Figuring out the Amazon Sales Rank

Amazon.com logo

I’m keen to know how book sales are going, so it makes sense to check the stats provided by the world’s largest bookseller, Amazon. The retailer displays what’s known as the Amazon Sales Rank.

Here’s an excerpt from Amazon’s help page.

What Sales Rank means

As an added service for customers, authors, publishers, artists, labels, and studios, we show how items in our catalog are selling. The lower the number, the higher the sales for that particular item. The calculation is based on Amazon.com sales and is updated each hour to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold on Amazon.com. We hope you find the Amazon.com Sales Rank interesting!

What Category Sales Ranks mean

While Amazon.com Sales Rank is a good indicator of how well a product is selling overall, it doesn’t always indicate how popular an item is among other similar items. Our category sales ranks were created to highlight those categories where an item really stands out. We choose a few categories where the item has a high ranking in relation to other items in that category, and showcase them on the product page. Like Amazon.com Sales Rank, these category rankings are based on Amazon.com sales and updated every hour.

For “competitive reasons” Amazon won’t give actual sales figures.

Here’s how Logo Design Love is faring (figures updated hourly).

Amazon.co.uk Sales Rank: #1,539 in Books

If you were to view specific categories, my book’s listed as follows:

#2 in Advertising (#1 is It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be)
#2 in Graphic Arts (#1 is The Art of Looking Sideways)
#2 in Brands & Corporate Identity (#1 is Crush It!)

I wonder if the category rankings are affected by the reader-assigned tags you can see on each product page.

Amazon.com Sales Rank: #2,606 in Books

There’s a much larger catalogue sold through the .com site, so it makes sense that my ranking is lower in the United States.

Strangely, Logo Design Love sits at #1 in Amazon’s illustration category, yet ranks at #30 for graphic design — if you’re an illustrator, I think there’s a niche in the book market for your talents.

Amazon.ca Sales Rank: #29,996 in Books

Reader reviews don’t carry across borders, so although there are 17 Logo Design Love reviews on Amazon.com, there are only nine shown on Amazon.co.uk, and just two on Amazon.ca.

This might explain the lower Canadian figure, or it may also be because my publisher is based in the United States, and I’m based in the United Kingdom, leaving no physical presence in Canada.

Where’s the value?

So if number assigned to your book varies by the hour, is there any point spending time checking?

The Sales Rank comes into its own when an author carries out a marketing push. Say for instance that one week a book is mentioned on Design Observer, and the next it’s shown on Swiss Miss, an author can track which website brought a higher Sales Rank during the days immediately after the feature (useful info for future marketing plans).

Leave it to Amazon

If your book is performing well, Amazon will help. To illustrate, England-based Daniel Gray kindly forwarded me an email Amazon sent. I wasn’t previously aware of the message, and here’s what it said:

Greetings from Amazon.co.uk,

We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated Logo by Michael Evamy have also purchased Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities (Voices That Matter) by David Airey. For this reason, you might like to know that Logo Design Love: A Guide to Creating Iconic Brand Identities (Voices That Matter) is now available. You can order yours for just £12.98 (50% off the RRP) by following the link below.

Evamy’s Logo is probably the most popular logo gallery book to be published (it’s one of the few I keep), and I imagine plenty of other people have bought a copy from Amazon.

Of much more importance to me than the Sales Rank are the reader comments. If someone gets use out of my content, and if they tell others about it, then by extension, word of mouth will help the sales take care of themselves.

I can imagine some authors have become addicted to checking their Sales Rank stats, in the same way people religiously check their web stats or online bank accounts.

Anyway, now you know as much about Amazon’s tracking tool as I do.

Amazon Sales Rank mentioned elsewhere

← Older post

Newer post →

13 comments

  1. Jon Liebold

    I wonder why Amazon provides an overall sales rank figure though. It is so easily manipulated by trends and fads. For example, looking at Amazon.Com right now, 3 of the titles on the top 10 (7, 9, and 10) are books by Rick Riordin who wrote Percy Jackson & the Olympians series. I doubt it should be that high if the movie based on “The Lightning Thief” had not been made. We will see it probably shift back to Stephanie Meyer when the next Twilight series movie comes out.

  2. As always, good insight. Thank you. The lower figure for Amazon Canada may perhaps be at least partly explained by the fact that it is a small store with a limited inventory: For most items, even slightly out-of-the-mainstream books or music, I find I often have to order them via amazon.com, despite living in Montreal. As a result, my tendency is to ignore amazon.ca altogether. I am probably not alone.

  3. So unless there’s a marketing push, the rankings are just for kicks? I’m curious as to why amazon wont show you (the author) sales figures. That seems like the number that matters most.

    Do you track sales from book stores? In the US, Borders or Barnes and Noble? I got my copy at Borders because I had member discounts, got reward points, and I could pick it up at the store the day of instead of waiting for shipping. Instead of ordering from amazon.

    I never review anything, but I guess I owe it to the community since I read reviews before buying everything. I’ll have to start with your book.

  4. It is very trend-focused, Jon. Unless Amazon divulges overall sales figures, I can’t think of another way (off the top of my head) to give some kind of indication.

    Good to know, Gareth. If I remember correctly, I’ve previously bought items from Amazon.com and had them shipped to the UK, cheaper than they’d be here. Maybe that was just because the item wasn’t available on the Amazon.co.uk, and not because of my superior cunning.

    I think so, Andy, but if enough authors were to put their sales data together (i.e., Amazon ranking for one week combined with weekly sales figures from the publisher), it’d be possible to get a more accurate Sales Rank picture.

  5. I am sure Logo Design Love will do very well as I have read few chapters of it. All the best.

  6. I purchased my copy of your book from Amazon.ca. I purchase a large majority of my books from there, but I’ve never even thought of leaving a review before.

    I’m on my way to leave my review right now!

  7. Brian D. Hawkins

    It seems like Amazon could learn a little from the New York Times Best Seller List.

  8. Well, I know I helped that rank in my own way. I own two copies (albeit accidentally).

  9. Hi Chris, how did that happen? I hope you didn’t need to pay twice unnecessarily.

    JMV, thanks for taking the time to rate my book on Amazon. That’s hugely appreciated.

  10. It was my fault. Through a series of dumb moves, I added it twice to my cart and didn’t notice because I was buying other stuff as well.

    It’s OK, though. It will make a perfect gift for someone.

  11. Oops. Well thanks all the same, Chris. I’m glad you think it’ll make a perfect gift.

  12. I am not sure how useful Amazon’s Sales Rankings are at times, but they are certainly interesting to watch. Lately I am more concerned with where my books fall in the search listing when a customer is looking for a book in the topics I have authored books in.

    The long tail of Amazon kicks in when a book moves up in the search listing. When one of my books makes it to the first page of listings for a given search, sales pick up a bit more. To the extent Sales Rankings play a role in this, I cannot say, but I will say as my average Sales Ranking for a book increases, it moves up a little further in the search results which equals a few more sales, which equals a little higher average Sales Ranking, etc.

    I do use RankTracer’s service to estimate sales based on Amazon Sales Rankings for the one book I don’t have published with CreateSpace (CreateSpace provides hourly sales updates).

    The other reason I pay attention to sales rankings is to try to judge the impact of an on-line marketing strategy or the impact of my e-newsletter.

    The more cynical side of my brain thinks Amazon just likes to mess with the minds of self-published authors and uses its Sales Rankings to do so.

  13. gene bregman

    I thought your article and reader’s comments were of interest regarding the mysterious world of Amazon sales ranks. I put a link from my site to yours because I thought it would be helpful to my readers, generally new at online book selling. Thanks.

    Gene Bregman

Leave a Reply