Amazon Ranking: From Loser to Bestseller and Back Again

By J.A. (Julie) Kazimer

*The words/numbers I am about to bore you with are all true.

- You can trust me. I would never lie.

Amazon…*sigh*

Did anyone else get a little flutter just saying the word? Are your hands starting to sweat?

If not, then you probably haven’t launched a book recently. You see, Amazon is now the big dog in book distribution and indie publishing (as to if this is a good thing, that’s another discussion for another time, but let me just say, you shouldn’t trust that a corporation has your best interest at heart and/or put all your pretty Easter eggs in one basket).

In their ultimate wisdom, Amazon has kindly ranked you and your sales (try and hold your applause).

In some ways it’s nice of them since before ranking our sales an author would have only their publisher (which could take months) or Bookscan’s word (which is only a piece of the sales pie) on how well your book is doing or not doing.

So you were basically in the dark unless you hit some bestseller list.

Ah, it was such a saner time.

You lived your days writing instead of obsessing this or that particular number meant.

What does a ranking of 15,038 mean in terms of sales? How many books did I sell today? What does it mean when I drop 100 ranking points? Will someone show me how to work this damn DVR?

But I digress. This is not a tale of personal sales self-discovery. Okay, it is, but there is a bigger point.

On February 28, 2012 my first book, CURSES! A F***ed Up Fairy Tale hit the shelves.curses

This was the day my descent into true madness began (which is good to know when explaining your incoherent mumblings about sales to the guys with the white, hug-me jackets). The first few days my sales ranking hovered around 40k (for the sake of brevity, I’m going to only talk Kindle sales and not print copies). When I googled this number, it supposedly meant I was selling about 1-3 books a day (using the kindle sales rank calculator).

Cha-ching!

Yeah, I was as disappointed as you are.

Okay, much, much more. But stay with me.

I was checking my sales ranking every day, and feeling more and more desperate for sales, after all, I’d heard so many times about the horrors of a debut author’s first book tanking. I was convinced I would have to change my name, and move to Florida (Yes, I said it. Florida, a fate worse than Ohio).

Then something magical happened.

Amazon and Kensington (the publisher) worked out some deal where CURSES would be on Amazon’s month long $3.99 and under deal for the month of May 2012. Suddenly my sales ranking dropped to around 700. I hit number 2 on the bestseller list for Science Fiction& Fantasy.

For the entire month I stayed within the top 10. Suffice it to say, I checked those numbers every hour. I grew so obsessed about my ranking that I couldn’t stand to be away from the computer for long, fearing I would miss a big sales jump.

Yeah, I was a wee bit crazed.

But by June 5th my run was over, and my sales started to slump to an average of 20k once again. I still checked every day, sometimes up to seven or eight times for a nice little dip. But slowly my sales ranking obsession eased, and I could focus on writing again.

FROGGY STYLE COVEROver the next months, a couple of other books of mine were released, none setting the Amazon rankings on fire. I did see dips in my sales after certain promotions, the biggest one being when I was on John Scalzi’s The Big Idea with Froggy Style. My sales dropped to somewhere in the 5-7k range.

Which is one of the advantages of sanely watching your sales ranking, you can sometimes figure out what sort of promotional event or marketing worked. Then again, sometimes you have no idea why or what is prompting or hurting your sales.

The disadvantages are many, the main one being, everyone else can see how much you suck too!

Go ahead, look at my rankings. I know you want to. *sigh* I’ll wait.

Oh, you’re back?

Quit laughing. That’s just mean…

Anyway, since Froggy Style was released in March of 2013, I stopped watching my sales ranking so much, checking in maybe once every couple of months. I stopped because, while it’s nice to know how my books are doing on Amazon, sales rankings aren’t the whole picture.

And even more important, I have little to no control over the ups and downs. I cannot control if and when someone buys my books (Yes, I have to repeat this daily, hourly even).

I was feeling much better about my writing career and more importantly myself at this point.

A ranking was no longer controlling me or my life.

And then my latest book, a romantic suspense, The Assassin’s Heart, came out to little fanfare. assassins_heartExcept a few days after its release, RT Book Reviews gave it a 4 ½ stars as well as a gold designation, calling it ‘in a class by itself’. Odd since I’m fairly sure I’m a total hack.

After that, my ranking plummeted from 70k to 1,500 in a day. And the Amazon monkey hopped on my back once again. For three days I obsessed, didn’t write a single word, and watched as a website took control over my life once again.

As of writing this, my sales’ rank for The Assassin’s Heart hovers around 10k (I only checked for the sake of this post. I swear.)

And I’ve joined a 12-step program.

I hear admitting you have a problem is half the battle.

The other half, of course, is your internet connection.

Next time I want to talk about your author ranking on amazon, and how it can turn you into a mass murderer. In the meantime, anyone else experienced sales ranking obsession (SRO)? How do you handle it?

 

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

J.A. (Julie) Kazimer lives in Denver, CO. Novels include CURSES! A F***ed-Up Fairy Tale, Holy Socks & Dirtier Demons, Dope Sick: A Love Story, FROGGY STYLE and The Assassin’s Heart, as well as the forthcoming mystery series, Deadly Ever After from Kensington Books. J.A. spent years spilling drinks as a bartender and then stalked people while working as a private investigator.

Learn more at www.jakazimer.com or on her writerly talk blog More Than a Little F***ed Up. She can also be found (way too much of the time) on Twitter as @jakazimer and on Facebook as Julie Kazimer.

10 thoughts on “Amazon Ranking: From Loser to Bestseller and Back Again

  1. Patricia Stoltey

    Oh, yes, I remember it well. I also spent a lot of time checking library purchases because my publisher markets mostly to libraries. I’m hoping I can curb the impulse to check these sites hourly next time. No promises.

    Reply
    1. Julie Kazimer

      How did you check library sales? Like looking up what libraries had your book? I can’t see you being insane about sales. You’ve got it together. In fact, I strive to be Pat in my next life.

      Reply
      1. Dean K Miller

        Damn it, Julie…that was my goal. Now I’ve got to come up with a plan “B.” But I guess you’d be available since you’ll be Pat.

        Reply
  2. Dean K Miller

    Well, let’s see. I know, with 100% certainty, I’ve sold one book via Amazon. Does that give me a ranking? Or just make me rank? Although with the ebook coming out soon, I’m sure I’ll double my sales to 2. It’s different with you multi-book, oddly famous (infamous?) authors (the lushest Patricia Stoltey included) who have a following (okay I have one, too, but they mostly bark at night and keep the neighbors awake.) I’d rather obsess about how much ice cream is in the freezer or tortilla chips are in the cupboard, because I know there’s cheese in the deli drawer just waiting to be melted.

    And, oh, by the way, I’ve been in a class all by myself and it wasn’t pretty. Even the teacher left.

    Reply
    1. Julie Kazimer

      *Sigh* my following only follows with the promise of dog cookies.

      You joke, but by the time your ebook is out two weeks, you’ll be as addicted to amazon sales as ice cream.

      Thanks for always putting my pain/craziness in perspective.

      Reply
  3. Julie Luek

    Not there yet, but gosh it sounds fun, but I’ve watched other writer friends obsess and post their numbers (if it’s a good reflection, of course) on Facebook at a tiresome rate. It must yank the ego around fiercely. I’ll have to brace myself if I take that step!

    Reply
    1. Julie Kazimer

      Sadly I’ve never reached the ‘good reflection’ ranking just yet. I think the longer you are a writer, the less ego (with the exception of Nicolas Sparks and a few others) you have. I used to work with all sorts of poets, and the ones who were the most gracious and down to earth were the most famous ones. Those who were less than nice, were usually the ones with one or two books out, trying to find their place. Which is good to know so I can be an ass to people and get away with it until I’m famous. Probably doesn’t work for you though. I doubt you could ever be mean to anyone.

      Reply
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