I spend a fair amount of time stalking my clients’ books on Amazon, checking for reviews and rankings.
We’ve now launched more than 40 books in about two and a half years.
Here are a few observations I’ve made through my endless Amazon stalking:
Everything Is Relative
This might seem evident, but it’s easily overlooked. Your book will rank higher or lower depending upon how other books are selling. If your publisher chooses categories with fewer books, your book may rank more easily in those categories, but you have to weigh that against the relevance of the categories.
Rankings Update Hourly
Your book ranking may update as often as once an hour. Books ranking higher than 10,000 on Amazon will typically change hourly. There is no reason to check more often than that.
Your Categories Will Show Up When You Rank In The Top 100
Until your book ranks in a category, it won’t show the category. The overall rank that you need to show up in a category varies depending upon what categories your book is in (again, everything is relative!) We seen some books rank in a category when the book’s overall rank is around 20,000 and other books not rank in categories when the overall rank is as high as 7,000.
You Don’t Need To Stalk Rankings – Login To Amazon Author Central Instead
While there is a definite thrill in watching your book rise through the ranks on Amazon, you can also see rankings in your Amazon Author Central account. Additionally, you can view Bookscan sales numbers through your Amazon Author Central account.
Early Reviews Matter
The more reviews you can gather in the early weeks after your book launches, the more you will eventually gather. People seem to want to add their reviews to often-reviewed books. And, often-reviewed books sell more copies. Typically, I tell authors that 50 reviews is the ideal number to set as a goal within a month or two of your book’s publication. To get those early reviews, you will need to ASK. People may not think to leave them if you don’t remind them. The book we are currently supporting that has the most reviews (141) got 100 reviews very soon after its publication. In the time since its release (about 18 months), the book has sold steadily and added more reviews over time.
Amazon Stock Is Unpredictable
Have conversations with your publisher in advance of your book’s launch to find out about how many books Amazon will stock. The more information you can provide to your publisher about your publicity efforts and events, the more successful they will be in convincing Amazon to stock up on your book. Despite the most proactive planning, there will be times that Amazon will be out of stock.
We recently worked with an author. Despite his best efforts and our support and focus, his book was out of stock on Amazon for his entire launch week. His publisher couldn’t provide an explanation. You’ll notice that Amazon’s stock/messaging may change frequently, with indications that your book is out of stock or will take more time to ship. This is normal, but worth talking with your publisher about to be sure they are aware and working with Amazon to restock your book.
Tell me something! What other questions do you have about Amazon stock, rankings, and reviews?
I am the founder/CEO of the Weaving Influence team, the author of Reach: Creating the Biggest Possible Audience for Your Message, Book, or Cause, and the host of the Book Marketing Action Podcast. I’m a wife and mom of three kids, and I enjoy running, reading, writing, coffee, and dark chocolate.
I’m not an author but the one reason I even sign up to read books is to be able to promote the author. I might read the book anyway – but chances are in the 300,000+ books published in a year, I might not see a book unless someone promotes it – like the Weaving Influence Team. I often wondered how anyone can tell what the rank is. Now I know.
When you say this “To get those early reviews, you will need to ASK. People may not think to leave them if you don’t remind them.” I sometimes fall behind on my reading schedule but when someone ASKs me to write the review or Remember – this is launch week it helps me to get the book back in alignment with priorities. I am thankful that your team ASKs and in effect reminds me that I have a book to review. I’m not offended. I’m glad to have the thought planted.
Jane, we DEEPLY appreciate your consistent support for our authors!
Great advice, Becky! i would add that authors need to remember that the Amazon rankings are based on when orders are placed, not so much when orders are shipped. Thus, it is good to get some preorders, but unless you are getting a lot of preorders (like thousands), it is best to wait to get your community to place orders when the book is available to have the sales rank go the highest when books are actually in stock. Also, the Amazon list is transaction based, so the more transactions in an hour the higher the rank will go (really regardless of how many books are bought on each transaction). Also, if an author wants to have their book listed in different categories than Amazon has it listed they can change them. Here’s a link to info on how to change them to two sub categories: https://authorcentral.amazon.com/gp/help?ie=UTF8&topicID=201231280
Thank you for this valuable content addition, Kristen! I appreciate you!
Thanks for this information. I am intrigued to know that ASKING for reviews is not only important, but also feasible. Clearly it works. I’ll try it.
There is a certain persistence required, at times, Joanie. 🙂
Thank you Becky for the wonderful advice. I have taken part in reviewing and promoting Mark Miller’s books through you and have felt honored to be asked to post a review. I am definitely going to ASK on my next book.
Glad to add value, Denis. Thanks for taking the time to comment!
GREAT post, Becky! I wonder what the ‘lag time’ is. In other words, if we try to drive traffic to Amazon at a particular hour, are hourly ranking real time?
Very interesting! Thank you for sharing!