Sunday, August 11, 2013

Ebook Marketing Secrets Part 5 -- The Right Categories Can Make You A Bestseller

A lot of authors put little time in choosing their categories.  But that's where they are missing out on a potential goldmine.  So much attention is spent looking at the Kindle Top 100, that genre lists are ignored.  I used to do that too.  If I had a humor book, I'd just put the title under fiction/humor.  If it was a mystery book, I'd label it as fiction/mystery.  But I was ignoring a key principle in generating sales--visibility.
Look, everyone wants to write the best book possible.  But the fact is, there are a lot of great books that will never sell.  And there are a lot of mediocre books that sell off the charts.  And categories have a lot to do with that.  When your book is invisible, people won't buy it.  So make it visible.  How do you do that you ask?
The first rule of categorization is to never put your book in a general category when a sub category is available.  For example, science fiction is subdivided into high tech, short stories, and space opera.  Fantasy is divided into contemporary, dark, epic, historical, and paranormal.  Each subdivision gives your book a better chance of getting noticed.  Your book may never hit the Top 100 overall paid, but you may be able to hit the Top 100 of Dark Fantasy.  Or the Top 100 of High Tech Science Fiction.  Also, within that subcategory is a hot new release list.  For thirty days, you have a chance to get exposure in that hot new release area.  And if you are one of the three hot new releases for that subcategory, your book cover is on the front page for that subcategory.  This kind of exposure is the thing that leads to more sales.
Amazon is pretty stingy with their categories though.  You're only allowed two categories as a self publisher, where at Barnes & Noble you're allowed five.  That means you have to choose your categories wisely.  That's where niche categories come in.  Sure everyone would love to be able to hang in robust categories like romance or fantasy.  But those categories are so popular, it's like diving into the deep end of the pool after your first lesson.  Most likely you'll drown.  But if you can find yourself a nice tide pool and you can stand out.  What am I talking about exactly?  The power of the niche category.
Amazon has over a hundred categories.  A lot go unnoticed.  But if you look at the sales ranks of the Top hundred books in any given subcategory and how many new releases there are for that thirty day period, you'll find there are a number of places to get visibility.
But first, let's go through the nuts and bolts of categories and subcategories.  Every category offers a  number of ways to get discovered.  First, there is the Top 100 list for that category.  Then there is the Top 100 free list for that category.  Followed on the right hand side by a Top 100 list of new releases for that category.  And finally a Top 100 list of the highest rated books in that category.
You can find all this information out on your own.  Go to any book in the Kindle store.  Scroll down the books sales ranking.  Right beside that is a link that says "See Top 100 Paid In Kindle Store."  The link will take you to the Top 100 overall.  Now on the left hand side of that screen lists all the broad categories in the store.  Just as an example, click on Literature & Fiction.  That takes you to the Top 100 of the 20 or so lit/fic categories.  From there, go to Romance.  You then have 15 Romance subcategories.  For the sake of research, click on Contemporary Romance.
Now that you're there, let's go through the nuts and bolts of a mega category.  Now realize the numbers are providing are going to change.  But in general, the trends won't.  At the time of my writing, the number one book in Contemporary Romance has a #1 sales rank.  The #20 book has a sales rank of 61.  Meanwhile the #100 book in just Contemporary Romance has a sales rank of 342.  So to even hit that genre bestseller list, you need a 342 sales rank which means approximately 1300-1500 sales in a 24 hour period.  That's astounding.
Meanwhile there are over 100 free books in the category with the #100 free book having a free rank of 400.  There are over 100 hot new releases in the sub category, with the #20 ranked book having a sales rank of 411.  The #100 hot new release for that sub cat meanwhile has a sales rank of #1100.  So what does this all mean?  That to even be the #100 new release in contemporary romance, you'd have to sell roughly 90 books at day to get that 1100 sales rank.  Is it any wonder why brand new books by unknown authors sink like stones in a hurry in mega categories?
Let me do the same thing with a slightly less crowded mega category.  Let's go with Contemporary Fantasy.  The #1 book in the cat has a 51 sales rank.  The #20 book and the end of the first page has a 1409 sales rank.  Meanwhile the #100 book in that sub category has a 5008 sales rank.  That means to crack the Top 100 in contemporary romance, you need to sell about 35-50 books a day to hit that 5008 sales rank.  On the free side, there's over 100 free contemporary romances with the #100 free book having a free rank of 4119.  On to the hot new releases.  There are well over a hundred books released in the last 30 days of this subcategory with the #20 hot new release having a sales rank of 3692.  The #100 hot new release meanwhile has a sales rank of 54,111.
What does all this mean?  That to even have your book make a blip in contemporary romance, you'd need to sell two copies a day to even be the Top 100 new release to get that 54,111 sales rank.  But if you want to be on the first page of new releases, you'd need to sell 25-30 copies a day to get the 3692 rank.  These are all long odds for a new unknown author.  And since visibility is the key to getting sales, a lot of books in mega categories are dead on arrival.  How?  Through niche categories.

Niche Categories.

Through little known subcategories, you can carve out your own niche.  How?  Let me show you.  Here's a list of a number of underserved subcategories.

fiction/sea adventures
fiction/comics and graphic novels/comic strips and cartoons
juvenile fiction/literature/love and romance
juvenile fiction/arts and music
juvenile fiction/religious fiction
fiction/science fiction/short stories
ficton/horror/dark fantasy
arts & photography/television
teen/religion and spirituality
teen/historical fiction

Note:  Some of these categories are not available to pick from directly when uploading your book on KDP.  But if you email author central, a lot of times they will manually add you.  If you don't have an author central account, sign up for one here:
Let's take a moment and break down why niche categories might be for you.  Again, these numbers are current to the time I'm writing them.  Please do your own research for up to date figures.
Here's a list of two of the categories in greater detail.

fiction/horror/dark fantasy
18 new releases in the last month
Sales rank of #1 book in the category -- 565
Sales rank of #20 book in the category -- 11,668
Sales rank of #100 book in the category -- 90,108
20 free books available

35 new releases in the last month
Sales rank of #1 book in the category -- 3185
Sales rank of #20 book in the category -- 26,611
Sales rank of #100 book in the category -- 119,847
20 free books available

Having only 18 and 35 new releases to compete with in the hot new releases category makes it much easier to gain exposure for your book.  Most of the mega categories have well over a hundred new releases each month.  Meanwhile with only 20 free books available, if you run a KDP select promo, you'll likely end up on the front page of that niche category--helping you get more downloads.
Even more importantly to be on the bestseller list for those subcategories, you only need a sales rank of 90,108 and 119, 847 respectively.  Generally, 1 sales per day will land you a sales rank of approximately 100,000 while 2 sales a day will usually equal a sales rank of around 50,00.  That means you can crack with top hundred of the category with about 1 sale a day and be about 50 or 50 in the category with 2 sales a day.
Meanwhile, the #20 books in the categories are 26,611 and 11,668.  Those roughly translate to 10 to 15 sales a day depending on which category we're talking about.  It should be every writers goal to land on the front page of a category as it gains you additional exposure and/or sales.  And in these niche categories, 10 to 15 sales a day will achieve just that.
So what does all this tell us exactly?  That there are underserved markets.  That you can stand out from the get go with your new release and get that much needed visibility.  And these aren't all the niche categories available.  There are others out there.  You just need to set aside some time exploring Amazon to find them.
The key to category success is to take a two pronged approach.  You can either pick two niche subcategories and really hope to stand out or mix and match one mega category like fantasy/contemporary with a niche like humor/form/parodies.  That way when the niche helps your sales rank, hopefully you can crack the top hundred of contemporary fantasy.
Side note:  Never shoehorn your book in a category it doesn't belong.  That's a one way ticket to a nasty one star review.  But most people's books can fit into more than just two categories.  I mean Barnes & Noble thinks most books can fit into at least five categories.  The point is, do some research on your own and find out what's best for your book.  The beauty of mixing and matching categories though is that you can make a change and it will be live in 24-48 hours.  You can try out the new categories for a week, and if they don't increase sales, you can change everything back on your KDP dashboard--no harm, no foul.

A Note On Keywords

While Amazon only allows two categories, sometimes you can actually get listed in three.  How?  Through the right use of keywords.  See, a category like teen in inaccessible to self pubbers.  But if for example you put "teen romance" as one of your keywords, sometimes just sometimes Amazon will add you into the category itself.  Same with keywords like "steampunk" or "science fiction series."
Even if Amazon doesn't randomly give you a third category, your keywords are still highly important.  You only get seven keywords to work with.  Make sure you make the most of  them.  The key is to think like a reader does.  If you go to Amazon and are just looking for a good book, are you going to type in "romance," or "chick lit"?  "Science fiction" or "futuristic science fiction"?  Amazon has already done a lot of the work for you.  Every one of the categories and subcategories are popular enough in searches to have their own categories created for them.  So try mixing and matching.
But first let's take a look at the differences in keyword searches.  Type in romance at the Amazon search box and you get 602,050.  If you type in Contemporary Romance though, you get a smaller number of 96,930.  Try something like Chick Lit though.  That gives you 3,955.  Still a large number, but a much easier number to deal with.
For this reason, just popping romance, or horror, or fantasy generally won't help you very much.  But when you choose keywords like Victorian Romance, or Medieval Fantasy, or Zombie Horror you're more likely to see better results.
Tip #1 Keywords are not just something to put into the keyword box.  You can also use a search keyword in your title.  For example.  If you have a vampire romance, you can put "Heavy Necking (A Vampire Romance Novel)."  In the book description meanwhile, you can put your blurb, then at the bottom of the description add a tag.  For example "Heavy Necking is a vampire romance novel with serious bite."
Remember, keywords are not just search terms for people on  Amazon's products show up on Google, Bing, and Yahoo searches as well.  So your (A Vampire Romance Novel) descriptor will show up in a Google search.  And by tripling up on keywords a) in the title b) in the book description and c) in the keyword box, you can get more bang for your buck.  
As with picking categories, I've found that mixing a few mega keywords with a few niche keywords garners the best results.  So do some research.  And with the right mix of keywords and categories, success will find you.

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