Tuesday, 28 October 2008

True Confessions

Okay, I admit it. I've developed the really, really bad habit of checking out the sales rank for Rachel DuPree on Amazon. When the number is enormous, I tell myself it means nothing. When the number drops a bit, I'm ready to celebrate.

This is a quick route to insanity. Does anyone else find themselves doing this?

11 comments:

Tim Stretton said...

I'm always suspicious of those who claim *not* to look at their Amazon rankings. It's one of my home pages so I check it every morning--sad reading though it may be at the moment!

Len Tyler said...

Yes, even a year after publication I do still check Amazon from time time, though in theory the hardback edition sold out some time ago. For the record, today I am 228,146. This is presumably on the sale of second hand copies since Amazon itself has none to sell.

Does anyone have any idea how Amazon calculates the ranking? Does it involve a random number generator at any point?

Matt Curran said...

Len, click“here” for an explanation on the whole Amazon ranking thing – it shows it’s pretty meaningless at the end of the day.

Regardless, I’m also a ranking-junkie, and like Len, even though the hardback has sold out, I still check it out once a day. And just to show how meaningless it all is, the hardback of The Secret War has sold out permanently for over a month now yet still the ranking has reduced in the last week, which means it counts orders, not just sales of books. You could probably distort the whole thing by ordering say ten copies of your book, then cancelling the order at the last minute. The ranking will still benefit even though not a single book has been bought! Ridiculous!

Sion Scott-Wilson said...

For shiz.
I 'sold out' of Amazon stock last month. But there are other sellers who appear to vary in number from day to day- obviously teasing the public with availability, like oil traders, I suppose.

A friend's mum saw someone buying my novel in Waterstones the other day, and gave it a bit of a plug.

BTW - good luck with A V.P.I , Len. The cover is just brilliant.

Best

Sion

Robert Burton Robinson said...

You might want to check out Morris Rosenthal's Amazon Sales Rank For Books web page. It includes two charts and two videos that explain ranking on Amazon.com. I don't know if there is an equivalent for Amazon.co.uk.

If your books are in most of the bookstores, you can probably multiply the numbers in Morris' charts by 4 or 5 to get a ballpark figure on total US sales for the week.

My novels are self-published, so the Amazon Rank for my books has never been higher than about 125,000. Hopefully I will have a traditional publishing deal soon---maybe with Macmillan New Writing. :)

Alis said...

Hi Ann!
There are only two kinds of novelist - those who check their rankings on Amazon and admit it and those who check their rankings and say they don't so as to appear cool and insouciant.
Why we all do it even when we don't understand the implications of what we're looking at beats me, but we still do!

David Isaak said...

Alas, I'm afraid I checked it for about a week when the book was first published, but haven't really found it to be of any interest since. I watched the way it leapt up and down and found myself shrugging.

It's not that I'm on some higher plane or anything--I mean, I keep Google Alerts running on the book, and that's pretty compulsive. But I find Amazon rankings quite opaque. I know how they work, and I know that they tell me mostly about what's going on with other books.

Don't get me wrong--I'd be tuning in minute-by-minute if I were in double-digits--but I really can't get interested in whether I'm at 33,000 or 330,000.

I did once tune into a free telephone seminar on how to promote your book, and one of the biggest elements of the seminar was an explanation of how to drive your book into the ranks of Amazon bestsellers.

Turns out to be pretty easy--though it's easier for nonfic than for novels! If you can pick a slow day in a slow month, and drive a big fraction of your ultimate Amazon sales to that day. (Offer goodies on your website to people who click through and buy your book on a particular day. This works especially well for people who conduct seminars and have lots of other goodies, like recorded lectures. Buy my book next Tuesday and receive more than $500 in valuable extras!)

With these sort of deliberate interventions, not to mention King and Grisham, driving the numbers, and, as Len notes, second-hand copies entering the fray, it's hard for me to muster much enthusiasm.

On the other hand, I DO check Google Analytics every week to see the country of origin for visistors to my blog. It's sort of like collecting stamps.

PS Hi, Robert Burton Robinson! Good luck!

Frances said...

I tend to check Amazon ratings as a diversionary tactic when I don't feel like getting down to writing. The MNW blog is very useful for that, too (besides, being excellent value, of course) and there used to be a lovely website where I would window shop for horses... But I think the Amazon ratings are so wildly variable that I no longer take much notice of them.
Hi from me, too, Robert. and the best of luck. Let us know how you get on.

Frances said...
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Len Tyler said...

Thanks, Matt and Robert, for the Amazon tutorial. Though I'm still not sure why I am now 26,578 having apparently sold just one second hand book today. (See Frances' note on wild fluctuations.)

Good luck, Robert with the publishing deal.

Ann Weisgarber said...

It's reassuring to know that I'm not the only one with this obsessive habit. Francis, you are so right -- I do it when the writing bogs down. For the record, I haven't checked the rankings since Tuesday. Maybe there's hope.

Hello, Robert. Good luck with publication!