On Bridge Trolls and Beauty Pagents

My most recent, dismal failure of a free advertising experiment has lead me to a very useful piece of information, which I feel I should share.

If you read my blog spew you’ll know I’ve been running a few experiments with advertising my novel, Equivocal Destines. So far I’ve actually had negative luck, as I’ve explained in some previous blog posts:

During these, and my most recent experiment, I’ve been fairly carefully watching my Amazon ranking. If you’re not fully up on what this is, a very brief explanation:

Every book on Amazon (which on amazon.com is at least 4.9 million – I’ve seen a book with that ranking) is ranked. Basically, it’s a popularity contest. #1 is the most popular book, #4.9m has got to be close to the least popular – smaller numbers are better. Every author’s dream is to be #1 in the “Books” category, or at least in the Top 10 in their category, whatever that is. You use if for advertising, etc. People even put it on their book covers, take screen scrapes of their book with that ranking, etc. Also, if your book becomes really popular, Amazon themselves (the automated bots on their servers) will recommend your book to other buyers. This ranking is therefore where the real money is on Amazon.

So, here’s what my ranking has shown me.

Amazon appears to have a two-tiered ranking system. This is all complete guesswork on my part, but I’m pretty sure I’m approximately right.

Tier 1: Your baseline ranking is based on your sales and rentals (and possibly page views) over a long period of time. I can’t speculate how long a period this is yet as my book’s only been published for 3 months, but it’s probably at least this long. The idea is, Amazon averages every book’s sales over a long period and sorts all books based on this number and your ranking on this list is your baseline ranking. This will be a regular thing, possibly daily, possibly more often, but it seem accurate. Now, whatever happens to your book, sales-wise, it will always drift back to this baseline very quickly – within 24 hours.

Tier 2: Your, lets call it your spike ranking, is based on what’s happened with your sales and rentals in the previous 24 hours, max. If you get an abnormally high number of sales in a short period, it spikes your popularity a lot to show this, but if you then don’t follow up with more, consistent sales, your ranking will drift back down to your baseline within a day.

This system has 2 interesting effects, which I’ve seen with my book:

  • As mentioned above, the ranking of an unpopular book (like mine) can spike significantly, quickly, if it gets a few extra sales close together. This – repeat THIS – is what you need, repeat NEED, to do to get Amazon to pay close attention to your book. 1 week is too much. 24 hours is the max.

Conversely, logically, if your book is already really popular, the spike will be much less pronounced, so it’ll be really hard to move up through the Top 1000 or so by adding a few extra sales in a day. It’ll also drift back downwards just as quickly.

This spiking therefore really helps unpopular books but doesn’t do much to already-popular books. I actually think this is really cool of Amazon.

  • If you do a free book giveaway – and I think you should NEVER do this – your ranking actually goes down. Why? Because you’re not selling any books during that period – free books don’t count towards your ranking, or result is reviews, so this is all a waste of time – so the spike works in reverse and drags your book down in the rankings. After the free promo ends and you sell a copy or 2, your ranking will go back up to normal.

I’ve seen the drift in my ranking go up and down with each individual sale because I check my KDP reports and my Amazon rank 10 or 20 times a day when running a free advertising campaign. I do this because I’m pedantic and because I want to know what’s going on within the system. The results of all of this is this blog post.

I’ve also been watching the rankings of a few other books that were published at the same time as mine. I don’t know the authors, but I’ve read both books. Here’s something interesting about them.

  1. The better of the 2 books has about 30 reviews and its ranking is currently about 500k while mine drifts between 200k and 250k. This means that the number of reviews probably doesn’t affect the ranking at all. If so, this excellent book would have a better rank than mine, but it doesn’t. It started out well but over the last month it’s gradually drifted down to 500k. I guess sales are bad.
  2. The worst of the 2 books (Still an OK book though) has a rank which is often higher than mine but is currently 100k lower. The book only has 2 reviews averaging at 3.5 stars while mine currently has 5 reviews – all 5 stars and all legit – so again, I don’t think reviews count towards rankings. You can clearly tell what a book’s sales are though by watching its ranking for a full 24-hour period.

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