What’s All This “Rankings” Business?

If any of you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know I’ve been talking about my rankings on Amazon quite a bit. You’ll also know I’m incredibly excited about the numbers, so let me explain a little bit about what they mean.

First of all, I have to say that the whole rankings business is a little complicated and not everyone agrees about how Amazon figures it out. Amazon is pretty tight-lipped about how their calculations, but there is some information out there. For a really good idea of what I’m talking about, you can read this article.

For the rest of you who want a quick and dirty version, here ya go.

In a nutshell, my books are compared to every other book on Amazon’s site and ranked according to sales. If you look at the following picture, which is a snapshot from a specific time, you’ll see that there is an overall ranking (Amazon Best Sellers Rank), which compares me to ALL Amazon books, then there are three categories beneath that. These categories are more specific to my book so that readers can find it easily and know if it’s something they want to read. This screen shot was taken for Life After the Undead.

From these numbers, you can see that I rank 33,882 out of ALL PAID Kindle books on Amazon. They separate books further into PAID and FREE. Overall, that number doesn’t look that fantastic. I mean, 33,000? Pffft. That’s 33,000 books ahead of mine. However, if you take into account that there are millions of books on Amazon, that number isn’t so terrible.

The three numbers beneath that are what matter the most to me. As you can see from the above photo, I am in the top 100 for my three categories. That means that out of all the other books that have the same classification, I’m pretty low on this list. When that happens, my books appears on another list that shows covers for all top 100 books. This helps potential readers finds my books and hopefully leads to more sales.

(Notice at this particular point in time for this particular category there are some R.L. Stine books around me. How freaking cool is that?)

So why is this so important? Am I that greedy that I have to make money on my books? Well, yes and no. It’s important because it means my books are getting into the hands of readers—and that’s the whole reason I write. And yes, I deserve to get paid for the work I put in, but I’m not going to be retiring any time soon.

Amazon ranks books based on sales, but it also takes into account how many reads are done through their Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. For those of you who don’t know what the KU program is, it’s a subscription service that Amazon offers. Readers pay a monthly fee to access books. They don’t have to purchase the books separately, so it works kind of like a library—but with a fee.

Authors within the program get paid by how many pages of their work are read. It averages out to be like .004 cents per page, but, if you ask me, it’s better than a kick in the pants. There are some rules to the program, such as if your book is enrolled, you can’t have it for sale anywhere else—it has to be exclusive to Amazon. That means no Barnes and Noble, no iTunes, no nothing. As an author, you have to decide if that’s worth it or not. Personally, for me, it is. My sales were pretty dismal on other channels, but the KU program gets it into the hands of readers. Again, the whole reason I write.

Depending on what authority you ask or what article you read, rankings are either down hourly or at various times throughout the day. In either case, they fluctuate. For part of the day, I might be ranking in the top 100, then the next part, I’m might not be. It all depends on how many sales and reads happen throughout the day. However, it also factors in historical sales. I’m not exactly sure how that formula works. And, to be honest, I don’t know that I really care.

The reason I get so excited about my rankings (and check them like an addict looking for a fix) is because I love seeing people check out my book. I love knowing that readers are reading it. It helps build my confidence and inspires me to keep writing.

Not all of my books get low rankings on Amazon, though they all get ranked. I’m totally fine with that. If my zombie books didn’t get the low rankings they have now, I would be fine with that too. In fact, for years they never made it this low and it didn’t impact me or my writing. However, it feels good to know they are ranking so low now.

One day, I will fall off the charts again. I will stop being in the top 100, and I’m totally fine with that. Until that day comes, though, I’m going to ride this wave and share my excitement with the world.