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Anne R. Allen's Blog


My Photo

Anne writes funny mysteries and how-to-books for writers. She also writes poetry and short stories on occasion. Oh, yes, and she blogs. She's a contributor to Writer's Digest and the Novel and Short Story Writer's Market for 2016. 

Her bestselling Camilla Randall Mystery Series features perennially down-on-her-luck former socialite Camilla Randall—who is a magnet for murder, mayhem and Mr. Wrong, but always solves the mystery in her quirky, but oh-so-polite way.

Anne lives on the Central Coast of California, near San Luis Obispo, the town Oprah called "The Happiest City in America."

Anne blogs at Anne R. Allen's Blog...with Ruth Harris 
and at Anne R. Allen's Books

Sunday, April 27, 2014

How to Make the Bestseller Lists: Why Categories and Keywords Matter

...and how to use them effectively

by Ruth Harris

Fiction or non-fiction?

Thriller or sci-fi/fantasy?

Romance or mystery?

Young adult or self-help?

Readers know what they like and what they want. Categories help them find what they’re looking for whether it’s the latest in steamy romance, a classic, time-tested bestseller or a gardener’s guide to growing petunias in Petaluma.

Basically, what the category does is indicate where a particular book should be shelved (as in a library or bookstore) or, in the digital world, searched for.

For indie authors, selecting categories that will make it easy for readers to find your book is an essential part of your job.

For writers going the trad route, you still need a firm idea of your categories to make it clear in your query letter what you've got on offer. Nothing gets rejected faster than a "kind of mainstream/literary new adult paranormal urban fantasy post-apocalyptic thriller romance with chick lit elements".

How do you avoid that? Learn the ways the retailers categorize books.

Each of the major vendors—Kindle, Apple, GooglePlay, Kobo and Nook— allow authors and publishers to choose categories and sub-categories from a list of 2,800 subjects and subject codes called BISAC (The Book Industry Standards Advisory Committee). In addition, the main BISAC categories are further divided and subdivided into genres and sub-genres.

Here is the complete BISAC list of categories.

BIC, the UK version of BISAC, will shelf your book appropriately in English-speaking countries like the UK and Australia. The BIC list is similar to BISAC but can vary slightly. Here's the BIC list of categories. Germany and France also support book-and-author categories and are available to authors at GooglePlay.

Each vendor has a slightly different approach to categories. Nook permits a writer to choose five. Kobo permits three as does iBooks. GooglePlay offers five categories including BISAC, BIC and their equivalents in France and Germany.

Kindle, despite its seemingly stingy two-category choice, offers a much wider choice of categories, sub-categories, genres, and sub-genres. Getting into the correct niche is an important element of the discoverability you’re looking for. A skillful use of categories plus keywords (you can have seven) can get your book on more than two lists.

If you have a series and choose different combinations of categories and keywords for each book, you can expand your reach even further. You can choose six different categories if you have a three-book series. (Two times three.) A four-book series can get you into eight categories (two times four).

Your first step is to choose your two main categories. Your initial thought will probably be the overall category that most accurately describes your book—thriller, horror, sci-fi, romance, mystery and so on. Your second choice might be another relevant—and smaller, therefore easier to rank in—sub-category (historical romance, cozy mystery or whatever best describes your book).

If your book blends genres, choose two relevant categories: for example, if your book is a thriller with an significant romance element, you might want to choose romance and thriller as your two categories. Amazon offers an excellent guide to choosing your main book categories.

The problem? In a huge category like romance, unless you’re a top bestseller, your book will get lost and sink from view.

The fix? Keywords. Especially what Amazon calls “required keywords.” Required keywords will help place your book in appropriate sub-categories which tend to be much smaller, thus giving your book a better chance of being seen by the readers you are looking for. Here are links to Kindle’s required keywords broken down by category:


Science Fiction & Fantasy.


Teen & Young Adult.

Mystery, Thriller & Suspense.

Comics & Graphic Novels.

Literature & Fiction.


3 Keys To Kindle

1) Small, niche categories can get your book into the categorie
s that lead down to it. For example: Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Sports will place your book in the Sports category but also in Genre Fiction, Literature & Fiction and so on.

2) If you’re not sure where to start, look at bottom of the Kindle page of a book similar to yours. This list is called Look for Similar Items by Category and will give you ideas about what categories might fit your book and how and where to start.

3) Nothing is set in stone.
If you think your categories and keywords aren’t working well for you, go to your KDP dashboard and change them. Do your research first and then experiment to see whether other choices make your book more visible.

Keyword Gurus Tell All

Jason Matthews, author of How to Make, Market and Sell Ebooks and new adult novels, posted a comprehensive and easy-to-understand post plus video about choosing and using keywords. Jason explains how to test keywords at Amazon and at Google and tells why sometimes what seem to be trivial differences can make a difference. Jason also shares insights and valuable advice about important keyword dos and don’ts.

M. Louisa Locke, the bestselling author of Victorian mysteries set in San Francisco, has posted an excellent guide to de-mystifying the keyword/category duo. Ms. Locke’s advice is titled How to Get your books into the right Categories and Sub-categories: Readers to Books/Books to Readers. Part Three of her analysis includes links to the first two articles in her valuable series.

Swords and sorcery, anyone? Lindsay Buroker, bestselling author of Fantasy, lays out her approach to combining categories with keywords in order to rank in more lists and increase the odds that more readers will see your books.

In Let's Get Visible: How To Get Noticed And Sell More Books by award-winning bestseller David Gaughran details strategies and techniques to help you understand the inner workings of Amazon’s powerful recommendation engine and position your books to maximum advantage on other vendors.

At the Indie Chicks Café, Award-winning romance author, Donna Fasano, points out that keywords are not just for customer browsing purposes. Donna explains how she uses sub-categories such as Contemporary Romance, Drama and Multi Cultural to increase discoverability of her book, Reclaim My Heart.

Ebook Marketing Secrets Part 5 -- The Right Categories Can Make You A Bestseller points out that “keywords are not just search terms for people on Amazon.com. Amazon's products show up on Google, Bing, and Yahoo searches as well.” This article also delves into the correlation between ranking and bestseller lists and offers a shrewd approach to selecting categories with less competition and thus offering a better chance of appearing on a list.

Liliana Hart, bestselling author of the MacKenzie series, thinks keywords are more important than categories. She details her approach in a chapter called Navigating Algorithms, Categories and Keywords in The Naked Truth About Self-Publishing.

The self-publishing roundtable recommends experimenting with new categories/keywords and tells why branching out into various keyword-category combinations can help expand your audience. This article also suggests moving already-published books into new categories and adding the necessary keywords to gain extra exposure.

David Masters, author of The Prolific Writer's Toolbox, discusses categories and keywords in terms of “browsing” and “searching” and explains the difference. He offers a useful guide about how to cross-check keywords between Amazon and Google and tells how to identify obscure and niche categories with less-intense competition.

Finally: a bit of perspective

Finding the right “recipe” for Categories and Keywords require four qualities writers have in abundance.
  • Flexibility: the awareness that publishing trends are in constant flux and that if one thing doesn’t work, the next one (or the one after) will.
  • Creativity: the willingness to experiment and try a variety of different ideas and combinations.
  • Persistence: the refusal to give up when the first choice doesn’t work out as well as anticipated and try, try again.
  • Patience: Allowing sufficient time for flowers to bloom and success to blossom.

The good news is that you can—and should—change any category or keyword that isn’t working and that periodically refreshing your categories and keywords is just part of the job. 

What about you, Scriveners? Did you know all this stuff about categories? Amazing how powerful a carefully chosen keyword can be, isn't it? Those hoping to go the traditional route: does this help you understand why categories are so important in your query? Self-publishers, have you changed categories and had positive results?  


A hilarious, fast-paced read from Ruth Harris!  Buying an e-reader or tablet for Mom for Mother's Day? Pre-load it with this fun "Chick Lit for Chicks who weren't born yesterday"

The Chanel Caper is $2.99 on Amazon US, Amazon UK and Nook | Kobo | iBooks

THE CHANEL CAPER Nora Ephron meets James Bond...or is it the other way around? Blake Weston is a smart, savvy, no BS, 56-year-old Nora Ephron-like New Yorker. Her DH, Ralph Marino, is a très James Bond ex-cop & head of security for a large international corporation. At a tense time in their relationship, Blake & Ralph are forced to work together to solve a murder in Shanghai & break up an international piracy ring.

Ruth Harris is a 1,000,000 copy New York Times and Amazon bestselling author and a Romantic Times award winner for "best contemporary." Critics have called Ruth's fiction "brilliant," "steamy," "stylishly written," "richly plotted," "first-class entertainment" and "a sure thing."


The Literary Hatchet: Paying market for Dark Fiction and Poetry - Pays $15 a story. They welcome prose and poetry that scares and shocks readers. Open to horror, paranormal, and speculative fiction. Word length: 500-3000 words/story, and under 100 lines per poem. $15/story, $5/poem. Deadline is July 1, 2014 for the August issue. Read guidelines here - See more at: http://writingcareer.com/

The Saturday Evening Post "Celebrate America" fiction contest. $10 ENTRY FEE. The winning story will be published in the Jan/Feb 2015 edition of The Saturday Evening Post, and the author will receive a $500 payment. Five runners-up will each receive a $100 cash payment and will also have their stories published online. Stories must be between 1,500 and 5,000 words in. All stories must be previously unpublished (excluding personal websites and blogs). Deadline July 1.

$800 prize for your unpublished or self-published novel, plus possible representation. Writers' Village International Novel Award. $22 entry fee. The winning author will be assessed by international literary agency A. M. Heath for possible representation. The top eight contestants will receive personal feedback on their novels by the judge, novelist Michelle Spring, Royal Literary Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge. Entries are welcome worldwide. Deadline June 30th 

The Golden Quill Awards: Entry fee $15. Two categories: Short fiction/memoir (1000 words) and Poetry (40 lines max) $750 1st prize, $400 2nd prize in each category. Sponsored by the SLO Nightwriters and the Central Coast Writers Conference. Entries accepted from April 1-June 30th.

NOWHERE TRAVEL STORIES $15 ENTRY FEE. $1000 prize plus publication. Award-winning literary travel magazine, Nowhere, is teaming up withOutside Magazine for the first Nowhere Spring Travel Writing Contest. Stories can be fiction or nonfiction. Entries should be be between 800-5,000 words and must not have been previously chosen as a winner in another contest. Previously published work is accepted. Deadline June 15.

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Blogger Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I knew the broad category of science fiction when I began. It wasn't until I landed a publishing deal that I even knew space opera existed.
Whenever my books bounce into the top categories, it's interesting to see what they are. And in looking at other books, it amazes me how many categories exist.
Thanks for all the awesome links, Ruth!

April 27, 2014 at 10:07 AM  
Blogger Wm. L. Hahn said...

I very much enjoyed the link to Ms. Buroker's article. I won't say I understand this very well yet, but I do think my tales look pretty well slotted so far and I can't see yet what changes I could make to improve their visibility. Good to be reminded though, something to tinker with sometime. Thanks Ruth!

April 27, 2014 at 10:52 AM  
Blogger CS Perryess said...

I particularly like your call for flexibility, creativity, persistence & patience -- qualities that help us in any endeavor. Thanks for the great post.

April 27, 2014 at 11:11 AM  
Blogger sue mcginty said...

Aha, fantastic post, Ruth. It would appear that my keywords need a makeover. So do their owner, but that's another story.

April 27, 2014 at 11:27 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Alex—Thanks, hope the links helped. Kindle's addition of all the new categories/keywords is a big help to both readers and writers. Makes it much easier for them to find us and for us to put ourselves in the right places!

WLH—Sounds like you've done a very good job choosing the right categories. It's valuable, though, to revisit your decisions every now and then, especially for older books whose sales might be slowing down.

CS—Thank you for the kind words. As you say, those qualities matter in all kinds of endeavors.

Sue—Thanks and LOL. The keyword makeover is easier than the other kind, that's for sure!

April 27, 2014 at 11:38 AM  
Blogger Liz Crowe said...

ooooo that "patience and persistence" thing again….that, frankly, is my toughest hurdle. But this is great advice as usual ladies. thanks a lot!

April 27, 2014 at 12:10 PM  
Blogger Sarah Brentyn said...

I find this categorizing so confusing. For me, especially, the children's/MG/YA genres. The lines for those are blurry at best.

Take Harry Potter for example. "Children's" lit. Really?

There are many MG that I find childish and children's books that I find sophisticated. Also, some YA that is...well not something I'd let a 13 or 14-year-old read.

Also, a few kids' books we've picked up are partly graphic novel.

April 27, 2014 at 12:35 PM  
Blogger Lucy Lit said...

Thank you so much for this post! After formatting, the whole category/keywords issue has been so confusing to this newbie. The guru resource list was most helpful. Patience I have in abundance, knowledge, not so much. Thanks to you and this post, that has changed. Kudos to you!

April 27, 2014 at 12:50 PM  
Blogger Greg Strandberg said...

The trick is finding a category you can rank in the Top 100 in while still having a sales ranking of #200,000+. It's possible in just about every genre, and can ensure you have some degree of visibility even when you're not selling that much.

April 27, 2014 at 1:02 PM  
Blogger S B James said...

Such perfect timing! I was just on KDP this morning looking over all this, thinking "Wow, I've only got seven keywords, I've got to use them effectively!" Thank you!

April 27, 2014 at 1:15 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Liz—Hope our advice helped. Persistence is a polite way of saying "stubborn." A useful quality despite its poor rep.

Sarah—You make an excellent point. Categories are blurry because books, unlike cans of Coke or bars of soap, are unique, each one sui generis (unless you're writing in strictly defined categories like romance, mystery). That blurry quality makes choosing a category part craft, part art and also allows us quite a bit of flexibility.

Lucy—So pleased to learn the post helped. The category/keyword issue can definitely be a bit befuddling—and not just to newbies. :-)

Greg—Very clearly stated! Thanks you.

Finding those categories where your book can rank despite a less-than-stellar sakes ranking is, as you say, possible. Takes patience to sort through all the many possibilities, though. That's also why I advise reviewing your categories/keywords from time to time and especially when sales of an older book slows down. Finding just the right category/keyword combo can revive sales.

SB—Thanks for your comment. I LOVE hearing about "perfect timing." I hope the post will be a helpful road map. :-)

April 27, 2014 at 1:46 PM  
Blogger Collette Cameron said...

This is so timely. I have a new release May 28th and had noticed the categories for my first two books weren't accurate. I made notes to send to my publisher. Thank you!!

April 27, 2014 at 2:19 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

Ruth, You're not going to believe this. I don't believe it. Somehow I lost Anne's note about today's blog post in my mail box, but knew it was one of your posts. So naturally I go to one you wrote for April 28, 2013. And commented again. Okay, enough on that senior moment! This is such an important post on key words. This info is going to be so helpful to me because I hadn't thought about it before. Yep, Dummy First Class. My publisher does this for us on her site. Ex: "contemporary, gay, paranormal romance." But I need to go on amazon and B and N and other sites and do the same. Thank you again for another super post. Will check out the amazon guide to choosing categories as well.

April 27, 2014 at 3:10 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Collette—Glad the timing worked so well. Good for you for giving your publisher a heads up. Wonder why they mis-categorized your books?

Paul—So we're sharing a senior moment because I commented on your comment. Again. lol

Glad today's post was helpful. Some of my fiction is set in the mid-20th century and there are specific categories for that particular period. You will probably find relevant categories for WWII and the UK as well. It's often the keyword that will get you on more categories than the two you already have. You just have to experiment a bit.

April 27, 2014 at 3:22 PM  
OpenID paulfahey said...

That is too funny, Ruth. You're the greatest.

April 27, 2014 at 3:31 PM  
Blogger Tori Minard said...

I'm baffled by some of this category, keyword stuff, too. Example: I've started a new series which is New Adult Romance, but it has paranormal elements. It's not Epic Battle Between Warring Werewolf Clans!! paranormal...it's more quiet and low-key (the first book features the ghost of the hero's brother, who was killed by the hero in a terrible accident). So is it really paranormal romance? Or is it contemporary with paranormal elements? Because I've never seen any categories or keywords for that. Scratching my head over this one.

April 27, 2014 at 3:46 PM  
Blogger Sasha A. Palmer said...

Thank you very much for the post, Ruth. I look forward to checking out all the links.
I kept nodding as I read Sarah's comment - I feel exactly the same way about children's books. My question concerns the query stage - is it better to crudely categorize your work as for instance "MG fantasy" even if you feel it fails to describe it adequately; or should one expand the description? (No one wants to end up with "kind of mainstream/literary new adult paranormal urban fantasy post-apocalyptic thriller romance with chick lit elements!")

April 27, 2014 at 4:00 PM  
Blogger Ryann Dannelly said...

What a wonderful post, Ruth. It's so true that now a days, authors really needs to make sure that the categories and keywords attached to your book are going to be the most helpful. Well said!

April 27, 2014 at 4:05 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Paul—The greatest what? lol

April 27, 2014 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Christine Ahern said...

Great information. I think I will go to Amazon right now and choose some new key words for my languishing women's fiction novel. Why not? Thanks!

April 27, 2014 at 4:35 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Tori—Yes, it is baffling. NA Romance sounds like a good start but I wonder if the keyword "paranormal" or "ghost" would help? Check Kindle's "required list," then experiment. You might have to try a few combos before you find the one that works for your book.

April 27, 2014 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Kelly Byrne said...

Great post, Ruth. I just read "Make A Killing On Kindle" by Michael Alvear. It covers, among other things, this topic, categories and keywords and how to use them to increase your visibility on Amazon.

I spent quite some time reworking both for my book and honestly, it tanked. I mean, TANKED. Like someone had dipped it in cement. LOL Fell thousands of points by the hour. Continuously. And I'm sure you can imagine, if it's never happened to you, it was not a pretty sight to witness. Day by day, down the drain. I know, I know. I shouldn't be watching it.

Or maybe I should. But it does drive me batty.

My book has a rating of 4.6 out of 5 stars - pretty decent. 40 Reviews. Not great, not horrible. Most of them 5 stars. It's been around for a while. I don't know how long I'm supposed to give those new keywords and categories to work before I change them up again. The new ones are clearly not working for me, but how much time do you give it? In the book, he says it'll take around 1-2 weeks to see any changes. What has your experience been?


April 27, 2014 at 4:36 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Sasha—We're in a territory here with no rules. If it were me, I'd say MG fantasy with **** elements. You want to describe your book but don't want to get bogged down in too many qualifiers or details.

April 27, 2014 at 4:37 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Ryann—Thanks so much. I hope the post helped clarify the category/keyword dilemma a bit. The good news is that you can keep changing and experimenting until you find the combo that works for you.

I keep a record of my keywords in Evernote so I can look back and see what worked and what didn't whenever I think categories/keywords need revising..

April 27, 2014 at 4:40 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Christine—Yay! Go for it! Make a list of all the words that might be relevant to your book and take it from there. Be patient & don't give up!

April 27, 2014 at 4:41 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Kelly—I know the pain of a book that tanks. Happens to everyone so don't give up. Here is where your creativity comes in. Make a list of words that apply to your book. Check them against Kindle search terms and the Google ad words. You'll find explicit directions in the links.

Then start experimenting. We are not talking science here. We are more in the overlap of science and art. Take your time and persist. I know it's frustrating but all you (and any of us can do) is keep trying.

April 27, 2014 at 4:48 PM  
Blogger Sasha A. Palmer said...

Thank you, Ruth.

April 27, 2014 at 4:53 PM  
Blogger Autumn said...

Thank you Ruth! Such an essential topic for making sure our books are discoverable.

April 27, 2014 at 5:09 PM  
Blogger Kelly Byrne said...

Thanks, Ruth. I think I'm now past the crying in my chocolate in the kitchen corner phase and have come to grips with it, but yes, it's tough. Capital T. ;)

I've actually done the research for the words on kindle and google searches - so I think I'll just switch it up now and see if a different configuration works better. Don't worry. This gal won't give up. Thanks! :)

April 27, 2014 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Linda Maye Adams said...

It's also important to know what the genres are so that you meet the reader expectations. Knowing I was an action-adventure thriller reader, an author asked me to review his book. So I checked it out. He billed at is a fantasy/action-adventure thriller. I looked at the description, the title, and the cover and got fantasy, but not action-thriller. Looked at the same chapters and got fantasy/private eye mystery. So I turned the review down. The writer tried to act like I owed him the review because I was a fellow writer, and I finally told him he didn't have enough action in the story. He had a meltdown, claiming his ending had a lot of action -- which also told me he knew absolutely nothing about what a thriller was. That's not a place you want to be in because you lose readers who are expecting a certain type of story associated with the genre.

April 27, 2014 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Autumn—Thank you! :-)

April 28, 2014 at 3:36 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Linda—You're soooo right! Not delivering on genre expectations is a no-no. It's one thing for an experienced writer to deliberately break/bend genre rules but first s/he MUST know what the conventions are. Beginning writers are well advised to stick closely to genre expectations. If not, they risk incurring the wrath of readers. As your anecdote shows very well.

As to writers with meltdowns, there are lots of words. One of them is: unprofessional.

April 28, 2014 at 3:42 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Kelly—Chocolate helps. But not as much as actually doing the research and then trying different configurations. Experimentation is necessary and rewards the diligent—like you! :-)

April 28, 2014 at 3:44 AM  
Blogger Lexa Cain said...

Yup, the smaller, unique categories let a book rise to the top much more easily. Still, I'm surprised by the number of people who post screenshots of their books getting on the top 100 of a very small category, when in reality their book isn't selling well. People will crow over anything...

April 28, 2014 at 4:10 PM  
Blogger Julie Musil said...

I'm going to click on each of these links and learn more about this. I haven't experimented much with keywords and categories. I set them up in the beginning and left them as is. I'll play around a bit. Thanks!

April 28, 2014 at 5:38 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Lexa—I take a different approach and view ranking in a small category as a first step to bigger things. As the old saying goes: From small acorns mighty oaks grow. :-)

April 29, 2014 at 4:21 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Julie—Refreshing and reviewing your cats/keywords periodically is important especially as vendors like Amazon expand the number of categories and the required keywords. Be patient, have fun and see what works for you. Good luck!

April 29, 2014 at 4:25 AM  
Blogger Jan Ryder said...

Thank you, Ruth. Another timely post. I went straight over to the Zon and checked out my keywords/cats. I've made some changes and will see if I get more exposure because of it. I've bookmarked the links you provided - more bedtime reading for me. :)

April 29, 2014 at 10:16 AM  
Blogger Baxter said...

Excellent article, as always. You inspired me to go to Goodreads to add tags, but I didn't find a way to do that other than through the "shelves". Any ideas about that? Thanks.

April 29, 2014 at 7:25 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Jan—Hope your new changes help. If not, change 'em again! Our motto: Never Give Up. :-)

April 30, 2014 at 3:54 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Baxter—Thanks for the kind words. I don't much use GR so can't offer reliable input. I do know that if you contact the librarians, they will help.

April 30, 2014 at 3:59 AM  
OpenID nancycamuse said...

Thank you! I changed up my keywords and am hoping for results :)

April 30, 2014 at 2:17 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Nancy—Yay! Good luck! And, remember, if you don't like the results, just try again. If you do like the results but sales slow down after a while, just change them again. :-)

May 1, 2014 at 6:40 AM  
Blogger LD Masterson said...

I bookmark so many of your posts to use as I get a little further along in my writing journey. This will be one of them. Thank you.

May 1, 2014 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger ryan field said...

I'm saving this one, too. Thanks!!

May 1, 2014 at 11:54 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

LD—So happy to hear our posts are helpful. Good luck in your journey!

May 1, 2014 at 12:02 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Ryan—Pleased to learn the post is useful! :-)

May 1, 2014 at 12:03 PM  
Blogger Rosalind Minett said...

Really useful, as always, Anne and Ruth. No sub-category for irony, sadly. Dark and humour is a good combination.

May 1, 2014 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Rosalind--I'm with you. Wouldn't it be great if they had a category for "dark, ironic humor"?

May 1, 2014 at 6:33 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Rosalind & Anne—Me, too! Me, too!

May 2, 2014 at 4:19 AM  
Blogger Shah Wharton said...

Flip me, this is a great post. And I totally agree. My boo floundered in obscurity till I got to grips with all this. It steadily climbed one sublist (with no more sales than before), now it's topped two sublists. I put most of that down to me experimenting with what works. But then, I read Get Visible, which ROCKS for those who're reading. :)

Thanks Ruth. Yet another Evernote! :)


May 2, 2014 at 6:17 AM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Shah—Congratulations! :-)

Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your experience. Cats & sub-cats + keywords are very powerful and well worth taking the time to understand.

May 2, 2014 at 6:40 AM  
Blogger Joanne Lessner said...

This is really helpful--thank you! I could use some advice. I've never been quite sure what to put for my secondary category. My books are amateur sleuth mysteries featuring an aspiring actress in New York. There's a hint of romance, a fair amount of humor, but really after being mysteries, they're really about breaking into show business--albeit in fiction. There is a category labeled Arts & Photography > Theater > Acting & Auditioning. It doesn't fall under the Non-Fiction header although all the books listed there are non-fiction as far as I can see. Is it fair of me to list there? (I had been listing under General > Humor, but that's no less competitive than Women Sleuths, which is unmistakably my primary category.)

May 4, 2014 at 2:23 PM  
Blogger C A Hall said...

What a great blog,
An organized mind lies behind this writing: the scientific subsets of book placement theory!
C A Hall

May 4, 2014 at 4:08 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Joanne—Be sure to check out the Donna Fasano link above. She talks about using drama as a sub-category. As to whether you should try Acting, Auditioning, you could certainly try (as long as you're sure the cat doesn't fall under non-fic). You might also try keywords like New York, Broadway, plays, theater, movies, tv etc depending on what your actress is aiming for.

Just experiment & see what works.

May 5, 2014 at 4:12 AM  
OpenID mmjustus said...

I stumbled across this article through another blog, and I do so wish I could get my head around this subject.

May 5, 2014 at 3:56 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Here's a question for Ruth that came through via email.

Great overview, Ruth.

I'm on board that keywords and categories matter, but making a bestseller list seems like an increasingly tougher proposition based on the number of books flooding the marketplace -- even if that list is for a niche category.

The idea that becoming more popular for being popular isn't going away, but the big question is how to become popular in the first place. Categories/keywords is just one piece to that, one that may be getting smaller moving forward.

Any thoughts on that?



May 5, 2014 at 5:14 PM  
Blogger Anne R. Allen said...

Jason--Personally, I have made some bestseller lists that are pretty competitive, like humor and women sleuths. But a lot of things came together to get me there. Joint sales, guest posts, advertising newsletters, etc...

I think David Gaughran's book "Let's Get Visible" probably has the most comprehensive advice on the subject.

Ruth may have more to say when she gets a chance...

May 5, 2014 at 5:17 PM  
Blogger Ruth Harris said...

Jason—My experience being on bestseller lists mirrors Anne's--it's a combo of of reviews, an internet presence, promo newsletters like ENT, BookBub, KindleBooks & Tips.

Writing a terrific book in a popular genre like romance helps although it's extremely competitive.

I understand David Gaughran is updating his book. You'll also find good advice in "The Naked Truth About E-Publishing." The contributors at Writers' Cafe also offer lots of ideas and insight.

Mainly, my experience tells me not to get too excited when you're on a list or too gloomy when you fall off. It's just the way publishing works.

May 8, 2014 at 12:57 PM  

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