The Problem With Amazon’s Top 100 Horror Titles

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The point of Amazon is to give users the premiere online shopping experience. You can find almost anything you want on the site from video games to movies to clothes and, for our purposes, paperbacks and ebooks.

One particularly helpful part of the site is the bestseller or Top 100 list that displays books the Amazon algorithm deems exceptional using a combination of number of books sold, positive reviews, the number of reviews, and the amount of times a books sales page are viewed among other factors. This is extremely helpful in the ability to see what’s new, what’s fresh, and what other people find exceptional.

Everywhere except the Top 100 Horror titles list.

Amazon Top 100Why is this the exception. To put it bluntly, authors of genres that have the slightest of relations to anything you’d consider “horror” are using this keyword to stuff their books in the Top 100 because the higher ranking here helps them elsewhere. It’s even possible to get a number one ranking by having your urban fantasy book that might happen to have vampires in it classified as “horror”.

The reason this is a practice is because horror fiction, despite the recent resurgence in the realm of horror movies and video games, remains one of the lesser genres for readers. Many books in the bestseller list may be on there with only two or three sales being enough to bump them from obscurity into the list. So, authors whose books are in more popular genres can use the thin link to their works and horror fiction to secure a higher ranking.

The problem with this is that actual horror books are often pushed out of the Top 100 spot. A consequence of this is that actual horror books (those made for the purpose of being scary) aren’t given the visibility because books of another genre, that gain more buys and reviews than the average horror book not penned by Stephen King, have an advantage in the rankings and dominate. This also makes readers who are actually looking for horror to either think the lower ranked books just aren’t any good or that there is no “real” horror coming out because most of the books in the Top 100 are not what one would think of as scary stories.

How to get around this issue is difficult. Authors have the ability to list their book under a variety of keywords with little, if any, limits. Amazon can remove books that are miscategorized but horror can be considered a lot of things that don’t necessarily aim to be frightening. For instance, you can write a comedy about zombies or use paranormal tropes in your YA fantasy novel and it can be considered “horror”.

A possible new subcategory might be required to separate the scary books from the ones that just have elements of horror in them. There already exists a few but searching through the titles and covers in the Top 100 Horror Books category should likely not include YA Fantasy or even Urban Fantasy which is more in line with superheroes than scary ghost stories.

Until there’s a solution, readers will continue to look for sure things like Stephen King’s novels or that of his son Joe Hill and, well very few others. Even names that appear frequently on the horror Top 100 due to sheer number of novels like Willow Rose aren’t selling as many books as one might imagine being a frequent name seen in the bestseller list. When a solution does present itself, it will help both authors and readers of the once wildly popular genres of true horror to find the diamonds in the rough.


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4 Replies to “The Problem With Amazon’s Top 100 Horror Titles”

  1. This is true in other genres. Historical fiction is loaded with historical romances. Literary fiction is loaded with romances. I could continue but won’t.

    Is frustrating because as a reader of historical fiction I have to plow through books that should be listed under a different genre when I’m looking for a book to buy. It’s time consuming and aggravating.

    Amazon needs to do something about how books are classified on the site.

    1. Yes, but I think they want to keep the “come as you are” nature of uploading books. They’d have to come up with a bot that scanned the documents for certain words or manually review each book in order to fix these category issues.

      It is frustrating for writers and readers. Let’s hope the billion dollar company can come up with some way to fix this.

  2. Thank you for this article! I have at times been disappointed to find horror books weren’t even slightly scary, which left a foul taste in my mouth for both the category and the author–especially the author.

    1. I agree, Corline. It damages the category. I find it especially damaging for horror because actual horror/dark sci-fi/scary books are pushed out of the top 100 because you have urban fantasy books clogging up the spots, so readers can’t find new and even established authors with books from more popular categories abusing the rankings.

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