Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Amazon Rankings Explained

I apologize to my blog readers for disappearing for the last two weeks. Vacation and summer fever seemed to hit. But, I'm back with a "doosy" today.

Have you ever wondered what a book's Amazon ranking really means? Is there a way to tell how many books an author is selling over time via Amazon? Well, the truth is that no one knows for sure. In fact, even the staff people at Amazon say that their ranking system isn't completely accurate. So, don't ever obsess over your book's Amazon ranking, because it isn't always right. And, it only represents one channel of retail book sales.

However, a few math wizards with a lot of time on their hands (and a lot of Mountain Dew to drink) have tried to shed some light on the issue. Here's a summary of their findings:

Amazon Rankings Explained
Ranking: Estimated Sales:
10,000 = 30 books per week
100,000 = 6 books per week
1,000,000 = less than 1 book per week

If you wanted to estimate your book's Amazon sales, check your ranking periodically over a few months. Then, take the average number, and apply it to the chart above. For example, if your ranking over three months is 5,500 / 18,000 / 55,000, then your average ranking would be 26,166. If you apply 26,166 to the chart, then you're probably selling around 20 books a week...not much when you really think about it (1,000 per year). That's another reason why you shouldn't obsess over your Amazon rankings.

If you're average ranking stays lower than 10,000, pat yourself on the back - because Amazon customers are probably buying over 1,000 copies per year. This still isn't enough money to pay the bills. But, who said anything about money, real authors write for the sheer love of writing, right?
(Source: Morris Rosenthal, 2007)


Anonymous said...

Great post... but just a heads up on a typo: 20 books per week = 1,000 per year not 100. An Amazon rank that stays low would yield 10,000+ sales per year from just this one seller, which would put a book well onto the NY Times bestseller list and translate into very sizable advance for the pursuant title.

Rob Eagar said...

Thanks for catching the typo...adjustment has been made!

Emerson said...

You know, I just tested your math here on a book that I know the numbers on and came up with very different numbers than what you have in your post. The book has been continuously in print since 1993 with one revision. It has sold a little over 120,000 copies by the end of 2010 not including Kindle sales. The ranking, as of the day I am writing this is 22,883. Dividing 120K by 17 years it comes out to an average of 7058 books a year or 136 books per week - not the 20 books per week that you suggest. I know you wrote your post in 2008 - so you might want to consider updating it to portray correct information.

Anonymous said...

@Emerson: Just curious. The figure that you calculated... was that counting Amazon sales only? Or did that include all retail outlets? The author of this blog made his calculation only based on Amazon sales...