A Change Of Scenery: Changing Amazon Categories

This C&C blog post comes to you from beautiful Tellico Lake, near Loudon, Tennessee. We’re visiting my aunt’s house for the Labor Day weekend. It’s a lovely place where my family can swim, go for boat rides, and constantly remind me of what an inadequate provider I am.

“Why can’t we live in a house like this, Daddy?” “Because Mommy wanted to keep you.”

“Why can’t we live in a house like this, Daddy?”

“Because Mommy wanted to keep you.”

But my family and I aren’t the only ones enjoying a nice change of scenery. My books are seeing new places as well.

One of the biggest advantages of being a self-published author is the ability to play with your shit. By that, of course, I mean experimenting with things like pricing, cover design, whether or not to enroll your books in KDP Select, and where your books are displayed on Amazon’s digital shelves. It’s that last subject I’m going to touch on today.

As none of you have probably noticed, I’ve evacuated my books from Amazon’s Comedy category. No longer will I be competing with the likes of Johnny Carson, Bob Saget, and Paul Reiser.

Johnny Carson is like a Founding Father of comedy. Bob Saget’s roles in Full House and America’s Funniest Home Videos, for which most people know him, only serve as falsely misleading packaging around his blue comedy stand-up in which he really shines. He’s like Jesus-themed wrapping paper on a dildo that you’re giving your grandma for Christmas.

And apparently Paul Reiser had some fans too. Who knew? Good for him.

But their books come and go, some lasting longer than others. But through it all, Critical Failures remained on the first page of that list. So why am I now suddenly pulling out?

Fear of impregnating Paul Reiser?

Fear of impregnating Paul Reiser?

A better question is, “Why was I ever on that list to begin with?” You might have noticed that Johnny, Bob, and Paul are primarily television stars, while I am the author of hilarious LitRPG fantasy novels and short stories.

The comedy list wasn’t intended for books like mine. It was intended to be for books about comedians. But Amazon’s virtual shelves are sometimes a tricky jungle to navigate, where some paths lead to unexpected places.

Let’s take the following path for example:

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Humor & Entertainment > Humor > Comedy

One might expect that a customer following that path of increasingly specific categories and subcategories might be on the hunt for a funny book to read. And that’s fine.

But on the publishing side of things, the BISAC (Book Industry Standards and Communications) headings, from which we are allowed to choose two categories for our books, are different (sometimes very much so) from the Amazon shelves which a customer browses.

In order to have my books show up on the “comedy” list, I had to publish choose the BISAC path of Non-Fiction > Performing Arts > Comedy.

Way back in the day, when my books weren’t selling for shit, that seemed like a clever strategy. A couple of sales a day was enough to get a book on the ass end of the not-very-competitive Top 100 Comedy list. And if only a dozen people a day even bothered to look at that list, it was a dozen more pairs of eyes potentially seeing my books than I had before.

And it’s been working nicely. The only downside, now that I’ve achieved a modest level of success, is that my books sometimes show up on more competitive lists that are completely unrelated to them.

And being associated with David Spade may be even more harmful to my comedy cred than Paul Reiser.

And being associated with David Spade may be even more harmful to my comedy cred than Paul Reiser.

Look at the heading of the above pictured list. Performing Arts. The path that leads there is as follows:

Books > Art & Photography > Performing Arts

I wouldn’t think that does me any actual harm. The worst thing a person can do upon seeing one of my books listed there is simply not buy it. But wouldn’t it be nicer to have them show up on more potentially fruitful lists?

So I was browsing my BISAC options last week, and I saw that “Black Comedy” was a subcategory of “Fiction”.

I didn’t know if that was referring to comedy that was dark in tone, or if it was more of a “Showtime at the Apollo” kind of thing. And I didn’t know any way to find out except for to actually change a category of one of my books, and see where it landed me on Amazon’s shelves.

I chose Probing the Annis, as it was a relatively new release with a high enough overall ranking such that it should easily appear in the Top 100 list of whatever category it was listed under. The next day, I saw it ranked at #9 in Dark Comedy on the following Amazon shelf path...

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Humor & Satire > Dark Comedy

My books aren’t particularly dark in tone, but it felt like a better fit than where I was. So I looked up Black Comedy on Wikipedia.

The terms black comedy or dark comedy have been later derived as alternatives to Breton's term. In black humor, topics and events that are usually regarded as taboo are treated in an unusually humorous or satirical manner while retaining their seriousness; the intent of black comedy, therefore, is often for the audience to experience both laughter and discomfort, sometimes simultaneously.

Perfect!

This newfound Dark Comedy list is comparatively competitive with the Comedy list my books had been on for so long, which means that my books should rank about just as highly.

But here are some of what I believe are my biggest advantages for this change of scenery.

1. A Relevant Path

Take a look at this new path again.

Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Humor & Satire > Dark Comedy

Any one of those subcategories of subcategories would be a nice place for a browsing reader to discover one of my books. Much more so than Performing Arts anyway.

2. Fresh Eyes

The few browsers looking for books on the Comedy list where my books used to be displayed are probably the same readers who’ve been browsing that list for quite some time.

A new list gets my books in front of the eyes of an entirely fresh crop of potential customers, not to mention side-by-side with an entirely fresh crop of new books. While a curious Bob Saget fan might stumble upon Critical Failures by clicking on the Comedy list to find more books similar to his, a similarly curious fan of Benjamin Wallace's Post-Apocalyptic Nomadic Warriors may find Critical Failures more to his or her tastes, and subsequently buy it for only $0.99.

And while Mr. Wallace may not be quite so well-known as Mr. Saget, something tells me that fans of his books might be well more inclined to take a chance on one of mine.

What have we learned today, fellow indie authors? Sometimes it’s good to shake things up a bit. See what happens. Take advantage of the freedom to experiment that self-publishing provides.

And for you, my dear readers, fear not. I know that my beautiful lake house isn’t coming until after I write Critical Failures V. So I’m going to get on that shit very shortly.

Happy Labor Day.


To live in a world where David Spade and Paul Reiser aren't more popular than me, like my Facebook page.

To contribute to my lake house, check out my books.