DSP - Est. 1994


Murder Must Advertise
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Frequently Asked Questions about Amazon

If you have questions or suggestions for this section, please email Jeff Marks, moderator of the Murder Must Advertise mailing list.


Q: What do Amazon sales rankings mean?

A: Here are some quotes about Amazon sales rankings, compiled by Sue Trowbridge:

Holt Uncensored: http://www.holtuncensored.com/members/column76.html

Steve Rhodes writes:

The Amazon rankings don't mean much. A Wall Street Journal article from 1998 by Ron Suskind explained Amazon's rankings. He wrote the rankings "are updated hourly for Amazon.com's 10,000 top-selling titles, daily for the next 100,000 books and monthly for the rest of the pack."

Later he reveals "One sale a day can put a title in the top 10,000 sellers; a sale every few days can land a title in the next tier of 100,000. When the rest of the list is updated each month, rankings are determined by a complex mathematical formula based on the most recent sale and the time between sales."

The article concludes by showing even a small number of books ordered can have a big impact on the rank: "...wishing won't make it so, but action can work wonders. Lew McCreary saw his well-reviewed thriller 'The Minus Man' (Penguin Books, 1994) locked in Amazon.com's dark middle kingdom since the start of the rankings. He regularly checked the ranking over several weeks. It barely budged. Last week's slot: 680,281. 'I just want to know what to do to get under 500,000,' he said last week.

"After some thought, Mr. McCreary, whose day job is editorial director of CIO, a magazine for chief information officers, rallied the magazine's staffers at lunchtime. He told them he would reimburse them for the book's $9.95 purchase price if they called Amazon.com and placed an order. Five hours later, 10 books had been bought, and Mr. McCreary was making a run for glory.

"By 5:35 p.m. his rank was 368. 'I feel like I have the bends,' chortled the author, preparing for a night of celebration. 'I surfaced much too quickly. I just hope I can stay up this high until morning.'"

Author David Corn: http://www.american-politics.com/092999Corn.html

In the midst of my Amazon addiction, I managed to get out of the house to attend a party, where I overheard someone mention that an employee from Amazon.com was present. I sought this person out, introduced myself, and when I started to explain I was an author of a new novel, the Amazonite interrupted and said, "And you want to know about the Amazon sales rankings, right?" I confessed. He was patient, explaining that the ranking only indicates how a book sold in comparison with the others in a particular period of time, say an hour. Which tells you nothing about the overall performance of a book. He did not know--or would not say--how many book sales would comprise a noticeable bubble. "Total sales figures would be more relevant and meaningful," he added. "But there's no way Amazon is going to release that sort of data. It would be very useful to the competition if they knew how much of what Amazon was actually selling. So try not to sweat the ranking."

Publishing Poynters: http://parapub.com/getpage.cfm?file=newsletter/News0400.html&userid=1035600

(Note from Sue: I have no idea where he got this information or whether or not it's actually true...)

Amazon.com rankings. If your book is jumping between 2,000 and 9,000, you are selling 2-3 books per day. Here are the weekly ranges and sales:

Average Sales/Week

5 or fewer

More recent articles:
Chicago Tribune: Amazon Explorations, by Patrick T. Riordan
Cornered Writers:
Surfing the Amazon, by Morris Rosenthal


Q: How do I add/change information on my book's page at Amazon.com?

A: Web designer Sue Trowbridge tells how to get started:

1. Go to the Amazon "Books" homepage. All the way at the bottom, on the right hand side, there's a link called Author's Guide. Click on it.

2. Find the section on the Author's Guide page called The Catalog Guide. (It's about 3/4 of the way down the page.) It offers a bunch of selections, including "Enhance your book's detail page by offering persuasive content." Click on the Catalog Guide link.

3. The Catalog Guide page offers a link to the Online Content Form. (I wish I could offer the direct URLs to these pages, but Amazon appends a long string of tracking numbers to the end of every Amazon URL -- probably so Jeff Bezos can monitor my every move!) Click on the Online Content Form link.

4. You will be taken to a page called the Book Content Update Form. To fill this out, you will need to give Amazon the name of a contact person at your publisher's, and your book's ISBN #. After filling out that basic information, you will be taken to a page where you can add up to five glowing reviews of your book; an excerpt from your book; your bio; and more.

If there are errors in the material currently posted, email catalog-typos@amazon.com.



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Kate Derie and Jeffrey Marks.