One graph every writer will be familiar with – but what does it mean?

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This is what an Amazon sales rank graph looks like.  Every author on Amazon will probably have seen something like this on their Author Central page.

But what’s going on?  Why the characteristic saw-tooth jumps.  Why the slow tailing off?  Why the smaller jumps when you sell more books?

Ok, it’s all just maths, but it’s fairly simple.

The graph shows not your sales, but your sales rank.  And Amazon sales rank doesn’t depend on how many books you sell, it depends on how fast you sell them.

Imagine kicking a football up a hill.  Each time you kick the ball, that’s a sale, and your ball (your book) rolls further up the hill (the amazon charts).

But because everyone else in the list is selling books too, it immediately starts rolling back down the hill again.

If you make another sale immediately (kick the ball again) you get further up, but if it takes a while to make your next sale, you’ve rolled all the way back down the hill again and you’re starting from scratch.

In other words, if you sell 100 books on one day you’ll kick your way right up the bestseller charts.  If you sell 100 books over the course of a year, you’ll be hanging around at the bottom and nobody will ever know.

So why does selling one book make you jump 100,000 places, but selling another 5 minutes later only get you up a couple of thousand places?

Well, the hill gets steeper the closer you are to the top (the number 1 bestseller position).  This is simply because the higher ranked books (your competitors) are selling faster at the top of the charts.

The things to take away from this are:

  • A low rank doesn’t mean low sales – it might just mean they’re spread out over time.
  • If you want to be a bestseller, get everyone to buy your book on the same day, then be there to take a snapshot of the screen when it peaks because in a couple of hours, you’ll be on the way back down the hill again.
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