{Above: engraving by Georg Andreas Böckler, from the wonderful blog BibliOdyssey.}

I’m preparing to launch my e-books soon, and learning a lot in the process. Today’s lesson: the importance of what categories you assign to your book when you launch it.

You can read about this and other things (like key words) in detail on M. Louisa Locke’s excellent blog post, “Categories, Key Words, and Tags, Oh My: Why should an Author Care?

The long and (mostly) short of it is that how you categorize your book will have a lot to do with how easily readers can find it, and, in turn, how many you will sell.

When I upload a book to Amazon Kindle, I will be given the opportunity to assign two categories to it. (Note to self: be prepared for the possibility that it will be different for Amazon.uk.) Formerly, it was five, but that has changed.

If I select “Fiction —> Historical Fiction” (and how can I not?), my book will be competing against almost 20,000 other titles for the top-100 spot. In other words: impossible!

On the other hand, if I chose History —> Europe —> France, my book will only be competing against a little over 1000 titles. I might have a chance to be seen.

A number of young adults read the Trilogy — in fact, it is sometimes used as a teaching tool in high schools — so should I consider a YA category? It’s tempting, because by putting it in Fiction —> Children’s Fiction —> Historical Fiction —> Europe, it would only compete against 280 titles.

Yet would I? I doubt it. (Only getting to chose two makes it tough!)

Clearly, there is a problem with the categories offered. How can Historical Fiction for children be divided into many sub-categories, yet all Historical Fiction for adults is lumped together in one big stew pot. Genres like Mystery have numerous sub-categories, so why not Historical Fiction? There could be categories for country and era, as well as for literary, commercial, romance or time-travel, for example. Then readers would be able to find exactly what they are looking for.

Afternote: there is a difference between Kindle e-book categories in the U.S. and U.K. In the categories I checked, there are more sub-categories offered in the U.S. Curiously, the categories for books and e-books are different throughout. Why? It’s a maze.