Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Amazon Sales

The Beat has just collected a number of recent scattered posts about Amazon sales and contextualized them for its comics-reading (and -making) audience, making it clear we're in the middle of another period of the Amazon style of Kremlin-watching.

So I thought I'd share something that may be vaguely useful.

A few years back, I did a quick cheat sheet to estimate Amazon sales for print titles, based on Amazon's overall sales rank. Now, before I give you the fruits of my inquisitive afternoon, a few disclaimers:
  • I did this about three years ago, and have not updated it -- and sales patterns may have shifted (though I believe they're still broadly correct).
  • This was only for print books; e-books may have a different pattern, and I've never investigated them.
  • This assumes steady sales, which is not always true. Some books spike because of a media hit, and then drop as swiftly as they rose.
  • Sales volume of books varies greatly on Amazon from week to week, with obvious peaks in early December and late August and other spikes driven by specific books, media events, or Alien Space Bats. So this is only a vague guide.
  • The top ranks of sales are spikier and more variable than the lower tiers, so those numbers will be less accurate overall. The top twenty, in particular, often sell substantial multiples of the books just beneath them.
With that in mind, here's what, more or less, an Amazon sales rank means:
500,000+ -- probably didn't sell a copy this week
250,000 -- 3-5 books a week
100,000 -- 5-7 books a week
25,000 -- 40-50 books a week
10,000 -- 50-75 books a week
5,000 -- 100-150 books a week
1000 -- 200-300 books a week
500 -- 400-500 books a week
100 -- 1000+ books a week

So if your best author friend burbles that her novel The Dark Mace of Aka'Fujjji has been in the Amazon Top 1000 for 6 weeks, you can now estimate that she's sold at least 1500-2000 books. And, if I know authors, hate her for it.


Anonymous said...

For Heinlein, then-

STRANGER ranked @ 7673 ---> ~60 books a week
STARSHIP TROOPERS @ 10,580 ---> ~45 books/week
MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS @ 5532 ---> ~90 books/wk

So these three works that RAH considered his most important (via Patterson) sell around 200 copies each week at Amazon. Does this sound about right to you Mr Wheeler?

Andrew Wheeler said...

Anonymous: Well, I have an edge -- I can't check to see what other publishers' books are selling on Amazon in particular, but I can look them up on BookScan for overall sales by week.

So, Heinlein's topselling book last week was a mass-market edition of STRANGER from Ace, which sold 151 copies the week ending 3/10.

That's not the same as the edition you cite -- that one is a trade paperback and sold 108 copies total. I wouldn't be surprised if Amazon were more than half of the sales of that edition, so that's a reasonable figure.

So those numbers do seem plausible. (A lot of people think books sell better than they actually do; I can't tell if you're coming at it from that side.)

But that does lead to a related point -- backlist books are sometimes in print in more than one edition, as in this case. So total sales for that work can be higher than any one edition. (Those two are pretty much it for STRANGER -- there's one other edition that sold 4 copies, which I suspect is a library hardcover.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the quick response. I left the SFBC when I found out you were no longer there. I appreciated your efforts at keeping the SF Old-Timers in print with omnibus editions of their works. Most especially, the SFBC Heinlein collection OFF THE MAIN SEQUENCE, which included the some very hard to find RAH short stories. So thank you!

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