Amber Skye Forbes

Writing Words With the Tips of My Toes

The Dangers of Making Your Amazon Ranking Graph Public

First off, the opinions I’m about to post are in complete disagreement about why I think it’s unprofessional to show readers your actual Amazon ranking graph that conveys the ups and downs of your ranking. Perhaps I wasn’t being clear enough with what I meant, but in this post, I WILL be clear.

Shoshanna Evers: I disagree ūüôā I see it as authors being excited about their readers! Without our readers, there would be nothing to celebrate! (Though she actually sees my point)

Lauren Hammond: ¬†I don’t. Especially if it’s done out of excitement. It’s an accomplishment.

Kendra Ayers: I think it’s fine. People are proud when they see ratings and reviews go up or are positive and it encourages sales and more reviews I think. Authors should be proud of all of the hard work they’ve accomplished.

Raymond Vogel (My Awesome Publisher): Well, it’s kind of the only way to capture the Amazon ranking at the moment you achieve some level of success worth remembering… on the biggest book selling place in the world.

Gwyn Diller: I think a good author has earned bragging rights. I, personally, wouldn’t see it as unprofessional. Everyone likes recognition, it’s human nature to want to “show off” in a sense. We all are allowed to pat ourselves on the back every once in a while for big accomplishments.

Okay, now for my opinion. Keep in mind, again,¬†that I argued against some of these points on Facebook and Twitter, and I may have misspoken so that the posters didn’t fully grasp what I was trying to say. Still, this post will be open for comments, and I look forward to your views!

So I was perusing Facebook and saw that one of the authors posted her ranking graph–she took a picture of it. Now it’s fine to take a picture of your graph as your own personal accomplishment, but keep it to yourself. In any case, if you don’t know what it looks like, this is it (this is not the author’s graph. It is a random one):

authork

I wanted to comment that she shouldn’t be showing her readers this, especially because her ranking was rising, but I decided to take it to my Facebook author page to see what others thought–without pointing back to her. She deserves to remain anonymous, as she is a fan of mine. As you can see from above, all disagree with me, so let me explain.

First off, I now understand how Amazon rankings work, so I’m going to explain that here. Say you sold 100 books in one day. You may fall down to 10,000, perhaps lower. However, you don’t sell anything for the rest of the week, but your ranking can still be fairly low because no other books have yet to sell more than you in a short period of time. I know someone who was at 80,000 on his launch day, and he was 80,000 for the rest of the week, though he sold no¬†more books after his launch day: he let me in on this so I could figure out ways to help him in terms of sales, but I ultimately had to realize that sales are the business side of things, not marketing, and I am not business-minded.¬† Now let’s say another person also sold 100 books, but he sold it over a one week period. His ranking will be higher than the person who sold 100 in one day, but they still sold the same amount during that same week. Rankings are calculated based on how many books are sold during a set period of time. The shorter the period, the lower the number. Following me? If not, feel free to ask questions in the comments.

Here is another example. Say you are ranking at 100,000, which means the 99,999 books ahead of you are selling more. However, if for some reason a large amount of people below you¬†sell more than you in a short period of time, and you drop to 1,000,000 during that same day, this doesn’t mean you didn’t make any sales. You made sells, but a crap ton of people below you suddenly sold a lot more than you did in¬†a much shorter period of time–it’s very unlikely, but it’s an example. So this is why I think the obsession with the Amazon ranking is silly. I can guarantee you mine is probably very high because my book¬†is out of stock on Amazon. But there is Barnes and Noble and Books A Million, too, as well as that one store in Tennessee.

Now on to readers.¬†Readers can look at a book’s ranking on the book’s page. Just because a book says 1,000,000 does not mean it didn’t make any sales that day–it could have, but by some wild fluke a crap ton of books that were originally below it sold a ton more in such a short period of time. For the readers who understand¬†Amazon’s algorithm, this number may not mean much to them, especially if the book has a decent amount of ratings. However, if you suddenly post your graph of your fluctuating rankings, the behind-the-scenes stuff, readers now have access into roughly how many sales you MAY be making, and for those who understand the algorithm, this may be a big turn off to them because now they know how your book may be doing in terms of sales, especially if your rankings are poor. They then may think your book isn’t worth buying because they’ll think it’s not selling much because it sucks.

Even with great, fluctuating rankings, I still think that is none of readers’ business. If it were, this graph would be accessible to them on the book page, but it is not. It is for the author and the author alone–and publisher, if you have one. I personally don’t check rankings because all I can do is keep writing and¬†do my own marketing to the best of my ability: a ranking won’t change how aggressively I market. Thus, this¬†is where¬†I think it¬†is none of readers’ business to even receive a glimpse into your ranking graph. Am I saying the Amazon ranking is pointless? Not at all. Books who stay consistently low are obviously selling, but just because another book’s rank is constantly fluctuating doesn’t mean there are no sales–it just means your book is selling over a much longer period of time. You can sell 1,000 in a day or a year and never sell any more after that day. See what I mean?

Now either yesterday or the either day, I posted how many adds I had on Goodreads for When Stars Die–it is more than 500, and the number just keeps rising. One poster pointed out that this was hypocritical of me because I didn’t have any problem posting my adds, but I have a problem with people posting their ranking graphs. Now I can see where the poster is coming from, but there is one flaw in that argument–adds do not means sales. I can have 10,000 adds, but my book may not be selling at all, for whatever reason, be it monetary issues for readers, too many books the reader needs to finish before buying another, prioritizing certain books above others, ect. But these adds do mean that readers WANT to read my book.¬†So these adds in no way give readers a glimpse into the sales of my book at all. It’s just a cool thing that exists to show the exposure of my book. At least, for me, it does.

I understand the poster put up her graph because she wanted to show her fans that she was determined to lower the number, but book selling is not an easy thing at all. As I said in one post, it is not like selling Coke, and we need to remain realistic over how many books are expected to sell. I don’t know the business side of books. I don’t know why some books sell and others don’t, even the books with great publicity. The problem nowadays is that publishes are giving out extremely large advances to books they think will wildly succeed, but then some of those books turn out to be a flop–so not even the greatest of publicity can mean sales.

Now let’s go back to the ranking on the book’s page. If you’re ranking at 1,000, I see no problem in you taking a picture of that and posting it for your fans to see, as they have access to this number already, and it can be a way to thank your fans–and sometimes we authors do deserve to have some bragging rights. But the behind-the-scenes stuff is for the author only, or for the author and publisher only. Again, if it were readers’ business, it would be accessible to them, and it’s not. So keep your graphs to yourselves and remain professional about your sales as an author. To me, if you post your ranking graph, you might as well tell readers how many books you’re selling, because some might be able to calculate that from the graph anyway. Again, NONE OF THEIR BUSINESS. Readers DO NOT need to know this kind of stuff.

So what do you think about authors posting their rankings graph? Do you think it’s okay and cool, or, like me, do you think it’s unprofessional?

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This entry was posted on November 16, 2013 by and tagged , , , , , , , , , .
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