aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Is an Amazon sales rank a proxy for real-world sales?

I spent waaaaay too much time last week looking at the Amazon ranking for Face of Betrayal. What did it mean that on the morning it released it was around 8,000 and then two days later it was 150. Or 126. Or, memorably, over the weekend, 67. Or right now, 250. (The lower, the better.)

No one but Amazon really knows how many books that means. Some self-pubbed guy tried to figure it out once, based on some years-old data that Amazon used to provide. It looked to me like he thought even a sales rank of 100 meant only about a 100 books had been ordered that day.

But is your Amazon sales rank a proxy for real world sales? I can think of a lot of reasons why it wouldn’t be:
- For YA, middle grade, and children’s books, many purchases are made by libraries – which don’t normally shop at Amazon. So an Amazon number for those books might be artificially bad.
- My co-author, Lis Wiehl, did a lot of TV and radio appearances last week. If you wanted to buy the book right then, then the easiest way was to buy it online. But will people have the same reaction to the book when they run into it in the bookstore? Or will it have ceased being an impulse purchase because they are no longer looking at or hearing Lis?
- Are Amazon’s bestsellers the same as bestsellers in bricks and mortar stores? I think of my local bookstore, Annie Blooms, and other independent bookstores I know. I can’t see them prominently displaying Liberty and Tyranny: A Conservative Manifesto which was the top-selling book on Amazon last time I looked or some of the other “liberals are evil” books that are on the top 10 list. And some of the top bestsellers seem to come from publishing houses I’ve never heard of. Maybe it’s easier to find these books on Amazon.

What do you think? What relationship does Amazon bear to total book sales?

I will say this - it must bear some. Because Face of Betrayal is less than a week old and has already gone back to press.

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