Why You Probably Won’t be a Top 10 Bestseller at Amazon

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I’ve been watching something pretty closely, and I just wanted to clarify it here so people are aware.  Amazon.com has their top 100 paid books list – their version of bestsellers – but don’t be fooled into thinking it’s any kind of a level playing field.

A while back, Amazon changed things so that free books no longer compete with paid books on the bestseller list.  Two separate lists. This is why I tell people, making your book free probably won’t help it’s sales.  First, it makes it no more likely to be noticed than it was before, and second, even if you become the #1 bestselling free book on Amazon, the minute you put a price on your book, that ranking disappears and you are starting over with paid sales.

Now there are new things. In the top ten of Amazon’s paid bestseller list you will find four titles currently filling slots that are #1 in multiple categories.  These books are not even published yet, officially.  However, there is the Kindle First Program, and there is Amazon Prime.  Combining those two, you can buy these pre-release books for a price of… nothing … if you are a prime member.  Free brand new books.  All four titles are also published by Amazon imprints where (as we all know) they will be promoted in ways and to quantities of Kindle readers almost nothing else can match… In other words, your book is competing against brand new pre-release free books being published by the people compiling the list.  You can see that this is a problem… four of the top ten slots are being gamed by the publisher and retailer, using free sales they semantically report as paid sales – and I’m not telling you this because we should rise up and stop them – it’s their store.  I just want you to be aware.  You are probably NOT going to make that top ten list.  In the image above, two of the three top books today are Amazon books that are pre-orders and Kindle First.

Crossroad Press recently had a book sell over 3500 copies in a day and it made it to #12.   That was with a price drop and a great third party promotion (that was not cheap).  Consider that to GET that promotion, the book already had to have a great cover, good reviews, etc… and you can see another “gaming” piece fall into place.  If you can sell thousands of free pre-orders and they count as paid sales…those buyers can also leave reviews.  That means, those books will be eligible for bigger promotions from other sites right out of the gate, and not because they are better books, but because Amazon has promoted them through the roof.

So next time you wonder how in the heck some of those books got there and stay there, remember this article.  Currently four books  by authors I’ve never heard of are kicking butt on Stephen King, J. K. Rowling, and James Patterson (who doesn’t actually write books, but has his name on a lot of best-selling ones) … and if those folks aren’t in the top ten, the rest of us can start figuring our odds using negative numbers.

 

-DNW