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Thread: Squirrely Amazon sales rankings...

  1. #1
    Elle est arrivée! Barbarique's Avatar
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    Question Squirrely Amazon sales rankings...

    In the forty-eight hours since my novel has appeared on Amazon, its sales ranking has been jumping around like a flea on a hot plate: 105K, 157K, 95K, 75K, 65K, 87K...

    Is there any way to decipher what these numbers actually mean, or is that a heavily-guarded industry secret like the formula of Coca-Cola?
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  2. #2
    Resident Curmudgeon ResearchGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Barbarique View Post
    In the forty-eight hours since my novel has appeared on Amazon, its sales ranking has been jumping around like a flea on a hot plate: 105K, 157K, 95K, 75K, 65K, 87K...

    Is there any way to decipher what these numbers actually mean, or is that a heavily-guarded industry secret like the formula of Coca-Cola?
    Dunno the formula, but the bouncing numbers reflect a few sales plus the comparative sales of tens of thousands of other books. At 87K, that means 87K books sold better than yours (over the period in question as processed through the formula). At 105k, then 105K books sold better than yours (over the period in question as processed through the formula). Etc.

    I believe, but do not know for a fact, that the formula more heavily weights recent sales (recent as in, the last hour or two).

    --Ken

  3. #3
    Elle est arrivée! Barbarique's Avatar
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    Wow. Thanks for the info, Mr. Research Guy.

    Come to think of it, now I'm glad I didn't do well in math.
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  4. #4
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    In that rank it doesn't really mean anything and relates mainly to the sales of books other than yours. To put it in perspective, if you make one sale you go up to about 50,000. Any number larger than that normally means you have no recent sales.

  5. #5
    Elle est arrivée! Barbarique's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by veinglory View Post
    In that rank it doesn't really mean anything and relates mainly to the sales of books other than yours. To put it in perspective, if you make one sale you go up to about 50,000. Any number larger than that normally means you have no recent sales.
    Okay, so that means a book ranked at sixty thousand is selling at essentially the same rate as one ranked in the six millions??

    Yikes. I realize Amazon's pretty inscrutable, but that seems downright weird. Why do they even bother?
    Last edited by Barbarique; 11-20-2009 at 06:27 AM.
    "The world hid its head in the sands of convention, so that by seeing nothing it might avoid Truth." ~ Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness

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    http://www.amazon.com/Shes-My-Dad-Iolanthe-Woulff/dp/1432743775/ref=ntt_at_ep_dpt_2

  6. #6
    What happened? ChristineR's Avatar
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    Someone has guesstimated that a rank of 60,000 means you sell more than one book every five days, but a rank of 60,000,000 means you sell a book every 1000+ days. The problem with the very high ranks is you can make a case for a book selling two copies, 500 and 750 days ago, being higher than a book that sold one copy yesterday. Or, you could rank it the other way. So however they do it internally is very volatile and not very useful at such high numbers.

    I suspect that they are actually looking at your sales rising and extrapolating how many books you will sell in the near future, and over the lifetime of the book. If you don't sell any books tomorrow, you may see your rank plummet, but for now, you have a pretty good rank.

    I assume they try to do it because people like to know a book's sales rankings, even if the book is not selling much at all. Also, the rankings for books on very obscure subjects where even the best seller has a poor rank, may be of interest to someone who needs a book on that particular topic.
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  7. #7
    Elle est arrivée! Barbarique's Avatar
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    Thank you for that explanation, Christine. I am (somewhat) less confused now.
    "The world hid its head in the sands of convention, so that by seeing nothing it might avoid Truth." ~ Radclyffe Hall, The Well of Loneliness

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  8. #8
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    There is a difference between larger number ranks, but it is the difference between less than one book per week, and less than one book per year (or even longer).

  9. #9
    Writer is as Writer does Terie's Avatar
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    Actually, the way Amazon rankings really work is supposedly a closely guarded secret. Apparently, there are so many factors that I've heard tell that there's no one person at Amazon who knows them all.

    Their main function seems to be to drive writers crazy! Your best bet is to try not to obsess over them ('try' being the functional word there).
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  10. #10
    volitare nequeo AW Moderator veinglory's Avatar
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    I think they main estimate out there capture most of factors used. But until you are in the high sales figure area like the top 100, it is not a very informative metric.

  11. #11
    Resident Curmudgeon ResearchGuy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ChristineR View Post
    Someone has guesstimated that a rank of 60,000 means you sell more than one book every five days, but a rank of 60,000,000 means you sell a book every 1000+ days. . . ..
    60 million?? I've never seen a rank with a larger number than 5 million and something. Long before that, the book has maybe sold a copy at some point in years, period.

    --Ken

    p.s. Hooo ha! This is my three thousandth post on AW!

  12. #12
    What happened? ChristineR's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ResearchGuy View Post
    60 million?? I've never seen a rank with a larger number than 5 million and something. Long before that, the book has maybe sold a copy at some point in years, period.

    --Ken

    p.s. Hooo ha! This is my three thousandth post on AW!

    The person who made that site is extrapolating--he's trying to figure out how the ranking works. I think they do just drop the ranking if you haven't sold a single book in a certain number of days, because it's kind of meaningless to compare a book that sold one copy two years ago to a book that sold one copy three years ago. But I'm not sure how high they'll go.
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  13. #13
    practical experience, FTW
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    Glad I found this thread. I've been trying to understand this as well.

    One book was listed as pre-order for the first time today and in the last 12 hours went from a 4 million-ish rank to 62k; the other went from 3 million (it's been available for pre-order for a month or so) to 175k. Two different genres. We didn't know how excited to be, if at all.

    A different, though related question: Has anyone ever succeeded in getting a report of pre-orders placed through Amazon? The books are up for pre-order six months before release date...ughhhh....and it would be really, really helpful to get that information. I've been unsuccessful thus far in even finding the right person to ask and keep getting the runaround.

    Thanks in advance if you have any thoughts.


  14. #14
    figuring it all out
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    You might want to check out Aaron Shepard's Sales Rank Express, he has many articles on the whole Amazon ranking conundrum:

    http://www.salesrankexpress.com/
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  15. #15
    practical experience, FTW
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    Thanks, JFBookman.


  16. #16
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin bobbiewickham's Avatar
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    I think that at the moment, a sales ranking of 20,000 is about five or six books sold per day (this is based on analysis of sales history/rankings of my own books.) I'm totally addicted to watching these rankings; it's a terrific waste of time, but I can't seem to stop.

  17. #17
    New Fish; Learning About Thick Skin
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    When my Lightning Source book was listed in Amazon it was stated to have a five week delivery time, so I placed an order for a copy so that they would realise that it should be a 48 hour delievry period.

    That one order gave me a sales ranking of around 300k which has been falling ever since to its current ranking of 614k.

    On the plus side Amazon.co.uk actually brought two copies and now have one in stock.

    All I need now is a spendthrift history professor to get drunk one night and buy a copy and I can afford to celebrate with a fish supper.

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Collected-Works-John-Reeve-Muggletonian/dp/1907466002/

  18. #18
    practical experience, FTW
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    Bobbie and Mike, that's so funny!

    And sad though.

    The Amazon black hole can indeed consume many hours, to no avail. Thanks for sharing your experience. It's much appreciated!


  19. #19
    Bemused Girl nkkingston's Avatar
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    A friend of mine was published a couple of months ago (with Bookguild, a 'partnership' publisher) and found Amazon was shipping books prior to the release date. Great for the people who had ordered them, annoying for her and her release party.

    ETA: Child of the Hive by Jessica Meats (Sorry, realised I'd be a poor friend if I didn't even link it!)
    Last edited by nkkingston; 12-23-2009 at 11:52 PM.

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  20. #20
    Last of a Dying Breed popmuze's Avatar
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    My new book has been as high (low) as 600,000 and as low (high) as 75,000--in the space of a week. Someone told me "tags" also have something to do with this. Not to make anyone even more confused. But if you do visit my book, even if you don't buy it, please come up with a few tags, okay?
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