all.

    1. Aha! I think I’ve found one of the categories. Now I have to see if there’s one specifically for animals. Wish me luck; I’m going down the rabbit hole of KDP!

  3. I understand that in the Fall of Delta Green rules, SAN is broken up into stability and sanity, with sanity being defined as including human religions. So that’s two of the elements linked. Christian spiritual fiction set against a CoC/Delta Green background. LGBT erotica I can’t help you with.

  4. I have to admit, I keep stuttering over Christian erotic fantasy… can I get a Venn diagram of this? Somehow I have the feeling that the intersections… ah, not exclusive or, and? but… okay, I’ll quit before something pops into another dimension, although I think I’m getting close to a hypercube made of bubbles here…

    1. Erm. Well, there are two possibilities. One is “nothing more advanced than Fr. Greeley would write, and everybody is married” and the other is “cautionary tale about bad people doing bad Things.”

      But the other possibility is “Did not pay any attention in Bible class, because busy reading Clan of the Cave Bear.”

  5. The department is Applied Topology, after all. Reference / Subject Guide is not THAT far off.

    It also has the trailing fictional topic. Is there such a thing as a fictional reference work?

    Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy? Issac Asimov’s encyclopedia? The Simarillion certainly reads like one.

    If I were looking for a topology reference (The Shape of Space is amazingly good for a textbook), I think I would be quite happy to stumble on this series.

  6. Where is Amazon Ranker hiding? I have a book coming up hopefully this week, and would like to find good categories.

    I would never have imagined “Books > Teens > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Contemporary, existed. Perhaps I can use it. Alas, those 3 books a day may have to be on the same day not, say, the total for all Tuesdays. “Eclipse” is a superhero tale. The superheroine is 12, but she flies to the core of the sun, causes major wars, smites pieces of invading armies, and likes to ride her ponies and pet her cats.

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