Wednesday, December 4, 2013

My Author Rank…irregular heartbeat or panic attack?

I’ve read a few posts these past few months offering pieces of advice relating to an author’s rank and for the most part, I believe the consensus is this:  stop checking it on a regular basis. 
For some, I bet that’s easier said than done.

When Amazon offers such a fun device charting your high’s and low’s as they relate to your sales or your reviews or however it is Amazon comes up with those numbers (because they don’t always match what you’d believe them to mean), it really can be hard to ignore them.
From a writer’s standpoint, I agree that the author ranking should not be the main focus.  The idea is to write books and make them available.  The more books you have, the easier it will be to push sales of previous books, which will help drive your author rank higher.  However, from a marketing standpoint, I think it’s a good idea to keep an eye on your author rank, on a semi-regular basis anyway.  Why?  Because it helps to determine when a marketing approach works and when it doesn’t; or rather, what might push your rank up and what doesn’t.

Not that it’s an exact science, since the author ranking can be difficult to completely decipher, but I decided to take a look at my rankings for the past year in order to compare them to events I’ve taken part in with regard to marketing.  Here’s what Amazon provided to me from December 4, 2012 through December 3, 2013:

It looks like one of those monitors you watch closely when you’re hooked up to wires as the doctor scrutinizes your heart rate.  From that viewpoint, mine appears to have a steady beat for awhile, except for about a five-month period when it looks more like an irregular heartbeat or maybe an extreme panic attack.  At least my chart hasn’t flat lined.
The chart above shows my ranking compared to ALL books over the past year, not just mystery, which is why my rank is currently at 88,874, coming down from 47,741 (not that my Amazon author page ever seems to reflect an accurate rating…something I don’t particularly like or understand).  An author ranking in the 88,000-range is okay with me when you consider the millions of books being ranked daily on Amazon.  My actual author rank for mystery books is currently somewhere in the 3,000’s, which is still good when it’s being compared to a quarter of a million mystery books.
So what works?  What doesn’t work?  What sort of information causes the rank to spike more than 50,000 or even 300,000 spots at a time?
This is what I’ve figured out so far: 

When No Mother of Mine was first released the author rank was up and down on a semi-regular basis.  I was still learning the ropes and had just begun this blog and my Facebook author page, so the fact that my rank kept going up right after going down is a good thing.  From January through April 2013, the rank had a fairly steady up and down beat and was probably due to a book signing in January, my entry into the Amazon Breakthrough Contest which lasted from January through April and another book signing in March.  But then from April through September…wow.  There’s lots of white space between the lower and the higher rankings.  To be clear, high numbers are a low rank and low numbers are a high rank…everyone wants to be #1.  I can’t figure out what made the rank spike in mid-May, the beginning of June or the end of June but the spikes in July would have been due to the book promotion at Lakefair.  Considering how much work Lakefair was, it really didn’t do much more for my author rank than the half-day signings or on-line marketing attempts.  Go figure.
From there things get real quiet for awhile.  My rank slips and slips from the end of July until the end of September.  I didn’t hold any signings, take part in any other marketing ideas and I didn’t enter any contests…I was pretty quiet as I worked on my second book.  But I was writing and writing is what I have to do to get more books out there in order to make more sales in order to push that rank even higher.

Spike in Mystery category
during Kindle Countdown Deal
Once I was able to make Best Kept Secrets available for sale, there was a huge spike in my author ranking (which had slipped to over 400,000 before finally rising to 90,000-something) and it’s been a steady beep, beep, beep ever since along with a book signing in October and offering the eBooks for a special price just recently.  I haven’t made it to the top 10, top 100 or even the top 1,000 but I did get close with the eBook recently ranking at 1,402 during the Kindle Countdown Deal.  
But should I really care? 
I agree with other bloggers who tell writers not to let their ranking consume them.  I believe using it to figure out what might work with regard to marketing is useful but letting it determine how you write or what you write is not productive.  Writers need to write what they feel and feel what they write.  The validation for work completed comes from how readers respond to what you’ve created.  And as a writer continues to create, they’ll reach more readers and gain more ground as their author rank grows organically through hard work and determination (plus a dash of patience).

At least, that’s what I believe.  With only two published books, I’ll admit I’m still learning but that’s okay.  I’ll continue to periodically watch my author rank as I continue to create more books and, as the saying goes, only time will tell. 

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