Helping you become a #1 Bestselling Author

Bestselling AuthorBestselling Novel … sounds good doesn’t it? A few weeks ago, I posted about reviews and their impact on ratings and readers. You can see that post here. Today, I want to discuss the elusive BESTSELLER.

When you have achieved bestseller status, it is yours for life. No one can take it away. Conveniently, Amazon changes the rankings hourly. Now, many of you might look at that as a negative but all you need is for your book to hit #1 just one time, and even if it drops out after an hour, you’ve just achieved “bestseller” status.

As with anything in our indie publishing world, you have to know the system before you play the game. First, when you uploaded and published your book, you picked five categories. These have nothing to do with how Amazon ranks your book—they’re used in keyword searches for someone browsing topics.

The “category path” is how Amazon determines the rankings. The main ranking that we are used to seeing is the “Paid in Kindle Store.” This ranking includes everything from newspapers to games and even Kindle accessories. You can see how important it is to categorize optimally. Why would you want to go up against The New York Times Kindle Edition that has been in the top 100 for almost four years?

So how do you maximize the benefit of Amazon Rankings? Let’s break it down. When looking at my Teen/YA novel, The Card, I had multiple options on how to categorize. Below is a breakdown of the each category I considered and the number of books in that category. For example, I had the choice of placing it in the Kindle eBook category of:

Fiction  439,673
Sports     17,914
Mystery & Detective    56,072

Not much of a choice. Notice the huge number of books in each category. Being a rookie at this, I picked the best categories and away I went.

I kept an eye on the rankings and I was frustrated by the fact that my book was showing up at #89 in one of my categories, but when I checked the rankings of similar books (Mike Lupica and Tim Green), mine was nowhere in sight. That was because I wasn’t categorized the same way as others in my genre. I showed up higher ranked in the larger, more general category, but was not included in the more specific category.

I checked out their category string and I found the following for one of Mike Lupica’s baseball books.

Fiction 439,673
Childrens’ Fiction 41,315
Sports & Activities 2,293


Children’s eBooks 58,949
Sports & Activities 3,372
Sports 1,079
Baseball 216


Clearly, the chance for me to hit #1 in the more specific category is much better than the larger, more general, category. I checked my Amazon Bookshelf and the category that I wanted was not available.

Here’s the golden nugget in this post. You can create your own category string!

 If you want the perfect category string that isn’t a default in your KDP publishing dashboard, you can have them create it for you manually.

  Here’s what you need to do:

 1. Visit and log into your KDP account.

 2. Click the “Actions” button for the title you’d like to update, then click “Edit book details.”

 3. Scroll down to the “Target Your Book to Customers” section and click “Add categories.”

 4. Choose the categories on the right side of the screen, then click “Remove category.”

 5. Scroll down the category list on the left side of the screen, and choose the last category – “NON-CLASSIFIABLE.”

 6. Click on “Save.”

 7. Scroll down the page and click “Save and Continue.”

 8. You’ll then be directed to the “Rights & Pricing” section. Check the box at the bottom of the screen to accept the Terms & Conditions, then click “Save and Publish.”

I know that this sounds scary, marking your book as “non-classifiable” but have no fear, it works.

After you have done this, email [email protected] with the exact path of the categories you wish to add and they will add the categories for your book. For example, after following the above steps, I emailed Amazon with the correct paths as seen below, asking them to set my categories as:

           Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Sports & Activities > Sports > Baseball

           Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Children’s eBooks > Mysteries, Espionage, & Detectives

 Be sure to include your ASIN (Amazon ISBN type of number)


It takes a little work, but once you do it, it can be very rewarding. The Card spent nearly all of January and most of February ranked #1 in my category. Good luck and I’ll be looking for your #1 Bestseller!

*     *     *     *     *

Jim Devitt is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited. The author of the #1 Kindle Bestselling novel, THE CARD, has recently moved on to the second round in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. For more information, please see the IU bio page or his blog:[subscribe2]

Author: Jim Devitt

Jim Devitt’s debut YA novel, The Card, hit #1 in three separate categories on the Kindle Bestseller list in early January and was a finalist in the Guys Can Read Indie Author Contest this past summer. Devitt currently lives in Miami, FL with his wife Melissa and their children. Learn more about Jim at his blog and his Amazon author page.

63 thoughts on “Helping you become a #1 Bestselling Author”

  1. Thank you so much for this information. I was really frustrated trying to classify my books the first time, so this will solve two problems with one email *grin*

    1. MM, I so glad that it helped, they don't really tell you all the ins and outs, sometimes we have to figure it out. Good luck with your book!

  2. Jim I am impressed, I am going to show my Star Trek geekiness here but you successfully passed the Kobayashi Maru! Good man sharing how yo did it! That being said, the Card deserved to be number one, I and many people are ready for the second book!

      1. The Kobayashi Maru is supposedly an scenario that cannot be won. Oops, did I just give away some of my Star Trek geekiness? Shhhh, don't tell anyone!

  3. Jim,

    Thanks for the great advice. As a newbie to world of self-publishing, I really appreciate practical tips like this!

    1. Good to hear, you were one of the ones I thought of when writing this. You should definitely be ranked with the right categories. Good Luck.

        1. The good news is, you can change them at anytime. You can experiment with a few different ones and decide over time what you like best. Can't wait to see where you land. I wonder if Amazon is getting pounding with category requests today, *snicker snicker*.

          1. Jim, this kind of sucks, but I got an email back from Amazon and they can't change to my new category selection as that path is "not available" and now I got rid of the old ones and don't remember what they were! Help?

          2. Hey David,

            What I did was find my competitors and noticed that they had a category string that was not available in the default categories. I then contacted Amazon to get the same category string as my competitors and what I posted was how to go about getting it set up. Maybe you're trying to make your own unique category, which is not what I was suggesting.

            The best bet for you is to look for what you would consider a similar genre for your book and see what category string they have and ask for that. I hope that helps, I know it could be tough for you because you have such a unique book. You can connect with me at [email protected] if I can help get you set back up.

  4. Jim, it's little things like this that make Indies Unlimited a cool place to hang out. Thanks for the tip sir. Bookmarked for future use.

  5. Great info! I had the luck of having a #1 bestseller on Smashwords (for a day!) and my free sci-fi hit #4 against tough guys like HG Wells. No, I didn't make any $ off it, but my back catalog sales were great for a couple of months. Now it's time to put the laurels on the shelf and get my butt back to work!

    Interesting tactics for "labeling" books- I'll keep that in mind.

  6. I was about to race off and do this because it's terrific advice — thanks for sharing. But I'll wait and see how David resolves his dilemma, and if anyone else who has already done it has that response from Amazon.

    1. I got this response this afternoon:

      The category path you requested isn't currently available in the Kindle Store, so we're unable to add it for you.

      Please find a path which already exists and add it through your KDP Bookshelf, or alternatively, may i suggest the Category:

      Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Horror > Ghosts

      I responded by asking if Ghosts,Possession was available if not then add my book to the suggested category.

      I checked and the category has about 2100 selections versus the 40,000+ of general Horror, so it is a definite improvement. Will see what happens.

      1. Hey guys, as I responded to David, I didn't suggest creating a unique category of one, but find what others are doing and many times those category strings aren't available by default. That is when you contact Amazon and have them include you in that particular category. Sorry if the post mislead you into thinking that you could create your own unique category.

        For me, I saw a bunch of writers that I thought were my direct competitors and the categories that they were ranked in was not available. The real key is to find the category that you belong in, and, find the category where you might be competing with 1,000 others rather than 100,000 others.

        I hope this clears things up a bit.

        1. Well, I've just done it! I checked out some competitors and changed mine to what the top rankers have. I'll see what response I get.

          Jim, many thanks for passing this on. Extraordinarily kind of you.

  7. Thank you so much. This answers so many questions and the internet can be such a great tool but only if you know how to use it. Hope I did everything write. The explanation was so clear and easy. Can't find free advice like this anywhere. Will let you know how it goes. Now, how do I see those stats you gave and find my rating?

  8. Would love to hear how it went for you guys. Let me know if you have any trouble. The thing to remember is to look for existing category strings that make sense for you.

    To see the stats I was referring to, go to the kindle store home page. On the left side you'll see a heading "Department" with Kindle eBooks as a category, with 1,288,445 in parentheses.

    Click that and you'll get the first breakdown of categories that starts with "Fiction (441,167) and so forth. From there you can drill down to a multitude of categories with all the corresponding number of books in each.

    Unfortunately, you can't do this backwards, if you try to start on your page and work backwards through the categories, you won't see the number of books for each. Another strange Amazon thing. So, start from the beginning, the Kindle store home page and you're off to the races. If you have any trouble, just let me know.

    1. Slowly working it out with Amazon, they're fairly responsive and helpful. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem there are any category strings that are radically different that I can copy. I'm kind of stuck with either:

      Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Politics & Current Events > Terrorism


      Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Nonfiction > Travel > United States > States > New York > New York City

      Both of which ignore the psychological/trauma aspects of my story. I have to confess, I'm stumped.

    2. I've just had confirmation back from Amazon that the strings I requested have been made for me. Jim, thanks again for the advice. Let's hope it works for us all 🙂

  9. I have followed yur advise! Awaiting response from Amazon. By the way, how can you find a whole category string at once such as in your example?

    All the best


  10. What I did is find the authors that I would consider my peer/competitor and look at their string.

    If you check out this link , you'll see what I'm talking about. Notice the other authors around mine that write the same type of books.

    What you'll need to do is look at the type of book or author that is ranked that you'd consider yourself to be. From there you can see the full category string for anyone in the top 100 of that category.

    Good luck!

  11. Great article Jim – just one question : can you point me to a url that will allow me to bookmark it for the future? Followed the link from LinkedIn and the address shows as just ''.

  12. I have a question, though. My book would fit in one of the TWO categories they allow now–romance–paranormal. The problem is there is NOT a top 100 in this ranking. Anywhere on Amazon. I had to pick "fantasy" to hit the #22 spot. The KDP options don't match those on Amazon itself.

    What do you suggest in that instance?

    1. Great question Hope,

      Here's the thing, Amazon doesn't necessarily support the same "browsing" categories as they do for "Ranking" Categories.

      Romance-Paranormal is a perfect example of that, it appears to be a browsing category not a ranking category. If you look at the rock stars … Amanda Hocking or Stephanie Meyers … they all have some form of "fantasy" or "Love & Romance" as the category string.

      I know that doesn't help much, but I would look at which category in your genre that provides the smallest number of titles and go with that.

      1. After dealing with Amazon and being satisfied with the beneficial change, I decided to check it this morning.

        The good news is my novel is #2 in the category. The not- so-good news is that it is listed as Kindle Store › Kindle eBooks › Travel › United States › States › New York › New York City. Rather than the agreed upon Kindle eBooks > Fiction > Horror > Ghosts

        Still exciting though! I can claim #2 in my category!

        1. Congratulations!

          Sometimes it takes Amazon a couple of times to get it right. It happened to me as well. I had to re-email them and get it straightened out. Be very specific in your email about what you want, and even go as far as pasting the copy from the site. They will get it right in the end.

          I checked you book out, it seems like they got someone else' string mixed up with yours. I think Amazon has had a rash of changes based on the number of comments and emails I've received.

          1. Jim,

            I already shot an email off to correct this. Now, I face a moral question – Is it fraud to claim Bloom's Desk was #2 in its Kindle category? I kidding (sort of)…

  13. Thank you so much, Jim! We had no idea about this. For "The Wolf's Moon" by Patrick Jones, I looked at Stephen King drill down and used the same…

    Kindle Store/Kindle ebook/Mystery and Thrillers/Thrillers/Suspense

    I could have gotten it down further if I went with technothriller but wasn't sure it would be appropriate. This way it is 16,568 with the Suspense ending.

    These are the things that Amazon just does not tell you! I was scary to do the non-classifiable…awaiting a response from Amazon and will let you know the results. Thanks again!


  14. Jim,

    After drilling down once more, I get this combination for a final count of 382 if I do the following combination:

    Kindle Store/Kindle ebook/Fiction/Mystery and Thrillers/Mystery/Series.

    I have the series title already but have not listed it as one of a series in the book description…I suppose I could redo that as well to make it Book #1 in the series? Do I necessarily need to recategorize it as part of a series to be in this segment? Thanks so much!

    Happy Friday

    Sandy Jones

    1. Amazon got back to me and my string is now Kindle/ebook/Mystery and Thrillers/Thriller/Suspense. That puts me in about 16,000 rather than 444,000! I am going to do a free couple of days here pretty soon and see what I can do with the best seller! Will keep you informed. Thanks so much!


  15. This is awesome advice. Thanks for sharing. I went down this path:

    Kindle Store › Kindle eBooks › Fiction › World Literature

    to put my book, but I had no options. There's Middle East, Italy, Britain but no India. Thank you for terrific advice!

    1. Glad to help. You might want to look at a couple of books that you see as competitors and see what string they have. Amazon is funny that way, sometimes you have to look a little deeper or look at some other descriptions of your book.

      Good Luck!

  16. Okay, Jim's post went live March 17. This is ten days later. I can't say I worked feverishly on this for those ten days but I did have a few go arounds with a helpful bunch of customer service people at Amazon, and Jim guided me the rest of the way.

    But here's the thing: it worked!

    Noticing how I'd gone from #4 to #2 in my new category string, today I bit the bullet and started doing the shameless skirt-lifting and sultry pouting we apparently must do, and with the help of many of you Indies Unlimited people in particular, we sold enough copies to get that sucker to a #1 spot in the Kindle version of its category and an equally incredible (to me) #16 in the overall Books department for Books > Travel > United States > States > New York

    That's almost unbelievable to me. And proof that Jim's technique really works. Awesome stuff.

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