Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rising in the Ranks: Amazon Ranking Revealed

If you have published a book via the traditional route, you will want to keep tabs on how it is selling. Publishing houses will, of course, send their yearly or, for the larger houses, biannual royalty statement. That's a long wait for an impatient author.

If you have self-published, you can keep track of sales monthly through most venues, provided you maintain a minimum number of sales, which is better than an annual royalty statement.

But for instant gratification, your only real up-to-date source of information is Amazon. This is not just because Amazon is the only seller that will update your sales hourly – or daily, depending on the number of sales – it's because Amazon ranks its books. If you have aspirations of becoming a bestselling author, you will find yourself glued to your Amazon page within minutes of your book's publication.

Amazon's ranking system has been the source of much speculation over the years. The ranking is not simply based on the number of books sold by the day (or hour), but also takes into account how your book fares against other books in the same category, which Amazon calculates based on a secret algorithm which only clairvoyants, psychics, and 33rd degree Masons have access to. (It is not for “simple folk” to understand the ways of Amazon, which makes their ways all the more intriguing.)

If you do a Google search on “Amazon ranking” you will find pages of articles written by frantic, OCD rankaholics who have tracked their sales hourly, compared them to their ranking, and graphed them. Dream on! Only those who have enrolled in KDP Select – an Amazon promotional program designed to kill Barnes & Noble once and for all – can actually track sales against ranking. And even those chosen few are not privy to the Ultimate Truth. While ranking changes hourly, actual sales reporting may lag by a day.

We can never truly perceive reality...

State Your Name, Rank and Title (Novelrank is defunct)

But you can get close to it. NovelRank is a free website that allows authors to track their ranking on Amazon.com (US), Amazon.co.uk (England), Amazon.ca (Canada), and Amazon.de (Germany). You can also check a box to include Amazon.fr (France), Amazon.it (Italy), Amazon.co.jp (Japan), Amazon.cn (China) and Amazon.es (Spain). (NovelRank warns you that checking the box may clutter your details page, but, hey, if Pandora didn't care, neither do we!)

And that's not all! You can get RSS feeds to get updates when a book is sold and to view your hourly sales rank. Now you can be obsessed everywhere! You can get graphs!

Quantifing a Bestseller

In the end, all this watching and waiting pays off! If you never, ever take your eyes off your sales rank, you may become a bestselling author. StoryFinds (Defunct) knows exactly, uh, almost exactly, how many book sales it takes to enter the ranks of bestsellers. (I have personally checked this chart against my own sales and found it to be accurate.) Here it is:

Bestsellers Rank 40,000 to 100,000 - selling close to 1 book a day.

Bestsellers Rank 8,500 to 40,000 - selling 1 to 10 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 3,000 to 8,500 - selling 10 to 20 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 1,500 to 3,000 - selling 20 to 40 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 1,100 to 1,500 - selling 40 to 50 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 900 to 1,100 – selling 50 to 65 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 750 to 900 - selling 65 to 85 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 350 to 750 - selling 85 to 175 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 200 to 350 - selling 175 to 250 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 100 to 200 - selling 250 to 300 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 80 to 100 – selling 300 to 400 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 70 to 80 – selling 400 to 500 books a day.

Bestsellers Rank 50 to 70 - selling 500 to 650 books a day.

Bestseller Rank of 45 to 50 - selling 650 to 700 books a day.

Bestseller Rank of 30 to 45 - selling 700 to 900 books a day.

Bestseller Rank of 20 to 30 – selling 900 to 1,300 books a day.

Bestseller Rank of 10 to 20 – selling 1,300 to 1,800 books a day.

Bestseller Rank of 3 to 8 - selling about 4,000+ books a day!

Becoming a Bestselling Author on Amazon

If you've looked at your rank and are now depressed because you're not even close to a bestseller, don't despair. Becoming a bestselling author is surprisingly easy. If you join KDP Select and – this is crucial, so pay attention – promote the hell out your book's free days, you can turn your book into a bestseller within a day. Amazon counts free downloads as sales (you won't get royalties, however, because your book is free). When I got 6,000+ downloads in a 24-hour period, my book got the coveted yellow bar. That's an indication of how many you would need, more or less, to get to #1. (Click HERE to find out how to promote your KDP Select book for free.)

Once your book has risen to the rank of bestseller, it will appear on various lists (“top 100,” “top 20”), in relevant categories, which will increase its exposure. There is a caveat, however. Your book won't stay in #1 position for long. But you can use even a brief sojourn in the #1 spot to market yourself as a bestselling author on Amazon when you promote your work. (Make sure to take a screen shot!) Once you've hit the mark (it only takes once), you will almost certainly continue to rise in the ranks.

(If you want to know more about how I made the #1 spot, read Anatomy of An Amazon Bestseller.)


  1. Thanks for this post. I'm getting ready to release a new story on Kindle and I've been trying to figure out how the ranking system works. It's always confused me. I've watched the ranks of my first story. I'd go a while and not sell any copies. Then I'd sell one and my ranking would actually fall. There seems to be no logic at times.

  2. At this point, (meaning in the future) if I were to sell one book per day, everyday then what the heck, I'm happy. Rankings...well...it's just another number to either rise or fall from. Seems most important to know where your feet are planted versus which way they might be travelling.

  3. But of course there are problems with KDP Select: you can't promote your book anywhere else, which limits other sales. And from memory when you have free 'sales' they're not actually listed in the same place as proper sales: they have a separate ranking of their own so they don't actually count towards your overall ranking. I did quite well on the free 'sales' day but it didn't contribute a thing towards actual paid-for sales.

  4. KDP worked very well for me. I always had an increase in sales after free days. But, to be fair, I had a niche readership. And I advertised directly to them. Being able to reach your market makes all the difference in the world. (I've had 20,000 downloads which is 4 times more than I got with St. Martin's for the same book.)

    KDP Select is best used for the short term. Do it for a few months, and then pull out and sell your books on other venues. But, realistically speaking, Amazon will net you the most sales. I made thousands with Amazon, opposed to a few hundred with B&N and virtually nothing with Kobo. (Even Payhip does better than Kobo.) If I self-publish my next book, it will be through Smashwords.


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