ASK PZM July 2012

In place of Phyllis Zimbler Miller’s usual monthly Ask PZM column in which she answers questions, she has provided Chapter VI of her brand-new ebook TOP TIPS FOR HOW TO MARKET YOUR BOOK ON AMAZON AND FACEBOOK: Action Steps You Can Do Immediately Whether You Are Traditionally Published or Self-Published:


Categories are an incredibly important aspect of your books being found on Amazon – and an aspect that is fraught with inconsistencies and frustration. Do NOT skip this step – it can be very, very important to your sales on Amazon.

(To find the Amazon categories currently for your book or ebook, on your book’s page scroll down, down, down until you see “Look for Similar Items by Category” and these are the categories your books or products are in. You may even find that your book or ebook has NO categories!)

The goal is to get the most tightly targeted correct categories for each of your books. This requires going deep into sub-categories and being truthful about what categories are appropriate for your books.

You need to read Aggie Villanueva’s book AMAZON CATEGORIES CREATE BEST SELLERS to get a detailed description of how to look for the best subcategories for your books. This also includes not risking the penalties of choosing the wrong categories.

As Aggie says, “Tight targeting of your categories is the only goal. Never choose a category based on lack of competition. If your book is not in the most tightly targeted category, Amazon cannot successfully sell the book for you. It’s as simple as that.”

FYI: When you choose categories if you publish a physical book via CreateSpace, these categories are apparently only for the CreateSpace catalogue. (Note: CreateSpace now has a “Publish on Kindle” option: “Once you have finished publishing and distributing your book on CreateSpace, be sure to make your book available to even more readers through Kindle Direct Publishing.”)

First, where on Amazon’s site are its categories from which you can choose?

If you put BOOKS in the Amazon search window and nothing in the field for a book title and then click on GO, you will have a screen that are the far left side has under the word “Department” – BOOKS. Click on those categories to see the sub-categories (notice that some categories have more sub-categories than others). Here’s part of what you’d see:


  •   Any Department
  • Books

Now do the same for KINDLE because the categories are NOT the same. Put KINDLE STORE in the search box, nothing in the book title field, and click on GO. Then under “Department” and under “Kindle Store” click on KINDLE EBOOKS. Here you will be able to click categories and sub-categories as you did for BOOKS.

Because the Amazon categories and the Kindle categories are not always the same, if you have a title as both a physical book on Amazon and an ebook on Kindle, you will have to work through the categories two times – first working through the “books” categories figuring out the most tightly targeted subcategories and then working through the “Kindle ebooks” categories figuring out the most tightly targeted subcategories.

And now we get into the complications and inconsistencies:

The number of categories you are allowed to choose appears to continually change. The Amazon Author Central rep I spoke to could not give me a definitive answer.

In fact, I was told that, in one specific case, while I was only allowed two categories, over time I might have more depending on “reader input.” If I were to manually ask to have the book’s categories changed, that book’s listing would revert back to only showing the two allowed categories.

Inconsistency: When you upload a book to KDP, you are given a choice of categories. But these KDP categories are NOT the same as the Kindle ebook categories that you see on Amazon’s home page if you follow the instructions above.

When you upload an ebook to KDP, the best bet would seem to be to choose as closely as possible to the categories you ideally want for your Kindle ebook. Then, once the ebook is published, contact KDP support via email to request changing the categories to the ones you originally chose.

In the email request to KDP you must type the categories exactly as you want them. Here are the two categories I asked for CIA FALL GUY and I typed these just like this in the email:

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Crime, Thrillers & Mystery > Thrillers > Spy Stories & Tales of Intrigue

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Romance > Romantic Suspense

Now this is another odd thing about Amazon and Kindle categories:

A very nice Author Central rep explained to me that, at this time, books only have “books” categories on their sales page but the same title in Kindle has both “books” and “Kindle eBooks” categories.

Why does your title in “books” only have “books” categories but the same title in “ebooks” has both “books” categories and “ebooks” categories?

The same Amazon Author Central rep explained that Amazon logic says that a person looking at Kindle ebooks would also be interested in physical books for that topic. But people looking at physical books for that topic would NOT be interested in Kindle ebooks.

Really? Let’s hope some top exec at Amazon has just read the above sentence and seen the idiocy of this logic. Then let’s hope that top exec changes the policy so that a title’s “ebooks” categories also show on the title’s book page.

To add more confusion to this topic, the “books” categories on your book’s Kindle page are not always the same as the “books” categories on that book’s Amazon page. This answer to this situation is explained below:

If you only have a Kindle ebook and there is no physical book on Amazon, you may think of trying to try to change the book categories listed along with your Kindle categories on your ebook’s Kindle page.

I thought of this, and here is the response I got back from KDP when I asked that a book category be changed for one of my ebooks at the same time that a Kindle category be changed:

Please note, “Books >” categories automatically generate from the “Kindle >” categories selected for your titles, therefore we cannot manually set these for you.

This is important to remember because it partially explains why your book categories listed on a physical book on Amazon may not be the same as the book categories for the same title in Kindle format.

In conclusion, while choosing categories for your books and ebooks on Amazon may seem like a lot of work (and it can be), it is very, very important you undertake this step if you want to greatly increase the chances of your books or ebooks being found on Amazon.

Phyllis’ new ebook can be found on the U.S. Amazon site at and on the U.K. Amazon site at

Thanks, Phyllis!

Phyllis Zimbler Miller is the co-founder of Miller Mosaic LLC and the author of fiction and nonfiction books and ebooks, including the HOW TO SUCCEED series for teens and young adults.  

She has currently enrolled the second book in the series, HOW TO SUCCEED IN COLLEGE AND PREP FOR BEYOND COLLEGE, in Amazon’s Kindle Select option.     

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