A Tweet Spree on Amazon Author Rankings and Envy

To begin, this tweet:

To which I responded:

Which got me some “haa lolz sour grapes” comments which left me slightly confused, so I had do a bit of digging. Which, along with the desire to generally expand on this comment, led to the following.


31 Comments on “A Tweet Spree on Amazon Author Rankings and Envy”

  1. I work with databases and this has gotten me curious how Amazon handles their ranking code. It might be fairly complex code. Something as simple as the ‘time slice’ when they do the rankings could change a number of peoples ranking if they were lower down in the rankings. It could be more complicated than you think. Its likely gathered from multiple different DBs and multiple different applications and rolled up together.

    The ranking could be down briefly and people with lower sales could see big ranking changes with minor changes to other books. To someone who works with data this is really interesting. I know I will put the rest of you to sleep.

    However, unfortunately I don’t hate myself enough to apply to work at Amazon. They have emailed me about an interview based on resumes I keep anonymously on the web over the year, but a quick google search says ‘if I am desperate contact them and then get out’, else, no.

  2. Ha ha, funny string, John. I’m responding immediately to it with one little thought (waited too long for Ali, so I missed).

    Might I suggest that age may have something to do with yearnings for fame, fortune and notoriety? I once wrote, “Youth feel unique, their parents less so / The Aged sigh and grown when living alone…” trying to imply there, that singling oneself out for things isn’t necessarily a static desire throughout life.

    I’m just wondering if, perhaps those Amazon anxieties might have more to do with age and hormones more than much else.

    @Guess: interesting. I first only wondered if the rankings stuff was a mere PR trick.

  3. Plus, I’m fairly certain that rankings are based not only on sales, but on Kindle Unlimited pages read. Where the traditionally published author’s ranking comes solely from book sales, self-published authors can get into the ranking with book + KU activity.

    Does that make it bad or wrong? No, it just is what it is. Also, the rankings are updated hourly, so if you’ve had a spike in sales or pages read, you can hop into the top 100 and be back out again before you know it. Actually being a ranked author isn’t that hard (I was ranked #50 for an eyeblink), being ranked consistently is.

  4. I have to begrudgingly admit I’ve become pretty wrapped up in my Amazon Rankings. Ever since my book has become a success it’s really easy to get so competitive about where you rank and what it means. Truth be told, it’s just nonsense. What matters is selling books and having people enjoy them! :D (or at least, for me that’s what matters.)

  5. It seems that Sugar and Spice give a damn about Amazon rankings. The moral of the story? As you say in your tweets, don’t “compete” for status over Amazon (or any place) rankings :)

  6. John, you seriously crack me up sometimes. This is one of them. I could not come up with the energy for this, unless it also involved beer, in which case my message would kind of rub out a little? Keep on keeping on!

  7. I’m just glad you and Corey (which of them was it?) are pleasant towards each other. You and Abraham writing together would be … the best book ever.

  8. @John: “5. Also, really: Amazon Author rankings don’t mean much in terms of overall sales, etc, especially if you sell in places other than Amazon.”

    Question: Isn’t Amazon becoming more important as a source of book sales due to the increasing disappearance of bookstores? I purchase most of the books I read (including the Old Man’s War series) through Amazon, simply because (a) it’s convenient and (b) increasingly necessary due to the number of bookstores in my area that have simply vanished over the years (e.g. Barnes and Nobel, Borders, and others).

  9. Pedro:

    What “increasing disappearance of bookstores”? Indie bookstores have rebounded and many are doing just fine. It’s not to say that Amazon isn’t a substantial portion of my sales. But not nearly the majority.

  10. John: I work downtown in the Imperial Capital, and over the years, I have watched major chains and independent bookstores disappear from the area, so much so, that the nearest bookstore, an Indy bookstore, is about a 20 minute walk away . . . one way.

    Glad to hear that Indy bookstores are doing well, but there is a paucity of such places nearby, and I do miss the ability to browse books at will and at my leisure, especially during lunch hour.

  11. Man, that’s some serious Tweeting! No wonder my phone was doing this low frequency buzzing thing all day.

  12. I think the Scamperbeasts displayed the winning response(s) to this entire ‘internet controversy’:

    Sugar’s Response: I’ll just take a nap, ‘K ?
    Spice’s Response: Huh? Wha? There was a thing?


    Without access to the actual code that ‘fills’ the database with the data from which the rankings are then apparently generated it is impossible to know whether the GIGO principle also applies. Lots of people wandering the world (on and off the internet) who still fall for the ‘it must be accurate because a computer program said so’ fallacy …

  13. Sorry, hit ‘submit’ when I meant to hit ‘preview’:

    The code that analyses the data in the database and then generates the reports would also be necessary, because that is yet another GIGO ‘gate-point’.

  14. @lees: they are probably using some kind of rolling average to calculate the rankings so average over a period of time. It doesnt make sense to rank hour by hour because a book could sell 10 copies at noon and none for a few hours. The rankings would be a ping pong ball.

    They likely have alot of databases and applications. There are likely data feeds and summary data calculations. If a feed gets behind for some reason it could mess up the rankings for a short period.

    my understand is the top 25 books in the ny times outsell the next 2 million? This means that for most authors very small changes in sales for them or competitors could lead to big rank changes.

  15. My favorite is when anyone argues about the sales rank of a book or counts being in the top 10 of a sub category as success or being a bestseller. It both misunderstands how Amazon works and invests way too much in the constantly fluctuation of Amazon metrics.

  16. Jerome O’Neill:

    You do understand that the “in short” part came after the longer part, yes? That it was a summation of what came before?

    Because if you do understand that, then you’re “just sayin'” you’re being intentionally obtuse. If you didn’t previously know it, now you do.

  17. @Pedro
    You live within a twenty minute walk of a bookstore? That’s pretty awesome. In all my years of city living, I’ve never been able to say that.

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