Friday, January 18, 2013

Demystifying Rankings (for those of us who just GOTTA know!)

Okay, so I’ve been hemming and hawing on whether to write this post, mainly because I don’t want to mislead anyone. That said, I feel like authors are hamstrung in a lot of ways because we have one of the few jobs in the world that often requires us to do our work without any real knowledge of what we’re going to be paid for it when all is said and done. And, as we all know, knowledge is power (specifically, sales # can help us to determine a promo budget, to see if a series might not be worth continuing with, to plan for family vacations, to see if you need to increase productivity, among other things), so I’m going to go off the premise that SOME knowledge and information (even if it’s incomplete to some degree) is better than NONE and spill the beans on MY experience with Amazon and B&N rankings, and a ballpark range of what your rankings might mean in terms of copies sold.

Here’s what I did. Every day for the past eight months, I recorded my daily average ranking (as Amazon fluctuates around hourly and BN fluctuates constantly unless your ranking is over 1000 at which point it is only updated once a day at around 7:45 a.m.—again, this varies but it’s close) for my books that are in the under 20,000 ranking range. One of these is self-published, and the others are not. The reason I didn’t do them all is because I have 23 books and that would be a major time suck, and frankly, the data on the older ones just isn’t that important to me. For my purposes, tracking a book that is selling less than 5 copies a day(which my older books are) isn’t going to change the way I do business. Don’t get me wrong, even 2 copies a day at one vendor and 3 at the other of each book when you have a large backlist is great! It’s the “it all adds up” factor. So 20 books at 5 copies a day each is 100 copies a day total. If my cut is a dollar, those older books are making 3k a month. NOT too shabby! But the information on EACH book for 2 or 3 copies a day isn’t worth the time it would take me to capture it for the purposes of this experiment, so I don’t do it.

Keep in mind, the only books I know PRECISELY what I was selling each day is the self-pubbed one. The others are based on two things:

#1. My royalty statements


#2. I was lucky enough to have a publisher share with me about a week’s worth of daily sales numbers (which REALLY helped me drill down some solid estimates as a jump off point).

So based on those two things, I was able to assign a sort of “guesstimate” to various ranking windows, which I was able to tweak over the months until they were close enough that I was consistently “guessing” my sales for the month to within less than 15%. It took about 4 months of tweaking etc, but over the last four months, I’ve stayed within that range (and this month was less than 5% off). I also shared these numbers with three author friends who later contacted me to say that they had used these #’s to guesstimate their sales, and my #’s were very close to their actuals.

Here’s what I came up with (rounded to the nearest five):


Overall Ranking Copies Per Day

10,000-15,000 5-10 (these seem to fluctuate a lot more at this level, some days it’s more, some less so the range is weird and wide, I had #’s as far out at 3-14)

3,000-10,000 10-40

2,000-3,000 40-60

1000-2,000 60-100

500-1,000 100-250

200-500 250-335

130-200 335-450

My highest Amazon ranking to date was 132, so I can’t say beyond this, but Theresa Reagan offers additional information in her chart (which can be found here in full) for the top 100. (Also note that our numbers jive pretty closely, which was good to see as it makes me feel more confident about the numbers I have here).

Theresa’s #’s:

65 to 80 550 to 650 books a day.

20 to 65 650 to 1,100 books a day.

10 to 20 1,100 to 2,000 + books a day.

5 to 10 2,000 to 3,500 books a day.

1 to 5 3,500+ books a day.


Overall Ranking Copies Per Day

10,000-15,000 5-10

3,000-10,000 10-20

1000-3,000 20-25

600-1000 25-50

400-600 50-70

200-400 70-90

90-200 95-200

70-81 200+

50 250-300

20-49 300-480

16-20 480-700

10-15 700-1000

6-9 1000-1199

2-5 1200-1500

My highest BN ranking was #2 (for a short time), so I have no info on #1 (which, I imagine, could range from a flabillion like 50SoG or something less jaw-dropping during a week/day/month where there is no blockbuster like that. Either way, if you’re #1 for any length of time, I wouldn’t worry about any of this stuff, lol! Go get a drink with an umbrella in it and nap on your bags of moneh!)

So that’s it. My experience (with the understanding that it’s not an exact science by ANY means!) *Revised: Please see my next post about my experience with publishing and how I got to this point. I had a lot of great feedback about this post, but a couple people had said that they were discouraged by these numbers as well. That was NOT my intention, and I'd like to address that, exactly how long it took me to get to here and what I believe authors can do to get their rankings up.

If anyone has anything to add as far as their experience, anything I can do to drill this down more is welcome! Hope it helps!


  1. Thanks for posting this. Information is always helpful!!! It must have taken a lot of time and it's very generous of you to share. Much appreciation.

  2. Very useful, Christine! Thanks for compiling all those numbers.

  3. Wow! Very cool! Thanks for the research Christine! :D

  4. Thanks Christine, my Author ranking is sitting below #10000 but my book's ranking is just under a million...does the above apply to the Author Ranking or the actual book?