Amazon Research

PULLING OUT THE BESTSELLERS’ DIRTY LAUNDRY

As a recap, we now know that Amazon is BOTH a Search Engine and a Social Media Platform. In the next lesson, I will go over the Social Media aspect of Amazon, but for this lesson, I’m going to delve further into the concept that Amazon is a Search Engine.

Ready?

Okay.

In the previous lesson, I discussed Sub-Niche-Categories and gave you an idea of how to find the smallest category you can find.

Now I can guess what you’re thinking. “I don’t want to be in a tiny niche. I want to attract the largest number of readers possible. Therefore, shouldn’t I place my book in a larger category? Won’t my book become more popularif it appeals to a wider audience instead of a smaller niche audience?”

And my answer is, “No…no it won’t.”

If you don’t take over the tiniest niche category you can find, your book will get tossed into the general mass of rankings that is the Amazon system. You want the Top Categories because then Amazon is going to promote your book more often just for being on that main list.

Plus…you just get bragging rights, and that’s always fun.

But let’s look closer at this “Theory” of mine.

Amazon’s Best Seller List

I’m going to kick this off by really showing you the inside of my brain right now. I’m going to show you exactly how I analyze this plethora of information and how I back up my theories. Ready for it?

(This is where you should run away… No? … Still here? … Okie dokie then.)

We’ll start by looking at the Amazon’s Top 20 List. (I’m going to crunch this data up into few a quick subsets, which might be confusing, but then I will explain the results, so bear with me.)

Amazon’s Top 20 at the Exact Moment I am writing this lesson (August 23, 2011):
Kindle’s Top 20
Rank Title, Author (Kindle Release Date) Price Reviews # of Stars
1 The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Feb 10, 2009) $9.99 4,059 4.5
2 BLIND FAITH by CJ Lyons (Sep 17, 2010) $0.99 33 4.5
3 Caribbean Moon (A Manny Williams Thriller) by Rick Murcer (Mar 30, 2011) $0.99 126 3.5
4 Second Son (Kindle Single) by Lee Child (Aug 15, 2011) $1.99 44 3.5
5 Edge of Grace by Christa Allan (Aug 1, 2011) $9.61 12 3.5
6 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Sep 1, 2009) $4.69 2,825 4.5
7 Frost Moon by Anthony Francis (Mar 11, 2010) $9.39 61 4.0
8 Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman (Jul 7, 2010) $8.99 38 4.0
9 Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins (Jun 1, 2010) $7.70 1,031 4.5
10 Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Jun 27, 2011) $12.99 158 4.0
11 Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins (Aug 24, 2010) $7.14 1,584 3.5
12 The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan (May 18, 2011) $0.99 75 4.5
13 Robert’s Rules of Writing by Robert Masello (Jan 21, 2011) $9.99 13 5.0
14 A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard (Jul 12, 2011) $11.99 679 4.5
15 One Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original) by David Nicholls (Jun 15, 2010) $9.99 314 3.5
16 Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent (Nov 2, 2010) $5.00 1,769 4.5
17 Stealing Faces by Michael Prescott (Jun 2, 2011) $0.99 79 4.0
18 The Everything Guide to Study Skills (Everything Series) by Cynthia C. Muchnick (Jul 18, 2011) $8.77 3 5.0
19 The Abbey (a full-length suspense thriller) by Chris Culver (Feb 2, 2011) $0.99 30 4.5
20 Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Jun 12, 2007) $9.99 881 4.0
Average $6.66 691 4.2
Median $8.24 103 4.3

To start off with, you can see that the prices and the reviews are all over the place. The average price of the Top 20 books is $6.66 with the Median being $8.24. The Average of Reviews is fairly skewed since a couple have well over 1,000 reviews (the Average being 691) while the Median number of reviews is 103. Also the Average Rating is 4.2 Stars with the Median Being 4.3 Stars. (In other words, many of these books barely ranked above satisfactory and many have very few reviews.)

If nothing else, this table shows us that price and the number or quality of reviews is not the determining factor for getting on the Bestseller list. Thus, we can fall back to our default theory of Sales being what ranks you on the Bestseller List. (Sales directly correlate to an excellent marketing campaign.)

QUICK OBSERVATIONS

One thing I do find interesting is that 7 of the 20 books were published on the Kindle more than 8 months earlier in 2010 or before. In other words, 35% of this Best Seller List does NOT consist of New Releases.

Another tidbit I’m going to throw out here is that John Locke is Amazon’s newest golden boy for selling 1.1 million Kindle books between January and May of 2011, and yet he is not on this list. He had 10 books on the Kindle that made those sales. When you divide his 1.1 million sales into 5 months and then into 10 books, that means he sold approximately 22,000 copies of each book per month. That number can then be divided by 30 days (for the average month) and that equates to 733 books per day for each book…and yet John Locke is NOT on this list. As such, it is safe to assume that the Top 20 on Kindle’s list sell more than 5,133 books a week. In fact, John Locke’s bestselling book currently is # 66 on Kindle’s Top 100 Paid books, so the top 65 sell at least 5,134 books a week or more.

I would also like to point out that # 1 on this list also has a movie in theaters at this very moment, which always has a direct correlation to book sales. I also know that # 1, # 4 and # 17 are all currently sitting in Target stores, which means they are in other similar distributors, so they have an advantage over the other books here. Keep that in mind as we next consider the categories each book is in and the corresponding competition.

Amazon’s Best Seller Categories

So now we have a list of the Top 20. Let’s go further and see what categories these books are in. (Amazon allows books to be placed into only two categories maximum, so I am posting the two categories in this table.)


Kindle’s Top 20
# Title, Author (Kindle Release Date) # 1 Category # of Books in this Category # 2 Category # of Books in this Category
1 The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Feb 10, 2009) Literary Fiction 15,867 Fiction – Literary Fiction 15,989
2 BLIND FAITH by CJ Lyons (Sep 17, 2010) Fiction – Genre Fiction – Romance – Contemporary 17,410 Fiction – Genre Fiction – Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Suspense 14,673
3 Caribbean Moon (A Manny Williams Thriller) by Rick Murcer (Mar 30, 2011) Fiction – Genre Fiction – Mystery & Thrillers – Police Procedurals 2,066 Mystery & Thrillers – Police Procedurals 2,067
4 Second Son (Kindle Single) by Lee Child (Aug 15, 2011) Kindle Singles 92 Fiction – Genre Fiction – Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Suspense 14,673
5 Edge of Grace by Christa Allan (Aug 1, 2011) na na Na na
6 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Sep 1, 2009) Children’s eBooks – Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror – Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic 5,269 Teens – Literature & Fiction – Adventure & Thrillers 9,230
7 Frost Moon by Anthony Francis (Mar 11, 2010) Fiction – Fantasy 18,409 Science Fiction & Fantasy – Fantasy – Magic & Wizards 4,816
8 Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman (Jul 7, 2010) Nonfiction – Reference – Words & Language – Grammar 396 Reference – Words & Language – Linguistics 8,924
9 Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins (Jun 1, 2010) Fiction – Children’s Fiction 29,575 Children’s eBooks – Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror – Science Fiction, Fantasy, & Magic 5,269
10 Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Jun 27, 2011) Fiction – Contemporary Fiction 66,886 Fiction – Genre Fiction – Mystery & Thrillers 40,487
11 Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins (Aug 24, 2010) Children’s eBooks 38,361 Children’s Fiction 860,448
12 The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan (May 18, 2011) Fiction – Contemporary Fiction 66,876 Fiction – Literary Fiction 15,982
13 Robert’s Rules of Writing by Robert Masello (Jan 21, 2011) Nonfiction – Reference – Publishing & Books – Authorship 873 Nonfiction – Reference – Writing – Writing Skills 1,020
14 A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard (Jul 12, 2011) Nonfiction – True Accounts – True Crime 2,433 Biographies & Memoirs – Specific Groups – Women 3,199
15 One Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original) by David Nicholls (Jun 15, 2010) Fiction – Genre Fiction – Romance 58,142 Literature & Fiction – Comic 14,971
16 Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent (Nov 2, 2010) Nonfiction – Religion & Spirituality 78,730 Religion & Spirituality – Christianity – Theology 7,340
17 Stealing Faces by Michael Prescott (Jun 2, 2011) Fiction – Genre Fiction – Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Suspense 14,673 Mystery & Thrillers – Thrillers – Suspense 14,673
18 The Everything Guide to Study Skills (Everything Series) by Cynthia C. Muchnick (Jul 18, 2011) Nonfiction – Education – Study Skills 468 Na na
19 The Abbey (a full-length suspense thriller) by Chris Culver (Feb 2, 2011) Fiction – Genre Fiction – Mystery & Thrillers – Mystery – Hard-Boiled 2,479 Mystery & Thrillers – Mystery – Hard-Boiled 2,477
20 Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Jun 12, 2007) Fiction – Genre Fiction – Historical 15,419 Fiction – Contemporary Fiction 66,878
* Items in Italics are Book Categories instead of Kindle Categories
**”na” means the data was “not available”


The Conclusions I Draw From This Table

As you can see from the table above, many of the books are categorized into smaller categories and even Niche-Categories. “Second Son” by Lee Child (which is # 4 on this list) even categorized itself into a Niche Category that only has 92 books total. Talk about really smart. OF COURSE that book is going to make that list’s Top 100; there aren’t even 100 books in that category.

You will also notice from the table that the books that are in the larger “General” categories (i.e. that have lots of competition) are all books by well-known authors who have been on the Bestselling lists before. I’m guessing that their publishers posted their books into the largest categories because it was “easiest” and “appealed to the largest General Audience.” That is not so great for the authors themselves because when they’re books stop making thousands of sales, they will drop into Mass Ranking Obscurity. On the other hand, it’s fantastic for the smaller newer writers because then we can monopolize the smaller niches and eventually have our books outrank those bestsellers.

The Relationships Between Competition and Time to Best Seller Status

As if that isn’t enough, I can see yet another correlation that I would like to point out to you. That is the relationship between the number of Competitors and the time it took for them to get to their current Status on Amazon’s Bestseller List. Take a look:

Kindle’s Top 20
# Title, Author (Kindle Release Date) Time From Release to Today’s Best Seller Status # of Books in the # 1 Category
1 The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Feb 10, 2009) 2.5 years 15,867
2 BLIND FAITH by CJ Lyons (Sep 17, 2010) 11 months 17,410
3 Caribbean Moon (A Manny Williams Thriller) by Rick Murcer (Mar 30, 2011) 5 months 2,066
4 Second Son (Kindle Single) by Lee Child (Aug 15, 2011) 8 days 92
5 Edge of Grace by Christa Allan (Aug 1, 2011) 22 days na
6 The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (Sep 1, 2009) 11 months 5,269
7 Frost Moon by Anthony Francis (Mar 11, 2010) 1 year and 5 months 18,409
8 Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman (Jul 7, 2010) 1 month and 15 days 396
9 Catching Fire (The Second Book of the Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins (Jun 1, 2010) 1 year and 2 months 29,575
10 Now You See Her by James Patterson and Michael Ledwidge (Jun 27, 2011) 2 months 66,886
11 Mockingjay (The Final Book of The Hunger Games) by Suzanne Collins (Aug 24, 2010) 1 year and 5 days 38,361
12 The Mill River Recluse by Darcie Chan (May 18, 2011) 3 months and 5 days 66,876
13 Robert’s Rules of Writing by Robert Masello (Jan 21, 2011) 7 months 873
14 A Stolen Life by Jaycee Dugard (Jul 12, 2011) 1 month and 11 days 2,433
15 One Day (Vintage Contemporaries Original) by David Nicholls (Jun 15, 2010) 1 year and 2 months 58,142
16 Heaven is for Real: A Little Boy’s Astounding Story of His Trip to Heaven and Back by Todd Burpo, Sonja Burpo, Colton Burpo and Lynn Vincent (Nov 2, 2010) 9 months and 21 days 78,730
17 Stealing Faces by Michael Prescott (Jun 2, 2011) 2 months and 21 days 14,673
18 The Everything Guide to Study Skills (Everything Series) by Cynthia C. Muchnick (Jul 18, 2011) 1 month and 5 days 468
19 The Abbey (a full-length suspense thriller) by Chris Culver (Feb 2, 2011) 6 months and 21 days 2,479
20 Sarah’s Key by Tatiana de Rosnay (Jun 12, 2007) 4 years and 2.5 months 15,419

I noticed the following patterns:

  1. The Best Sellers on this list that are in categories with less than 1,000 competitors took less than one year to make it onto this list. The fastest one (8 days) is in a category with only 92 competitors. (Although I will admit, that person is also a well-known author.)
  2. The books with little competition that took a little longer to get on the list (although still less than a year) are largely reference books, which are not always the best sellers. Fiction usually sells better than Non-Fiction and Reference books, so the fact that they are on this list at all is extremely impressive.
  3. The majority of authors that are in the more general (and thus competitive) categories on this list that also made this list quickly are largely well-known authors that have been on Bestseller lists before.
  4. Finally, the “others” that are in competitive categories but still ranked quickly… well, their books are selling for $0.99, which means they make $0.35 per book. Still, $0.35 per 5,000 books a week is $1,750 per week. Not a bad paycheck.

In conclusion, the research I’ve presented here shows that there is a relationship between smaller niche categories and time it takes to reach best seller status. The smaller the niche, the faster you rise in the rankings.

The exception appears to be those authors that already have well-known brand names or those authors who are willing to sell their books for $0.99.

If you are not an exception, then you should really consider going for the “Super Nova Niche.”

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