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Huge changes in Amazon KDP: What authors need to know in 2023

What are the latest changes in Amazon KDP and how do they impact you and your book? Here's what you need to know now.

I’ve known Richard McCartney, our guest blogger, for several years. He’s the founder of KBookPromotions, a site named by PAID AUTHOR as one of the Best Book Promotions Sites in 2022 and 2023. Richard is also the author of a book series on self-publishing. Each of his books reached #1 on Amazon’s bestseller lists, garnered hundreds of reviews, and won awards such as the Book Excellence Awards for Marketing. Richard is often invited to speak as an expert on publishing, self-publishing, and book marketing.

Huge changes in Amazon KDP: What authors need to know in 2023

By Richard McCartney

Just when you thought it was safe to dip your toes back into KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing), Amazon has changed the rules again.

At the end of May, Amazon KDP announced a raft of immediate new changes, the most important of which concerned book categories. It also increased print on demand services pricing effective June 20.

These changes have much wider repercussions. For example, many books in the Amazon store related to self-publishing and dated before June 2023 will become largely out of date, because most reference book category selection or expected ROI from book sales.

Many authors were alarmed when they heard they could only select three categories. How would this impact their sales and visibility?  To better understand this, let’s look at how book category selection use to work, and how it works now.

changes in Amazon KDP

Affiliate Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click on them and make a purchase, I will receive a small commission (at no extra charge to you).

Previously, on Amazon…

Previously, Amazon had a pretty flawed system where authors were asked to select two categories when uploading their book into KDP.

Unknown to many, the categories displayed to them were notably limited and different from the larger selection of categories readers could actually browse through on the Amazon website.

Also, unknown to many authors, up to 10 categories could be added to a book, but for this to happen authors had to email KDP Support.

As you can imagine, this was a rather unfair and troublesome system because many authors didn’t know they could add more than the two categories provided in KDP.

This put them at a disadvantage.

Changes in Amazon KDP should eliminate category stuffing issue

Added to this, Amazon Support rarely checked the category selections sent to them, so some more savvy authors started abusing the system by employing what some call “category stuffing.”

This malpractice places a book in niche categories where only a few sales are needed to reach the bestseller lists (perhaps even reach the #1 spot), even if the book is irrelevant in those particular categories. For example, a steamy vampire novel could appear in the bestseller list for photography.

Why it took Amazon so long to resolve this flawed system remains a mystery. However, finally, all that is largely over.

And now …

Amazon has simplified the category selection process by listing all categories inside KDP. That means we can now select from a much broader range of categories than before. And, should we change our minds on the categories selected, we can update them whenever we like through our KDP Bookshelf.

changes in Amazon KDP 2
Amazon now restricts books to three categories.

One notable limitation is that Amazon now restricts books to three categories. On the whole, this is a good thing because it should prevent the malpractice of “category stuffing” I mentioned before. It should also fix a glitch many authors reported in November 2022 regarding incorrect categories showing for their books.

NOTE: The three-category limitation takes effect when you update your book. If no change is made, then you remain with the categories you had before the May 2023 changes.

Amazon has simplified the category selection process by listing all categories inside KDP. That means we can now select from a much broader range of categories than before.Click to tweet

Category selection tips

Being limited to just three categories makes your book category selection all the more important.

When publishing an e-book in KDP, most authors will select the first two categories that come to mind when browsing the list of categories now provided in KDP. In many cases, this is a mistake.

One of the objectives in selecting categories for your book is not so much to select the most logical ones, but rather the “best fit” ones. By this, I mean selecting the categories where you book is most likely to be found in the Amazon Store.

Amazon shoppers often discover books by entering keywords in the search box and by searching through the bestseller lists. Amazon has a “Top 100” list in hundreds of categories, and many readers will look at these lists.

Amazon shoppers often discover books by entering keywords in the search box and by searching through the bestseller lists.Click to tweet

So, one of your goals should be to try and select at least one category where your book appears in these lists with minimum sales effort needed. Popular tools like Publisher Rocket help with this, if you don’t mind paying for such products.

If you have a very limited budget, there are books in the Amazon Store showing you how to achieve this, too.

changes in Amazon KDP 3
KDP Printing Costs and Royalty Calculator

Amazon KDP print cost changes

As for the change in print prices, the largest impact will be for large trim size books, especially those with color printing.

Pricing will vary by format, page numbers, trim size, and even marketplace (CA, EU, UK etc.).

Thankfully, Amazon provides a KDP Printing Costs and Royalty Calculator tool. It’s the best way to determine your new print costs and projected return on investment.

The changes in Amazon KDP aren’t so bad, right?

When selecting book categories, authors now have a full range of category selection within KDP without having to contact Amazon Support. All of this is, I believe, generally good news for all of us published in KDP.

For book pricing, using the KDP Printing Costs and Royalty Calculator which will show you that only large trim size books will be seriously impacted. Calculating costs in advance will help you decide if you want to make changes, too.

What questions do you have about these changes? Please ask Richard in a comment.

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10 Comments

  1. These changes represent an improvement in the sense that I remember being so frustrated that I could only select from a very limited number of categories. But I have 2 books–one of mine and one for a client–whose categories I’d like to revisit and it seems I can’t without updating the book itself? I suppose I could find one word to change in my own ebook but my client’s book is also in print and I can’t really change it. Or maybe I could make a small change in the book description? Amazon, aargh.

  2. Stephanie,
    Yes, Amazon can be frustrating at times. You comment that there are “categories I’d like to revisit and it seems I can’t without updating the book itself”. I hope the following information helps.
    When editing your book in KDP, it gives you 3 main options:
    1) Edit eBook details
    2) Edit eBook Content
    3) Edit eBook pricing
    – So you can both Edit eBook Content, and Edit eBook pricing without affecting your current categories.
    – You can also revisit you categories (without making changes) in the “Edit eBook details” page, as long as you do not save or publish the changes.
    – Better yet, you can use external tools like https://www.bklnk.com/categories_2022.php where you can enter your ASIN, and it will display all your current categories. So look this up and see if you are happy with the current categories.
    – If you do enter the “Edit eBook details” page, you will see this is where you set your Book Title, Language, Publishing Rights, Book Description, and Categories. So if you do “make a small change in the book description” (as you mention), and save it, you will be obliged to select only 3 categories.
    – Amazon KDP is recommending authors to update their categories, but it is only optional.
    – If seeking help on best categories to select for your book, try free tools like https://bookcategories.spread.name/ where you can search for categories, and even filter by which categories are easy, medium, and difficult to do well in.
    I hope you find these points useful – Richard

  3. Yes. And the reason why Amazon went back to 3 categories (or at least ONE of the reasons) is that they found out that, in general, only 3 cats were really working, Having more did not really do a lot (Amazon’s words, not mine)

  4. Thanks, Joris. That’s a good point and emphasizes the need to pick the best 3 categories for your book. Alas, KDP does not provide a “search” feature when asking you to select your categories. So, for example, if you are a “horror” fiction writer, you will not easily find this category. The same is true if writing a “vampire ” fiction novel. So try out free tools like https://bookcategories.spread.name/ where you can carry out such searches and find the best KDP categories for your book both in fiction and in non-fiction.

  5. Hello, Richard.

    I don’t mind limiting the choice to three. I just wish the list of categories was more extensive. The offerings didn’t align too well with my recent science-fiction novel, published in July. I also felt hamstrung with the fantasy choices for my more recent release this August. I’m hesitant to leave the fantasy and science-fiction categories to find more appropriate categories in other areas, like Young Adult, as a reader searching there is probably not searching for a fantasy or science-book. Too bad Amazon doesn’t create a series of drop-down lists where the content creator can select to create the most appropriate three categories.

    Also, in this new way, you don’t have to bother sending an email to load your content into those other eight categories. Twice if you release an ebook and a paperback—and those had different category names! A bothersome extra step. Maybe that’s why Amazon did it—cut down on all those pesky emails.

    1. Charles, a drop-down menu with categories is a no-brainer and I’ve always wondered why Amazon didn’t do this — and still hasn’t.

      Sandy

  6. Charles – yes, I agree, Amazon needs to improve its range of categories in mainstream genres like Sci-Fi, Mystery and Thrillers, and Romance, to name a few.
    Romance , for example, has only 46 categories/subcategories , while Science & Math has 202 in comparison.
    You can check this out with this free Book Category Selection tool at:
    https://bookcategories.spread.name/
    This tool may help you further. As you mention, you want to probably have one of your categories in one of the main sci-fi or fantasy categories. However, this tool allows you to “search” for any keyword you think relevant for your book. For example, if a book was about Arthurian Fantasy, you could search for “Arthurian” and it will show you other categories Amazon has for this.
    Of course paid tools like Publisher Rocket give you given more options, but as a free tool, this might well help you out. Best wishes- Richard

  7. Richard, I know what I wanted in the old categories, but I don’t know how that translates to 2023 categories, so I’m at a real loss. I would rather not pay for Publisher Rocket but I haven’t found free version that will answer my question and help me choose the proper category. Is there any way to take the old string – Nonfiction / Medical / Healing – and find what the new Amazon listing would be for that? Thanks!

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