Forget Amazon Rankings and Just Write!

04/27/2015 04:51 pm ET | Updated Jun 24, 2015

Book sales are very important to an author. It's a nice feeling to see a book into which you've poured heart, soul and an incredible amount of time, produce healthy sales. The problem is that not all places that put up sales and author rankings are equal or tell the whole truth. A good example of this problem is Amazon.

I know an author who measures his days by his author ranking and book sales numbers on Amazon. If his numbers are "good," he's in a happy frame of mind. But, oh, when those numbers drop! He is down and miserable wondering what he can do to raise his numbers to what he feels are acceptable levels. In fact, he spends so much time on publicity schemes that he doesn't write the 1,000 words a day he has promised himself he would do. He is getting far behind in his outlines and the writing schedule for his new book all because of his rankings.

What authors forget is that the rankings on Amazon don't tell the whole book-selling story. Amazon is not the be-all and end-all of the book-selling world. Not selling well on Amazon doesn't necessarily mean you aren't selling well on other book selling sites. Sales from those other sites won't be reflected in Amazon sales, nor will your author ranking. I know this because my own books sell very well, and my Nielsen rank is high, even when the sales figures are lower on Amazon, because the giant online store tracks only its own sales. An author's overall success as a writer is not linked solely to Amazon. How can you tell how many books you've actually sold on Amazon from your sales rank there? The answer is simple -- you can't.

Barnes and Noble also has rankings which seem to be a better way to judge your sales numbers because, unlike Amazon, 95 percent of what B&N sells are actually books and ebooks. It is the same with online and brick-and-mortar independent bookstores. You may find better sales figures at BookFinder, Abe's Books, a local book shop or independent booksellers.

The rank for one book in Amazon online stores varies from country to country. Each store represents a different demographic or market. Let's say a book ranks #10 in (Australia) but ranks #11,264 in (U.S.A.). Sales figures will differ accordingly. Also, Amazon claims that the Bestsellers Rank is calculated hourly, but Amazon's information about true rankings are meager at best.

The info available may state that the ranking of bestsellers is updated every hour but it seems that most rankings are not updated that frequently. Here's how it really works: The sales standing of books ranked #1 to #10,000 are recalculated every hour. Books in the #10,001-#110,000 are recalculated daily, not hourly, and those over #110,000 are ranked monthly. Big difference. And while the Amazon ranking of your book is good to know, it doesn't necessarily match the royalty statement from your publisher. That statement is gathered from the sales data of all book sales, not just from one source. If you are truly concerned with your book's sales and your author ranking, send an email to your publisher requesting the info he or she has on the book.

Writing is a time-consuming, deadline-oriented profession. If you're not actually writing, you're thinking about it. It is like no other profession in the world because it is with you all the time. How many of us have gotten up in the middle of the night to jot down a story idea, a character's line, or a scene? You love your passion and you are consumed by it willingly.

Authors who start to worry about their Amazon ranking should be aware that by doing so they're allowing Amazon to define their success. My advice is to just keep writing and find good ways to publicize your book -- 80 percent writing and 20 percent smart publicity is best. Remember that a well-written book that drawers readers to you is your best publicity. The sales figures will, eventually, take care of themselves.

Kristen Houghton is the author of 6 top-selling books including the PI series A Cate Harlow Private Investigation. The first in the series FOR I HAVE SINNED is available where all books are sold.
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