Monday, July 21, 2008

What you don't know can make you crazy

So here's a little nugget for you about the business side of writing: Sales figures are closely guarded. Like, "hidden under Dick Cheney's bunker mattress" closely guarded. There literally is no free, public information available.

That can lead some people--read "paranoid novelists"--to look at their Amazon.com sales ranking. One big problem with this is that it doesn't reflect anything useful.

For instance, if you write for a small press, there literally is no way you can be No. 1, because even if you sold every single copy of your book in one day, it wouldn't equal the sales of the latest Michael Crichton-J.K. Rowling side project. But wait, there's more:

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.

Well, now. Not only are Amazon rankings skewed toward huge press runs, they're not even that indicative of total sales.

And they wonder why writers drink so much.

The moral of the (best-selling?) story is simple. Pay attention to your writing, not your sales ranking. That's the only way to ensure that you're going to sell some books.

1 comment:

John Elder Robison said...

While it's true that one can't extrapolate total sales from Amazon, I do think Amazon sales rank trends in the top 10,000 ranks are a good indicator of where a book is going.

In the top 1000, the movement of Amazon numbers often portends the trends published in the NY Times lists.