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.

In Your Corner: Summer is Coming

Look, we know summer is just around the corner, and we also know you’ve all been mainlining the latest season of *ahem* a certain popular fantasy show, so here’s our thirty-second shout-out:

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Okay, now that that‘s done, we can move on from wisecracks to talking about preparing for summer book sales and marketing plans.

As a self-published author, you’re no doubt already well-aware that book sales are seasonal. According to this excellent report from Springer (which is dedicated to taking a numbers approach to publishing), the winter holidays remain the season with the highest book sales, followed by summer. The report writers state that:

In early January, the lowest median sales over the years is close to 15,000 copies a week, a number higher than the highest median sales of any other time of the year except late December. For fiction, a similar but less pronounced peak is observed during the summer months with median sales surpassing 10,000, likely due to book purchases in preparation for the summer vacation. In nonfiction, there is no such summer peak. During these periods of elevated sales a book needs to sell more copies to make it to the New York Times bestseller list than during other months. We also note that in general, fiction books sell more copies than nonfiction, a gap which is largest during summer and decreases considerably during the holiday season, where the sales of both fiction and nonfiction are significantly elevated.

The writers also point out that not only are “the first year sales are the most important for a hardcover,” but also that “most fiction books have their peaks strictly in the first 2–6 weeks [… while] for nonfiction, even though peaks at weeks 2–5 are common, the peak can happen any time during the first 15 weeks.” While on a surface level this might lead one to believe that it would be smart to time a book’s publication with an upcoming sales peak, the reverse may actually be the case. As the Springer report’s authors point out, one has to sell a lot more books during a sales peak than at any other time of year to hit bestseller lists—or see a boost in the Amazon sales rankings. This is because there is more competition during sales peaks (winter holidays for nonfiction, and both summer and winter holidays for fiction). Your sales ranking, for those who may not know, shows how high you rate compared to other authors and books in the same category—the lower the number, the more popular you or your book is. (There are separate rankings for authors and books.)

A book can see successful sales at any time of year, of course, and a refined marketing plan is probably more of a determining factor when it comes to sale than time of year of publication, but it’s well worth keeping certain questions in mind: Can you make effective use of your sales ranking (on Amazon and elsewhere)? That may just be a deciding factor in what you choose to do next in your summer marketing plan.

Next time, I’m going to break those sales rankings down for you, and demonstrate how you can use your Amazon sales ranking to better market and sell your self-published book!

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.

Self-Publishing News: 2.5.2019

February concept. stationery and notebook, business background

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

In past weeks, we’ve revealed some rather … mixed … information on the state of self-publishing, with some researchers arguing that sales are way up, and others insisting that actually they were completely terrible. In the interest of covering all of our bases and ensuring equal coverage for all concerned, here’s an article from Books + Publishing this week covering Amazon’s newly released sales figures. The most pertinent details? Writes the article author:

For books, authors earned more than US$260 million (A$359m) from the Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) Select Global Fund in 2018, totalling more than US$840m (A$1.16bn) since the launch of Kindle Unlimited. Amazon said, ‘hundreds of thousands of authors have self-published millions of books through KDP since launching the service in 2007’. Amazon said that ‘thousands’ of authors earned more than US$50,000 (A$69,000) from KDP royalties in 2018, and more than 1000 authors earned over US$100,000 (A$138,000).

Good news for Amazon, obviously, but how reliable are these figures? And how do they compare to other indie publishers and self-publishing companies? We’ll have to wait for comparative reports, it would seem.

More industry coverage comes from the Locus magazine for science fiction and fantasy, one of our favorites of the genres. This article ties into the report we mentioned last week in our Self Publishing News section, and provides further insights, specifically calling out the report for including zero-earnings authors who may not yet have published or not published recently, or who have not made self-publishing a dedicated part of their lives. Says the article,

It’s hard to tell how meaningful the data is, since the 5,000 respondents (drawn from the Authors Guild membership and nearly 20 other organizations and self-publishing platforms) are not necessarily a complete cross-section of the writing community. Fully a quarter of those surveyed reported receiving zero income from books or writing-related activities in 2017, which does tend to drag aggregate numbers down. Counting only those writers who actually made book-related income in 2017 (63% of those surveyed), the median income was over $20,000, and average income was over $43,000. A total of 38% of respondents also earned writing- related income apart from book royalties or advances, mostly from events and appearance fees, freelance journalism, and teaching writing. Given the increasing numbers of self-published authors and “hybrid” authors who self- publish and use traditional publishing too, one inarguable conclusion is that more authors are being paid – at least a little – than ever before.

Accounting for the zero-earnings authors provides a much rosier outlook than the naysayers previously have given, and tempers the worst of the emotions swirling around the Author Earnings report.


spa-news

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.

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Self-Publishing News: 1.8.2019

January, illustrated name of calendar month, illustration

And now for the news!

Some highlights from this month in the world of self-publishing!

Another gem from Adam Rowe of Forbes, this article covers some of last year’s top news when it comes to publishing–both traditional and self-publishing trends. Rowe begins by writing that “Popular predictions include the continued rise of audiobooks, political non-fiction, books clubs and the niche subscription service model. But the past still has a lot to say.” What is it that the past has to share, specifically, here? Crime fiction is still on the ascendant, writes Rowe, and it looks as though nothing will be unseating the blockbuster greats of that genre anytime soon–and Rowe mentions that certain other genres, including science fiction, fantasy, and romance, are more popular in digital than print at present. Other revelations include the strength of children’s books as a market force, as well as food writing and popular science, particularly in the UK. This article as a whole is well worth a look, just to keep up with the latest in what’s happening in the publishing industry as a whole.

Every author has probably asked this question of the universe at some point, and here comes New York Times contributor Concepción de León to answer it. Writes de León, “Writing has never been a lucrative career choice, but a recent study by the Authors Guild, a professional organization for book writers, shows that it may not even be a livable one anymore.” But before you start slipping into despair, check out the full article, which covers the history of authorship and how income levels have shifted over the years. de León and the New York Times in general comes from a place of traditional print media, and they’re well aware of that fact. But they don’t completely neglect the self-publishing authors among us; the article relies on findings that “are the result of an expansive 2018 study of more than 5,000 published book authors, across genres and including both traditional and self-published writers,” writes de León. The real problem, de León writes, is a well-known name: Amazon. Amazon “charges commission and marketing fees to publishers that Ms. Rasenberger said essentially prevent their books from being buried on the site. Small and independent publishers, which have fewer resources and bargaining power, have been particularly hard hit.” So … does it pay to be a writer? It depends on your market, and your royalties, and your access to high-quality marketing strategies, de León intimates. Check out the full article for more!


spa-news

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.

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Self-Published Book Review: “An Inky Summer”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review:

an inky summer by fred and cheryl lowman

cipa evvy merit

An Inky Summer

by Fred and Cheryl Lowman

ISBN: 9781478777434

Synopsis*:

When 12 year old Freddie discovers Inky, an American crow, sitting on the fence near the back steps of his house, it is the beginning of An Inky Summer. Read this true story and laugh as this crafty and intelligent corvid upsets neighbors and relatives with his antics.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review

A Wonderful True Story!

A delightful book! This book will not only be enjoyed by children, but by the adults who read it to them. The story will make you smile, laugh, and maybe even cry. It takes you back to a simpler time when kids didn’t have all the electronics in their lives. You will never look at a crow in the same way after reading this story. They are truly a very intelligent creature that we should learn more about. Also the illustrator, Dan Carsten, did an excellent job in bringing the story to life with his vibrant drawings. A must read for all ages!!!

– reviewed by Crowman on Amazon

Other Reviews

A Special Encounter to Enjoy.

A wonderful remembrance that is recalled and shared with the reader. It create’s our own wish to have an “encounter” with a creature to recall. It is a heart warming story that expresses much honesty and joy in the what may be if we are accepting. This story sparks the imagination and is made that much more special knowing it is a “true story”.
Well done!

– reviewed by Boppa on Amazon

Great Read!

I just loved this book. It really captured a perfect time in a young boy’s life. I was drawn in right away, and it made me want an “Inky” crow as a pet for myself. I learned a lot about crows. In the past, I would just see them as large, black birds; and now I am looking for individual personalities when I see them. The illustrations are wonderful and brought the book to life. A perfect read!

– reviewed by Gail V. on Amazon

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tuesday book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space!

Self Publishing Advisor

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Tuesday Book Review: “Cursed”

Book reviews are a great way for self-publishing authors to gain exposure. After all, how can someone buy your book if he or she doesn’t know it exists? Paired with other elements of your book promotion strategy, requesting reviews is a great way to get people talking about what you’ve written.
When we read good reviews, we definitely like to share them. It gives the author a few (permanent) moments of fame and allows us to let the community know about a great book. Here’s this week’s book review:

cursed jeanne blanchet

cipa evvy merit

Cursed

by Jeanne Blanchet, PhD

ISBN: 9781478747901

Synopsis*:

The year is 394 CE. Christianity has recently been declared Rome’s state religion, and the empire’s pagan temples are being shut down. When Christian Princess Serena accompanies Theofilus, a young priest, to oversee the closing of Vesta’s sanctuary, she pilfers a necklace from the statue of a goddess, inciting the head Vestal to call a horrific curse down on her and her family. Cursed traces the remainder of Serena’s life as she wonders if the curse will destroy her completely and attempts to cope with her gradually rising desperation. Meanwhile, Father Theofilus embarks on a lifelong quest to find the priceless antique Palladium, which had been housed in the sanctuary and which he plans to donate to the Church as a means of furthering his ecclesiastical career. Stilicho, Alaric, Theodosius I, Bishops Ambrose and Augustine, and Saint Jerome are among the fascinating individuals who return to life in this historical fiction thriller. Their exciting adventures are set against the background of the fall of the once-mighty Roman Empire, the rise of Christianity, and the mass migrations characteristic of Europe’s turbulent fourth and fifth centuries.

 * courtesy of Amazon.com

Featured Review

Jeanne Blanchet’s “Cursed” is an epic historical account of Christianity’s strong entrance into Roman culture, and how religion came to be more absolute than the power of even the emperors.

Christian Princess Serena and a young priest and aspiring Bishop of Rome, Presbyter Theofilus, make up two of the principal characters in the cast. Serena is pampered and used to living a life of luxury.  While her heart is often in the right place, she is easily misguided, however, by material aspirations and the beauty and allure of things, like jewelry.  Presbyter Theofilus started out as a promising young military prospect but turned his sights on the Church when religious traditions in Rome became overrun by Christian teachings and power.  What these two young people learned during their years, as did every other Roman citizen and intruder, was that Christianity’s power was to be stronger than anything else.

“Cursed” starts out strongly and is filled with rich details and obvious research.  The terminology which the author inputs into the story represents long hours of academic study, which help produce an authentic picture of Rome in its final century.  While the details remain strong throughout the novel, the pace staggers a bit as the story progresses.  It seemed that the author’s aspirations for the novel almost became a little too broad.  Whereas the synopsis of the book intimates at the book being about a young woman being evilly cursed by one of the remaining pagan priestesses, or Vestals, of Rome, and about Presbyter Theofilus’s journey to find the antique Palladium, these storylines become a little blurred.

While most of “Cursed” takes place toward the end of the 4th century CE, there are various chapters that almost randomly go back in time 30, 40, or 50 years.  One contains details about the coming of the Goths, while another provides backstory on the current Bishop of Rome.  While the historical details are strong, the context of why these chapters are included in the midst of the main story is lost.  I think the too-broad aspirations and outlook for the plot ended up overshadowing the intended theme and main point of the book, albeit unintentionally.

I am not sure I would consider this a read for the general audience.  The historical and technical terms may make the prose seem a little dense and hard to understand.  I am a history student and an aspiring historian, so the inclusion of the historical facts was perfectly normal, easy to understand, and even exciting to me, but it may pose as a barrier for those who aren’t as historically inclined.

“Cursed” certainly shows a lot of promise as a work of heavily research historical fiction.  The idea for the story is unique and captivating, and the characters are unique enough to make you want to know what happens to them by the end of the book.  In the end, “Cursed” by Jeanne Blanchet is a great example to aspiring writers of how important structure, pacing, and context are in contributing to the overall understanding, execution, and package that is a novel.

– reviewed by Megan Weiss on Reader Views

Other Reviews

History come to life.

The author has taken the historical account of early Christianity and the fall of Rome and woven together a most descriptive narrative to bring the events to life.

– reviewed by Nancy Redmond on Amazon

This book has inspiring attention to detail and emotional depth. The knowledge and research that went into the writing of Cursed has made it a real page turner that pulls you right in and won’t let you put it down.

– reviewed by MacLennan on Amazon

 


tuesday book review

Thanks for reading!  Keep up with the latest in the world of indie and self-published books by watching this space!

Self Publishing Advisor

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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.