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:

B&N: 4,140
Waldenbooks: 4,888
Borders: 3,993
Anderson Merchandisers/Walmart: 47,671
Target: 16,341
Price/Costco: 17,291
Sam's: 14,108
Amazon: 320

Sarah adds:

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 . . . . . .


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BUT - does the amazon myth only apply to bestsellers? In the UK, Walmart/Asda carries a very limited range of books, but those it does carry (usual best sellers) will be heavily discounted - reduced from £7.99/£6.99 to £3.73 in paperback, usually (but not absolutely always) cheaper than amazon. Which is why a lot of people buy best sellers from Walmart! But for anything less popular, Walmart won't stock it, and Amazon will probably offer the best deal.
I've noticed that once a bad review goes up my ranking gets bad and stays bad until a new review goes up.
Yeah, these are U.S. figures for a best-selling thriller author, so it's hard to extrapolate what they might mean for a mid-list author, or for an author in the U.K.

Most U.S. authors won't see their books in Costco or Wal-Mart/Sam's Club. From what I've observed watching dozens of authors get published at Backspace over the past three years, only a small percentage even see their books picked up by Target -

Still, according to the numbers that are left (Barnes and Noble, Waldenbooks, and Borders), that still leaves amazon sales at a fraction of the regular bookstores' total - approximately 320 to 13,000 - about 2.5%, if my calculations are corrent (which they may well NOT be - I am SO not a numbers person . . .)

I still think that any way you look at it, amazon sales are only a tiny fraction of the whole. Regarding Anne's comment - maybe your amazon ranking goes down after a bad review goes up, but within the insular world of amazon, maybe it doesn't matter?
The figures Karen reposted are a couple of years old, and I suspect the skew has changed even more - but if so, it's weighted *even more* towards Wal-Mart and CostCo and away from the chains. Amazon might be up, but not so much.

And yes, it's only one author's opening weeks figures, enough to invite commentary but not conclude anything definitive from. But the point I was trying to make in publishing them (with said author's permission) is that the Amazon obsession for authors is a pointless one. Even when rankings go up that still, maybe, reflects sales of anywhere from 5 to 100 books. And if it "goes down" it's more because other books are taking over for whatever reason. And as Karen points out again, the Costco/Wal-Mart figures wouldn't necessarily apply to midlisters a great deal...but chains and independent sales will still trump Amazon's by a large margin.
I'm really late finding this discussion, but that Walmart number is staggerging. A real eye-opener!

And it's proving to me, too, how extremely savvy Sarah Weinman is. Much appreciated.



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