This is an excerpt from my web site – www.DogEarPublishing.net
- and our articles section
This page is a regularly updated, continual discussion of my most frequent
questions about book sales and how the market works – this one happens to cover
the “what in the world does my Amazon sales rank number mean?” question
- it works for any book, but I’m typically most interested in self publishing
Very roughly, the Amazon sales rank can be taken as a measure of a book’s relative
success to now over 6 MILLION other books at Amazon.com. Every book that has
sold at least a single copy is assigned a rank.
The Amazon sales rank is a measure of how many books YOUR book sold compared
to all the other books on Amazon.com. Your rank is yours and yours alone – no
two books can share the rank at any one time (books that have sold the same
number have additional criteria applied). The period of time over which the
sales are measured is varHowever, the ranking is updated hourly.
Amazon applies some very complex (and apparently top secret) math to maintaining
rankings for their top 5,000 books. Sales are measured hourly, daily, and monthly
- and rankings are determined by even the amount of time BETWEEN sales. Books
in the top 5,000 keep their rankings very consistent – and Amazon enforces some
“averaging” of sales to keep your book from jumping up to number one
just because you got all your relatives in New Jersey to buy a copy at exactly
noon on Tuesday (but, do it if you can…for about 30 minutes you’ll have the
most incredible ranking!)
Changes in your Amazon sales rank is a great measure of the success of your
marketing efforts – hopefully a nice bump upwards in rank corresponds to a book
promotion or event. These are usually temporary, as it is consistent an concerted
effort to move the sales rank significantly. A general rule of thumb (first
proposed by Morris Leventhal of FonerBooks) is to note your rank twice a week
for four weeks, then divide by 8. This will show your “average” Amazon
sales rank. Checking any more than that is really meaningless, since these ranks
can change on an hourly basis. You’ll find that titles that sit within the top
5,000 do not usually fluctuate by more than 20% (and Amazon is trying to contain
even this level of fluctuation). Titles in the 10-20,000 range may jump or drop
by as much 50 or 60%. Titles under the 50,000 mark will swing wildly.
Amazon Sales Rank – by the “numbers”
So – what does all this mean? How MANY books am I selling?
Well, that’s a tough question, but here’s some very general numbers based on
average Amazon sales rank for our Dog Ear Publishing titles listed on Amazon.com:
|1,000,000||1 copy per month|
Now, this isn’t going to hold true all year long on a unit basis – sale rates
change per season – but it will hold in the RELATIONSHIP between sales ranks.
So, theoretically, Amazon sales ranks don’t change without some action having
occurred – meaning your rank won’t go up without a sale, and they don’t fall
unless some other book has more sales in the past 24 hours (though the numbers
get pretty funky in the “under 50,000″ range). Your titles rank will
drop if you have no sales, but the rate at which it will drop is dependent upon
how consistently strong your sales were BEFORE it stopped selling – sort of…
It’s a bit of a bell curve that hits the middle ground most severely – books
with long term, strong sales drop slowly, moderate sellers (under 50,000 to
about 250,000) drop faster, and weak sellers (500,000 and down) drop positions
very slowly. As we said, books ranks are calculated every hour of the day.
How can I apply this to my book?
Well, you really can only apply it in hindsight… use Amazon sales rank to
check your progress as a marketer. Think about what rankings of competitive
titles mean – are you moving up or down in relation? Use it to choose your next
publishing objective or marketing program plan. In the grand scheme of self
publishing, sometimes this vague data is the only thing we get – we don’t truly
have a ‘brick-and-mortar’ bookstore presence to measure.