One of the more shameful things you can do as an author is look your book up on Amazon to see how well it is selling. As the ratings change every hour you can waste a lot of time like that.
If the book is doing well it is good fun. You see it rising from the hundred thousands to a five figure number. You begin to wonder, maybe it will get into the top 10,000. It does. Will it do better? Yes, inside the top 5,000. Then one day, Amazon mentions it in a promotion and it breaks into three figures. We are cooking on gas now. There’s only Jamie Oliver between us and the very top. Well, Jamie and about a thousand other books. That’s quite a lot, actually.
It is very childish, of course. I have no idea how Amazon’s algorithm works and it was only after a while that I realized that just a few sales could lead to very significant changes. And those sales might well be of other books.
Someone told me that the number of ‘likes’ makes a difference too. Which is good if you want to be kind but don’t want to bother reading it. The other day a student told me she liked my first book. I was astonished. ‘You’ve read it?’ I asked. ‘I read the back cover’ she replied. ‘It was nice.’ Fair enough. A like is a like.
With two books published there is even more juvenile fun to be had. It’s a race. Which book is in the lead? One day I looked them up to find they were only a few places apart – one was 9,248 and the other 9,254. Neck and neck. I wanted to photograph the moment. An hour later they had moved apart. Don’t ask me how I know.
Both have tumbled down over the last few days. One was mentioned in the Church Times as a ‘recently published’ book last Friday, It was around 5,000 then. Now, less than a week later, it is ranked 144,559. And, no thank you, Mr Amazon, I will not take the trouble to look up the top 100 books right now. I am not quite in the mood.
This is innocent sport, of course. But there are is a real danger lurking. A new review could pop up any moment.
In fact, one just has. I must be getting old as it made me laugh out loud. It’s short enough to tweet: ‘An interesting little book, a bit disjointed, but makes better sense reading it for the second time. It was very thought provoking especially during lent (sic).’
It was for Barefoot Disciple. Healing Agony has not been reviewed yet. Though you never know…Maybe I had better check.
I am not sure about Amazon reviews. You just don’t know who the reviewer is. But you can work out a few things by looking at their other reviews. So I looked ‘jrc’ up.
There were six other reviews, all as succinct. Two were for Bibles, (‘this is a neat bible, although the print is a bit small’.) One was for Majestic Rainbow Bible Tabs (‘these bible tabs are so useful. they help finding the books of the bible so much quicker. They are a bit fiddly to put on but still useful.)
And one was for a ladies watch strap. (‘I am a bit disappointed, a good price, a lovely colour, and a nice looking watch strap, but no spring loaded pins included to fit watchstrap to watch. SO had to buy them as well.’)
Reviewers also award stars. jrc had given several five-star reviews. The watch strap minus pins only got three stars – which for some illogical reason made me feel better about getting four for my disjointed ramblings. The neat Bible only got two. Even more disjointed, perhaps.
Must stop. It’s time to check the rankings.
But why not be radical and shop in a real bookshop, say the Durham Cathedral Shop. There is no fear of stumbling across a ranking or review in there. Check it out at http://www.durhamcathedral.co.uk/visiting/attractions Nice staff too.