Book Sales Rank – Understanding the Basics

The day has finally arrived and your book has a sales rank on Amazon. Great! Now what? Sure, maybe you start by tracking the book across Amazon, but what does it all mean? What if your book is on Amazon.com but doesn’t have a sales rank? Here are some basic concepts to help you understand more about what a book’s sales rank really means.

Your book is on Amazon but does not have a sales rank listed.

Amazon has decided that your book may generate sales eventually on that particular domain and has permission from the publisher to sell the book globally. However, if the sales rank is not present, it means that nobody has ever purchased a copy of that book. Someone may in the future, but right now your book’s sales rank is not listed.

My book’s sales rank is really high on Amazon.com! In the millions!

polynesian-chartCongratulations, someone bought your book, once, a long time ago. For instance, this pre-order only for dummies book has a sales rank of 4+ million! In the last 2 months, it’s lost 300,000 ranks. If your sales rank was 1,000,000 it would lose more ranking a bit faster, but it’s been a while. Now let’s look at one with a bit more history, “Polynesian Interconnections“. In the last 6 months, it has lost 4.4 million positions in sales rank.
It loses ~1 million rankings over 15 days until it starts to level off and slowdown around 3.5 million. Thus, if you haven’t sold a book in a month, it’s likely you will be in the millions for your book’s sales rank.

Let’s pretend you sold one book a day, every day…

production-assistance-oct-chartYour sales rank would stay pretty darn steady! You would have a sales rank between 50,000 and 150,000 most likely and it would constantly be going up and down. Here is a book that sold 24 copies in October of 2009, “The Production’s Assistants Pocket Handbook“. While it wasn’t 1 copy an hour, you can see the pattern. The takeaway is that in 24 hours, your sales rank will climb back to its pre-book sale sales rank.

Your book has a sales rank of 400 and it holds steady at 400.

You sold 2 books each hour approximately, congrats (I hate you, in a jealous way)! When you are in the top 200, 300, 400, etc. your book’s sales rank should drop about 14% if you didn’t sell a book. If you sell 1 book, it drops 7%. If you held steady, you sold 2 books! Seeing a pattern? This gets much more complicated the better the sales rank (lower number), and less complicated when you are above a sales rank of 1000.

I sold 1 book every hour…

On some estimates, you would be averaging a sales rank of 100. This is according to Nimble Book’s Power Law formula. That data is based on 2006 data. You may also have a sales rank around 300, just like “The Game” by Neil Strauss. It’s tricky, and personally, I’m still tweaking the formulas as more data is being collected.

Your book is in the top 50.

I don’t even want to talk about it. You’re doing fantastic, go out to dinner at a nice restaurant… oh, and donate to help support NovelRank (It’s in the bottom right, below ‘Stay Informed’)!

What about the other domains, like Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.de?

Amazon.co.uk is a pretty popular site (so is Amazon.ca), but they have less inventory, so everything is scaled down. Amazon Germany, France, and Japan are even lower in inventory, so it scales down even further.

Final Thoughts on Book Sales Rank

  • Staying below 7 digits of sales rank is a good idea
  • A book a day keeps the 200,000′s away
  • Sales Rank overall is lower in all other domains besides Amazon.com
  • It’s even lower and less variable in Germany, France, and Japan
  • NovelRank is awesome

Look for some more research in the future!

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2 Responses to “Book Sales Rank – Understanding the Basics”

  1. admin says:

    That’s pretty strange Jay, and I don’t have an explanation. See the blog post about MYTHS and you’ll find it takes an actual sale to change salesrank, so that’s strange. Maybe bookscan is incorrect. Ask your publisher to check Amazon DTP directly (now called KDP).

  2. Jay says:

    I am trying to find out whether Amazon has wrong information, or whether the sales rank is even more useless than I imagined.

    According to Amazon, one of my books had a sales rank on Dec. 20 of 386,000, falling to 124k the next day. Over the following month, here are some of its ranks: Dec. 25: 200k; Dec. 29: 380k; Dec. 30: 78k; Dec. 31: 107k; Jan. 3: 338k; Jan. 5: 69k (best ranking to date); Jan. 9: 362k; Jan 11: 110k; Jan. 15: 76k; Jan 17: 421k; Jan 20: 108k

    Not bad, I would think…but BookScan sales, which Amazon reports, state that from Dec. 20 through Jan. 20 there were…NO (0) SALES, at all. None. Based on my experience with, and what I thought I understood of, the sales ranks, this seems impossible. Amazon insists it is correct.

    Any thoughts? Thanks.