Follow the John 3:16 Network Author Page on Pinterest

Monday, February 13, 2012

What is The Biggest Mistake Authors Make When Featuring Their Books on Amazon?

The biggest mistake authors make when launching their books on Amazon is their failure to properly subcategorize their books. If you want to reach best-seller in subcategories; i.e. best-selling Christian romance book, then the author must tell Amazon how to categorize his or her book. Here is some helpful information from my book How to Launch a Christian Best-Seller.

How to Categorize Printed Books on Amazon

For the purpose of the next discussion, I am going to address specifically how to get printed books categorized on Amazon and raise the possibility of reaching best-seller status.

There are different ways a book can be categorized. Categories are different from tags. Tags are what people reading a book do to label how they think a book should be listed. But that is not the same thing as what an author needs to do to get his book categorized to reach best-seller status.

I am going to go into specific detail here because many people have missed best-seller status simply because their books were not categorized narrowly enough in the subcategories.

Most authors are familiar with the Amazon Bestseller Rank. Unfortunately, most authors will never hit the top one hundred best-seller status on Amazon. But that doesn’t mean one can’t make the best-seller list in the subcategories or sub-subcategories on Amazon. It is possible for a debut author to reach best-seller status in one or more subcategories on Amazon. The problem is that most authors know nothing about how to do this.

What does being on the Amazon Bestseller List mean? Most people would say it means a book reached the top one hundred in sales at a given time. To do a book launch in the John 3:16 Network, the author should track sales for a 24-hour period. Sometimes there is a slight lag, but not so much that the highest ranking won’t appear during or shortly after that 24-hour period.

I encourage authors in the Network to take a “screen shot” several times during the day to try to record their lowest ranking toward number one in one or more subcategories. To take a screen shot, if you are using Windows, hit control/print screen together, go to a blank Word document, and hit Control-V. Your screen shot will appear and you can save it as a Word document.

How do you get your book categorized on Amazon in subcategories? This is crucial for a debut author to have a chance to claim “best-seller” status.

Amazon has several platforms in place to help authors. One of these is their Author Central Program. If you do not have an account, the site will prompt you to set up one. The link is  Here is a screen shot of the page.

You will see the tab about halfway down the page called “Give Us Feedback.” If you click on this, it will take you to another page. You will see “Contact Us” and underneath that, it will say, “Select an issue.” You want to click on “my books.” Underneath that, it will say, “select details.” Choose “update information about my book.” Beneath that another window will open, and you want to “browse categories.” Under that another window will open, and you should choose, “I want to update my book’s browse categories.” There is a “Did You Know” tab and you can read more about categories, the inside-the-book program, and other important related topics.

Beneath that, you will see the number 2, and the question, “How would you like to contact us?” You can either email or phone Amazon. I would email them first. You will explain to them that you would like to update the categories of your book.

How do you know what categories to use? On printed editions of your book, you are allowed two categories. Don’t assume Amazon will do it the way you want. It’s best to be pro-active on such an important point and give them what you want exactly the way you want it.

To know what categories in which to list your book, you need to be familiar with how Amazon categorizes books. Go to and look on the left-hand side for the search browser. Click on books.

Here is a screen shot at what you will be taken to (some versions of this e-book may not display it):

You will notice on the left-hand side the category “department,” and underneath it “books.” Listed underneath books are all the main categories on Amazon beginning with “arts and photography” and ending with “travel.”

You will notice that under “arts and photography” are listed 387,013 books. That means in order to reach best-seller status in this category, you will have to beat out 387,000-plus books.

Let me go down to the category “parenting & families,” which has 88,692 books. If you click on that, you will see it breaks down into subcategories of adoption, aging parents, family activities, family health, family relationships, fertility, parenting, pregnancy & childbirth, reference, and special needs. Children of Dreams reached number eight in the subcategory of adoption, out of 1,641 books. That means my book has been a bestseller on Amazon in adoption books.

In the email that I sent to Amazon, I listed one of my categories as parenting & families/adoption. Since I could list two for my printed copy, I listed the second category as “parenting & families/family relationships/motherhood. The category for motherhood has 4,550 books. I also reached best-seller status in this at number eleven.

Obviously, the more books there are in a category or subcategory, the harder it’s going to be to get into the top one hundred, so the narrower the subcategory, the more successful you will be.

That brings me to the second part of this discussion on categories, which is important. You must categorize your printed edition and your Kindle edition separately. With Kindle, you also get two categories. It is much easier to reach best-seller status on Kindle than with a printed book. Why? There are fewer Kindle books that you are competing against than printed books. Not every book has been published in Kindle.

According to the latest information from Amazon, here is how to get your categories set up for a Kindle e-book.

Second, sign into your account.

Third, click the "actions" button for the book you would like to update

Fourth, scroll down to number three, target your book to customers

Fifth, click on add categories. That will open up to a new screen, add or change categories

Sixth, click on the plus button in front of these main categories to open up subcategories and sub-subcategories. Make your selections.

Seven, click on save.

The screen will return to the default page, where you started. Please notice that this is also where you make other changes to your e-book, including editing your book details.

To learn more about how to have a successful book launch, you may purchase How to Launch a Christian Best Seller.



  1. Absolutely essential. I recategorized mine and they were best sellers without doing much of anything else other than talking about them on facebook and giving away free 1st. chapters.

  2. Thank you for the great reminder article, Lorilyn. Going to check out the categories for my book now!

  3. Great article and I'm trying to do all you suggested. For my Kindle I had no problem, but when I went into my Author Central Account there was no button that said, Give us Feedback. In fact, I can't seem to change my categories for my paperback version at all. Very strange.