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I’ve Got New Numbers to Play With!

Amazon just released a new statistic for writers like me. It’s called the author ranking, which allows us to compare and contrast ourselves against other writers on Amazon. It shows overall ranking and has rankings broken down by genre. Sounds pretty cool and useful, right?

For me the jury’s still deliberating on this one. Is it nice having an idea how I’m doing compared to other writers? Sure. I don’t have to be the best, but I’d like to be good enough. My goal isn’t to be better than any other writer, my goal is to be good enough that writing is the only job I have. Unfortunately I’m a long ways away from being there. Knowing how I rank compared to other writers doesn’t help me get to that goal, it only gives me a point of reference that, ultimately, is useless.

For example, I’m ranked at 2,245 among kindle writers, but for fiction that rank climbs to 1,784. For fantasy the number climbs higher, to 223. But that doesn’t tell me who the man or woman in spot 222 or, more importantly, what the difference between 223 and 222 means in measurable terms (e.g. how many sales / day or how much additional income). I’m fairly certain the high fantasy ranking comes from my existing fantasy series, Voidhawk (the first book is free, check it out!).

Ultimately, it doesn’t provide me with a means of getting to that next ranking either. When there’s a slump or an increase the author ranking number will help give me an idea of whether there’s a slump in overall book sales or if just mine are dropping (or increasing), which is a useful tool. Sales drive the number, but what is #222 doing to get those extra sales over me? If I knew who the person was I could try to check out their methods and emulate them, but that may be pointless to. Why? Because of statistics.

The average writer on Amazon is not making a thousand book sales a month. I have no idea what they are making without digging into Google and trying to weed out the fact from fiction, but I am very confident that the average writer is raking in less than $500 a month from Kindle sales. Maybe even less than $100. That means whatever they are doing isn’t working very well. Maybe they’re doing nothing. Whatever the case, emulating what everyone else is doing is not the answer unless you only want mediocre results.

So why not emulate those more successful? That’s typically a good plan, except eventually everybody will be doing it. At that time the game changes and the numbers realign themselves. The people who are at the top of the game have one thing in common, they are doing something different. They are statistical outliers, the kinds of bumps that are cast aside when trying to perform an analysis of a sample of data.

Conformity is encouraged by our educational institutions and business practices, yet some of those willing to march to their own beat are the ones that end up being successful in ways beyond their imagination. Not all of them, but you’ve got a better chance of success trying something than you do by not trying, even if it’s only 1%.

But even then, in the business of books, what works for one person may not work for someone else. Marketing and selling books is a great example of the chaos theory because there are so many variables involved. The promo campaign might be the same thing used to elevate another writer to NY Times bestseller status, but if my cover isn’t as good or my blurb doesn’t spark as much interest then I falter. Or maybe the word of mouth isn’t generated at the right time. My reviews might not come in quickly enough. Maybe my price point drives people off (not worth the risk or it could be too low for people to take it seriously).

Hitting the top of a list and staying there is an incredible feat. It feels great, I managed it for a couple of months earlier this year with my science fiction series, Vitalis. More often than not achieving that status requires a perfect storm of luck and hard work. Riding that tumultuous wave is even more difficult.

So, for me, the answer is to keep writing and working hard. I don’t need to be better than the other 100,000+ authors on Amazon, I just need to be good enough to reach my goals and provide for myself and my family. I am curious how my rank reacts when my next book comes out, it’s a fantasy novel called Child of Fate and the beginning of a new series. I expect the author rank to climb, both overall and most particularly in the fantasy genre. Whatever the rank is will only be a point of interest to me though, it’s not the number that matters. What matters will be whether people like it or not and how the sales come in. I’m notorious for being guardedly optimistic, but even with that I’m expecting great things from the new series over time.

To learn more about Jason Halstead, visit his website to learn about him, his books, sign up for his newsletter, or check out some free samples of his books at http://www.booksbyjason.com.

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