Kevin Brennan Writes About What It's Like

If self-publishing is like building a house, what are Amazon rankings?

Building site

Vis-a-vis the shot in the arm that Ereader News Today provided yesterday (carrying into today), I find it peculiar that selling sixty-odd books in 24 hours is enough to catapult a title into the top five of a given category. Obviously, it doesn’t mean much in the great scheme of things, mainly because I’m the only one watching. Oh, I imagine there are two or three others out there who might do a search of Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Humor & Satire > Literary Humor, whose eyes will skate across my cover image and vaguely wonder about the book. Then they’ll move on to the Janet Evanovitch novel they’re really looking for.

So what do these rankings do for a self-publisher? Do they attract anyone’s attention? Do people buy things in a top 100 list, but No. 101 is SOL? What if they don’t select the right category and wind up missing your title altogether?

Because the problem for indie authors is that nobody is aware that they exist. Believe me, it is incredibly hard to get someone to buy a book. That includes people who do know you and ought to feel obligated to buy it (I’m talking close to home, not blogosphere). So to hope that a complete stranger will drift through page after page of book covers and pull the trigger on yours — even if you have a lot of great reviews — seems awfully optimistic.

The way I’m viewing all this lately is that I’m building a house. (Which I hope to do literally in the next couple of years…) Yesterday Road and Our Children Are Not Our Children are the site grading and foundation. These things take time, and you can’t do the framing before you have a solid, level pad to build on. It’s a little messy, not very glamorous. Necessary, though.

With any luck, a day like yesterday will get a few more people in the book-reading cosmos to talk about Yesterday Road with people they know, to mention it on their Facebook pages (thanks, Tracy!) and Twitter feeds, to give it as a gift, to write a review, to remember it when they do a list of books they liked in 2014. All sorts of possibilities. But meanwhile, I have to keep working on that foundation and forget about those rankings.

They’re just the pretty pictures on the walls.

10 comments on “If self-publishing is like building a house, what are Amazon rankings?

  1. Charles Yallowitz
    January 24, 2014

    I think the rankings can be used for some marketing while you’re on there. For the analogy, maybe they’re the annoying building inspector?

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 24, 2014

      You may be right, Charles. Or they’re the cost estimates that are always wrong… 😉

  2. sknicholls
    January 24, 2014

    I read somewhere on Amazon that they created the rankings to help authors know where they stand more than they did to help readers find books. I suppose, if you are doing a promo, and your book is sitting high, it looks appealing to readers. Problem was, my book only sat high for about two weeks…then with few sales, it was quickly back at 200,000 something. I have sold a few in the past four days…I am hoping they were word of mouth from people who bought it when it was on sale, a second wave would be nice. It has not really translated into the reviews I was hoping for. It got a few. Then, I think of the number of books I carry on my reader before actually making the time to read them…maybe later? So, when you get ten books is that the walls? The roof is that bestseller that stays on the top for a while? Not sure. It is a good thing that I write to write and not to pay bills. My house looks more like the concrete in a bag right now.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 24, 2014

      It seems healthy not to dwell on all this, eh?

      Maybe it’s not a house we’re building. More like a Tower of Babble. 😉

  3. ericjbaker
    January 24, 2014

    Having ranking might help to keep writers engaged in their own success. If you’re iching to see yourself in the top 100, it could give a bit of juice for a marketing push. It’s hard to get noticed as a big-six author many times, much less a self-published one, so it’s easy to get depressed and give up without a tangible measuring stick.

    • Kevin Brennan
      January 24, 2014

      The problem is keeping a book in the rankings. It seems to require very regular, frequent sales, which are really hard to come by for us indies.

      Can’t say it doesn’t feel good for now, though!

  4. francisguenette
    January 24, 2014

    Love the analogy – let’s all build a house 🙂

  5. Phillip McCollum
    January 24, 2014

    What did Mr. Twain say about damned lies and statistics? 😉 Like you said, pretty pictures on the wall, so just keep doing what you love!

  6. cinthiaritchie
    January 24, 2014

    Go, Kevin!

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This entry was posted on January 24, 2014 by in Publishing and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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