In Your Corner: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings

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What are online sales rankings, specifically Amazon sales rankings, and what do they mean for you, a self-publishing author?

This is the question I’m going to set out to answer, at least in part, for you today.

Amazon, of course, has their own page and definition dedicated to sales rankings:

Best Seller and Category Ranks are based on customer activity – sales and borrows – of your book relative to the activity of other books. A book ranking #1 in Mystery & Thrillers is the book with the most activity in Amazon’s Mystery & Thrillers category. Books can appear in up to three categories. The book’s rank in each category will show under the Product Details section. Activities that may not be an accurate reflection of customer demand, including promotional Amazon Giveaway sales and purchases that are later returned, are not counted towards sales rank.

Rankings are updated hourly but may take 24-48 hours to appear. Rankings reflect recent and historical activity, with recent activity weighted more heavily. Rankings are relative, so your sales rank can change even when your book’s level of activity stays the same. For example, even if your book’s level of activity stays the same, your rank may improve if other books see a decrease in activity, or your rank may drop if other books see an increase in activity.

When we calculate Best Sellers Rank, we consider the entire history of a book’s activity. Monitoring your book’s Amazon sales rank may be helpful in gaining general insight into the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns and other initiatives to drive book activity, but it is not an accurate way to track your book’s activity or compare its activity in relation to books in other categories.

The ranking for books with consistent activity histories that have been available on Amazon for a long time may fluctuate less than the ranking of new books, or books whose histories aren’t as stable. One sale of a very popular book may not influence its rank much at all, but one sale of a lower volume book may significantly improve that book’s rank.

Note: Each available format of your book (eBook, paperback) has its own independent Amazon Best Sellers Rank.

This is a lot to parse, but the main points to remember are these:

  • Your sales ranking is essentially an attempt to quantify your book’s popularity;
  • The release of new books, awards announcements, and book club recommendations (among many other factors) means that new books are always climbing the rankings, while others are dropping in the rankings at the same time—it’s a constant balancing act, and sales rankings are relative;
  • Even if you sell the same number of copies each month, your sales ranking will rise and fall dependent on factors outside of your control. As I mentioned in my last post, there are yearly rhythms to book sales that mean you need to sell more books at certain times just to maintain the same ranking relative to other months when book sales are lower for everyone;
  • Blockbuster books are constantly battling it out for the upper sales rankings in every category, and rankings mean less to popular books because they have other avenues to selling a lot of books. But for new books, indie publications, and self-published books? Sales rankings mean a lot more, because even one or two sales can boost an author’s sales ranking, and as a result, boost their visibility, which will itself boost sales. It’s a feedback loop that can work to your advantage.

Amazon also has a page dedicated to giving its sellers a larger-picture idea of what their sales figures represent, and that’s worth checking out as well if you sell on the website.

But what about the stuff that Amazon isn’t saying about its sales rankings?

Any number of websites out there at any point in time are happy to claim that they’ve “cracked the code” or “tamed the algorithm” or can help you “game the system,” but the fact of the matter is, most of them are offering something more along the lines of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) advice, which is totally well and good, but not quite the same thing as delivering on a promise to make Amazon’s system work for you.

At its core, Amazon is a business which is driven by its bottom line, which is to say, eking every possible profit out of both its customers and its third-party sellers. Their algorithm code is not fully public, and while we can speculate about ways to improve sales rankings, it’s entirely Amazon’s right to code their algorithm to ignore the little sales and boost the visibility of popular items, including those blockbuster book sales that I mentioned earlier. It’s not actually in their best profit-driven interest to be fair, even though it’s certainly in their profit-driven interest to discover new niche markets—which they often do by measuring how many readers access titles through their Kindle Unlimited offering—a service which rarely profits the authors themselves, as authors themselves often point out. All this is to say, we don’t actually know how sales rankings work, other than what Amazon itself has told us, and Amazon has more than one horse in the race to make money.

Next time, I’m going to look at what we know about preorders and how they affect sales rankings—so check back in two weeks for more on this fascinating and important subject!

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You are not alone. ♣︎

 

Elizabeth

ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

In Your Corner: An Unstoppable Summer

I promise not to get too Shakespearean in this post.

Promise!

This morning, I was puttering around in my basement watering some seedlings I’m getting ready for hardening off, and my cat started to get reaaaaally interested in one of the window wells on the side of the house. These are the sort that are lined in corrugated steel and are covered with metal bars for security (and to keep pets, etc. from falling in!). Like this:

This is not my basement. There’s no way I’m showing off all the boxes down there.

My seedlings are stacked on rising shelves by the window well receiving the most sunshine each day (in this house, it faces roughly east––just a quirk of the landscape around the house), and I have my work desk by another. A third is more or less inaccessible because someone (I won’t name who … but that person knows how I feel about it!) keeps every single cardboard box ever to hit our front porch. The fourth window well belongs to the cat. She will sit on the windowsill for hours at a time, looking up through those bars. I’m trying not to think too hard about the symbolism.

Small, scared kitten in a shelter cage. I promise my cat isn’t this sad, even if she sometimes looks like it. Why are cats so good at looking sad?

Now that I’ve set the scene (me, with watering can/repurposed juice pitcher; cat, at window) here’s what happened. My cat started getting that look about her (you know the one! it always spells trouble) and making those chirping noises cats make when they see birds. So I puttered on over and followed her line of sight–and it was a hummingbird!

Friends, I love hummingbirds. They were my mother’s favorite bird, and in the running for mine as well. (Also, there’s this scene in the new David Attenborough documentary on Netflix, Life in Color, where a male hummingbird is showing off for his lady friend that is just … shockingly good. As in, the quality of the filmmaking and the technology used for that documentary is wild. You can see individual hummingbird feathers! Up close! Amazing.) And this is how I discovered that a hummingbird is nesting in our basement window well, on a little ledge created by the window frame, just out of sight.

It’s also how I discovered the reason my cat is obsessed with that window.

The world is waking up around us for real, now. The evening news brings with it weather reports of increasingly unruly spring-summer weather out on the plains, the hummingbirds are out, and seedlings are up. High schoolers are on the cusp of graduation. Summer is, quite literally, just around the corner.

With summer comes new plans and changes to rhythms. It’s time to start thinking about big projects, both in and around the home as well as creative projects of the mind. What will you be writing this spring? How will you motivate yourself to sit down and plug away at the computer (or notepad, if you’re classy and not me) on a beautiful cloudless day? How will you schedule your goals and prep for publication?

What will you write? I think I’ll write about my mother, and hummingbirds.

I’d love to hear from you! What do you have going on this summer?

Thinking of you always. ♣︎

Elizabeth
Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.

Self-Publishing News: 5.18.2021

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self-publishing

There has been a lot of news lately regarding self-publishing and politics, specifically how it is providing a publishing haven for those individuals that have been rejected by the Big Four traditional publishing houses (Penguin Random House/S&S, Hachette, Macmillan, and HarperCollins as of May 2021; PRH has already begun the process of absorbing Simon & Schuster). At first glance, this news isn’t a surprise, as self-publishing has always been the place where authors previously seeking traditional book deals turn after finding them too constricting or flat-out unavailable. What’s different this time is how the choice, repeated regularly and often by high-profile politicians or those affiliated with politicians, has set up self-publishing to be cast as partisan: right now, those affiliated with the conservative right are self-publishing, while those affiliated with the conservative left are championing traditional publishing. Or at least, that’s how news outlets are covering the various happenings. This article from Fischer and Rummler of Axios outlines the sequence of events that has led up to this situation, and holds back from drawing too many conclusions. It is to be hoped that these same news outlets will also cover the critical role that self-publishing has played in providing a platform for diverse and marginalized voices of all kinds for decades, and steer clear of judging the many thousands of such writers who continue to self-publish today.

Time for a palate-cleanser! This article from Forbes contributor J.J. Hebert is not quite what it looks like, as it’s most definitely an argument for self-publishing. (Many articles that start with “Don’t X before X” end up being arguments against X.) Hebert, CEO of a self-publishing company and a self-publishing author himself, covers five critical aspects of the process that lay the groundwork for a solid start for those authors who have not yet taken the leap. His questions cover everything from quality control and editing to format options to identifying target readers to selecting a self-publishing platform that fits an author’s needs. It’s a fantastic and fairly concise introduction to much of the architecture required for a solid self-published success.

It has been a rough year for those who love (or whose success depends on) book fairs. Thankfully, many companies have been working hard to adapt to the post-pandemic world, and Publishers’ Weekly is hosting its inaugural PW US Book Show from May 25-27. They’ve updated their website with a list of participating virtual “booths,” and you can find out plenty more about pricing information and how to participate [ here ] and [ here ]. This virtual book show is intended to fill part of the vacuum left behind after the cancellation of so many in-person bookish events, and to provide librarians and booksellers (and those affiliated) with access to information to assist in connecting readers with their books. As with many other book fairs, though, the general public is invited to attend. It will prove to be an interesting experiment!

This much-needed article from Book Riot provides a straightforward and comprehensive explanation of what both traditionally and self-published authors make, on average, from their books each year. It also provides a nice breakdown of what all the complicated terminology means, which is just as important. And finally, it also profiles fifteen authors from all kinds of backgrounds and from both spheres of publishing who were willing to share data on what they make. Article author Sarah Nicolas refrains from sharing most of their identities (Jim C. Hines is an exception), and notes that none of the big “blockbuster” authors (think Grisham, Rowling, Quinn, etc) shared theirs. But even beyond the fascinating data we find the stories of how the finances fit into individual authors’ lives most revealing of all. Given the range of authors who participated, there should hopefully be at least one that can provide insight and context for new authors looking to break in to the publishing world. Would you need to pay for medical insurance out of your book earnings if you wrote full-time? Do you plan to write as a side-job? How much, after taxes, do you need to achieve your financial goals? What does your schedule look like? Each author Nicolas interviewed has something different to share.

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As a self-publishing author, you may find it helpful to stay up-to-date on the trends and news related to the self-publishing industry.This will help you make informed decisions before, during and after the self-publishing process, which will lead to a greater self-publishing experience. To help you stay current on self-publishing topics, simply visit our blog each month to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

ORIGINAL BOOK REVIEW: “A New Lease on Life” by James Ocansey

A New Lease on Life by James Ocansey

OFFICIAL DESCRIPTION*:

We all have only one life to live. It is safe to assume that we all want to live a long and healthy life free from pain, disease and untimely death. A New Lease on Life helps us to do that based on research by various authorities mostly in holistic medicine. It shows you how the body works and what you can do to help it do its work of self-repair or healing. We learn that the body balances its alkalinity and acidity at 80/20% ratio. The foods we eat need to follow that ratio of 80% alkaline foods and 20% acid-forming foods. Because we are unable to follow this 4:1 ratio, the body has to break down healthy structures and tissues in a process called catabolism. This is needed to keep us within 7.4pH (slightly alkaline range), especially in our inner cavity to keep our vital organs from dying. Every fat mostly cellulose is pushed out and stored elsewhere in the body to keep us from dying prematurely.

Since health is dependent on detoxification and nourishment, we need to find the best means to detox and nourish our system. Detoxification is best achieved by ionized, alkaline, micro-structured hexagonal water, which is able to easily penetrate our cells to deliver oxygen and nutrients while cleansing our cells on its way out. Without good water, not just any water, the cells are unable to easily receive nutrients and keep them clean. This results in excess tissue acid waste which is the root cause of pain and numerous diseases. It also deprives our cells of needed nutrients that cause nutritional deficiency diseases leading to untimely death. Your longevity depends on how well you take care of your cells since the cells are not supposed to die and you could live to over 100 years, as is known in Japan and in many other cultures.

REVIEW:

Oh, boy, am I not drinking the right water.

This, my friends, is exactly what went through my head when I first picked up James Ocansey’s A New Lease on Life, which is blurbed entirely accurately in the description from Bookshop.org that I’ve included above, which is where I first found this book.

But first, to back up a minute: Those of you who have read my last review will remember that my response to that book was largely the product of my recent experiences in and out of area health facilities as my family battled its way through a long, strenuous, and even to some extents ongoing medical emergency of the most dramatic kind. As with many people, it took something of such medical gravity to force me to re-evaluate my own life choices, particularly in what I eat and drink. And while there are plenty of books out there on the former, the latter doesn’t seem to be talked about or researched to the same extent, outside of studies pertaining to known toxins and “please drink in moderation” sorts of drinks, such as those containing alcohol or caffeine. But if a person were to wonder, as I certainly have found myself wondering, whether there might be something more basic and elementary going on when it comes to “drinking well” in the same way that nutrition is basic and elemental to “eating well,” that person might find a compelling answer in James Ocansey’s A New Lease on Life.

This is a research-based take on water, the most basic of all molecules necessary to life barring only the Carbon atom, which enables complex life. Water is where we all started, the science seems to say, whether we’re talking literally or in a profound metaphorical sense. Our bodies are largely made up of water, after all, and I could drill down into the protean images of the womb and of creation narratives featuring a separation of land and sky from water–but I’ve only budgeted one on-the-nose metaphor for this review, and I don’t want to try your patience before even getting to the real, er, elemental components of this review.

I know, I’m the absolute worst when it comes to puns, irony, and dad jokes. If our bodies are made of 90% (or some large percentage) of water, my soul is made of 90% dad jokes. Terrible, awful, unbearable dad jokes.

Luckily, Ocansey is made of sterner, more academically reliable stuff than dad jokes, and I mean what I say. This book draws upon the results of a 12+ year study of pollution’s effects on the cellular level, a study involving scientists and researchers across multiple fields and disciplines. Dr. Joel Wallach, for example, conducted over 17,500 animal and 3,000 human autopsies (making for a total of 455 species, I think) in order to collate information on pathologies, and concluded that “every animal and every human who dies of natural causes dies of a nutritional deficiency disease”–and the culprit is not the food these creatures consumed but rather the water the

In an over 12 years Interdisciplinary study on Pollution in which Dr. Joel Wallach was the Chief Pathologist, he conducted autopsies on 17,500 animals of 454 species and 3.000 humans for comparison. His conclusion was that “it was apparent that every animal and every human who dies of natural causes dies of a nutritional deficiency disease,” and that this malnutrition is the result not of poor food quality or quantity but rather the water these unfortunate creatures consumed.

I mean, as we millennials like to say, this is mind-blowing stuff!

Water, as Ocansey puts it, is the “missing link” to good health, and the fundamental component missing in world devoid of strong water knowledge (much less good water quality and infrastructure). I am, of course, no water expert (or true scientist, much as I love to participate in citizen science research and to promote STEM learning for all), but the science in A New Lease on Life is well presented and easy enough to understand, particularly if a reader is already familiar with the scientific method.

“You’re not only thirsty but starving,” declares Ocansey in the subtitle to A New Lease on Life, and this is the basis of the book’s argument: Water detoxifies, and water also nourishes. It not only washes the body clean of toxins, but it also can contribute significantly to good nutrition if consumed in the right way and if made up of the right kind of water. I’m still parsing some of the finer points of Ocansey’s argument, but the research does seem clear on what it is indicating. There is such a thing as “hexagonal water,” a specific molecular arrangement of ordinary H2O which can make a potential difference in not only longevity but general quality of life.

A New Lease on Life also contains arguments for several other potential health-boosting supplements and aids, but it is largely concerned with the aforementioned H2O. It contains everything from doctor to patient to scientific testimony about the efficacy of all of the above, and is well worth a read if you are looking to delve into a brave new world of nutrition that is dramatically different from those diets, regimens, and other fads that come and go with the years. You may or not find yourself convinced–that is always a risk when it comes to an argument-based book–but you will most definitely find yourself asking important questions that need to be asked about the ways we have been doing things and where we want to go from here, health-wise.

WHERE TO BUY?

You can find A New Lease on Life by James Ocansey wherever good books are sold, including Bookshop.org, Barnes & Noble and Amazon. You can also find out more about it on the book’s Outskirts Press listing.

WHAT NEXT?

Next week I will be posting my review for Cooper C Woodring’s book, Expert Design Witness 101. I have no idea what to expect!

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

* Courtesy of Bookshop.org book listing.

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ABOUT KENDRA M.: With nine years in library service, six years of working within the self-publishing world, as well as extensive experience in creative writing, freelance online content creation, and podcast editing, Kendra seeks to amplify the voices of those who need and deserve most to be heard.

In Your Corner: Closing out National Poetry Month–strong!

April of 2021 is National Poetry Month, and we are almost to its very end! This poses an interesting challenge for those among us who are poets: while the rest of the world has been celebrating the works of poets they admire, writers of poetry have been girding themselves rise to the challenge of becoming the wordsmiths they wish to be. This challenge is not perhaps specific to April––but it is pushed to the front burner, so to speak. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is just that little bit more difficult.

So what is a poet to do in a month set aside for celebrating poets and what they do?

3 suggestions:

– Set yourself a writing challenge.

The first thing to do, as a person dedicated to a specific craft and art form, is to continue working to improve your skill set. And as one of my past creative writing instructors used to say, “You will never be so good at this that you can afford to stop practicing.” (Which might explain why she gave me her copy of Baking Illustrated, now that I come to think of it.) Regardless, I’m grateful to her for never letting up, never allowing me to relax into the assumption that I’d learned all I was going to learn and raised the bar as high as it would go. That said, the old adage “Practice Makes Perfect” is … sometimes … wrong. To strive for perfection is to set ourselves up for failure every time, but to strive for improvement–to challenge ourselves to get better–will bear endless fruit. So set yourself a writing challenge, one that fits your routine and schedule and needs, and use it as an opportunity to hone your form.

– Go digital.

Many of my friends who went on to be poets–and there are many–have an aversion to social media. I’m not entirely sure why there’s more of this tendency among my poet friends than among my friends who went on to write prose and nonfiction, and I know that the authors I know are not a representative statistical sample of all writers everywhere, but the tendency seems common. It might have something to do with the intimate nature of poetry. After all, writing poetry is, like much personal writing, a deeply private act that aims to generate a public–or semi-public–product. So this April, I’d like to challenge you to go digital. Not just as a person, but as a writer. Experiment with a variety of social media options–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and more … and do so as a poet.

Find your readers where they live, and meet them there.

– Create a following.

But you know, don’t find them where they live in a creepy way like in crime fiction television shows. Dig into it like a pro: Once you’re on social media, take advantage of the opportunity to post snippets of your work, updates from behind the scenes as you write, and generally work to create the cult of personality that surrounds books with that oh-so-important “buzz” factor. This will help generate interest in your book, once you’re ready to publish … and will form a rock-solid foundation for your marketing strategy.

If you’re not comfortable projecting yourself as a poet into the digital sphere, that’s okay. There are reasons for those feelings, for reticence in engaging in deliberate self-exposure at a time when it already seems like everyone is already up in everyone else’s business. I simply hope, in my own small way, to encourage you with this reassurance: your work deserves to be read, and admired. You are a poet, even if you haven’t yet published your book of poetry. You will find a way to be heard, because that’s just the nature of being a poet, after all. You’ll get there, in your own time, and when you’re ready. Most of all, I want you to know that you have a community here who supports you all the way, whether it’s National Poetry Month … or not!

Thinking of you always. ♣︎

Elizabeth
Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, below.
ABOUT ELIZABETH JAVOR: With over 20 years of experience in sales and management, Elizabeth Javor works as the Director of Sales and Marketing for Outskirts Press. The Sales and Marketing departments are composed of knowledgeable publishing consultants, customer service reps and book marketing specialists; together, they all focus on educating authors on the self-publishing process to help them publish the book of their dreams. Whether you are a professional looking to take your career to the next level with platform-driven non-fiction or a novelist seeking fame, fortune, and/or personal fulfillment, Elizabeth Javor can put you on the right path.