The Numbers Game

Since my novel launched on February 16, I’ve checked the Amazon web site no less than 50 times a day (seriously), hoping and praying that my sales ranking continues to improve. Nothing creates more of a book buzz than sales figures. The better the sales rank, the greater the reader interest. As one of the most successful on-line retailers in the world, understandably, an author’s ranking on is significant and consequential. 

My Kindle numbers have been excellent. But this in large part is due to a big push by Amazon Encore, my publisher. (And by the way, if you’d like to read the whole story of how I finally got published after writing 4 novels and 16+ years of rejection, click on “ALL ABOUT THE BOOK” at the top of my home page.) But my paperback sales have been so-so. Until this morning. 

I fired up my computer just before noon and the first thing I checked of course was Amazon. Frankly, I wasn’t expecting to see any major improvement in the paperback sales. My publicist, who specializes in author marketing, told me not to get impatient, that her efforts in the marketplace might not impact sales for a few weeks. So, naturally, I had no lofty expectation. 

I first checked my Kindle numbers. Overall ranking: #123. Not bad considering that Amazon offers over 400,000 book titles on Kindle. And then there are specific genres within fiction, or what you might call sub-categories such as Suspense, Thriller, Mainstream, Police Procedural, etc. Well, here’s what I found: 

#9 in  Kindle Store > Kindle Books > Literary Fiction
#16 in  Books > Literature & Fiction > Literary
#54 in  Books > Literature & Fiction > Contemporary

If you don’t think that these numbers painted a smile on my face, think again. I was stoked to the 10th power. 

Now I faced the tough part: checking my paperback ranking. The last time I looked, my ranking was #12,083. Not terrible considering that Amazon offers over 4 million paperback book titles. But certainly not where I wanted to be. What I discovered today, however, blew my mind. My overall sales ranking as of noon today was #587, and take a look at this sub-category: 

#9 in  Books > Mystery & Thrillers > Police Procedurals

My novel currently ranks in the Top 10 of Police Procedurals? Wow! Not to dilute the importance of these awesome numbers, bear in mind that it doesn’t require significant sales to move your ranking from #1,000,000 to #1,000. The high numbers are dramatically affected by just a handful of sales. However, once your ranking is in the hundreds, moving upward is a new ballgame. It might require 100 sales to move from #500 to #499. And if a book’s ranking is in double digits, it could take 1,000 sales to move up just one digit. 

So, needless to say, I have no “Good News-Bad News” story today. 

It’s all good!



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6 responses to “The Numbers Game

  1. Your sis, Ro

    That is FANTASTIC news.

  2. poolagirl

    Boo rah! I am so jazzed for you!

  3. Daniel

    Yeah, but the numbers are slipping.

  4. Dex

    As an aspiring author myself, I’m curious to know how those rankings match up to number of books sold.

    I know with the kindle, a ranking in the low 100’s means you’re selling around 60 to 80 copies a day. Are print books are on a similar scale. Does a ranking around 600 mean you’re selling 20 to 40 copies a day?

    Not bad.

    But didn’t Amazon say they’re selling 6 ebook copies for every 1 print copy? If that’s the case, how does that affect the number of print books sold? Does that mean you’re only selling 3 to 7 copies a day in print even though your ranking has been as low as the high 500’s?

    And how many book stores are carrying the book? I looked for it in B&N and in Borders this weekend but they said they didn’t carry it. I wasn’t surprised since most bookstores won’t work with Amazon, but I wonder how that will affect sales of the Encore books since the majority of books in this country are still sold through physical bookstores.

    This is all fascinating stuff, and I wish you the best of luck. You’re definitely paving the way as one of the first Encore authors, and I’ll be following your experience closely.

    I do hope you decide to share your sales numbers on your blog when you get them like Joe Konrath does. You might not be as open as Joe (I know I wouldn’t be) but it would be a geat learning tool for those of us trying to figure out the business.

    Best of luck,


    • Daniel

      Your questions and observations are thought provoking. In all honesty, I haven’t a clue if there is a reliable formula to equate ranking to actual sales. To be honest, I’ve got bigger fish to fry right now and am trying not to get totally caught up in sales numbers. I look at the rankings because they are the only reference I have available to monitor activity on my novel.

      I won’t see any real sales numbers until early March. Amazon does not have a provision for authors to monitor sales daily or weekly.

      Your absolutely correct about the importance of having a book available in the brick and mortar stores. However, I’ve got two strikes against me because–as you pointed out–B&N and Borders don’t want to help their competition by carrying Amazon Encore books, and second, first time novelists have a very tough time getting shelf space in retail stores.

      The PR people from Amazon, my agent, and my publicist are all working hard to get my novel in major bookstores, but it’s a real battle. The only shot I have is if the book does real well on-line, the retailers would have no choice but to carry it–unless of course they are foolish business people and wish to cut off ther noses to spite their face.

      I wish you luck with your writing. It’s a long, hard road. And the sad part is that success or failure has little to do with the literary value of your work. It mostly comes down to timing and dumb luck.

      By the way, I’ve communicated several times with Joe Konrath. He’s a rare breed and his web site is a wealth of knowledge for any up and coming writer. In fact, even the “big guns” could learn a few things about the world of writing from Joe.

      And one more thing: I haven’t decided whether or not I will display my sales figures on my web site. To be honest, I haven’t given it much thought until you brought it to the forefront.

      Stay tuned for updates.


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