A Great Mystery Solved! | How Kindle Rankings Work

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

One of the great unsolved mysteries of independent publishing (to me, anyway) is Kindle seller rankings. How do they work? Why are they there? What the hell good are they?

I have a rockin’ ebook for sale on Kindle. It’s called Dead Spot.  It’s one of more than a million ebooks Amazon claims to be selling now. So yesterday I sold an ebook. Here’s the kicker. Before the sale, Dead Spot‘s Kindle ranking was around 625,000. After my single-unit sale, it ranked 76,058.

I think I speak for everyone here when I say, “Huh?!?

Obviously, Kindle isn’t selling all that many of its one million-plus ebooks. Last year Amazon boasted it sold 105 ebooks for every 100 dead-trees books — then went on to predict its Kindle-related revenue would represent only 10 percent of total 2012 revenue.

The math here isn’t rocket science. A lot of Kindle books are free or close to it. And a lot of Kindle-related revenue comes from selling $80-$380 Kindle reading devices. Translation: Your life’s work is competing for seller ratings with the 99¢ epulp flooding Kindle’s site and 800-pound literary gorillas like Tim Tebow and the Kardashians.

But there’s a bigger, more troubling equation involved. Those 548,942 Kindle books ranked behind Dead Spot, the ones not lucky enough to have a sale this week — do they all share the same nomimal Kindle rank of, say, 625,000? Or are they being scored by some other method — say, alphabetization? Amazon has some ‘splainin’ to do.

Kindle’s own forums are ablaze with wild conjecture on this very subject. (The reason:  Amazon only promotes best sellers, so authors are obsessed with gaming the ranking system.) One author posted: “I have seen my Amazon ranking for my novel … fluctuate up and down by 10,000 spots without seeing any additional sales.” Another replied: “I think it takes more than 50 sales/day to break the #1000 spot.” Said another: “Since I don’t write about zombies, this is not good!”

Another forum respondent said his ebook always ranks number 1 in Amazon’s King Henry VII historical category, even though it’s a metaphysical fantasy that’s not about Henry VII. He added, “I know an author whose thriller book used to rank #1 in ‘Car Parts’.”

The New York Times ran an article claiming Amazon has traditional publishers in a frenzy, quoting them saying things like “Publishers are terrified and don’t know what to do” and “Everyone’s afraid of Amazon.” Again I say, huh?

So keep buying Dead Spot, beloved fans. One more sale and it’ll rank … minus-554,985!

Copyright © 2012 SYDNEY SCHUSTER – All Rights Reserved

I make no money from this blog. If you find it interesting or useful, please buy my book Dead Spot. The Kindle version’s only $5 and you’ll love it! Thanks.

DEAD SPOT on Amazon

Sydney Schuster and Dead Spot neither approved nor endorse any third-party advertising that may appear below, nor do we derive any income from it. Feel free to ignore it.


4 thoughts on “A Great Mystery Solved! | How Kindle Rankings Work

  1. I think a large part of it is that people bought into the idea that epublishing was the magic pill that would make all one’s authoring woes go away:

    1. Write book.
    2. Epublish
    3. PROFIT

    But in the end (and rather predictably), there’s no easy shortcut to writing fame and glory.

    • Thanks for your comment. I agree. And if I may add my two cents, there never was an easy shortcut to writing fame and glory, even before epub. For some of us, though, epub’s arguably better than the alternative (ie, waiting all eternity to never be chosen by a publishing house and, meanwhile, selling nothing). See my next post.

      I’m not looking for fame or glory. I already had my fifteen minutes, thanks. (Google me). Dead Spot took me years to write. I just hope some people will find and enjoy it, Kindle ranking notwithstanding. It’s a labor of love and one helluva hot read.

  2. Pingback: Why Self-Publishing Doesn’t Totally Suck | Sydney Schuster

  3. Pingback: Another Great Self-Publishing Mystery Solved: How The Heck Do I Sell This Thing? | Sydney Schuster

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