In Your Corner: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings

online sales rankings ratings reviews

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!

online sales shopping cart

You are not alone. ♣︎

Do you have ideas to share? Please don’t hesitate to drop us a line in the comments section, and I’ll make sure to feature your thoughts and respond to them in my next post!

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.

Does Your Book Have a Book Video on Amazon?

Shopping and watching videos are among the most common activities people engage in on the internet. So it stands to reason that if you can combine those two activities, your chances for increasing engagement improve. Amazon has made that relatively simple by providing a number of different ways to add videos to help people shop for (and buy) your book.

The first way you can add videos to your products (or books) on Amazon is in a section on your Product Details Page called “Related Video Shorts.” This section appears directly below the “Product details” section. Next to the bold heading that says “Related Video Shorts” is a blue link that says “Upload your video”. When you click on that link you are taken to a category selection screen where you must choose the most appropriate category for your video.  

If you’re reading this blog, presumably your “product” is a book, so in most cases, the appropriate choice is probably “other” although if you have a non-fiction book and a “how to” video related to your subject (which you should), then the “how to” selection may be the most appropriate.

Once you select your category, a pop-up screen will appear showing a directory of your computer’s hard drive.  While not instantly obvious, this is where Amazon is expecting you to select your video file for upload, which it accepts in a variety of formats, although .mp4 is probably the best.  If your Amazon account is in good standing, your video will appear in the “Related Video Shorts” section of your product details page relatively quickly. Potential customers who are considering buying your book will then be able to see your video, which may help close the sale.

The next way to add a video is on your Author Profile Page. In the “Author Updates” section you will see the link.  This method doesn’t require you to select a category and appears to be less “restrictive” on the type and length of videos that are allowed.

The third way is using your blog and then setting up your RSS feed through your Author Profile Page. This is the least restrictive method, and you can upload any video you want this way, since Amazon doesn’t censor blog postings from 3rd party RSS fees. Of course, if you update your blog constantly, the video posting will quickly disappear from your Amazon Author Profile Page in preference to your newer posts.  A trick around that is to set-up a free blog (on WordPress for example) that is specifically meant for your Amazon Author Profile Page. Simply upload one posting of the video you wish to display on Amazon and don’t post anything else to that blog. Your video will reside permanently on your Author Profile Page because of the RSS feed setting.

Of course, all of this presumes you have a video (or videos) about your book to upload. There are a lot of methods to create those, but that’s a topic for a different blog posting.  Good luck!

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brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Copyright Infringement Rampant on CreateSpace

piracy

I don’t think it’s any secret that Amazon owns CreateSpace. I also don’t believe it’s any secret—especially after the author uproar that occurred in April—that CreateSpace no longer offers “creative services” such as interior book formatting, cover design, editing, or the like. When they ceased offering those services, they severed the one last component that identified them as a “publisher” instead of a “content curator,” which is the role CreateSpace now plays, and is a far cry from meeting the goals of writers who dream of publication.

A perfect example appears in a recent article on the Publishers Weekly website, written by Kenny Brechner and titled “Pirating on CreateSpace,” in which he identifies very specific examples of flagrant copyright infringement by individuals (I wouldn’t call them writers) sharing (I wouldn’t call it publishing) content through the CreateSpace platform.  One objective of a publisher is to protect their authors, and also prevent circumstances like the ones reported by Mr. Brechner. Unfortunately, the exact opposite objective is true for a content curator like CreateSpace.  Since it’s “free” to “publish” content there, CreateSpace and Amazon value neither the content nor the authors who created it. Instead, their goal is to compile as much content as possible for the purposes of offering it—usually by giving it away or encouraging their authors to give it away through thinly-veiled “marketing promotions”—to lure new Amazon members into its Prime, Prime Video Streaming, and KindleUnlimited memberships (all of which require monthly/yearly dues, and none of which reward the content creators for their contribution).  

Since CreateSpace/Amazon uses content and its creators as loss-leaders for subscriptions, they are hardly compelled to prevent copyright infringement or acts of piracy. In fact, as you can see from Brechner’s Publishers Weekly article, it was only after the article appeared on a highly respected industry website that Amazon bothered to do anything about it … and the author himself was unable to get CreateSpace to take any action at all, though not from lack of trying.  And as you’ll see from the comments already piling up below the article, this wasn’t an isolated case, nor is it something that authors are willing to tolerate. Comments include phrases like:

“I’d say, Createspace should be embarrassed – beyond measure.” – GISELA HAUSMANN

“…this article is a wise word of caution to us writers.” – Carol Johnson

“Same thing happened to me. I discovered one of its CreateSpace books had pirated both some text and several of my photos from my website that included those texts and those photos selected from my traditionally published book.” – Mark Mathew Braunstein

In fact, the same thing happened with one of my own books, too: Publishing Gems. I discovered that it had been copied in its entirety through the CreateSpace platform without my knowledge or consent. Not only was CreateSpace selling the pirated version, but so were a vast number of Amazon Marketplace booksellers. When I contacted Amazon about the infringement, they were quick to remove it. When I asked them the name of the individual who was responsible for this act of piracy, they ignored me entirely. Then I started receiving emailed requests from all the Marketplace booksellers, notifying me that they had removed the stolen book from their virtual shelves, and asking me to “approve them” for continued business under the threat of cancellation from Amazon.  Here’s the interesting part – all their emails were nearly identical, as if someone from Amazon’s legal department provided them with the exact verbiage to use to request forgiveness.

Do you know what that tells me? It tells me that copyright infringement happens so frequently through CreateSpace that Amazon’s legal department has come up with an actual procedure to cope with it.

Is that the kind of publ—er, algorithm, you want handling your books?

computer piracy


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

Self-Publishing News: 3.5.2018 – The Company Files!

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And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing, specifically news from or regarding self-publishing companies!

Starting with some positive news today, we recommend you check out this press release courtesy of Outskirts Press and Benzinga, a premier source for the latest in information on the self-publishing industry (among others). At the heart of this story … well, a lot of heart. A lot of love! Because it’s almost that time of year, isn’t it? And Outskirts Press is determined to ensure that those authors choosing to self-publish this year have the best possible Valentine’s Day ever! This self-publishing company, which has a history of both fantastic deals and long-term contributors to this blog, will be giving authors twenty percent off in a flash sale on its popular Full-Color and Ultimate publishing packages. That’s a pretty sweet deal–almost as sweet as the real and genuine care which this company is reputed to take with those works which pass through its expert services. Of course, we’re a little biased. But Outskirts Press has been voted #1 Publishing Company by Top Consumer Reviews, several years running!

Computing, a scrupulously reputable news engine dedicated to technology (particularly in the UK) is now reporting on further developments in the case against Amazon, which recently shuttered many of its CreateSpace services. Elizabeth covered those earlier developments in a separate blog (which you can read here) several weeks back, but it’s worth noting that the company is rapidly moving from treating its author base poorly to being downright disreputable, and that criminals have found a way to exploit the website without Amazon taking decisive action to shut them down. It’s a complicated story, and one we’ll be following closely. We highly recommend you check out Computing contributor Nicholas Fearn’s full article at the link.


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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 every Monday to find out the hottest news. If you have other big news to share, please comment below.

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In Your Corner: Who fills the void left by CreateSpace? Think about Outskirts Press

CreateSpace recently announced plans to soon eliminate positions in its editing, marketing and design divisions. While job cuts are an unsavory step for any company, this move is likely intended to streamline operations and shore up financials.

But what will this mean for self-publishing authors? CreateSpace will continue to print books and authors will still be able to upload and sell their books, but with these cuts there will no longer be the option to purchase copyediting, book formatting, book cover design, marketing or any other professional creative services for authors publishing via CreateSpace. Suddenly, CreateSpace authors will need to navigate the process alone or seek out other self-publishing service providers for help.

Here’s where a self-publishing company–like the one I work for, Outskirts Press–comes in.

Based on company-wide conversations already taking place, I’m confident that Outskirts Press will work diligently to accommodate all writers negatively affected by the service cuts at CreateSpace. We’re proud to have been named the #1 self-publisher by Top Consumer Reviews multiple years in a row and will continue the tradition of excellence for all CreateSpace authors who require more than just an upload. In addition to our printing and ebook publishing services, we provide independent authors with all the same services discontinued by CreateSpace, and then some. Our services include:

  • Professional writing and editing services: Our service to independent authors starts long before publication! Whether you need help starting or finishing the manuscript, or require just the final read-through, we can match you up with a talented professional ghostwriter or editor to help you achieve a professional book.
  • Professional book formatting: A wide selection of the most popular book formats and interior formatting options.
  • Custom cover design: Our talented book cover designers will ensure that you get a cover that sells.
  • Book marketing: A broad menu of marketing options to promote your book your way today.
  • All-inclusive packages: Comprehensive publishing packages that include everything you need to polish, format, publish and market your book successfully.
  • Affordable and flexible: With us, you can start the self-publishing journey for only $35 down!

Are you, or is an author you know, left stranded by the void left by CreateSpace’s cuts? You can find out more about how my coworkers at Outskirts Press can professionally publish your book, distribute it globally (yes, even on Amazon) and support you with affordable options at the same time by visiting our website at www.OutskirtsPress.com.

You know, it’s not every day I am compelled to write a “hard sell,” but when it comes to recent events, I feel the need to be honest: what CreateSpace has done will leave many authors feeling abandoned mid-project, or worse, unaided from start to finish. Self-publishing has (and will) continue to thrive and evolve to provide better services due to the diversification of options available to you, the self-publishing author; watching any company in our industry go through the layoff process is not, in the end, a cheerful experience. We feel for those who now find themselves looking for work, and hope that they, as well as you, find that next good thing speedily.

You can read more about the layoffs here.

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.

Becoming an Amazon Bestseller

Not long after on-demand self-publishing hit the mainstream, and Amazon started putting every other company out of business (like Borders, CompUSA, etc.), a “marketing strategy” began circulating about a sales technique whereby a book could (at least momentarily) skyrocket to #1 on the Amazon bestsellers list.  Before this technique started becoming saturated, authors closely following this strategy often saw their books reach an overall Amazon bestsellers ranking of #1.  Then, as more and more authors followed the same steps, it became acceptable to call oneself a “#1 Amazon Bestseller” simply if the book reached #1 in a very specific genre-category on Amazon (which is still nothing to sneeze at).

Most of you have probably seen about or read about this strategy before, but just in case you haven’t, here’s a quick run-down of how it works and why it works.

HOW IT WORKS 

  1. Pick a specific day in which you will strive for “bestseller status” on Amazon. Make it far enough in advance to accomplish the rest of these steps.
  2. Create Joint Ventures with other authors and/or online marketers. A “Joint venture” is a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby you partner with another writer/entrepreneur to trade something of value (an eBook, for example) with one another in exchange for something else of value (each other’s mailing lists, or word-of-mouth publicity).  Many authors and entrepreneurs are open to being Joint Ventures on Amazon Bestsellers programs because they know you will actively promote it (which is necessary for success). Through that promotion, their eBook, or “product” will receive additional exposure they would otherwise not be able to achieve.  The best and easiest way to find possible Joint Venture partners is by looking at other Amazon Bestsellers campaigns (perhaps you’ve received an email), and following up with the same people.
  3. Contact each of your Joint Venture partners and introduce yourself and your book and ask if they’d like to help you with your marketing campaign.  Ask if they would be willing to give away something of value to your customers in exchange for some publicity, and/or a free copy of your book.  Some will say yes. Others may say no.  It rarely takes much of their time, since you are handling almost all the details, so this is a nice time when you receive more “yes’s” than “no’s”. All they have to do is donate the “free bonus” and offer to email their mailing list on the specific date you decided upon in Step #1.
  4. Once you’ve collect 10 or so Joint Ventures, you need to make a “Sales Page” on the internet.  There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, depending upon your proficiency with HTML.  The purpose of the “Sales Page” is to “sell” your book and, as extra incentive, offer your customers “Free Bonuses”, the combined value of which exceeds the cost of your book.  These free bonuses are compliments of all your Joint Partners; so your sales page also identifies and “sells” each of the Joint Venture products, too.  If your book costs $19.95, but you are giving away $200 worth of “free stuff” anyone with even a passing interest in your book may pony up the twenty bucks just to get all the extras.
  5. At the bottom of the Sales Page is the Buy Button. There are a variety of ways to do this, also, depending upon your HTML proficiency.  You can send them directly to Amazon and ask them to forward you a receipt (the manual process), or you can provide a Promotion Code which entitles them to automatic downloads of all the free bonuses (the automatic process).  Whichever method you choose, make sure your instructions and directions are very clear for them, so they know they’ll get everything you are offering.  If you go the “manual” route, be prepared to deliver upon your promises, even if thousands of orders come in (what a great problem to have!)
  6. Alternatively, you can create the “sales page” within the body of your email that you are sending out. The email still ends with the Amazon Buy Button directing each recipient to your Amazon Sales Page.  You must send your customers to Amazon, rather than selling the book directly yourself. After all, the whole point is to reach an Amazon bestsellers ranking, and that only occurs if your book sales are going through Amazon.
  7. At the date and time determined in Step #1, send your email to your mailing list.  Send out a quick reminder email to your Joint Partners to do the same thing. Provide them with the same email so they don’t have to write anything themselves.  Theoretically, the same email will therefore go to thousands upon thousands of people (when you combine your mailing list with the lists of all 10+ of your Joint Partners) all at roughly the same time, all promoting your book, and all offering hundreds of dollars in “bonuses” to your new readers.
  8. Depending upon the size of the combined lists, even if only a small percentage of people buy your book, it is often enough to “trick” Amazon’s algorithm into skyrocketing your book’s Amazon Bestsellers campaign.

WHY IT WORKS 

Well, that’s why the word “trick” is in quotation marks.  Amazon’s Ranking algorithm tabulates quantity of sales within periods of time. So a book that normally sells 1 book a month that suddenly sells 10 books an hour will “trick” Amazon’s algorithm into thinking it’s selling like hotcakes (because, relatively speaking, it is!).  This is why it’s important for the sales email to be sent on the same day by all the Joint Partners, and ideally all within the same short period of time.  Recipients who act upon the email, and buy your book, will do so within a condensed period of time, which will probably catapult your Amazon Sales Ranking.

Will your ranking last?  No (so be sure to watch Amazon throughout the day and take screen shots). But “#1 Amazon Bestsellers” have never worried too much about divulging the fine print.

amazon bookstore


brent sampson
In 2002, Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Semi-Finalist Brent Sampson founded Outskirts Press, a custom book publishing solution that provides a cost-effective, fast, and powerful way to help authors publish, distribute, and market their books worldwide while leaving 100% of the rights and 100% of the profits with the author. Outskirts Press was incorporated in Colorado in October, 2003.
In his capacity as the Chief Executive Officer and Chief Marketing Officer, Brent is an expert in the field of book publishing and book marketing. He is also the author of several books on both subjects, including the bestseller Sell Your Book on Amazon, which debuted at #29 on Amazon’s bestseller list.

From the Archives: Creating a “So you’d like to…” Guide for your Self Published Book

Welcome back to our Tuesday segment, where we’ll be revisiting some of our most popular posts from the last few years.  What’s stayed the same?  And what’s changed?  We’ll be updating you on the facts, and taking a new (and hopefully refreshing) angle on a few timeless classics of Self Publishing Advisor.

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[ Originally posted: September 1, 2008 ]

If you are promoting your self-published book, hopefully by now you have created a few “listmania” lists. If you were poking around your Amazon “Profile” page, you may have also seen the “So you’d like to….” guide section.

Writing a “So you’d like to…” guide is nearly as easy as creating a listmania list and will probably yield even better results, simply because the number of guides on Amazon is less than the number of lists. Why? Because guides are more work to create. But not for you! You’ve already written a book, and you can turn excerpts of your book into guides.

In fact, you can basically cut and paste a selected section from your published book and create a guide out of it. Just follow the steps on Amazon.com by clicking on the “Create a So you’d like to… guide” link in the “So You’d Like to” section of your profile page.

To get there, sign in to your Amazon.com account from http://amazon.com/connect then click on your personalized “Store” tab the top, and then click on “Your Profile” from tab menu.  If you have not set up an Amazon Connect account yet, you can read more about doing this here: Using Listmania to Promote your Self-Published Book

Again, like with the “listmania” lists, the real power of the guide is adding OTHER books that will spark people’s interest in reading your guide.

Good luck and have fun!

As we’ve mentioned in the intervening years since my first post, Listmania has … gone to list heaven. But it hasn’t left a giant gap in our normal ways and means of doing things, as by and large its primary functions were usurped by Goodreads’ superior tools.

And boy, do we love Goodreads. I mean, I. I love Goodreads. A lot.

So what if it’s been bought by Amazon? Goodreads has Listopia. Goodreads has “best of” lists. Goodreads has twenty different functions that I haven’t even begun to explore, but love the idea of. (Giveaways! Recommendations! Blogs! News & Interviews! It seems endless.) Just so long as Amazon resists the urge to do more than place banner ads on every page (which we’re more than used to with Facebook, anyway) I will love the gift that is Goodreads.

It’s not just good for readers (and it is good for readers). It’s good for authors, too. Reviews on Goodreads consistently show up in the first three or four items indexed in any given Google search for a book. They probably shook hands under the table somewhere, but it certainly benefits self-publishing authors.

Get yourself on Goodreads. Explore Listopia. Explore the relics of Amazon’s “So You Want To…” guides, but be aware: a lot has changed in the past eight or nine years, and a lot will continue to change as we adapt to an ever-changing digital future. The key is not to hold on tightly to any one tool or service (I know, I know, I need to lighten up on my love for Goodreads then!). The key is to be willing to pick up new ones when they become useful, and to let the old (and beloved) ones fade away into obscurity.

Sometimes, self-publishing is about saying good-bye.

RIP, Listmania.

rip listmania

Thanks for reading.  If you have any other ideas, I’d love to hear them.  Drop me a line in the comments section below and I’ll respond as quickly as I can.  ♠


Kelly

ABOUT KELLY SCHUKNECHT: Kelly Schuknecht is the Executive Vice President of Outskirts Press. In addition to her contributions to the Outskirts Press blog at blog.outskirtspress.com, Kelly and a group of talented marketing experts offer book marketing services, support, and products to not only published Outskirts Press authors, but to all authors and professionals who are interested in marketing their books and/or careers. Learn more about Kelly on her blog, kellyschuknecht.com.