Admit it. You’ve checked your Amazon.com sales ranking at least once since your book was published. You feel the need to have some outside confirmation of the sales of your book. And Amazon’s ranking are free to look at.
I’ve even seen book proposals where the author has gone to great lengths to include the Amazon ranking for each title that is competitive with the one the author is proposing. A prodigious amount of wasted effort.
Publishers rarely pay attention to Amazon rankings unless yours gets below 1,000 or if you get in the top 100.
I’ve known authors who have gone into deep depression because their Amazon numbers aren’t very good.
Consider for a moment how those rankings are calculated. Amazon is very secretive as to the exact formula (and some have gone to great lengths to figure it out) but consider looking at it as “the number of sales in a given period of time.” Much like the bestseller lists with USA Today and the New York Times a book has to sell x number of copies to somehow “hit the list.”
This fascinating article by Morris Rosenthal guesses that to get into the top 10,000 on Amazon your book needs to sell at least 2 copies a day. And to get in the top 100 you may have to sell 100 copies a day.
I know of a case where a book sold 700 copies with Amazon (based on publisher’s information) in one week and got into the top 100 ranking. So Rosenthal’s guess may not be too far off.
Another author thought that they could make the number jump by asking fans to wait until a specific day and have everyone buy the book from Amazon on that day. Over 100 fans participated. The result was a nice jump but it did not come close to cracking the top 100 sales ranking that day.
It is so fluid that it is hardly worth the obsession. Amazon is only one sales outlet out of hundreds. It doesn’t reflect sales at the local grocery store, the Christian bookstore, the independent retailer in your town, much less sales to Barnes & Noble and other “big box” outlets. In that light consider Amazon as a single snapshot of a single moment from a single sales source.
To bring levity to the conversation, a husband and wife team created the following short video that is a hilarious send up on Amazon rank obsession. Make sure you watch past the credits: