As a writer in the world of self-publishing, you’re up against thousands of other books. It’s a super-competitive market, so your selling strategies need to be up to scratch to get the desired result. This includes making sure that Amazon’s algorithm rules are working for you.

Think of Amazon as a search engine. You need to increase your visibility in order to boost your book sales. And that’s where categories and keywords come in.

The first thing you need to know is that not all categories are created equal. Your choice of ebook category will have a huge impact on the success of your book; but, with over 3,500 to choose from, it can be difficult to know where to start!

Not only is it important to get your categories right, you also need to think about the right keywords. These help people discover your ebook, which means more potential sales.

Preliminary research

When you initially upload your book, Amazon will give you a limited list of categories to choose from; however, you can find thousands more by doing some research.

Go to the Kindle department and click through the categories that are relevant to your book. Keep going until you find a few suitable subcategories to note down.

Next, scan the bestselling ebooks on the first page results of your chosen categories. Go through these bestsellers, studying their category string links, and notice where they have placed their ebooks. This gives you a better picture of the unique categories you could apply to your own ebook.

Look out for what’s trending, and don’t be afraid to choose seemingly obscure categories – your ebook will still appear to people browsing parent categories, and smaller categories (with fewer than 1000 competitors) give you a better chance of standing out and ranking highly.

Choosing the smartest categories for your book

After choosing your primary category, where people are most likely to find your work, you should pick a second. No one knows your book better than you. OK, it might be a romance or mystery, but what are the deeper themes and subplots? Are there any other places it could fit?

Again, we recommend choosing categories with fewer competitors. If there are fewer than 100 free ebooks in the ‘Top 100 Free’ bestsellers for that category, you know that there won’t be much competition.

Make sure you place words from the category name in the title, subtitle, and summary of your ebook. This will convince Amazon that your book belongs in that section!

Utilising keywords

Keywords help readers find your book when searching on Amazon. Getting this right is a major part of directing more traffic to your ebook’s page.

Start off by listing some ideas. Think of key words and phrases which reflect the issues addressed by your book. One of these should be the primary category your book falls under.

Check these out with the Google Keywords Tool, in the Tools and Analysis section of the Adwords suite. Type in your keywords, and you’ll be able to see the Global Monthly Search figures. You can also see how popular your keywords are on Amazon by looking at the autocomplete feature when you type keywords into the search bar.

You should now be able to whittle your list down to seven main keywords. To add them to your book, visit the KDP dashboard, select your book’s title, and scroll down to ‘Target Your Book to Customers’. Type in your chosen keywords, making sure there is comma between each word or phrase.

Optimizing your categories and keywords will give you powerful results, and before you know it, you’ll be well on the way to becoming an Amazon bestseller. Remember, if you rank in the top ten in one of your chosen categories, Amazon will add your book to its Recommendations Engine, granting you more exposure. So, take those categories seriously!