So you can read my books

Thursday, December 13, 2012


I asked the ghost of Albert Einstein to explain Amazon's algorithms.

He said, "The mysteries of the universe you should ask me about?"  Then, he walked away grumbling.


The bestseller list is essentially a gauge of how many copies a book has sold over the last 24 hours.

It takes longer-term sales into account to a degree, but the last 24 hours are far and away the most important factor.

A book can rise and fall extremely swiftly on the bestseller list.


Quit grumbling over there, Dr. Einstein.  There is a method to this list ... I think.  Still, it is complicated.

The popularity list is the accumulated sales of a book’s last 30 days compared to those in its category

–but free books given away only count for roughly 10% of a paid sale,

and price is factored in as well, in that the higher your price, the more each sale counts for on the list.

Lastly, borrows aren’t counted as sales for purposes of popularity list rank. So consider carefully before enlisting in the KDP Select plan.

The higher your price, the fewer books you’ll have to sell to do well on the popularity lists.

When Amazon sends out emails along the lines of “You might enjoy these other books in X genre,” the links they include take you to the popularity list for that category of books.


$0.99 books have been pretty well massacred.

$2.99 books can still place well (particularly when they’re boosted by giveaways), but they’re at a noticeable disadvantage.

$5.99 – $12.99 looks to be the ideal range at the moment.

Affordable enough for people to buy in droves (if the quality is there), but with a high enough price to hang with all the high-priced traditionally published books.

4.) SO we up our prices to $7.99 right?

If you are Neil Gaiman or Stephen King, yes.

If you want to entice new readers to take a gamble on you, no.

$2.99 now seems the price to suggest quality, yet still be low enough to take a chance on a newbie.

5.) Mark Corker of Smashwords seems to think we are underpricing our books.  He may be right:

His conclusion is that if you are going to earn the same amount of income selling a $2.99 book as a $9.99 book, you should seriously consider the $2.99 price point —

you’ll reach more readers because you’re going to sell more units at that lower price.

Those extra readers are a long-term asset that will yield dividends forever.


  1. The Lone Ranger, (but he wasn't really alone was he, he had Tonto for company). Old westerns used simple logic: good guy, bad guy. It's not so simple anymore.

    These are rather depressing stats, but money always determines winners in business. Not how good the product may be, but how much is made for the overlord.

  2. Wow, I've got to see that. My hero, Tonto, played by J. Depp. He picks all the best guys to be.

    Depp rocks, no question. I loved that trailer, but couldn't get it to work the first time.

  3. My books were priced at $2.99 and $4.99 when they hit the best seller list. I'm traditionally published but it does show lower priced books move just as well.

  4. Good stuff as always Roland. I write novellas and can't justify more than .99 cents for shorter work, but I have plans to 're-package' once I have three out to be able to go up to the $2.99 mark.

    From a reader standpoint, I definitely think $2.99 is fair for a novel length work, known or unknown, and consider that an impulse buy. I won't pay over $12 (the 'high point' for most albums on iTunes) for an eBook from any author, and am reluctant to pay over $10. I probably wouldn't pay over $4.99 for an unknown/un-recommended author.

  5. That is a movie I am looking forward to! Now I completely forgot what your post was yeah, pricing...sigh...I pay what I need to in order to read the authors I love and I have paid more than 2.99 for your books. Hook the reader with a first book and they will pay anything almost for the next :)

  6. i would kill to have any of my books on the hot list... but i am setting up for the kill... it's coming.

  7. This is super-helpful, Roland. I think I knew most of this stuff, but hadn't seen it all laid out like this. Some of my books are still selling at the $2.99 price, but my publisher put my new one at $4.99. Now I understand why.

  8. I browsed this topic during the last few days. Now I see it laid out. This is great, as Anne says. Thanks!
    Ann Best’s Blog

  9. Good information, Roland.

    Although it has nothing to do with Amazon's Algorithms, my biggest issue with free books is the mistaken assumption that a download guarantees a read. It doesn't. Folks see the word free and they click on download, regardless of whether they have any intention of ever "cracking open" the ebook. I'm sure this is why free books are discounted by Amazon's algorithms. Bottom line, folks put more value on what they pay for.

    In the end, the goal is to earn readers' loyalty. While free may get your books downloaded, I have to wonder if it has much of an impact on actual readership.

    Of course I'm not published, indie or otherwise, so I come to this from a reader's perspective.

  10. D.G.:
    Johnny Depp will make a fine Tonto I believe. I'm sorry you couldn't get the vid to play the first time.

    I hope that new readers will not think Samuel McCord a copy of The Lone Ranger and Elu his Tonto. Elu just reached out of the mirror to tweak my nose at that last sentence!

    Yes, the stats are depressing because it reveals Amazon as stat-rigging overlords. Sigh. Snake-oil salesmen like John Locke didn't help matters either!

    Actually, the $2.99 and $4.99 prices are the ones Amazon has designed their new set-up to favor for newbies.

    I will pay $14.99 for a Dean Koontz, Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, or Jim Butcher book I really want to read. But like you, I usually will not gamble more than $2.99 on an unknown.

    My THE LAST SHAMAN is short and I price it at 99 cents. It is my best seller. So much so that I am considering writing a full-length novel, THE LAST SHAMAN RETURNS (I was going to name it THE LAST SHAMAN RISES but some bat guy already took it!) :-)

    I saw where you paid $4.99 for one of my books. I have never priced my books more than $2.99. I am still scratching my head how that could have happened.

    Was it the currency difference between Norway and America do you think?

    Like you, I would have paid what was asked (within reason) for the latest Jim Butcher DRESDEN FILES book as the last one left us with such a huge cliff-hanger and took twice the time to be written.

    I'm looking forward to THE LONE RANGER as well. This one I think might actually be well-done.

    As what you said about hooking them with the first book, Sandra tells me that if I could somehow get media attention on McCord or Victor, I have a stable of great books waiting to take off. It is nice to think she is right.

    Hot list? Sigh. My books aren't even on the "Cold As The Morgue Table" list!! I wish you the greatest of success with attaining the Hot List.

    Thanks for thinking so. I try to summarize and organize data I think my friends need to know or be interested in knowing. You did a great post this past Sunday, and I pointed all my friends your way to read it.

    It's always good to hear I was helpful. It was even better to see you here again!

    How great to see you here once more! I wrote a post a week or so ago on how I missed you and your blog!

    I now believe like you that people value what costs them and hold in little regard what they receive for free, feeling that no cost means no quality.

    I was one of those crazed souls who stood in line at midnight for the last Harry Potter books. It lent value and worth to the books as I read them with relish.

    I have yet to trip on a way to draw readers to my Victor Standish and Sam McCord books. I am beginning to despair that I never will.

    I, like you, am a reader as well. So I see things as a reader too. But I've put so much effort into my prose, my covers, and my marketing that I am sure that you see this subject in a more objective perspective.

    Your short story recently was published, was it not? So you are a published author, too. Please come back and talk awhile me, will you?

  11. Re: Siv paying more for your book. Outside of the US, Amazon adds a surcharge of about $2.00. Even for Canadians, I believe. Kobo does not. Neither does Smashwords.

  12. Wow, Anne:
    Thanks. This explains why my foreign sales have nose-dived. I can see if Amazon had to translate my book into a foreign language but Canada and England? They are getting money-hungry, aren't they? Or is it that Amazon has to pay the foreign governments a surcharge for the right to sell in their country, do you think?