Understanding Amazon Rankings
Amazon rankings are an obsession for many authors. The temptation is to sit and watch hour by hour almost willing them to move. Sometimes you will see them change dramatically and other times, nothing happens for months. So what’s going on?
First things first. Your Amazon rankings number is not a sales figure, it’s like the Music Charts, Number One is the best. The lower the number, the better the book is doing.
Did you notice we didn’t say the lower the number the more sales you’re making?
This is because Amazon doesn’t actually say that the ranking is based simply on sales made. In fact, reliable sources confirm that other issues affect the ranking apart from just sales. Amazon chooses to call the rankings ‘The Amazon Best Sellers Rank’, not a Sales Rank. A subtle but critical difference.
But for now, we’re going to concentrate on sales, as even with the quirky nature of the Amazon rankings system, it is still the overall number of sales which has the biggest effect on your Amazon Best Sellers Rank.
At the time of writing this, Amazon currently lists around 65 million different books. In case you’re wondering what 65 million books actually looks like, that’s a bookshelf which runs from the East Coast of the United States to the West Coast. And then back again.
Amazon rankings are not like the New York Times Best Seller List which is only updated weekly, Amazon’s figures are changing in Real-Time. This means, at an extreme level, that if your book was the only one sold on Amazon in say a five-minute window, you would reach Number One. Albeit fleetingly. Unlikely yes, but it does mean that in reality, a single sale can catapult a book through 10’s of thousands of places in the flick of an eye. Impressive when one sees it happening but it still might be your only sale of the year. The graph on the left is an actual graph of a real book taken recently. This book jumped nearly a million places on the sale of just FOUR BOOKS!
One needs to pay attention to the longer-term movements to gain any real idea as to how sales are moving. A ranking of around 250,000 sustained over several weeks probably means you are selling a book a day. That may not seem much but it does put you in the top One Percent.
Now, although Amazon will not release details as to exactly how their rankings systems work, it is well reported that physical sales are only one element of the algorithm. The other factors which come into play are Page Views, Pages Read, inbound links to the book, hits on the author’s Author Page, Reviews, Comments and general buzz about a book. Whilst these elements have a smaller effect on your Amazon Rankings than simple sales, they are still important.
Why would Amazon take these elements into account rather than just count sales? The answer to that is remarkably simple; Amazon is in business to make a profit. They don’t make a profit on simply counting sales. A sales chart is a useful tool for readers or authors but actually, serves little financial purpose for Amazon. Amazon makes a profit margin on each book sold and that margin can vary wildly depending on factors such as which publisher, whether it’s a Create Space title, Indy Title, handling costs, storage costs, discounts and many other factors. In simple terms, some books are more profitable to Amazon than others. If they can give a high-profit book a little boost in the way it’s presented on their site then their profits will rise. But of course there is no point in trying to promote a book which is dead, so their algorithms seek out books which look to be good candidates for a little subtle promotion. It’s a simple but effective business model. JK Rowling will always sell a predictable quantity of books and there is not much room for altering that. At the other end, a book which sells two copies a year is never going to make any profit for anybody, even if the sales double that’s only an extra two books. However, a nice high-profit title bubbling around in the mid-rankings is a prime candidate for a little rankings boost which will increase visibility and therefore sales.
So, in summary, your Book’s Best Seller’s Rank is highly volatile and over the short-term, definitely not a good indicator of sales volume. However, over a longer-term, it becomes a better guide. And don’t ignore those other factors which can influence the ranking, your book might just come to the interest of Amazon rankings algorithms.
Or more information about monitoring your book sales, see here
For more detail about becoming an Amazon Best Seller see here