Amazon’s Erratic Sales Ranking

Amazon’s Erratic Sales Ranking

Recently I found this article on Google titled My Amazon bestseller made me nothing. I found this article because I noticed my book is now out of stock (I think that’s a good thing? It’s only been out for two weeks and already its out of stock), and I simply wanted to know what that meant in terms of Amazon. Of course, I found no answer, but perhaps some of you authors could elaborate. Nonetheless, I take it to mean people have bought my book. In any case, basically what happened is that Patrick Wensink sold 4,000 copies of his book, published by a small, press, and was immediately launched on the bestseller’s list, competing with such titles as The Hunger Games, among a few other pertinent books; however, his book was only on the bestseller’s list for a week. His basic complaint was that he only made 12,000 dollars, as he makes 3 dollar per book, but, honestly, that’s more than the average advance a larger publishing house would give, so I’d say he did pretty good for himself, even if he was only on the list for a week–granted, taxes had to be taken out, but that is besides the point. So what happened was that his sales rank plummeted–which, in Amazon terms, is a good thing–and afterward rose thereafter, as his publishing house did not take advantage of this opportunity to keep the fire going, so to speak. So the fact that his ranking rose is pretty much his publisher’s fault. 

I say this because his book was competing with titles that sold WAY more per day. For example, Colleen Hoover’s book, Hopeless, sold 2,000 books per day, and his book was competing with that, and I think had a lower ranking than this book. So the fact that he sold 4,000 books in a short time and then lost his bestseller status points to the fact that the Amazon bestseller status means absolutely nothing, unless you can remain on it for a good amount of time and continue selling books at least in the thousands. You get on the bestseller’s list on Amazon for selling a lot of books in a short amount of time. For example, selling 300 books your first day can launch you at a very low ranking, making Amazon’s sales ranking a very confusing algorithm that can mislead you and your readers into thinking you sold way more than 300 and so are going to make a lot more money than that. So, essentially, while I would love to make 12,000 dollars, perhaps Wensink’s complaints aren’t entirely laughable, because, being in bestseller status, you think you would make more, but Amazon’s algorithm is very poor, and thus it doesn’t take much to reach bestseller status like it does for The New York Times. BUT, if you can consistently stay on bestseller status, then it will mean something. Selling 4,000 books, especially from a small press, is actually VERY good, considering the average book, for a first time author, even with a major house, can only sell about 500—and this was his print book, mind you, not his e-book.

Again, I don’t look at my ranking. I just wanted to see how many reviews I had and noticed my book was out of stock, so I thought that was pretty cool. 

I wrote this post for those wringing their hands over their rankings. Stop. Don’t even look at your rankings. You can still sell 4,000 books, even if it is over a long period of time and not the short period you often expect, and you’re still selling more than the average first time book, and your ranking may still be high. We all want to make money for our writing so that way we can become full-time writers, but for many of us, it’s going to take a certain amount of time to do so. Don’t get discouraged about your Amazon ranking. At this point, it essentially means nothing, really. I found my ranking to be in the 70,000s one day (on accident, as I was trying to figure out how to do my author bio), but Amazon told me I had sold nothing, so they take FOREVER to update on how many books you actually sold. Granted, I go through a small press, and so the numbers actually go to the actual place that prints the books, so I don’t even think what Amazon says is important to my publisher–and that’s fine with me. Whatever. 

So I hope all you writers find this useful, and if you, as readers, take the Amazon ranking into account when buying a book, realize it essentially means nothing, though it can be important. However, I think Amazon’s algorithm is very flawed and it should take A LOT more books to be put in the bestseller’s status; however, I also read it doesn’t take much anymore to reach The New York Times Bestseller status, because there are authors who are only on it for a week, and they’re automatically branded bestsellers and so this is printed on their next book for marketing purposes, which is understandable. 

Tonight, I will be writing about the marketing I did for my book because I think it is a good follow-up blog post to this one. 

The Sloppy Sentamentalism of the Anti-Ebook Crowd

The Sloppy Sentamentalism of the Anti-Ebook Crowd

tumblr_mqr0j979nC1s538hbo1_500Owning paperback books has become a novelty thing for me. The last book I read, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia, was a paperback, but one I received free from Running Press in exchange for a review. Before that, it was Paper Towns by John Green. Currently I am struggling through the paperback version of Entwined by Heather Dixon. The only reason I bought the latter two as paperbacks is because I was waiting for my Kindle Paperwhite. Reading became way too distracting on my tablet because of the millions of other things that I could do, like the internet and little game apps, so I decided to buy a Kindle to kill those distractions. Otherwise, I primarily read ebook because of the price and how fast I can receive the book. As someone who reads books like candy, ebook makes sense because as soon as I’m done with one book, I can get another without a trip to the bookstore–and without paying taxes.

I still do love going to the bookstore, but it’s more for the novelty experience than anything else. And the only time I do go to the bookstore is when I’m on break at work. I don’t go there anymore outside of work.

There are only two bookstores in my area. One is B&N and the other is The Book Tavern. While I like both and am glad both are here, The Book Tavern is very expensive. Neil Gaiman’s newest book, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, is 26 bucks! It’s so short I can read it an hour! So ebook version for me. There are also a lot of other new books there that are expensive, so I didn’t buy any books there when I made a trip on a whim because getting them on Amazon is so much cheaper (which isn’t exactly a good thing, but might as well take advantage of the price cuts while they last, right?).

I am not a sentimentalist. Physical copies of books are cool because people get to know what you’re reading and it’s indirect advertising for a book, but words are words are words, no matter how they are bound. I receive the same experience from a paperback as I do an ebook, despite what studies say about retaining information more in physical copies than in ebook copies.

It’s fine to prefer the paperback over an ebook, but it’s sloppy sentimentalism to swoon over paperbacks.

Ebooks have given new authors a chance. When a small press launches, they primarily sell online and so are contingent on ebook sales to make them money. A lot of small presses do have paperback counterparts, but when I look up the books of new authors who are primarily online, it is their ebook sales that are crushing their paperback sales simply because of price difference. I also think ebook sales crush paperback sales because people don’t have to wait for the paperback to come into the mail. They receive the book in a matter of seconds.

The picture above is very insulting to authors who have made their debut through ebooks. Not all of these authors are going to have paperback counterparts, so people who scoff at ebooks could potentially be missing really good books because they hang on to paperbacks for no other reason than plain nostalgia. Of course, not everyone has an e-reader, and that’s understandable, but it’s ridiculous to shun ebooks and come up with such trite statements as the one above.

So I care about the words of a story. I do not care how they are bound.

Self-Publishing and the Willingness to Spend Money

Self-Publishing and the Willingness to Spend Money

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I hope the author has learned from this catastrophe.

Self-publishing is not for those who have nothing to spend. If you can’t spend money on editing, cover design, and book formatting, self-publishing is not for you–unless you can design and format on your own. Instead the best route for you would be the traditional route because the traditional route often costs nothing.

I mention this because books are heavily judged on cover, editing, and interior design. Self-publishing nowadays is cheaper because you can go right to e-book instead of having to do print. But it costs publishers to produce a book, and so it should cost you money to produce a book as well.

There are some really horrible self-published covers out there. The one to my left is one such example. It makes me think the book is violent and that all Christians need chainsaws to prove a point. I can’t even tell if the cover is trying to be symbolic or what the author was even thinking when choosing this cover. And the colors are too bold. Bold colors paired with bold colors are often tacky. It’s not Kindergarten anymore. Primary colors worked then but they don’t work now because there are so many shades and tones and hues of colors that there is an entire class devoted to color theory at some universities. So if you want to design your own cover art, take some sort of design class or book production class.

As for editing, you can only edit so much before you need someone else to look at it. If you can’t afford an editor, please don’t self-publish. Use beta readers and go the traditional route because if you don’t even have money for a proofreader, what makes you think your book is going to be able to make it without some sort of paid marketing, like giveaways and what not? Even though my book is technically going traditional, I have some money I’m going to use for giveaways once the book is published. But it is impossible to fully edit on your own because you are the writer, not the reader, your audience. You NEED another pair of eyes, professional eyes, preferably, to whip your book into shape.

The interior design of a book can be just as important as the exterior design of a book. I’ve seen so many self-published books whose interior design has been brutally destroyed because the author did not hire a book designer. Said author likely formatted a .pdf file and put it through the Kindle converter, expecting the book to come out with publishable quality, when more often than not the paragraphs are wonky, not indented, words are missing, pages are missing, and so on and so forth. Also, a lot of readers don’t like to read .pdf. If all you can manage is a .pdf file and nothing more, don’t publish because your book is going to suffer without pre-release marketing and some reviews. You might be able to find some who will read .pdf, but if you want really good reviewers, they might end up requesting various formats, and there are just some reviewers you don’t want to pass up because you only have .pdf.

Self-publishing takes money. Don’t kid yourself into thinking that just because everything is digital now that it’s not going to take a lot because it is. If you want your book to compete with traditionally published books, you’re going to have to spend some money to make some money. Otherwise, don’t go this route and go the traditional route, be it large or small presses.