Thursday, June 11, 2015

Amazon Rankings - What Do They Mean and Who Really Cares Anyway?

About halfway down the page on every Amazon profile is this little-known-number to most readers and many pre-published authors. It's mixed in with all the "boring" book details like ISBN and what-not.

It's a book's Amazon Ranking.

To write a blog post on what goes into making the Amazon ranking is laughable. It is the great secret that no one other than some super secret Amazon agents actually know, but many a blog has been done after analyzing the number to try and figure out what it REALLY means. They probably all have a little bit of truth to them.

But I thought I'd do a highlight for curious minds, because once you ARE published, the number, at least at first until you learn not to really pay TOO much attention to it, will cause you much frustration. Hoping this post will help alleviate some of that!!!

1.) What is a GOOD and BAD Amazon ranking? Obviously, the lower the number the better. And this number can literally change daily by more than 10k points, so it really points mostly to RECENT sales vs long-term sales.

Here is a SUPER general and VERY subjection viewpoint of yours-truly of the OVERALL Amazon sales ranking (does NOT apply to genre rankings, I'll explain why in a minute...)

100 or less - Faint worthy
1,000 or less - Tears-of-joy worthy
10,000 or less - HUGE smile worthy
25,000 or less - Big smile worthy
50,000 or less - Smile worthy
75,000 or less - Corner-of-the-mouth tip worthy
100,000 or less - Shrug of the shoulder worthy
500,000 or less - Frown and heavy sigh worthy
1,000,000 or less - I think I'll skip looking at this stupid number for a while worthy
1,000,001 or more - Oh wait, Amazon ranks my books? I totally forgot--- worthy

2.) I'M IN THE TOP 100 of MY GENRE!!! AHHHH! That's good right? Yes, it's good. Kinda. Sorta. I mean yes, it IS good. But it's all relative. If the category is something obscure that only has like 20 books on all of Amazon and you're #19... that ain't saying a lot, folks. But yes, being ranked in a genre category, especially a BROAD one like "romance" or the like, is a good thing, but could also be a fluke too. If your grandma logged on and bought 20 copies in a day to give to her Bridge club, then chances are you'll make the top 100 of your genre for that day. Then you'll fall pretty fast right back down if sales don't keep at that level.

3.) Why does the number fluctuate so darn much? The thing is, selling ONE BOOK has the power to massively change your sales number. You might be in the millions and sell one book and it'll jump to 100,000... or sell 2 or 3 books in one day and jump to 75k. But then if you don't sell any books the day after, it creeps right back up at a VERY fast rate. The lower your sales ranking, the more books you sell, the less the number fluctuates. While one book might make a huge difference when you aren't selling a lot, selling only one book in a day when your rank is, say, 5,000, will make your book drop quite a bit.

4.) Do I CARE what my Amazon ranking is? It depends. Do you CARE if your book is selling? As a traditional published author, I cared a lot, because it was the only short-term number I could look at to see how well my book was doing. If I did a marketing campaign or blog, being able to see the number and monitor its fluctuation is what helped me to know if my marketing was making a difference or not. With my recently published Indie books, I've barely even looked at the Amazon ranking, because I can monitor my sales in real time on a day-to-day basis.

5.) So when I look at a book and its number is in the millions, it means the book tanked, right? Maybe. Maybe not. All it means is that it's been a little while since the last "sale" of the book -- and by little while I mean, like, a week or even a few days. It bounces up there FAST when there are no sales. This happens a LOT with books that have been out for more than a year, and for me, it happens frequently with my indie-published paperback books (I sell by far a LOT more ebooks than paperbooks because of the price point difference.) So you can't really judge a book's performance on one day's sales rankings. It's the trend that will give you a better idea.  (Basically, if you want to be nosey and see how well a fellow author's book is doing-- or you want to use it as a comparable in a proposal and want to make sure it sold well---pick one that is RECENTLY PUBLISHED-- then check the ranking every day or two for a week or two. Then refer to my rough number guide above! It won't but it might be a good indicator.

6.) How do I track my OWN Amazon sales ranking? I always advise authors to sign up for Amazon's author central. There you'll be able to see your historical sales ranking in chart format (by book, by format) as well as your bookscan sales numbers (by week, from outlets who use Nelson Bookscan, which is NOT all outlets and ONLY counts paperback sales) and also allows you to control your author profile on Amazon. You can sign up if you are a published author at

So what do you think? Clear as mud? Any questions I can answer? Do you ever look at a book's Amazon ranking? If you're published, do you check your ranking regularly or is ignorance bliss?

Krista is a follower of Jesus, a wife, a mother, and author of Sandwich, With a Side of Romance, A Side of Faith and A Side of Hope. She blogs about finding JOY in the journey of LIFE at She is represented by Sarah Freese of Wordserve Literary.


Pepper Basham said...

This was awesome. Now I'm going to check my ranking and get back to you on whether I shrug , weep, or smile

Pepper said...

As of this hour ( or minute) I have "smile worthy" on kindle and "heavy sigh" on paperback
Does this just mean I'm confused? Because I already knew that ;)

Krista Phillips said...

HA HA HA!!! I love you Pepper :-)

Naw, this is super normal. Kindles sell the best online, and from MY experience anyway (totally varies by author) paperback sells the least online and more (for trad. pubbed authors) in stores.

My indie-published paperback books have "What is an amazon ranking again??" scores pretty much 90% of the time. I sell about 90% of my books as ebooks :-) (mostly, I think, because I have to price the paperback books so high due to the printing costs)

Anonymous said...

Never even knew about this! Yet another thing to worry about once I get published... haha thanks!

Unknown said...

I tend to stay with the ignorance os bliss theory, as a new author I'm still trying to get my name out there and just having a few people read my novel right now is an accomplishment...maybe one day I'll have to worry about all those ranking details

Keli Gwyn said...

Thanks for your post, Krista. Since I have a new release out this month, I've been checking my Amazon ranking every now and then. OK. Probably too often, but you know how it is.

Your sales-to-smiles chart cracked me up. So far I'm still smiling. Perhaps not as broadly as I'd like, but a smile is a smile, right? :-)