Are you a new fiction author? You may be concerned about choosing a genre for your fiction. And rightfully so. I’ve coached authors who went from zero sales to 100 sales a day when they switched genres.
Let’s start with what “genre” means: essentially, it’s a style, or category, of art, music, or literature.
You may be wondering why that’s important. Read on.
New author: why choosing a genre is VITAL for sales today
Here’s why genre is vital.
Back in the day, until Amazon started a publishing revolution, you chose your fiction’s genre while planning a novel because:
- A publishing house’s acquisitions editor put out a call for books in that genre (“gothic romances are selling. Can you write gothics? Send me a proposal…”)
- Every genre (mysteries, romances, historicals) has loyal readers. Targeting those readers means sales.
That was then.
This is NOW. With millions of books on Amazon, and hundreds of thousands published each year, if you don’t choose your genre and keywords correctly, your book is dead.
Cheer up… Things aren’t as grim as they may appear. Remember—Amazon wants your books to sell as much as you do.
Amazon wants your books to sell, so help Amazon
Want to help Amazon to sell your books?
You can, if you remember: algorithms. They’re scripts. Genre and keywords matter hugely because Amazon hunts readers FOR YOU using its algorithms.
Let’s look at how this works, using Hilary Mantel’s new book, The Mirror and The Light as an example.
In the image above, can you see that Amazon is kicking along the sales of The Mirror and The Light by placing it in a specific genre: Biographical Historical Fiction?
Here’s where it gets interesting. Biographical Historical Fiction isn’t a Browse category, AFAIK; it’s a category Amazon chooses algorithmically.
Amazon on Browse categories:
Browse categories are the sections of the Amazon site where customers can find your book… (using) BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) code. The codes you choose, along with your selected keywords, are used to place your book into certain categories on Amazon.
The Mirror and The Light hasn’t been released yet, but in the image above, you can see that it’s already ranking number 1 in THREE categories.
When you publish a book, you can only choose two categories. Since Amazon wants you to SELL however, Amazon’s algorithms help. I’ve seen books slotted into eight genres algorithmically.
New fiction author? You need to help Amazon’s algos
You can help Amazon’s algorithms in many ways.
However, when you first publish your book, here’s what counts to help the algos:
- The Browse genres/ categories you choose;
- Your keywords;
- Your title;
- Your book description (blurb);
- And (maybe) your book’s content. Amazon’s using AI (artificial intelligence.)
All these things are well within your control.
Most new authors, and many established authors, could sell more
As book sales become harder, more authors are paying attention to the algorithms. The Mirror and The Light shows you how Amazon’s algorithms work to help you to sell more books. (And if your books aren’t selling, they provide clues. Your aim should always be to help the algorithms—too many authors confuse the algos, rather than helping.)
Amazon wants to sell as many copies of The Mirror and The Light as it can. Other retailers offer competition, but Amazon knows that the Wolf Hall trilogy will be a blockbuster for many years to come. So, Amazon uses its algorithms to make as many sales as it can.
Hilary Mantel is a bestselling author, but we more humble authors are helped by Amazon’s algorithms too. All we need to do is to remember the algorithm and do everything we can to help it.
Browse categories, keywords, et al are within your control. Use them. Help Amazon to sell your books. 🙂
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Copywriter and marketing pro Angela Booth maintains a busy copywriting and ghostwriting practice. Fascinated by online marketing, she wrote one of the first business books for internet marketing, published by Allen & Unwin. She’s been an enthusiastic blogger since the late 1990s.