E-book publishing: why book categories are important

Forgive me—this is going to be a bit of an academic post. 

But first, the good news: last night, four INK e-book publications made the UK Amazon top 100 list for Biographical Fiction.

They were the three Trilogy titles, and the one Trilogy omnibus edition. The Many Lives & Secret Sorrows of Jospéphine B. even made an appearance on the top-20 list. 

What’s great about this is visibility.

Unless a reader has heard about a book from a friend, or read about it on a blog, or seen it when scanning the top-100 list in their genre of choice: it’s invisible. Perhaps it might show up on Amazon’s “If you like this title, you might like … ” display, but how a title gets chosen for this honour is a bit of a mystery (and possibly has to do with the number and quality of reader reviews and “Likes” a title gets). 

So: I’m happy! 

Inclusion in a top-100 list would not have happened if I hadn’t chosen the category “Biographical Fiction” when I registered my titles with Kindle.

Here’s where it gets technical, but for those of you interested in e-book self-publishing I’ll give it a go (and keep it short). 

On Kindle, you get to choose two categories for a title. Would you rather put it in a pool with 100,000 other titles, or in one with only 500? What chance would your title have of making the top 100 if in the former? None! So it behooves you to see how big the pools are before plunging in. 

Here’s how to find out:

Go to Amazon.com, then scroll down “Shop by Department” on the left. Click “Books.” 

Scroll down to “Book Categories,” and click “Literature & Fiction” (or “Fiction” in some countries). You will be given a number of sub-categories to chose from. Click, say, Historical Fiction. At the top of the middle column you will see something like this:

 (Note that on Amazon.com, Historical is automatically considered “Genre.”)

So Historical Fiction is a pool of 70,014: not small! 

But, as it turns out, it’s a great deal smaller than the category Literary Fiction, which is a pool of 684,885 titles. You do the math. 

What’s a bit challenging is that the categories and size of the various pools vary country to country. You really need to explore. The categories in the U.S. are different from those in Canada and the UK. Amazon UK, for one, has the very sweet and unique category Biographical Fiction, and there are only about 4,500 titles in it—and so that’s where Josephine was able to make an appearance. 

End of lecture … for today.  If you find this confusing it’s because it is confusing! I’m just learning as I go. 

P.S. Did you read my newsletter?  


Deadline crazy!

Sorry to have been summer silent. I’ve been revising The Next Novel (last draft!), and launching Sandra Gulland Ink (so exciting), plus all the usual end-of-August fun.

We’ve moved back from the lake into our log house, and I’ve confronted my piled-up desk. Found this:



Starting up: the procrastination method for getting things done

It never fails to surprise me: starting to write (or rewrite) has stages—and the first stage is resistance, otherwise known as procrastination. 

Everyone knows the expression “like pulling teeth.” Getting back into the world of a novel in order to revise is like that. It’s amazing how much I can get done avoiding it: 

I went through all my computer applications, throwing out ones I never use. 

Looked for duplicate photos on iPhoto. 

Made a dental appointment. 

Stared at my datebook. 

Checked—for the zillionth time—my e-book sales on kdp.amazon.com. (Addictive.)

Explored research destinations for our next trip to Europe. (Coming on soon.)

Scanned texts. (I adore my new ScanSnap.)

Wrote notes for this blog. 

Organized tax receipts. (!)

But then, eventually—when there was only an hour left in the day—I began. 

And it wasn’t all that hard! In fact, I enjoyed it. 

The fact is, resistance/procrastination is the first stage in writing/rewriting, and it’s best to allow time for it.

So: I’ve begun to revise, tuning up here, researching for the telling detail there—but now I realize that I need to go to the third step: production. I’m aiming to add 50 pages to The Next Novel (an editor’s suggestion)—which means I should write 70 and cut back.  And that means I need to shoot for a daily quota of so many words and keep track of my progress in a datebook. I will begin with an easy goal—100 words a day—and then crank it up. 

Perhaps you are wondering about the covers at the top? My e-books are on Kindle and iTunes (Kobo soon to come). I’m enterprise-proud! They are available now to readers outside Canada and the U.S. Have a look! 

The thrill of cutting book pages

Have you ever had to cut the pages of an old book in order to read it? It’s like venturing into virgin territory, a frontier. It never fails to thrill. 

I’m head-over-heels charmed by the “packaging” of Merilyn Simonds‘ limited edition letterpress collection of stories, The Paradise Project

The book is inside, and included is a paper-cutter to part the pages.

And have I mentioned? My copy is #1!

The book can still be reserved simply by e-mailing the publisher at 

For other posts I’ve written on this wonderful project, click here

For other news, I’m thrilled that almost all the Sandra Gulland Ink e-books are now on-line. I was shocked to discover that some have even sold. Imagine that.

I’ve created a Sandra Gulland Ink Facebook page which is picking up steam. Have a look here. The image of the covers is from the line-up on iTunes. Yes, I’m proud!  

I’m working on The Last Revise of The Next Novel, due at the end of September. I’m super pleased that in addition to HarperCollins Canada, it’s to be published by Doubleday in the U.S.

What do you think of this title? 

In the Service of the Shadow Queen

I’m also researching the life of Hortense, Josephine’s daughter, for the YAs I will write this winter (she said bravely). 

Yes, my head is spinning!

On visiting the past (present and future)

I’m very busy right now: the move back to Canada, a final draft of The Next Novel due soon, my Ink e-publishing on the verge of a launch … so my notes here will be sporadic and scattered over the next little while. 

Not that I don’t have a great deal to share!

I was struck this morning by an essay written by writer-friend Stephanie Cowell, “The Mystical World of Historical Fiction.” A quote:

To sustain the journey of writing a historical novel requires passionate interest, research, many rewrites, great skill, and the patience of a saint. Lives often do not come with plots; we have to create a plot to take the reader down the path of the story. We have to say, “Come with us. We will show you something wonderful.”

Other articles of interest:

What Makes a Critic Tick? Connected Authors and the Determinants of Book Reviews.”

An interview with Stephen King: “I never think of stories as made things; I think of them as found things. As if you pull them out of the ground, and you just pick them up.”

The image above is from BibliOdyssey:  Wendel Dietterlin’s 1598 work on baroque engravings -‘Architectura von Ausstheilung, Symmetria und Proportion der Fünff Seulen’. It evokes, for me, the revision process: one walks through a “finished” manuscript into a wreckage. One must have faith!