I'm reposting my comment from Sandra's discussion below, because while the idea that amazon is NOT an important sales outlet for traditionally published books is common knowledge in my particular writers' circle, some of the newer authors here might not realize that amazon sales (and by extension the site's rankings) are insignificant.
A couple of years ago, a New York Times best-selling author -- someone at the top of their game, whose novels consistently debut on the list -- shared their actual sales figures with Sarah Weiman.
Check out this excerpt from Sarah's Confessions of an Idiosyncratic Mind:
Over a three week period this summer, the following sales numbers were recorded for a NYT bestselling thriller writer's most recent book:
Anderson Merchandisers/Walmart: 47,671
I'm not sure what shocked me more: the unbelievably low number for Amazon, or just how powerful Walmart and Costco really are in the publishing business.
The author further adds:
For all their hype, the truth (and I've seen this with actual sales figures going back to 2000) is that Amazon numbers are tiny compared to virtually every other retail outlet.
Amazon makes their profit selling used books, not new ones. Maybe their low sales numbers was one of the determining factors to shift their focus toward used sales -- I don't know. But I do know that their numbers are insignificant to the pub in determining the success/failure of a book.
Surprised that some of the figures are so "low?" Bear in mind that a huge percentage of actual retail sales are from independents, grocery stores, pharmacies, outlets like that -- which don't report weekly numbers.
But the Walmart number is rather staggering, isn't it? It's one reason I put what little local/regional promotional efforts I do into cultivating Anderson reps and going on day-long road trips to sign and sticker stock for Walmarts. They get a hell of a lot of foot traffic, and sell a hell of a lot of books. [end quote]
My take goes like this:
Since amazon barely sells books, all their rankings really amount to is a marketing ploy directed at writers. If they can get thousands of authors visiting the site compulsively to check their amazon ranking, it boosts amazon's hit count and brings in advertising and makes them look more important in the publishing industry than they really are.
When my book comes out next year, I've vowed NOT to look at my amazon numbers -- not ever never. Why should I care how I'm ranked internally based on sales figures by a company that sells an insignificant number of books?
Now if Wal-Mart had a ranking system . . . . . .