Words of a feather: Kindle book categories

Words of a feather: Kindle book categories

I’ve written before about how I’ve seen the same book in the Kindle store categorized as both fiction and non-fiction.

That’s the publisher’s doing.

The publisher (certainly in the case of independently published books) picks the categories…and they do it largely for marketing reasons.

Now, I have to say…as a former manager of a brick-and-mortar bookstore, I think the publishers are sometimes making…non-optimal choices.

For example, they take a look at the categories they think sell the most, and put their books in there.

If your book doesn’t belong there, that’s not going to work.

Let’s say that it was a grocery store, and the candy aisle sells the most. Just because you take your broccoli and stick it in the candy aisle doesn’t mean it’s going to sell like Snickers bars. 😉

Similarly, if you put your candy bar in with the produce, it’s not going to sell as well as if it was with the other candy (or in an impulse area, like the checkout line).

Shoppers get into a “head space” about what they want to buy…it’s not that easy a process. I’ve read several things lately about the energy cost of decision making. It’s hard to make decisions. They’ve pointed out how some creative types (Steve Jobs, for example) tended to wear the same things most of the time…eliminating one taxing decision to make each day. 🙂

You may actually irritate someone by shocking them with the “right thing” in the “wrong place”.

Some people think the publishers are trying to trick the audience. For example, they think that faith-based publishers will hide that the book is faith-based…putting it just in the mystery category, without revealing that is faith-based.

Well, I suppose that particular one would work…if they didn’t bring religion into the book until the end of it. 🙂

You see, you get seven days from purchase to return a Kindle store book for a refund. You can even do it yourself by going to


That’s why it doesn’t make much sense to think that the publisher is trying to trick you into buying a book you won’t want. Well, people do foolish things, so they might be trying to do that…but it won’t work very well. 😉

I’ve also seen people say that Amazon is trying to “bait and switch” people with books.

That’s actually even less likely.

I keep saying in this blog that Amazon’s most important product is happy customers.

It makes no sense for them to rip you off of $10 and lose you as a customer.

Imagine somebody on their trial month of

Amazon Prime (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

and feeling that Amazon tried to trick you so you quit?

That’s a big loss for Amazon!

That doesn’t mean that no one ever feels that way, I will guarantee you it is not a corporate strategy. 😉

That’s why I was intrigued to see this page on the publicly visible part of Kindle Direct Publishing:
Selecting Browse Categories

They have some great advice there, including things that use the technical parameters of the search properly.

Their (literal) number one rule?

Pick the most accurate categories. Make sure the categories you pick correctly describe the subject matter of your book.”


They also give information about what makes a book show up in the children’s sections…and the rules are different for the USA and the UK, for example.

Interestingly, and I didn’t know this, the categories actually come from  third party, the Book Industry Study Group (BISG):


I suppose I should have known that…I’m familiar with BISG, but just didn’t know that was the source of the categories at Amazon.

Outside of recommending, there isn’t a whole lot that Amazon can practically do.

Some people on the forum will suggest that Amazon just use the Dewey Decimal system, or the Library of Congress classification, but that misses a big point.

Many of the books are being published directly to Amazon…they haven’t been published anywhere else, and the copyright hasn’t been registered (which isn’t necessary in the USA: copyright is automatic, although registering does make going after somebody legally for infringing on your rights easier).

No one has evaluated these books to determine their categories.

Amazon could do it: but do we want Amazon to being that sort of curating? It certainly might discourage independent publishers…even thought it might be better for the customers.

It’s a bit of a tough call. Right now, Amazon enjoys a reputation, at least with customers, of broadly carrying many titles. If they ever do stop carrying a title, it can become a news story. There are sometimes movements to get them to stop carrying something people deem offensive. It takes a lot of convincing before that happens, assuming the book is legal to sell.

I like that. I like Amazon selling as much of everything (as far as books go) as is legal and is practical.

That means they sell things I don’t like, and it means it sells things advocating actions of which I disapprove.

That’s fine with me. 🙂

However, I would prefer that the categories were accurate…I’m just not sure what I’m willing to pay for that, in terms of both costs to Amazon (and subsequently me) and diversity of inventory.

Bonus story: I thought some of the readers of this blog would find my recent post

“Alexa, what did all those Back to the Future stories miss?” (and fact future v fict future)

It’s not just that some of my readers are interested in the

Amazon Echo (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*)

It’s also because I speculate a bit there about the future of technology…which does apply to EBRs (E-Book Readers),  of course.

What do you think? Should Amazon do more to make the categories accurate? Does it bother you when they aren’t? Have you ever bought a book on Amazon and felt like the publisher tried to fool you? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Join thousands of readers and try the free ILMK magazine at Flipboard!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

2 Responses to “Words of a feather: Kindle book categories”

  1. Helen Says:

    The uselessness of categories drives me crazy! I like literary fiction, but that’s a meaningless category on Amazon. And “historical fiction” includes anything set in the past, including fantasy stories, vampires, etc. But, I don’t know what Amazon can do about it. Readers probably couldn’t agree which category many books belong in either. I can usually get a feel for a book reading the first few pages, and as long as we can return them easily it’s not a big deal.

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Helen!

      I understand. 🙂

      Take advantage of the “Look Inside” when available, and samples…those are both ways to get a good understanding of the “true category” (or categories) of the book.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: