Whether you are browsing in a bookstore, or the online shelves of Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Apple or Kobo, chances are that you are looking for books within a specific category. Categories are one of your book's most important metadata elements and critical to the discoverability of your eBook in online stores. Unlike other important metadata elements like title, subtitle, description and keywords, major online stores vary in how they handle eBook categories.
There are 2 critical things to understand about categories for eBooks in online stores:
- The number of categories can vary between stores.
- You need to utilize every available category a store gives you.
Categories allow shoppers to drill down within ever finer classifications of a topic. For example, a top level category such as ARCHITECTURE has 38 subcategories; from Adaptive Reuse & Renovation, to Buildings, to Urban & Land Use Planning. Within several of these subcategories, such as Buildings, you can have sub-subcategories, or 3rd level categories. Example: ARCHITECTURE / Buildings / Landmarks & Monuments. Even though this is 3 levels deep it is still defined as a single category.
Besides helping shoppers find your eBook, choosing the right category can also help your book reach best seller status. A book in a highly competitive category may never reach the top 10 or 25 best sellers, but put it in a less competitive category and it might stand a chance.
By the way, I'm not advocating that you place you book in unrelated categories. There are two potential problems with this. One, your intended shopper may never find it and two; you run the risk of disappointing a buyer which can backfire. You may get a bad review and/or they may return your eBook for a refund.
Categories vary by store and aggregator
In the table below I show the number of categories each store allows you to select. I have also included the two most popular aggregators that specialize in distributing eBooks to other eBookstores.
Note that even though all the stores allow multiple category selection Bookbaby asks for only 1 and Smashwords only 2. Using aggregators limits your categories. This means the category you select in Bookbaby will be the only category listed for each store even though they all allow more than 1!
Maximum Categories Allowed
|# of Categories||Distribution Type|
Know your categories
Using the BISG Subject Headings List found here, my recommendation is to select at least 5 categories that apply to your eBook. Again, don't stretch the truth. Keep it relevant.
Then look up your competition in each category and note the number of books, age, average ratings, etc. Do you have a shot at best seller status? Now prioritize your categories based on relevance and opportunity.
When you take your list to each store, or send the list to an eBook distribution consultant like AuthorImprints, you'll have a much stronger chance at getting found. And with your book in multiple categories you've just increased the odds of reaching higher sales rankings, maybe even best seller status.