Just how important are categories when you are about to publish your novel and why does it matter when it comes to focusing on readers? Alex from Kindle Ranker and I just had this discussion. I’ll be honest – when it comes to the numbers aspect (ie…the right strategy to bring in more sales), he’s the guy to talk to. But by now, you all know that’s NOT my #1 priority. Rather, my concern is this…how can I find more readers?

I’ll be honest. There are a lot of strategies out there to increase your sales. Some are legit. A lot aren’t. I rarely focus on those. Time and time again, you’ll hear me say focus on your readers, not your sales. Why? One simple reason. When you focus on your readers – those sales will come. But if you don’t focus on them, then you’ll always be searching for the next big idea on how to increase your sales and you’ll be like one of my dogs trying to get a treat out of their treat ball where the hole is smaller than the kibble inside (those poor pups and yes, this happened once).

The focus of this blog post will be on selecting the RIGHT categories on Amazon to find more readers – but coming from the point of view from Alex on how to position yourself to increase your sales as well. My comments will be in ( ).

Hitting the “Publish” button on KDP may be one of the most exciting moments of an indie writer’s experience. Far from being the end, this moment signals the new upcoming battle against marketing (but don’t think of it as a battle…its more like a challenge)!

However, before you dive into your SEO campaigns and social media advertising, let me ask you a quick question: how much thought did you put into choosing the Amazon book category where you published your book?

Like it or not, a good portion of your marketing strategy will depend on this simple choice. If you picked a competitive thriller Amazon book category, you will likely need a very high marketing budget to make it to the Kindle bestseller list. Some bestseller lists require as many as 500 daily sales, do you have what it takes to get this number? (if you can’t answer with a YES, don’t be discouraged. You will get there!)

Making it to the front page of a Kindle bestseller list is crucial. Compare it to being listed on Google’s first page. Website owners fight tooth and nail to be on this page for the increased visibility it provides…The same principle applies for Amazon.

What’s the least competitive Thriller category?


That’s the key question, isn’t it?  We will rely on data gathered by Kindle Ranker (thank you Alex!!). Please keep in mind that the exact numbers presented in this study will likely change by the time you read this article, though the general trend, and more importantly, the thought process will remain the same.

There are 56 Thriller Amazon book categories to choose from. The main factor to determine whether your book will be featured on a Kindle bestseller list is its sales number. The more sales it registers, the higher it gets ranked, eventually making it to bestseller’s front page (first 50 books).

Below are the threshold ranks to achieve in order to make it to the front page of the bestseller of the most obvious Thriller categories:

Yes, you are reading the numbers correctly. Your book needs to be positioned #254 (out of millions of other books) to make it to the front page of the Mystery category.

That amounts approximatively to 408 daily sales…Note also that the bestseller of that category, is also the bestseller of the entire Amazon book store. Good luck competing with that!

Thankfully, there are more accessible categories that we can focus our efforts on. Let’s continue scrolling down the list:


The least competitive categories are Referenceand Writing which require 1 sales a day to make it to the bestseller front page. While the former includes books referencing other writer’s work, the later is a complete mess with books ranging from computer security to sign language…

Categories like Ghost, Vampires, Financial, Werewolves, etc. require a relatively low threshold daily sales (from 14 to 18 copies a day), which is much more manageable than the figures we saw earlier.

You should of course choose a category that relates to your book, but if you have the luxury of choice – and often that’s case for creative and rich writing – choose the category with the lower Kindle bestseller threshold as we just saw.

(NOTE from Steena…it’s really important that you don’t select categories you THINK will find you more readers if they aren’t the RIGHT categories to be in. Remember – the goal of this is to FIND the RIGHT reader for your book!) 

The second part of the equation: a category’s popularity


 A lower sales threshold ensures that your book is visible to readers, but if there are no readers then what good is it?

Estimating a category’s popularity is a tricky business. It’s not like Amazon will share this valuable data with us writers. We can however infer it using basic metrics like the median book rank and the median price of any given Amazon book category. We can thus estimate the sales volume of each category, and have a clearer idea about which category is likely to generate revenue:

The Medical categoryis clearly the leader in monthly sales with around $8,500 monthly revenue for a relatively low sales threshold (14 books a day). You are better off listing your book in this category than, say, the Vampires or Financial categories – provided your book fits the category of course. (please please please do NOT place your book in the hard boiled mystery category if you are writing a romance book for example. Those are the wrong readers and you’ll be doing more harm than good…ok…let’s move on…)

Notice the green arrows next to the Financial category’s median price ($3.24). This means that some outliers are trying to drive the price higher :

This information can help you decide on an efficient pricing strategy: either follow the outliers since the price does not seem to shock readers, or stay inline with the median price if you do not want to play it too risky.

Here is a picture of the other end of the spectrum to let your mind wander :

We can apply the same logic as before. Why list your book in the Thrillers & Suspense category with its staggering threshold (to break the 57thrank, one needs to sell thousands of books a day), when the Crime best seller list is more available (around 300 sales a day) and promises more payout!

I (aka Alex) should point out at this stage that the monthly sales volume calculated by Kindle Ranker does not reflect your future royalties. You still have to remove Amazon’s share (depending on the book’s price, sales region, etc.). More importantly though, it makes the assumption that the book will stay in the top 20 best seller list for 30 days straight, which is quite rare, since books jump positions almost hourly. So take this number for what it really is: a indicator of a category’s popularity!


A category’s stability


Once you make it to a best seller list, the next question to address is how to stay on it! In practice the momentum you gain from being on the front page bestseller list should push your sales even further, but you’re not alone in the Kindle market. Many writers are doing pretty much the same marketing tricks as you. That’s why best seller lists can be so unstable sometimes :

 A 5% volatility means that one new book appears on the best seller list roughly every 6 hours. That’s not bad compared to other categories where the turn over is almost 40 or 50%.

Now you have the right tools and metrics to choose the most profitable Amazon book category and devise a marketing strategy to help you easily the bestseller status!


PS…want to know more about my upcoming release with Lake Union? Click the image!