Book Categories – help or hindrance?
As an author, I research and carefully pick the categories that I place my books into on the Amazon platform. I try to make finding my book as easy as possible for those who like books like mine. Unfortunately, that process has become harder and harder to navigate—for author and reader alike.
Let me start by explaining why I believe genre categories are helpful.
First, they help readers to locate books they are interested in reading. When specific categories create an organizational system for books, readers can find the story that best matches their interests and preferences. Fantasy, Science-fiction, history, romance, non-fiction . . . all the different genres have their different flavors—like the ice cream aisle at the market, they are all good, but you know what you like best.
Second, book categories help booksellers promote books more effectively. It helps to ensure they display books to the readers who enjoy that type of story—whether in a physical bookstore or online.
And third, book categories help authors to connect with readers who love the books we write. When we can place our books alongside other similar reads, there is a better chance readers will notice our books and enjoy them.
However, because most reading and book purchasing is now done online, genres have become divided into more and more niches. That means a reader can be very exacting in what they like and keep finding books just like that, but it also means that it’s more difficult to pinpoint which virtual shelf to place every book.
Here are my top five reasons I believe it has become overwhelming for readers to navigate book categories, especially on Amazon.
1. Vague Categories: Some categories are so broad they make it nearly impossible to find new, more niche, books. They lump together all the subgenres. For example, the romance category has a plethora of subcategories, nearly innumerable, but they are impossible to sift through in the main umbrella category. By the same token, the more broken down into smaller and smaller niche categories the umbrella category becomes, it takes too much effort to click through all the links where one might find their favorite new read.
2. Overlapping Categories: Many of the categories overlap so much they seem to be all the same, making it difficult to understand where a particular book might fit in. A science fiction story might also be dystopian, or a mystery is also a thriller. Readers may have a hard time accurately choosing which category to search for their next book.
3. Changing Categories: Categories can change over time, causing confusion for readers. A book labeled as historical fiction may find a new home in the literary fiction category, as an example. This usually happens as times change and the description of one category shifts, creating the need for a book to change to something more fitting.
4. Crossover Genres: Much like the overlapping categories, many authors write books today with multiple genres in mind. They intentionally blend familiar aspects of one genre with something from a different genre to give a fresh spin on a favored type of story. A book can be both a romance and a mystery, such as many cozy mysteries. Or a science fiction story may also be a romance. If they only put books like these into one major category, it would be challenging for a reader to know what to expect.
5. Misleading Titles and/or descriptions: This is the point that started me down this train of thought. With so many books coming out every day, authors do everything they can to help readers find their books. It is important that a title convey to the reader the type of story within the pages of the book. However, some titles border on becoming misleading to fit into smaller categories where the book will stand out better. This leads to unsatisfied readers, and a growing problem in my opinion. It gets more troublesome within the book descriptions that may say things like “a sweet spicy romance” or “a cozy fantasy with mature situations.” These are contradictory descriptions that might confuse many readers.
Book categories are useful for organizing and categorizing books, but they can be a source of confusion for readers. Authors need to be mindful of readers’ expectations and make it as easy as they can to help a reader find the right book for them. As a reader, it’s essential to understand these challenges for authors as well. With both groups in mind, it is best to be open to exploring different categories to find books that best fit the desired interest.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. Leave a comment and let me know!