Amazon watching

Tracking sales ranking

I’ve been confusing my friends and family a lot lately due to my addiction to Amazon.  I don’t mean shopping, I mean watching other people buy my books.  It’s unhealthy, and I understand that it’s unhealthy, and I can’t seem to stop.  Or make any sense.

“Okay but what does that mean?”

What happens is, I’ll look up one of my books on Amazon– this is a lie, it’ll already be open, I’m just hitting refresh– and say something like, “It’s below thirty-thousand!” and whoever I’m speaking to will either A: ignore me (recommended) or B: ask, “what does that number mean?”

It doesn’t mean I’ve sold thirty-thousand copies.  That would mean larger numbers are better, but this is a sales rank, meaning it’s the overall rank of the book in comparison to a much larger pool of books for sale.

As for what the rank means in terms of sales, I really didn’t know and couldn’t find out easily.  And that was how I went through most of June, looking at the rank for Immortal and Hellenic Immortal and wondering what their sales rank meant in terms of real sales.


Then July happened.  Something weird transpired in July that the publicist termed (and she might have invented this) a “media hangover”.  We had a big media push in May when Hellenic debuted, and that push involved a blog tour, some print media, and my appearing on television, twice.  The result was a modest bump in sales in May that essentially vanished in June.  I knew there was more print media coverage coming (it’s still pending, because print media is for-fucking-ever) but basically I was a wreck for most of June.

In July, I gave a nice long interview for a podcast, and a new review popped up, but there wasn’t really anything else of note.  Despite this, sales exploded.  Suddenly those sales rankings I was babbling about weren’t in the thirty-thousands, they were in the three thousands.

But what does it MEAN?

I didn’t know what these numbers meant in terms of real live sales, but I found a website called NovelRank that I thought would help.  It tracked every time a book’s rank moved up and calculated each bump as a sale.  So I plugged in both books and started using that to figure out how many books I was selling.  (Note: obviously, I get a real report from the publisher on a month-to-month basis.  I was doing this because I can’t wait for that report, because I’m insane.)

Now.  There is an obvious weakness in NovelRank’s scheme, and it’s one that the site itself admits openly to: it isn’t very good at tracking sales for books that have sold over 100 copies in a month.  (It is very good at tracking sales for books that are in the lower range, and it’s really meant as a tool to see how well a promotion might be going and that sort of thing.)  At a certain level a sales rank improvement– or a sales rank that only improves slightly or worsens slightly– is an indication of X number of books sold since the last time the rank was updated, with X being “a number greater than one”.

Another problem with NovelRank’s scheme is Amazon really only updates the ranks about eight times a day, so the best I was ever going to see was eight books sold per day.  And this turns out to be… a little low.

That media hangover

It occurs to me, well after the fact, that most people don’t buy books as soon as they hear about them.  They add them to wish-lists and buy them later.  The delay between May and July appears to be exactly that.  With allowances made for the possibility that folks who heard my radio interview made immediate impulse buys after hearing me talk about myself for an hour or so, that May push (and specifically the television appearances) worked much better than it appeared to have at the time.

And now Immortal is regularly holding its own ranked below 4000 overall and Hellenic is humming along at below 9000 overall.

What do these ranks mean in real sales?


I can’t tell you

OK, I only have a rough idea, but it’s a lot better than 8 books a day.  It’s also better than all of the other months combined, going back to when Immortal first debuted in 2010.

So as you can imagine, I’m happy with where we’re going.  And I see no reason to stop addictively hitting refresh any time soon.  Or, not until I have a best-seller.

Then maybe.

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No Comments

  1. Mary D on July 30, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Well, for most of us I think we get the idea that your books ARE SELLING! Which translates to FANTASTIC! Over 100 a month sounds pretty darn successful.
    Try to enjoy that.

  2. Cindy on July 31, 2012 at 1:23 am

    Gene, please stop watching amazon and write I3. Please…

  3. Geoff on July 31, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    LOL (Cindy’s comment) – I second that one! You’ve made my buy upon release list so you’ve got at least 1 sale every time you put out an immortal book! 🙂

    • genedoucette on July 31, 2012 at 2:22 pm

      Cool. How would you feel about it if the next book I put out isn’t an Immortal book? Because… the next book I put out isn’t going to be an Immortal book. It’s already written, tho.

  4. Jeff on August 3, 2012 at 11:47 am

    How come Amazon does not offer a paperback version of Hellenic Immortal? I have Immortal in pb and my OCD demands that I collect the rest of the series the same way. Will this change in the future? Thanks!

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