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.