Allan Mayer’s Weblog

Amazon is messing with my head…

Posted on: June 9, 2009

…I’m sure of it…

This is what they are doing:

First, they create a rankings system. Not a simple system, where you can find out how many books you have sold, oh no, or even a great long list of every book they sell where you can gradually watch your POD published book climb from position 4,000,000 in the world to position 3,999,999 over 25 years.

No. They have created a system where your rankings change every hour to reflect how your book is doing at that specific time in relationship to other books in its vicinity.

And it doesn’t stop there. If you go onto Amazon and instead of searching for a book search for a publisher, you can see everything put out by that particular publisher in ‘Bestselling’ order.



You see they don’t just provide you with a figure which tells you how well you are selling. Oh no. They provide you with a rank for ‘relevance.’

How the hell does that work?

Apparently it’s something to do with a combination of sales, number of positive reviews, number of times someone has looked at your page, how many spells have been cast in your name and how many of your readers are frogs called Trevor… well in my view anyway.

It’s just that having followed my Amazon rankings closely since my book was published, I have begun to question what it all means.

I originally set out to be a writer of books. Books which entertained, informed, and added a new light, however small, to a dark world.

But now I find myself checking my Amazon rankings far too often. And they have started to do weird things, which is why I think that Amazon are doing strange things with my head in the manner of a Dean Koontz novel…

As my publisher introduces more books in its recent phase of publishing, these books are enjoying their first surge of sales, and books which have done well in the rankings, including mine, are beginnng to fall. This is to be expected. The odd thing is the relationship between my ‘bestselling’ and ‘relevance’ rank.

A couple of days ago I was at number 2 in relevance. Great I thought, I must have gone up in bestsellers. Wrong. I had slipped out of the top ten to number seventeen. Yesterday relevance was 5, but I was back at number 10 in the best sellers.

Does anyone out there have a clue how this works?

If you do, I will write you a nice thankyou card in coloured crayon…

they don’t allow me to have pens anymore.

7 Responses to "Amazon is messing with my head…"

Stupid isn’t it? I first saw this in 2005, gave up after that.

I imagined that it was a staggered equation whereby sales were put together on the basis that one book sold equates to an average for the month – hence not being absolutely correct.

But it’s difficult to tell and that I’m aware, nobody really knows how the hell that equation works, but I have never actually dug.

Maybe someone can tell us, but when competing with SO many books, that could sell 1000 copies a day I don’t think there’s much point lol.

Interesting… inspired by your mention of a book that could sell 1000 copies a day I looked up Dan Brown.
If you look at Corgi’s best sellers, Brown is there in the top six- obviously.
But if you look at Corgi’s most relevant, the top ones are mainly children’s books (number 1 being ‘Niteracy Hour.’)
I’ve just glanced at the first fifty Corgi books for relevance and Brown hasn’t appeared yet, although Danielle Steele is well represented.
What is it all about?

Firstly I think children’s books sell more every few weeks sometimes, I think the average sale number is higher but I can’t quite remember.

Secondly Brown might not be up there because his sales have slumped off slightly. Worth checking one of his books and seeing where it sits, just to make sure he’s in that list.

Danielle Steele may well be doing better at the moment conversely.


The thing is that when I checked out Dan Brown he is there at the top of the bestsellers which would indicate that he is currently selling well (as you would expect, especially with Angels and Demons at the cinema at the moment.) But he is nowhere in relevance. So what does it mean? If a children’s book outsells Dan Brown over a particular period, why isn’t this reflected in Best sellers? Am I missing something obvious?

How about forgetting Amazon and getting YWO our own publisher to give us in plain language HOW MANY COPIES of our books they have sold? Why not a ranking of the ‘free 5000’ published works? At least we would be comparing like with like.

Most of my friends do ask- is your novel selling well? how many copies have you sold.? I have to tell them I have no idea at all and they look on in disbelief.

Why are the book trade the only lot so secretive about number of copies sold in this target driven age?

Re Neilson Scan , Iam not prepared to pay a whopping amount to get it but surely YWO could make it known to each of the authors how many copies of their work has sold, in UK and world wide. Their numbers given for Royalty calculations is not the right figure as some have ordered 2000 copies of their own book through YWO.

Hope some wise person is going to give us the answer.

Hang on how can you not know how many are sold? Can’t you ring Gardners and ask them how many were sold? Or whoever YWO are stocking your book with?

To get onto many chart listings you do need to be in the right place and you also need to have possible certain subscriptions to places like Neilson.

I still don’t see why you can’t ring your distributor and ask them though, ISBN will do the trick. If it’s only selling through YWO’s website and you can’t ring them direct, is there no way to find out how many books they still have?
If not I see your dilemma and that’s why I self publish all on my own, because I have control over every last little thing.

All the best.

I use it for one thing only. I’m self published so my sales are just now and then. I check the site occasionally, the ranking slowly decays of these dormant periods 100,000…..200,000…500,000 etc. and then all of a sudden it jumps down to 85,000 or something like that and I know one sold. Sort of like in It’s a Wonderful Life when Zuzu say ‘Teacher says every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings’. I get a sense of excitement that a book has sold. Otherwise it is pretty meaningless, has no translation to actual sales numbers. It just decays every hour, and rebounds anytime one is sold.

I get sales reports quarterly from the publisher and would be surprised if any publisher doesn’t provide them. That wouldn’t seem right. Almost all of mine have been sold off Amazon and the publisher supplies them and keeps track (obviously I have to trust them)….m

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