Independent Authors have become obsessed with rankings, reviews, and becoming an Amazon Best Seller over the years. While there is proof book reviews carry weight (social proof, credibility, increased visibility), there are many myths surrounding rankings.
According to Amazon, “the better the sales rank, the more sales it’s getting on Amazon.”
But, is this true?
Yes, selling books will naturally raise your book ranking, but your Amazon ranking can also be high for other reasons.
When I released I am Soul back in 2017, I set it up for preorders and, on release, it made it to #7 on Amazon’s Best Seller’s List.
To the untrained eye, this can look like I sold tons of books. And by the “untrained” eye, I mean everyday people who are not Self-Publishers or are not familiar with how the system works like family and friends.
According to my sales report for December 2017, I sold five preorders between December 16-19 (the book was released on the 20th).
Yes, I said five.
Five books sold, and I was #7 on Amazon’s Best Seller’s List.
Just so you know I am not BS-ing you, here’s a screenshot:
I thought I was big time.
Even Salt Looks Like Sugar got 13 preorders but did not come anywhere near #7.
How is this possible? Shouldn’t the book that sold more copies rank better? Yes, but as many people have already said, no one knows exactly how Amazon’s algorithm works. What we do know is books sold aren’t the only thing that determines a book’s ranking.
There is nothing wrong with pushing your book to sell tons of copies on release day and to make that Best Sellers list, but your book’s success is not contingent upon how well it does in the first few days or even weeks. A book that continues to sell over time does better than a book that does well all at once and then stops selling.
In the long run, steady, organic growth will always outperform sudden bursts of activity.
“At the end of two weeks, a book that sells five copies a day will rank significantly higher than a book that sells 3,000 copies on its launch day.” (Doppler, J)
It’s like book reviews, in a way. The newer the review, the better.
- Book A gets about twenty reviews out of the gate. Your review team showed up and showed out. But, over the next few days, weeks, and months, there is no new activity.
- Book B gets a couple of reviews out of the gate, a few more a week later, a few more the following week, and several more over the next few months.
Because Book B has newer reviews, it tells Amazon’s algorithms people are still interested in this book.
A book that gets reviews slowly but consistently over time does better than a book that gets tons of reviews at once, but then the reviews stop coming in.
But what does this have to do with the sales ranking?
The book that continues to get new reviews is likely also the book that is continuing to sell. It might not be a #1 Best Seller or rank in Amazon’s top 100, but the author is selling books consistently.
And this is what authors should focus more of their attention on.
Most indie books that take off running, in the beginning, stop selling after the release date because so much energy is directed at the launch that authors forget they need to continue to sell books AFTER that.
It is not to say being an Amazon Best Seller is not a cool thing. It is to say it doesn’t carry as much weight as people have made it out to be. Being an Amazon Best Seller is great, but it doesn’t really mean anything if the author is not making sales in the grand scheme of things.
There is no need for Indie Authors to stalk their Amazon ranking because a high ranking doesn’t always mean they are selling books. In the same way, a low ranking doesn’t always mean they are not selling books.
Sales rank plays a minor role in determining the order of Amazon search results. Other factors such as relevance, keywords, sales history, product listing quality, and available inventory may influence Amazon’s algorithms. Therefore, a book with a high sales rank may appear later in search results than lower-ranked books.
How do you tell if your sales rank on Amazon is reflective of books sold or just a bump in Amazon’s algorithm because of other influences?
- Besides monitoring your sales report through your KDP account, consistency is the best determinate that your book ranking on Amazon is legit. By legit, you are a best seller because you are selling books. If you are a #1, #2, #3 (and so on) best seller in your category for weeks, months, or even years at a time, the chances are that is because you are selling books regularly, getting reviews, and doing the dango thang. Congratulations, you are an actual bestseller.
- Suppose you are only a #1 Amazon Best Seller for five minutes. In that case, it could be a combination of things influencing the algorithm, causing the numbers to fluctuate where one minute you are number one (let’s say because tons of people looking at your book page), and the next you are #512.
You should certainly be proud of yourself for making it to #1, whether you were there for five minutes or five months. However, don’t allow yourself to be deceived by Amazon’s ambiguous system. Ya’ll are out here going crazy and being scammed over something that doesn’t even matter.
This isn’t about Amazon. This is about Indie Authors and how we’ve allowed our writing self-esteem to be determined by numbers and rankings. Just because you are not an Amazon Best Seller does not mean you are not selling books. Period.
And, for clarity, I did not say you should ignore your book ranking, just that there’s no need to stalk it, as in repeatedly going back to refresh the page every five minutes.