Friday, August 15, 2008

Amazon Rankings: What Do They Mean?

If you have books or anything else listed on, and have a profile page on their site, it's easy to discover at a glance how your products are selling--or it it? Sales rankings appear on individual product pages for books, too. However, the short answer to my title question is, "I don't know."

I'm quite aware that my writings are not best sellers, nor did I ever expect them to be. I also know that some book marketing gurus advise a technique that involves sending emails to hundreds or even thousands of people, offering them some premium if they will all order your book from Amazon on the same day. That's the secret of a top ranking--at least for one day. I've never tried that, nor am I likely to do so, but I sometimes check my rankings just for fun.

I'm used to finding rankings in the million-plus category (that means that millions of books are selling better than mine), and that's not a surprise. Occasionally, though, I find a surprising result. My book Seniorwriting occasionally hits a rank of around fifty among continuing education books, but I don't know the total number in that Amazon category. Anyway, it usually sinks to below 100 soon enough.

The most surprising ranking so far has been for my Amazon Short, "Marie's Story." Amazon Shorts are those short works, fiction and non-fiction, that can be downloaded for $0.49. The program has not been accepting new works for months now, but when they were, toward the end of 2007, I decided to submit two stories, "Marie's Story" and "Volunteer," just to see if they would be accepted. I'm not really a short story (fiction) writer, but I try it occasionally. To my surprise, both were accepted, and they appeared on the site early this year.

Now to the recent surprise: last night, I discovered that "Marie's Story" ranked 7 out of 155 in the Literature and Fiction/ Women's Fiction category, and 28 out of 1,952 in the Literature and Fiction category as a whole. I'm sure it won't remain there long, but the ranking leaves me with questions. Does this mean that suddenly one person downloaded the story, or that it was suddenly recognized by many? Since I make only a nickel or a dime on each download, I won't get rich either way. But my question still remains: what do these rankings really mean, and do they matter?

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