Thankfully the clever folks at Amazon gave us categories, and sub-categories, and sub-sub-categories, sometimes even more. So, now at least I can say I’ve reached #1 in a sub-category and a sub-sub category – however they calculate it – and I can tell you I felt like a winner – kinda.
Despite reaching the top of a sub-category – which, by the way, may help boost sales – the actual number, or indicator of success, is the Best Sellers Rank. But if we’re making money (or not), what difference does Amazon’s Best Seller Rank make, if it’s only an indicator of sales? To make the number better, I need to sell more books. Selling more books is the only way that number changes. So why should I even care about the rank? Why not just focus on getting sales?
Well, that is probably what most authors are doing. But us newer authors look at those numbers for others and then try to match or outdo each other – even though we generally still play nice with each other. I think Amazon is brilliant for it. How many authors would just throw in the towel if they didn’t have that indicator of success? It can even be used to measure marketing efforts.
It’s like sports
Certainly, marketing efforts are best measured by the sales brought in, but seeing that rank just makes us push that much harder. For most of us, it’s hard to compete against ourselves and keep up the pace, you know, like a runner. A runner often practices alone, running distances trying to beat previous times. They keep at it trying to find things that help boost that time. But, pushing the limit is tough when you are your own limit. Put a runner in a real race and someone sets the pace by which all other runners try to keep up. The same on Amazon.
When I see movement in my rank, I want to know how to push it farther. Can I be #1 in this category? How about the next one up, or even higher up some general category? Wait, how much money would I be making if I were ranking higher? How many sales is that? See the thought pattern change? I want to reach higher than others. They set the mark, and I want to surpass it, or at least come close.
It’s about making money
When we hear other people tell us they are making X dollars monthly and we check their books and rankings (you know you do), we begin to see what it takes for us to reach the desired level of income – Joe’s is making $8,000 per month on 3 books that have a Best Sellers Rank of 10,000, I think ‘If I can get all my books to rank at 10,000, I’ll make the same money.’
So I think that competitive spirit is the real source of studying the Best Sellers Rank and trying to figure out how high I have to get to break even, make a living, retire, make a fortune, whatever. And thus we have no end to the number of people trying to reverse engineer the Best Sellers Rank.
If we can compare Best Seller Ranks and reverse engineer that to # of books sold, we get an idea of what is going on around us and what we have to do to reach that level. It’s an indirect or obfuscated way of tracking how many books are sold, and comparing apples to apples. So we look to charts and tables published out there to tell us what Best Sellers Rank means in terms of sales.
It’s a snapshot of a moment
And I’ve got to say, I’ve not seen a ranking table that has accurately predicted it for me. That doesn’t mean they aren’t accurate to some degree, or maybe for some ranks. The problem is that the rank can change daily to hourly, depending on the consistency of sales. So rank has to be looked at in ranges.
Most rank tables (rank range = sales) calculate in sales per month. This means your rankings have to be sustained for the whole month for that # to be accurate. If you’re new, your rank probably hasn’t stayed the same for more than a day or two. This means you may need to translate that into daily sales. In fact, when looking at other authors’ books in my niches, I see their rankings change daily, so I can only compare my ranking to theirs daily to see who is doing better. But then, what’s really the point? You know your sales. Amazon tells you how many you sell each day.
Can you predict sales?
So, ONLY if the rank is sustained, can you predict what your sales might be – and just as important – what your competitors sales might be. And this is what motivates us to keep fighting, keep testing, keep writing, keep hoping.
I can also see some interesting things affecting rank. Rank can change hour-by-hour, or a few times a day, but I’m currently doing a .99 promo for a brand new book and seeing something interesting: My sales are getting higher, but my rank is actually getting a bit higher also – not smaller. I launched a brand new book and at the end of 3 days (with no promotion at all), it settled at about 20,000 Best Sellers Rank. Day 1 of promotion and my sales are higher than the other 3 days put together, but my Best Seller Rank is getting higher, NOT lower. I’m at 24,000. So it makes me believe that that rank could *potentially also be affected by other things:
1 – the # of times people see your book page vs buying – your book conversion rate
2 – the # of different inbound links used when buying your book (promo verses organic)
Question: – sustained averages – The rank can change daily, hourly. Is it possible to sell 20 today, 0 tomorrow and 20 again the next without losing much rank in between?
I have no idea what all affects rank, but obviously it is a measure of sales over time compared to other books. And as that inventory of books increases (2011 = 700k kindle books, today 3MM+), it is probably tougher to rank higher than it used to be. And there must be tie-breakers, right. There are many books, no doubt, that sell the exact same # of books, so what determines which is ranked higher? Obviously something.
Lastly, those who study the data, see that the algorithm is slightly different for 3 different groups of rankings 1-100, 100-10,000, 10,000+.
What does that mean? It means the Best Seller Rank is calculated slightly differently for these groups:
1 – Sales Rank 1-100 = 600-10,000 sales per day (a spread of 9,400 sales and 100 books)
2 – Sales Rank 100-10,000 = 15-600 sales per day (a spread of 585 sales and 9,9900 books)
3 – Sales Rank 10,000-100,000 = 15-0 sales per day (a spread of 15 sales and 1M+ books)
You can see that in the top 100, you are selling 600+ books a day. But there are only 100 books in that category. If you are doing better than 15 sales per day sustained, then you’re in a group of 9,900 books doing that well. How your ranking is calculated uses a slightly different formula for each of these 3 groups. We don’t know what the exact formula is, but we know based on graphing these groups, that they are calculated slightly different (remember ‘slope’ from algebra?).
So what does this tell us? Really, not much. There is a rank, and it’s based on sales and other criterion that we don’t really know. And we like to see our rank get close to 1 – it makes us feel successful. But ultimately, only driving more sales will help our # increase. But we can use the rank to compare ourselves to our competitors, and that is often what drives us to push harder.
Based on some data that I’ve seen from subscribing to a service that analyzes kindle sales, here are some estimated sales rank/book sales relational data – give or take – these are ball park figures…
Sales Rank = Books per day
1 = 10,000 sales per day
10 = 2500 sales per day
100 = 600 sales per day
1000 = 100 sales per day
5000 = 25 sales per day
10,000 = 15 sales per day
20,000 = 5 sales per day
75,000 = 1 sale per day
Now, after saying all that, I really love seeing my rank go up. I want to be high in the charts. It’s a good indicator how my book is doing compared to others. At this moment, my new cozy is at 3,586 Paid in Kindle Store