Which Subcategories to Choose When Self-Publishing Your Book?
If a book doesn’t make it to the front page of a bestsellers list in its category, it will likely never be seen by the readers who are searching for books on Amazon. This, of course, will decrease its selling potential.
Choosing the best categories for your book is thus one of the key steps in every good marketing strategy. Social media and book promotion are also important but if the subcategories are not well-selected, then the effects will soon fade.
Before we continue, though, please keep in mind that the data on Amazon is in a constant state of flux. It changes hourly and the numbers presented here may thus fluctuate too. The main trends, however, do not change that fast and that’s what counts.
You can find the full list of Amazon categories in Kindle Ranker app – its basic features are available for free and are more than enough for a start. I used the most popular genre on Kindle, 'Romance,' to illustrate the key steps you need to take when choosing a category.
The key steps
There are 68 subcategories containing the keyword ‘Romance.’ 46 of these are listed under the main ‘Kindle eBooks -> Romance’ category and are thus easy to find. The rest are hidden in less obvious categories, such as Health, Fitness & Dieting.
1. Find the least competitive category
This may be the most important step for an aspiring indie writer, and not without a reason. You can hardly compete with writers who have millions of followers when you’re launching your first book with a small or even nonexistent platform.
That’s why it makes a whole lot of sense to look for low profile categories since that’s where your book stands the chance of being seen by the readers. When browsing categories, Amazon displays the first 50 bestsellers in each category and your goal is to get your book to this first page on the bestsellers list.
That’s how you'll get the attention of Amazon’s algorithm and with that additional exposure and promotion at no cost. But before you can get there, you need to know how many daily sales this would take and likely it is for your book to achieve that.
With Kindle Ranker, you can easily find this information. Here is an example for ‘Romance’ category:
The chart shows you that you’d need more than 900 sales per day to claim your spot on the front bestsellers list in the main 'Romance' category. Even ‘Romance->Military’ is not easy to reach with over 100 sales a day. And that’s just to get your book at the 50th place!
Such numbers are hard to beat but there is room for everyone, you just need to find some more obscure categories. Let’s see which categories are the easiest to break into and how many sales that would take.
Making it in Comics, Foreign Language, LGTB, and Science Fiction & Dystopian Romance, for instance, is relatively easy - selling 4 to 8 books per day can be achieved with some promotion (and, of course, a book of decent quality).
But the estimated number of sales you need to break into a category's bestsellers list is just one of the factors worthy of consideration.
2. Evaluate the category’s commercial potential
Another key factor is the category’s popularity. In other words, you need to know how well do books in that category sell on average rather than just how many books you need to sell to get on the front page.
Given that a book’s commercial success raises its rank, it safe to assume that a lot of books in the most popular categories rank higher, which then raises the category's median rank as well. We can use this information to compare the profitability of different categories.
To give you an estimate of the revenue you can expect from a high ranking book, Kindle Ranker automatically calculates the median rank for the first 20 bestselling books in a category and then multiplies that with the category’s median book price.
You can see in the chart below that ‘Love & Romance’ subcategory, for instance, has a much stronger commercial potential than ‘Science Fiction & Dystopian’ since both its median sales rank and median price are higher:
The main reason why you can earn a lot in one of these two categories - even though have equally low threshold for breaking into a category and similar median price - is that one of them is a lot more popular with readers.
There are also categories that are a whole lot more lucrative (albeit more competitive) than these two. In the next example, you can see that the earning potential in two of the most popular subcategories ('Romantic Comedy' and 'Romance') is about the same at $125K+, but the threshold for breaking into the second one is almost half of what you'd need to get into the first.
You might wonder is it normal for indie writers to earn that much. No, not for most. Keep in mind that the listed price of the books does not equal royalties. Amazon and other sellers will keep their share before paying the writers, and for ebooks this share ranges from 30% to 65% plus the cost of the download (depending on the ebook's price).
Also, this estimate is only valid for the books that stay in the top 20 positions for the duration of 30 days. A book that is at number 5 today, however, might drop to number 35 the next day, and then either climb back or drop even more.
3. Create your pricing strategy
The median book rank in combination with the median book price in a category is something you should consider when planning the pricing strategy for your book. You need to decide whether to opt for a highly popular subcategory and set a low book price, or go with less popular subcategories in hope that a higher price might compensate for a lower sales potential.
The previously mentioned ‘Romantic Comedy’ and ‘Contemporary Fiction' –> Romance’ subcategories, for instance, show similar revenue. The books in ‘Romantic Comedy’ subcategory, however, need to generate a lot more sales to for the same result.
NOTE: There are many factors that affect the sales and you will have to invest a lot in promotion to keep your book at the top, so don’t take these numbers as a reliable estimate of your earning potential.
What Kindle Ranker can give you, though, is an estimate of which categories might be more promising and thus worth giving a try.
4. Check the percent of indie books in a category
Finally, consider how many books in the category are self-published.
From that, you will be able to see in which categories indie books do well. This will also tell you whether you are competing with big publishing houses (a tougher position) or other self-published writers like you.
All that’s now left for you to do is picking the best categories for your book! With Kindle Ranker that should be easy indeed.
Get You Self-Published, Now What? How to Promote Your Book for more useful tips!