Inspired by our Watchdog John Doppler's post a week ago examining relative sales on Amazon by the Big 5 publishers, Amazon imprints, multi-author imprints and single authors, ALLi author Jane Steen has been applying his methods to a case study of her own novels in their categories, and has kindly agreed to share her data with us here on the blog.
I spent a few hours looking at the top 10 sellers (paid and free if applicable) in the categories in which Amazon has ranked my books. I looked at pricing for ebooks and at the type of publisher. The results were fascinating.
What I Learned About Books in My Target Categories
1. The categories in which my books fall most naturally (historical mystery subcategories) are HEAVILY dominated by Amazon imprints in the paid top 10. I need to spend less time looking at Big 5 authors and more looking at Amazon authors.
2. The free top 10 for those categories are nearly all populated by self-publishers, which makes sense as many of us use the permafree strategy. Amazon clearly doesn't use that strategy, which validates its usefulness for me. The only remotely large publishers that appear to use free promos in my area are the Christian publishers.
3. Amazon prices its paid bestsellers in my subgenres at $3.99, which means I have to drop my prices a buck.
4. I can't be competitive in the Victorian romance subcategories in which I'd been experimenting, because the top 10 paid are nearly all $0.99 books. So my books will come out of those categories and I'll focus on mystery.
5. Audiobook subcategories where my books belong are almost completely dominated by Big 5 titles. I can understand indies not being in there as many can't afford to produce audiobooks, but where's Amazon? That points to a big growth area for the Zon in the future. I suspect that they might not see audio as cost-effective in such niche categories.
I suspect that Amazon is doing what many indies do, and aiming for niche genre readerships where ebooks predominate (thus avoiding the problem we have in common, that chain bookstores won't stock us). I'm going to do this analysis again next quarter to see a) if there are patterns over time and b) if the changes I plan to make in light of my discoveries make any difference (I included my rank for each category in my spreadsheet).
Other Helpful Insights
Here are some other notes about this exercise:
1. The fact that I’d already done some positioning research (keyword searches, reader survey, looking at comps) really helped me interpret my results.
2. I tried doing the same analysis on Barnes & Noble, where I sell a lot of books. It didn’t work. On B&N I found categories that were clearly curated to reflect the best writing (or the curators’ notion of the best writing) in the category. I think only Amazon reflects what readers are actually buying.
3. I know from bitter experience that categories and keywords can make a big difference. I’m still suffering from the dive my sales took when I changed the categories and keywords on my permafree. On a related note, note down the old categories and keywords before you change them. I didn’t (sobs).
4. Categories aren’t always “correct”. For example, my books should really be in Suspense (where the reader can usually spot the villain before the MC does) rather than Mystery (where the puzzle is who did it). But the Suspense top 10 tends to be full of contemporary psychological thrillers.
I tried to find an app or website that would automate the process of pulling down the bestsellers from an Amazon category, but couldn’t find one. Gap in the market?
Thanks to John Doppler for giving me an idea!
OVER TO YOU If you've drawn any intersting conclusions about the categories your books fall into on Amazon, we'd love to hear about them. Join John and Jane's conversation via the comments box.Great insights for #authors on #Amazon bestseller charts by @janesteen Click To Tweet
OTHER ESSENTIAL READING ABOUT AMAZON BESTSELLERS & ALGORITHMS