Sunday, August 28, 2005

Trekking the Amazon

How do Amazon rankings work? What do they mean? How does ranking correlate to actual sales?

A pretty good explanation can be found at

That's all fine and dandy, but is it correct? How many books does it take to make your ranking soar? How many in one day? How many per hour?

I decided to try and find out.

On Thursday, August 25, at 9:22am, my Amazon ranking for Bloody Mary was 76,534.

This is a record of the next 24 hours:

August 25, 9:22am - Rank 76,534 - Ordered 2 copies of Bloody Mary.

9:49am - Rank 79,435

11:00am - Rank 79,435

2:24pm - Rank 24,411 - Ordered 2 more copies of Bloody Mary.

3:21pm - Rank 28,418

4:49pm - Rank 18,953 - Ordered 2 more copies of Bloody Mary.

6:38pm - Rank 22,103

7:18pm - Rank 25,418

8:00pm - Rank 17,993

9:40pm - Rank 20,142 - Ordered 2 more copies of Bloody Mary.

12:03am - Rank 27,590

12:30am - Rank 19,020

9:20am - Rank 26,011

Conclusions - Got me. I have no idea what this means. Sell two books every 3 hours and hover around 20,000? Sell eight books in a day and hover around 20,000?

I called Ingram (615-213-6803), which supplies Amazon, and so far this year they've distributed 816 Bloody Mary's. I don't know what percentage of these are through Amazon.

But then I'll look at the numbers of another thriller author who released a handcover at the same time as mine---about 8 weeks ago. Her Amazon rank averages between 3000 and 8000, and she's also been in the hundreds. A call to Ingram shows she's sold 1090 copies this year.

That means I've sold about 102 copies a week, while she's sold 136 copies a week, or 19 a day to my 14 a day.

All of those ARE NOT through Amazon.

Maybe we can say she's selling 10 a day through Amazon, which is keeping her in the 6000 range. I'm selling 7 a day, which is keeping me at 25,000.

Or maybe not.

I checked my friend's recent paperback rank: 25,646. My recent paperback rank is 212,332. But a call to Ingram tells me she has sold 786 this year, and I've sold 979. Huh?

So all in all, this stupid experiment has taught me nothing. Other than: don't worry about Amazon rankings.

Live and learn.

Anyone want to buy eight signed copies of Bloody Mary?


Anonymous said...

Mary and I have never been able to find any correlation between our books' sales and Amazon rankings, and this despite the fact that being published by an indie we sell less via bookstores and presumably a larger percentage online. In fact the last book sold better than the previous but didn't get anywhere near as high on Amazon. It is fun to watch Amazon numbers though because it is proof that someone is paying attention. As an author it is hard to get applause but you can always go to Amazon and see proof that someone's paying attention. :)

I have also never been able to correlate Ingram numbers with total sales, although I'd guess they're a better indicator.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

I'm hearing more and more that the Amazon rankings mean absolutely nothing. I also know that many authors become obsessed with them, checking them several times a day.

Please, keep me from falling into that trap. I don't want to read reviews and I don't want to check those rankings.

But, of course, I'll do both.

Anonymous said...

I really know nothing about Amazon rankings, but it seems to me that as their data entry folk kept their little fingers busy on the keyboards entering new books, whether they sold copies or not, it would affect the rankings overall of everybody above and below. Right? You're 298,299 of 1,547,879 books, but they enter 6 more books, for 1,547,885, and one of them is Stephen King's and one of them is, uh, Mark Terry's, and your numbers changes. Or maybe not.

Mark Terry

Unknown said...

And here I thought becoming a writer meant I didn't have to do math anymore.

Maybe the people at Amazon exist in a parallel reality with a completely different set of numeric values.

Anonymous said...

Rob is partially right. The numbers are really quite easy to understand. You just have to convert them from base 11.

Rob Gregory Browne said...

You sure you don't mean Area 51?

Jim said...

Joe. Your research has reinforced my decision to never even bother once to look at my Amazon ranking once Night Laws comes out.

Anonymous said...

I recently read about somebody lining up enough people to buy their book on Amazon at the same time to make it an Amazon bestseller. I forget how many books they needed to sell at once to reach the topspots, but it wasn't nearly as many as you might think.

Far more important to concentrate on writing a new book than to obssess about things like rankings.