How Many Books Would You Have to Buy to Manipulate Amazon’s Author Rank Page?

How many friends would a writer need to buy their books to get on Amazon Author Rank page?

Amazon says it’s Amazon Author Rank pages are based on hourly sales.  The New Times Best  Seller list seems based on weekly sales.  We don’t know if Amazon is basing their rankings on hourly total sales, or the weekly sales looked at hourly.  So I’m speculating here.  I sorely wished Amazon gave the actual number of books sold.  That would be fascinating.

Let’s say there are 730 hours in a month on average.  If a book sells a million copies in one month, it’s selling at 1370 books an hour.

There is 168 hours in a week, so if a book sells a million copies in one week, then it’s selling 5,952 copies an hour.

It would be very expensive to manipulate the Author Rank page if books are selling that fast.  However, few books sell in the millions.

Let’s drop down into the Science Fiction Author section for books, not Kindle sales, where we see many less famous authors, and book sales are less furious.  Would it be possible to affect the Author Rank at this level?

My favorite science fiction author is Robert. A. Heinlein.  He’s currently #34 on this list (#36 when I started writing).  How many books would we have to buy in one hour to bump him to the #25 spot?  Heinlein has been dead for a long time, so it’s surprising his continual sales are so high.


How successful is #34 on this list?  Amazon represents book sales for all of America.  So in any given hour how many people think, “Wow, I’m in the mood for a Heinlein book?”  What if that number is 25 books?  That’s a rate of 219,000 books a year.  If he sold 100 an hour that would be 876,000 books.  Remember, these rankings are based on sales of all books sold by the author.  My guess is Heinlein sells between 25-100 books an hour.  That’s just a hunch. 

And what if the #25 position author sold just 50 books to get to that position?  If I could talk 25 people into buying Heinlein books Saturday morning at 10am Eastern time, would his sales rank jump in the 11 o’clock hour to #25? 

Maybe the #25 position is selling 100-400 books an hour – too many to manipulate easily, but almost any news about Heinlein on TV, or in  magazines, or even on the Internet, could sell that many books.

Let’s imagine Heinlein is profiled on CBS Sunday Morning.  This won’t happen, but it might for a newer science fiction writer.  Such a lucky bit of press could send her to the top of the Science Fiction list for Authors, or even put her on the main Author Rank list.

The current author at the bottom of the Science Fiction Author Rank page is Mark Kalina with a single 99 cent ebook, Hegemony.  It shouldn’t even be on this list because I picked the Books list rather than the Kindle list, however, there he is with a single self published novel.

I’m thinking it doesn’t take too many book sales to get on this list, but it takes a lot of sales to get near the top.

I’m curious why Lois McMaster Bujold is at #63.  Bujold is a very popular writer with many award winning books in print.  Sales of all those books add to her Author Rank sales totals.  So why are many unknown writers selling Kindle books beating Bujold in the rankings?  My only guess is science fiction sells very few books per hour.  So an ebook author selling several $1.99 titles out sells a major author selling many physical books from $7.99 to $25.

I really can’t believe Heinlein is outselling Bujold.  I hear far more people talk about reading Bujold than Heinlein.

Either that, or Amazon Author Rank Beta isn’t working very well.

Selling ebooks cheap must be big business.  It might also imply that the science fiction book marketplace is very tiny.

Does this mean selling $1.99 ebooks leads to more fame and profit than selling physically printed books that sell for much more money per copy?

I really wished Amazon would put the total sales with the rank numbers.  Like:

Robert A. Heinlein #34 (127 books sold from 27 titles, for $13,750)

JWH – 10/15/12

One thought on “How Many Books Would You Have to Buy to Manipulate Amazon’s Author Rank Page?”

  1. Hey, Jim,
    I see that it’s updated hourly but does that also mean the rank is based on the amount sold in the last hour? I mean you could update a list hourly but still base the rank on sales in the last 6 hours of 12 hours or 24 hours.

    Steam does an interesting thing. Their top sellers chart is based on the gross dollars made by a title not the number of units sold. So a $5 title selling 10 copies could go toe-to-toe with every $50 title selling one copy.

    That gross dollars (per unit of time) is *really* how I’d like to see Amazon do their book rankings and (now) author rankings. And for all I know they are doing it that way.

    I wish they would give you the option to drill down further into the list. I don’t need to see the same 100 names every time I take a look at that chart. I’d like to see authors 101-200 or 501-600.

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