Tracking Amazon Sales Rank, Obtaining Accurate Estimates

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I have been a published author for over seven years now and if there is one thing I can’t stand about the industry its waiting!

Waiting for the book to get through production, waiting for it to hit the shelves, waiting for someone to buy it, waiting for the first paycheck, and, most importantly, waiting to find out how my book is doing.

Anyone who has written any material that is published has no doubt suffered from the same angst and frustration at how long it takes to get feedback on your precious work of art. I recall the first time I wrote an entire book myself (up ’til that stage I had mainly contributed chapters to other peoples’ works) – I spent most of the first week after publication refreshing the book page on Amazon to see if there were any new reviews or if the sales rank had improved.

Doing this soon became quite tedious and while I was still eager to find out how my book was doing, I just couldn’t waste more and more time looking at the same page over and over and over. What made it worse is that while it was always nice to see the sales rank drop to the low thousands or high hundreds every now and then, I couldn’t really tell how it was doing not really!

Looking around on the Internet was a bit disheartening because it seemed that a lot of people are of the opinion that the Amazon Sales Rank doesn’t tell you anything and that I had been wasting my time. This struck me as odd because it seemed that Amazon had put a lot of effort into building the Sales Rank Facility – surely they weren’t sucking thumb on the numbers?

In time for my next book’s release I stumbled across RankTracer.com (www.ranktracer.com), and was surprised to see that they actually provide sales estimates as well as tracking your sales rank. I have been tracking all my books as well as a few others using this service ever since, and instead of checking on Amazon I get RankTracer to email me notifications of reviews or when my Sales rank drops below or above a certain point.

What’s more, I get them to send me a PDF report of all the titles I am tracking every week and every month, which is useful because I have finally gotten too lazy to even visit the Internet to check how my books are doing (now that I no longer have to). They have a sample report up on their Website at http://www.ranktracer.com/sample_report.pdf if you want to take a look. As you’ll see they have all the sales rank stats, weekly or monthly sales totals, as well as graphs and product review information.

What I find really interesting is the way in which the site is built to allow you to make comparisons and contrast the information you record. They have what they call a WorkStation, which is a single web page that uses AJAX to present a nice and intuitive interface for interacting with your Sales Rank info – there are a lot of options that allow you to view and group your information in a variety of different ways.

For example, I wanted to see how the new Richard Dawkins book, The God Delusion, was selling in comparison with my own titles (Not that I would expect my sales to compete in any way, but just to see the difference in sales volumes). Using RankTracer’s graph building interface, I drew this up for a week’s period using the 3-D graph option (they have several different types of graphical representation of your data):

The God Delusion is the trace in front (in yellow), with my sales rank graph in blue.

Ok, so the actual image may not be too clear here, but hopefully you can make out the fact that my book is seriously lagging behind Mr Dawkins’. Notice that his graph almost appears flat because his ranking has averaged at 19 for the past week, whereas mine averaged about 19 000. Looking at the bottom of the graph you should also be able to see the sales estimates given for each title. In this case, the God Delusion sold about 510 copies during that week, but my book only sold 31.

I have been tracking my book a lot longer so to give you an example of a different way of looking at the collected data, I took a snapshot of my sales rank graph over the last month using a range format grouped on a daily basis (instead of hourly as the graph above shows):

My sales rank range grouped by day over the last month

From this you can see that sales picked up for a few days in early January after a bit of a slowdown in December – each bar indicates the range between the best and worst ranking for that day. As always, the RankTracer Sales Estimation Engine provides an estimate for that month’s sales – in this case it gives an even 130 copies sold at an average rank of about 20 000.

Apart from tracking the Amazon Sales Rank for your own book I find it quite nice to track a bunch of my competitors’ titles to see how well I’m doing in the context of my little niche. Its quite useful knowing exactly how everyone else is doing because I find it helps me determine where I got things right and where I went wrong.

Most of all, because the sales rank information is collected on an hourly basis I can tell in near-real time the impact of any advertising or articles that I or my publisher have released. It’s incredible to see the dips in rankings as articles or reviews are posted to various Websites – one time my book got a great review on Slashdot and RankTracer recorded an improvement in sales for about 3 weeks after this.

It’s gotten to the stage where my publisher often asks me how my book is doing because it’s easier for me to find out than for him to go search their records. Sooner or later, I guess all publishers will have to wake up and start providing this service to their authors, but for now I am happy receiving my weekly updates to keep me up to speed with the goings on in the world of Amazon – I’ll leave the competitive analysis for the marketers, publishers and advertisers.

There’s actually quite a bit more to do and see at the RankTracer website, but hopefully you have a good idea of what is on offer in the way of Amazon Sales Rank tracking and Amazon Sales Estimates. Enjoy

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David Mercer
“davidm at contechst dot com”
Drupal: Creating Blogs, Forums, Portals & Community Websites
osCommerce: Professional Edition

Tracking Amazon Sales Rank, Obtaining Accurate Estimates
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