In Your Corner: Fall Abundance (Part II)

Are you facing down the same cold snap that I am? It’s looking to be quite an early start to Winter, almost skipping straight over Fall, but I’m determined to wring every last drop of sunshine and joy out of these long afternoons.

Last time I wrote to you, dear readers, I launched this series about fall abundance and taking a moment just to breathe it all in … along with all those pine needle and pumpkin spice and fresh-baked shortbread aromas that are spiking the air right now.

fall cookies pumpkin autumn halloween

As the evenings take on a distinct bite, there’s still the tang of summer smoke in the air–all the fire of a season packed with heat and mixed feelings–and it’s time to start thinking of how to make the most of the Autumn writing and marketing season. Yes, it may be most often called the ‘back-to-school’ season, but we all of us go back to things in Fall. Back to work, back to family routines, back to the marketing strategies we … may … have let languish during the busy summer months.

How can we flip the switch and get back to work?

Here are my recommendations:

  • You’re not the only one who may need a reminder that change is upon us. Use the next month as an opportunity to launch a special deal or giveaway. You can frame it as ‘back-to-school savings’ or you can use it as a promo for new or upcoming releases.
  • Think visual. Fall is perhaps the most striking of all (or at the very least, one of the most striking) seasons. Take advantage! Your book is a product, and selling a product is at least half of the time about selling an image. If you haven’t created an Instagram and Pinterest, now is the time! These two social media platforms offer a great way of humanizing your brand and showcasing your product.
  • Fall is a great time to get your networking game on! People may not be thinking about taxes just yet (or they might be thinking about them a lot if they applied for an extension), but you certainly want to get your foot in the door before the holiday craze so that readers remember your name and your book come tax time–and come the holidays! Connect the dots between everyone you ‘meet’ on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Goodreads, and even LinkedIn and work those contacts and relationships now, while they’re planning out their budget, calendar, and holiday schemes for the school year.
  • And on that note, it’s time to plan your own editorial and marketing calendar–or at least to sketch out the outlines! Is it your hope to write some newsletters, blog posts, or social media updates in the coming months? Do you have some new work on the horizon? Now is the time to schedule not just your writing time or your own holiday marketing plan–it’s time to lay the groundwork for an entire year of editorial works!

And these are just a few of my recommendations! As you might expect, there are plenty of chances to enrich your opportunities during the Fall. Don’t put things off–start now! More than just a hint of pumpkin spice is wafting on the rising breeze of Autumn ….

fall cookies pumpkin autumn halloween

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.

In Your Corner: Fall Abundance (Part I)

Here in North America, it’s now well and truly Fall. Depending on how far north of the equator you live, your weather may or may not have turned yet––it has a bit, here, just enough that you can smell it in the rain––but the reality is incontestable.

fall book reading autumn

This being Fall, and this being a self-publishing blog, you might justifiably wonder if we’re going to talk about why you should publish your next book this season. And yes, there are plenty of good reasons to do so; book sales are at their annual highest between September and December. I recently read that indie booksellers move 50% of their books over this period, in part because of holiday sales boosts and in part because of the book awards season timetable, which makes this a fruitful time of year to release a book and generate buzz. I could also point to those holiday sales as a reason unto themselves––self-publishing authors can really benefit from having a “hook” like a significant holiday or an anniversary to hang their book release on.

But that’s not all that I want to talk about today. In the weeks to come, yes, I’ll be writing frequently to highlight the various things one might do to boost sales around each upcoming holiday. But today? Today I want to talk about the Fall abundance, and focus on the writing of a book for a moment, not just the sales.

Fall is quite literally the season of abundance. Or not, depending on how your garden did this year. It’s the time of year when we feel most reflective, looking back at the long arc of a year of hard work. If you’re like me, that means you end up with a grab-bag of mixed feelings: pride (I did that!), anxiety (what will happen next?), grief (that didn’t go well), and hope (maybe I can do better in the years to come). In a way, then, Fall is the most abundant of seasons in respect to what it makes us feel, not just what it brings forth from the earth or unearths in our lives.

Author and speaker Wayne Dyer had a lot to say about abundance, but one of my favorite things he ever said was this:

wayne dyer abundance quote

As I begin shifting gears in blog posts to come and address ways to tackle the holidays, I’d like to start with this notion of “tuning in” to abundance. There’s certainly plenty of hard work and elbow grease required to make a success of self-publishing, but an abundant experience in self-publishing comes from the same place as abundance in all other things: your heart, your life, and your relationship to the world. All the lists of tips and tricks in the world can’t substitute for the simple truth that the best way to succeed is to understand what it is you want and need out of the experience, and to celebrate your unique relationship to the publishing process––and yes, by way of publishing, the world.

Watch this space in the weeks to come for those lists and tips and tricks, but tonight? Spend a minute with your abundant feelings. Think a little bit about what you want. The harvest is due any minute, and this is the moment to catch your breath.

3d rendering of cup of coffee on wooden windowsill with leaves in front of colorful forest

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.

In Your Corner: The Back to School Crunch

Sometimes, the seasons seem to matter more than at other times. When it comes to Fall, it often seems to matter more if A) you are an Autumn aesthete who loves the holiday season as well as pumpkin spice lattes, among other things, or B) you are a parent, teacher, or otherwise have children in your life, as the Fall brings a sudden rift in schedules. And never fear! For those of you who are either (or both) aesthetes or follow the school-year calendar, I will be walking you through specific marketing strategies relating to each holiday and Fall moment that can benefit your book. After all, that’s my specialty. (And I also love pumpkin spice, cozy nooks, roaring fires, quilts, cats, and all other aesthetically appealing things.)

For now, though, I want to take a moment just to recognize the turn in seasons, and to honor the fact that we’ve come this far. Well done, you. It’s no small thing, making it through summer, whether it’s busy or tediously boring; it never seems to be just … an average three months, does it? It’s always something else.

A lot of life happens in the summer.

back to school books student

Ahhh, that’s better. Now on to business!

Wouldn’t it have been oh-so-much easier to execute the perfect holiday book sales plan if you’d started just that little bit earlier in the year? Well, I’m here today with a reminder as you start to look down the barrel of yet another end-of-year holiday frenzy: it’s time now! If you want to put your holidays in order, you have to start thinking about your marketing plan today. Yes, in August. If not July!

So let’s make a plan!

First stop: Who’s your audience? You’ll be able to plan an effective strategy only if you know who your ideal readers are–or who their parents with the pocketbooks and credit cards are, in the case of children’s books–and where to reach them, either online and in terms of raising awareness about your book, or in person through events and a campaign that they can conveniently connect to.

Second stop: What’s your format? If your book is digital, then giveaways are a must. An absolute must! There are also some great freebies–free chapters, free peeks, etc–that you can do by integrating your material into your website, social media, and so on. Make sure you give your website a face-lift if you haven’t in a while–you want to be ready for the holidays, not just responding to them when they happen!

If your book is print, then yes–giveaways are still a must! But also book signings, book readings, and perhaps even workshops and teaching opportunities. The more ways–and the more creative ways–you can put your book into the hand of a potential buyer, the higher your chances of actually getting that buyer to pull out the pocketbook! Print books offer a great opportunity to distribute shiny merch like bookmarks, postcards, and so on to readers–even when your book may not be present or being sold! Think of the places people pick up their merch–banks, hotels, libraries, restaurant waiting areas–and partner with local businesses to see about featuring your book in these places.

Third stop: Get a move on! By the time those holidays roll around–whether Labor Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, or Christmas–it’s already too late to put together a comprehensive plan to reach new readers at that time. You really have to think ahead! Which is why we’re here. We’ve been there. If we’re honest with ourselves, we still are there. We know what it’s like–but here’s a guarantee: if you plan ahead, you will sell more books than if you don’t.

Sure, we can take it easy on ourselves, and feed ourselves the same line we did last year: “Oh, but there’s always next year.” And it’s true, for most of us. There will be more time to perfect our methods. But for this book, and this year, there isn’t a moment to waste–and it really would be a shame to push back our perfect holiday season another year simply because we let ourselves off of the hook today. Because for as many wonderful and eloquent “New Year’s Resolutions” posts we put up here on Self Publishing Advisor that we really do intend to keep, there’s always something that gets away from us. So we keep at it. Better todays mean better tomorrows mean a strategically stress-free Fall and Winter 2019!

But don’t worry, I’m not saying I’m anywhere near perfect. All we can ask is that we get a little bit better every go-around, right?

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.

In Your Corner: Keeping Ahead of the Summer Rush

Holiday suitcase

Look, summer presents unique challenges to writers, doesn’t it? By July, everyone’s deep into their vacations, children are running riot while out of school, family streams in and out in a series of reunions, and … it can be hard to continue writing.

Of course … there are remedies. And this week, I suggest trying your hand at a schedule––and then, of all things, sticking to it!

Now, those who know me well know that I’m not aways given over to structured practicalities and organizational tricks. I know how to kick back and relax, especially in summer. After all, if you work in publishing or with authors, as I do, you’ll know that victories are hard-won and well worth celebrating! So … don’t take this as heavy-handed pontification from someone who’s eminently hypocritical. I often suggest many things which I do not myself do all the time, since I’m as firm a believer in changing the habits to fit the situation as I am that success in self-publishing is the nexus of persistence, skill, and good luck.

I recommend schedules for everyone. If not for always, than for a season––and there’s no better season to try your hand at scheduling in summer, when the emotional, physical, and social stakes are so high … and very little writing is getting done anyways, so why not try a new approach? You may be writing by a pool with a mimosa at your side, but you can still work a schedule like nobody’s business, and churn out more writing than you would otherwise. Anyone with a plan can make it work!

In garden a woman surfing on internet with laptop.

Oh … but a plan? How do I come up with one of those?

Here’s where I get a little bit … experimental. As the first step to developing a schedule, I recommend starting a bullet journal. You have probably heard this term before, and associated it with highly neurotic, organized, possibly even OCD? people with phenomenal artistic skills. sure did, and refused to start a bullet journal, until I dug into a great conversation at the local library with a young mother named Melissa.

Melissa bullet journals. No surprise there! But wow, she has zero artistic skills. I mean, not a single artistic bone in her body! She was a bit reticent to show me her bullet journal, since she felt insecure about the lettering and such, but I was eventually able to persuade her. And I was incredibly impressed! Melissa has gotten to the heart of what a bullet journal is all about, which is to say, she started hers with lists––shopping lists, to-do lists, etc––and by tracking the little things she does throughout the day. Then she took it one step further and started to set goals … once she knew what her days usually already looked like, and what was feasible.

That, my friends and dear readers, is the value of a bullet journal. It can eventually help you shape behaviors, yes, but first it shows you what you already do––and therefore, what you’re already good at, and maybe some areas to work on. It’s like Google Analytics, but for a person’s daily productivity!

Printable Journaling Cards with Rooster Illustration. Line Style

You can put a bullet journal to work describing your days and then use the data you gather––when meals happen, what they look like, how many hours you’re sleeping a night, what your weekly and daily commitments look like and how they change in the summer––to transform or tweak your schedule just a little to squeak some more writing in. Poolside, or otherwise.

It’s all about sustainability. Radically altering your writing behaviors without a plan just isn’t a good idea––and it isn’t, ultimately, sustainable. Small changes are great, however, and over time you can build one change upon another until your summers are your most productive months, rather than the opposite! But it starts with knowing where you are, first.

If you’re looking for insight into bullet journaling, hop on Google or YouTube! There are literally thousands of them out there, but beware: many are a bit deceiving, touting life-altering effects and demonstrating uncannily beautiful hand lettering skills. You don’t have to make all the big changes at once, and you don’t need to be a gifted artist to figure out a better summer schedule by bullet journaling!

Still, here’s a quick snippet to get you started:

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.

In Your Corner: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings (Part III: The OTHER Algorithms)

First of all ….

happy 4th of july independence day

Hopefully this newest addition to my latest series of blog posts finds you resting at home, or on some lake shore, or on a deck somewhere, with a large glass of sweet iced tea at your elbow and the scent of grilled burgers wafting on the warm summer breeze. Wherever this finds you, and whatever country you might reside in, I hope that you’re having a splendid afternoon.

Over the last month, I’ve been slowing down and taking a close-up look at some of Amazon’s most useful––and oft-controversial––features when it comes to selling and marketing your self-published books. First, we looked at sales rankings. Next, we looked at pre-orders––and how pre-orders can affect sales rankings. Today, we’re going to spend some time with Amazon’s other algorithms––the ones that you might not even know about, but which are just as important in respect to sales.

First of all, before we get started, a quick proviso: I am neither a computer programmer nor a systems specialist. I’m coming at this subject as, I suppose, a studious and well-informed amateur. I don’t just read about these algorithms––whether we’re talking about Amazon or Google or eBay or any other profit-making enterprise that uses one––once and consider myself knowledgeable; if anything, the most important thing I’ve learned over the years is that the algorithms are constantly changing and being reinvented, so we all need to be constantly dipping in and out of the subject to stay abreast of the latest developments.

What algorithms are those?

An algorithm can be broad in its scope or more constrained; it will vary depending on the needs of its users and the business that develops it. In the case of Amazon, most of what I’m about to talk about are aspects, or mere elements, of what the larger algorithm is capable of. They can be talked about on their own, since they’re units of code with separate goals and applications, but they ought also to be talked about as part of a much larger whole. Amazon has a whole subsidiary––A9––that is dedicated entirely to developing search engine technology and coding architecture.

Amazon’s sales ranking algorithm feeds into its search engine and look-alike (AKA “recommendations”) algorithms in predictable ways: the higher your ranking (the lower your ranking number), the more popular your book is, and the more tried-and-true and the more likely it is in Amazon’s eyes that your book will be salable if it links it to other products. Therefore, if your book achieves a good sales ranking, it’s more likely to be boosted by these other algorithms (or units of the larger Amazon algorithm) and the more likely it will be to show up in front of new readers when they go searching for other products on Amazon.

Amazon’s algorithms are capable of cracking your book open and mining it for information, too. We’ve all heard about the insanity taking place over at Microsoft with its book platform in weeks past, and we’re all aware of the copyrights complaints leveled at Google for its book platform over the years, and Amazon is just as big and just as bad (or good, depending on your perspective) when it comes to picking through your original content for details it can use. This is particularly true if you enable the “Look Inside” feature when selling your book, or if you put up an e-book version for sale through Amazon. For the most part, this mining process is benign in intent, with the goal of figuring out what bits of what you’ve written are most likely to appeal to customers and making that accessible to them. It does, however, also mean that Amazon gets to use your content in ways that haven’t fully been mapped and analyzed yet––particularly since most of Amazon’s algorithm is, as a proprietary development, not transparent to public assessment.

The real value of reading up on Amazon’s algorithms is a heightened awareness of the balance between personal and public rights, between copyright protections and the engine of a profit-driven market. There are too many forces at work, and too many nuances to each of those forces in question, to truly “get to the bottom” of any one question we might have about how things work and how we ought to make decisions as authors, but it certainly pays to keep an eye on the headlines and one foot in the door of learning about advances in algorithms as they happen.

And ultimately, even when it seems that you’re just grist in the wheel of profit-making, you do have allies––us here on the blog, and all of your fellow authors in the business. We’re here for you!

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.

In Your Corner: Getting Started With Amazon Sales Rankings (Part II: Pre-Orders)

online sales rankings ratings reviews

Last time I wrote, I sought to answer one very important question for self-publishing authors: What are online sales rankings, specifically Amazon sales rankings, and what do they mean for you, a self-publishing author? I spent some time tackling the definitions of and usefulness of sales rankings to the average indie author, and set out to debunk another question as well: What about the stuff that Amazon isn’t saying about its sales rankings? Which, as it turns out, is a lot. Pretty much everything, in fact!

In summary, Amazon is a business and its sales rankings, like its search algorithms and its “if you liked [x] you might also like [y]” algorithms, are both private and proprietary. Which means they don’t have to disclose what human and algorithmic assumptions are built into the process—what fundamental things Amazon believes about the way you, and all people, work. Quite apart from the potential for unconscious (or sometimes conscious) biases to perpetuate things like racism, sexism, and other -isms—especially if leadership and oversight isn’t constantly and thoughtfully looking out for such things—the fact remains that algorithms such as those used to determine sales rankings can be helpful, but require a significant human component in order to work in your favor.

This week, I’m going to ask (and hopefully answer) another important and related question:

What is the relationship between pre-orders and your sales ranking—and how can you make this relationship work for you?

preorder

Pre-orders can actually have a negative effect on your sales ranking—at least during the first week or so after your book launches. This is because pre-order sales are more spread out, and their dates of transaction will not be lumped together with the other books sold during your first week, even though the actual physical or digital books will be distributed at the same time as your first-week sales. And the more you sell in a short amount of time, the higher your sales ranking will be during that period. Others have written and spoken very eloquently on this first-week problem, so I won’t go into detail about it here, other than this quick summary.

There are other reasons why pre-orders are a good idea, and these deserve a little bit of your time and attention as well. Just to name a few, opening up your book for pre-orders provides you with a promotional opportunity that you wouldn’t otherwise have, and provides an actionable way for readers to purchase your book right away when they first hear about it, rather than requiring them to wait and plan to buy your book later—as we all know, instant gratification may not be a human ideal, but it is a very human reality. If readers can’t buy your book the first time they hear about it, many of them are liable to forget about it altogether. A pre-order option means that during your heaviest promotional period before your book launch, you can get your readers to commit to a purchase even though they’ll have to wait for delivery. You can then spread your pre-order link around all of your various social media platforms and digital presences, ensuring that it’s easy to find your book paired with your name everywhere it appears.

And yes, a pre-order period also allows you time to refine your promotional materials. It’s one thing to edit and edit away before your book launch, but a soft release like a pre-order allows you to test your language in the field and see how readers and potential buyers respond … and then make changes as you go to better appeal to them. This holds true for any advertising or website monetization you might run during the pre-order period, as well.

The biggest benefit to a self-publishing author of making pre-orders available is the reviews! Normally, a book can’t be reviewed on Amazon before it’s available for purchase, distribution, and arrival. (Goodreads allows reviews as soon as a book is listed.) But with pre-orders, a huge chunk of your readership will receive your book on the first day it’s out, and you’ll start getting reviews immediately. Reviews are the most powerful marketing tool of all!

So, while your pre-orders can negatively affect your Amazon sales ranking, it’s only for a few days, and it will only truly make a difference if you don’t make use of the pre-order period for the aforementioned optimization. Pre-orders can in many ways prove a useful training ground for promotion and marketing, meaning that your book launches to higher acclaim and attention than it would otherwise. It’s wise to see the larger relationship in context.

Next time, I’m going to look at what we know about Amazon’s other algorithms—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.

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.