What’s Your Rank…on Amazon?

By:    |   Published December 8, 2010

***an unauthorized analysis of Amazon Sales Rank***

This page is a regularly updated, continual discussion of our most frequent questions about book sales and how the market works – “what in the world does my Amazon sales rank number mean?”

Very roughly, the Amazon sales rank can be taken as a measure of your book’s relative success to now over 6 MILLION other books at Amazon.com. Every book that has sold at least a single copy is assigned a rank.

The Amazon sales rank is a measure of how many books YOUR book sold compared to all the other books on Amazon.com. Your rank is yours and yours alone – no two books can share the rank at any one time (books that have sold the same number have additional criteria applied). The period of time over which the sales are measured is variable, however, the ranking is updated hourly.

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Amazon applies some very complex (and apparently top secret) math to maintaining rankings for their top 5,000 books. Sales are measured hourly, daily, and monthly – and rankings are determined by even the amount of time BETWEEN sales. Books in the top 5,000 keep their rankings very consistent – and Amazon enforces some “averaging” of sales to keep your book from jumping up to number one just because you got all your relatives in New Jersey to buy a copy at exactly noon on Tuesday (but, do it if you can…for about 30 minutes you’ll have the most incredible ranking!)

Changes in your Amazon sales rank is a great measure of the success of your marketing efforts – hopefully a nice bump upwards in rank corresponds to a book promotion or event. Unfortunately, individual events create changes in rank that are usually temporary. However, a consistent an concerted effort will move the sales rank significantly. A general rule of thumb (first proposed by Morris Leventhal of FonerBooks) is to note your rank twice a week for four weeks, then divide by 8. This will show your “average” Amazon sales rank. Checking any more than that is really meaningless, since these ranks can change on an hourly basis. You’ll find that titles that sit within the top 5,000 do not usually fluctuate by more than 20% (and Amazon is trying to contain even this level of fluctuation). Titles in the 10-20,000 range may jump or drop by as much 50 or 60%. Titles under the 50,000 mark will swing wildly.

Amazon Sales Rank – the “numbers”

So – what does all this mean? How MANY books am I selling?

Well, that’s a tough question, but here’s some very general numbers based on average Amazon sales rank for our Dog Ear Publishing titles listed on Amazon.com (updated March 2011):

Rank Weekly Sales
1,000            90 copies
10,000           60 copies
100,000           16 copies
300,000           12 copies
500,000           1 copy
1,000,000           1 copy per month

Now, this isn’t going to hold true all year long on a unit basis – sale rates change per season – but it will hold in the RELATIONSHIP between sales ranks.

So, theoretically, sales ranks don’t change without some action having occurred – meaning your rank won’t go up without a sale, and they don’t fall unless some other book has more sales in the past 24 hours (though the numbers get pretty funky in the “under 50,000” range). Your titles rank will drop if you have no sales, but the rate at which it will drop is dependent upon how consistently strong your sales were BEFORE it stopped selling – sort of… It’s a bit of a bell curve that hits the middle ground most severely – books with long term, strong sales drop slowly, moderate sellers (under 50,000 to about 250,000) drop faster, and weak sellers (500,000 and beyond) change positions very slowly. As we said, the Amazon sales rank is calculated every hour of the day.

How can I apply this to my book?

Well, you really can only apply it in hindsight… use Amazon sales rank to check your progress as a marketer. Think about what rankings of competitive titles mean – are you moving up or down in relation? Use it to choose your next publishing objective or marketing program plan.

If you have a brilliant idea for a book – and you just know it will sell – and there is nothing like it, well, you might just be right. But, a little research never helped! True expert marketers understand that the smartest bet is to target a book to a successful market, providing a COMPLEMENTARY product to expand the ultimate size of the market.

For perspective, here’s the data on last year and what each of the largest retailers reported for 2006 sales:

Amazon.com – $10.71 billion ($7 billion in media sales)
Barnes&Noble – $5.3 billion
(BN.com was $0.433 billion of this total)
Borders Book Group – $4.06 billion

Total $20.06 billion

Not an insignificant amount of sales – now let’s get out there and sell some books!

May you have success in your creative efforts!

If you have any questions or comments – please write us atAuthorResources@dogearpublishing.net

If you like this information (and found it helpful) please feel free to post it on your site, put it in a blog, toss it in your newsletter, or in general spread it around. Please just give us credit here at dogearpublishing.net!

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