International Book Categories

A few months ago we posted an article about marketing your book internationally: whether it was a good idea, and if it was how to do it best. We got a lot of responses about categorizing those books. As you might know (and definitely know if you read the article), the categories in Brazil are different from the categories in England, and both have different categories than the United States. 

In a lot of ways, the process for choosing and getting listed in any given category is the same for over there as it is for over here, but there are just enough differences it’s worth diving into. Those differences start early, with…

Automatic International Categorization

When you publish your book in an international market Amazon will select categories for you. This is sort of based on the categories you selected for your first market, but different enough it can be confusing. To really understand it, you first have to understand what a BISAC code is. 

BISAC stands for Book Industry Standards and Communications. It’s a broad body of knowledge and agreements between various publishers, booksellers, and related professionals. A BISAC code is a category indicator assigned to each general category of a book to help booksellers know where to put it on their shelves. (We have more info on BISAC codes and book categories in training #341.)

When you publish your book to an international market, your setup will show you a category list much like the one you used when you published in the United States. Well, it looks a lot like that one, but it’s actually just the BISAC codes. Once you’ve selected some, Amazon then uses that information to automatically assign your books to the categories it thinks are most appropriate in whatever international markets you’re entering. 

Those categories are different — sometimes much different — from the categories you’ve carefully chosen, curated, and qualified for in the United States. Just as an illustration, there are 7,347 categories for German eBooks and only 1,975 categories for eBooks in the United Kingdom. With those kinds of big differences, the differences in the individual categories are far greater. The chances that Amazon is going to automatically drop you in the perfect categories for your books are next to nil. That means it’s up to you. 

Finding and ranking the right categories for your international book sales empire requires you to find the categories, then get listed for them. That’s what we’ll spend the rest of this article talking about. 

Finding International Book Categories

Your goal in finding international book categories is the same as what you did for your initial listing. You want categories that accurately reflect your book, and categories that give you the best possible chance to enter the top ten. 

Finding accurate categories is just the same as the first time, with one exception: the categories might be in a foreign language! Don’t worry. Although Google Translate can come up with some wacky translations when it comes to full sentences and conversations, a short phrase like a book category will be straightforward and pretty accurate. Just copy and paste your current categories into the translator to find approximate phrases in the new language, and do the same for your keywords. Use that information to get a general sense of what the most accurate, appropriate categories will look like, then move on to the second step. 

Again, just like your first time, finding the categories where you can best compete requires a little research. You’re going to do it in three steps.

STEP ONE: Make a list of ten keyword phrases you think might work. Take some from the phrases you use already, and some from the phrases you found in your research into your new market.

STEP TWO: Translate all ten keyword phrases into the language spoken in your new market. 

STEP THREE: Search your new market for the first phrase on that list.

STEP FOUR: Note the categories that come up, list them next to that keyword phrase.

STEP FIVE: Repeat steps three and four for the other nine phrases.

STEP SIX: Collate your results, listing the categories in the order they most often appear during those searches. If necessary, repeat steps two through five for other phrases if fewer than ten categories come up. 

STEP SEVEN: Bring up the bestseller lists for each category, in order. Keep the ones with good numbers, and discard those that are either too small or too competitive. 

As with finding categories in your original market, this process takes some consideration. Look at the top-selling books. How similar are they to the bestsellers in your United States categories? How do you rank compared to them? Is this a category where good performance equals high sales? Or is it a category where high rank gets you search mojo but only sells a few books? You want to end up with a nice combination of both.

By the time you’ve finished, you will have a strong list of the best categories for your needs. It’s now time to move on to getting yourself listed.

Getting Listed in International Categories

This is eerily similar to the process for getting your book listed in extra categories in your home market. In fact, it’s basically the same drill just in another market. Also like with the United States listings, you have to reverse engineer your way into those extra categories.

STEP ONE: Log in to your Amazon KDP account. 

STEP TWO: Navigate to their contact page

STEP THREE: In the left hand column, find “Amazon Product Page and Expanded Distribution” and click on it. 

STEP FOUR: Select “Update Amazon Categories” from the drop-down menu that appears. 

STEP FIVE: On the right hand side, a form will appear. This is where you enter your new categories.

Part of the form is a box, containing the following text:


Book type: [Choose Kindle eBook or Paperback]

Requested marketplaces: [.COM, UK, DE, FR, etc...]

Categories to add (list each category as a separate line):



You fill it out as instructed. Put in the ASIN or ISBN for your the book going into the new market. If you translated it, use the number for the translated edition, not the original. 

The book type is exactly what it sounds like. 

Request the marketplace you’re adding the book to. Although you can do multiple marketplaces, we recommend against that. You want to maximize your potential by researching and selecting the perfect categories for each marketplace. Do these one at a time. 

Copy and paste the full category string for each category, one item per line, for your top 3 categories. 

That’s it. You’re all set. Within a day, your book will be in those categories and doing whatever you can make it do. 

A Few Final Things

Before you go, a couple of tips, tricks, hacks, and warnings about this international marketing expedition, from a few of our friends who have been there, done that, and learned from some mistakes. 

Do look at covers and descriptions in your new marketplace. Sometimes tastes vary so much that what works at home won’t get any attention abroad. More than one book has been banned from a conservative marketplace because the cover was too racy.

Don’t just fire-and-forget. Once you’re on your new marketplace, give it at least half as much attention and marketing budget as you do your original market. If you don’t support your international distribution, getting set up is just wasted effort. 

Don’t put off getting this done. Remember, your early performance makes a huge difference. Set yourself up for early success by having these complete before launch day. 

Do ask a native speaker if you can find one. Most of the time google translate will do okay, but it’s always best to get an expert opinion. If you translated your book, ask the translator. 

Don’t give up early. Even if your book is doing great in your home market, success in the new territory will take time. Give it several weeks or months and see how many sales it’s producing, then make a final decision about whether to expand in that market, withdraw, or just stick to the one title. 

That’s pretty much it. No, go forth and sell some books across the world!