Amazon Ranking MythsThere is a lot of confusion surrounding the Amazon ranking system. Pretty much every blog you visit, you’ll hear a different ‘take’ on whether a free book is as weighty as a paid book, whether the popularity lists are different to the bestseller lists, and excited tweets about receiving email adverts of author’s own works from Amazon.

The intention of this post is to debunk a few myths surrounding the Amazon rankings. Before I do, I’d like to once again credit David Gaughran for his in-depth discussion of the ranking system in his new book, Let’s Get Visible. I’m only going to touch on some of the things discussed in that book, so you should definitely check it out.

Anyway, without further ado, let’s get debunking some common Amazon ranking myths…

Myth: Higher priced ebooks weigh more in Amazon Sales Rank than lower priced ebooks.

This is one of the most common myths I encounter, however, it is completely untrue.

Whether your book is 99c or $9.99, one sale is weighted exactly the same in Amazon’s ‘Sales Rank’ system. Price does not affect your sales rank performance, nor do reviews, tags, likes, star ratings, etc.

The only thing that affects your Amazon ranking when it comes to Sales Rank, thus breaking onto the Best Seller lists, is sales. Therefore, it’s just as easy/hard for a 99c ebook to break into the Best Seller charts as it is a $2.99 ebook. There is no favouritism on Amazon’s part towards higher priced books when it comes to Sales Rank.

However, probably fuelling the confusion, Amazon’s Popularity Lists are influenced by price. Free books are worth roughly a tenth of a paid book, if that gives you any idea of value/weight etc. Why do the Popularity Lists matter? It’s easier to break onto them because they are based on a rolling total of 30 days, rather than the current Sales Rank. The Popularity lists are the Amazon rankings Kindle readers see first, too, but that’s another marketing topic for another blog post. Back to the myth-busting…

Myth: Amazon is great because it sends out emails advertising my book to me and all my friends. They love me!

I’m sure Amazon would absolutely love you, but unfortunately, I’m going to be the party pooper here. Y’see, Amazon are really intelligent. Their search function keeps track of all your searches, previous purchases, wish lists, and the like, and every now and then, it uses that information to send out promotional emails directly to you based on what they think you’ll like.

If you receive an email from Amazon advertising your book, it’s because you’ve searched for your book in the past. If your friends receive an email advertising your book, it’s because they’ve also searched for it/bought one of your other books before. Of course, every now and then you might sneak onto an email of an ‘also-bought’, but this takes a lot.

So, next time you receive a promotional email, remember the cackling face of the Amazon ranking system and realise it’s just doing its job. After all, you are your ideal reader.

Myth: A high-profile launch day is a great idea that will shoot me to the top of the rankings for a long time!

I don’t want to go into this one in too much depth — David Gaughran does a much better job of it in his book, as I mentioned — but the idea of a launch day when it comes to ebooks is actually a little short-sighted.

I can’t begin to count the number of high-profile launches that have been built and built up, Tweeted, Facebooked, guest-posted and whatever else-d on one single day, sending it into the top 1,000… before slipping back into obscurity.

Why is this? Amazon rankings favour consistency over a one-off sale spike. If you build up to one single day, getting everybody you know/don’t know to buy it, then the chances are you’ll have a strong opening day, then just slip away completely. This isn’t ideal.

The solution? Again, I’ll go into that in the future. If you’re a newer author, like myself, there’s not a lot that can be done about this other than just waiting around for a first major promotion/new release. If you have a really large following (say, a mailing list of 100+, a Twitter with 100+ ACTIVE fans, a dedicated Facebook following), you can stagger your launch and keep your book selling consistently, thus gaining more exposure. If not, just keep writing more books and don’t blow your wallet on an expensive launch day. Amazon ranking tweaks mean it probably won’t work, not anymore.

Myth: Amazon make it impossible for me to sell my book.

This is the stupidest myth of all. Even leaving KDP Select completely out of the equation, there’s also-boughts, tailored recommendations, popularity charts, mailing lists, ‘also by’ pages, and a whole host of other marketing opportunities to utilise.

It’s hard selling a first book. Hell — it’s hard selling a second book. But you just have to keep putting new work out there, getting a few reviews, and then doing a low-time/finance promotion while still focusing on new writing.

Hopefully, now these Amazon ranking myths have been debunked, you’ll have a better understanding of how it all works. Ignorance is sometimes bliss, but when you can use a little-understood system to your advantage, it’s certainly not.


In other news, I just finished university yesterday! Great to be able to write this blog post without feeling guilty about not revising.

Last week, I put a new book out called The Painting, too. If you want to know more, head over here to read a sample of the opening.

More on Friday!