Is this a glitch, Amazon? Or a permanent change?

Since my novel Shine Not Burn made it onto the Top 100 Best Seller list at Amazon, I've been watching my rankings like a hawk. And when I saw ‘hawk' I'm talking like one with a set of tiny bionic eyeballs in its itty bitty head. I'm refreshing every hour to catch the new and improved ranking, all damn day and night long. I think I only miss 4 hours while I sleep fitfully, and during those 4 hours, I have readers around the world checking for me. To say this is a big deal to me would be a colossal understatement.  Obsess much?  Why, yes.  Yes, I do.  Being on this list has been a big goal of mine for over a year now.  I'm soaking up every minute of it because it could end at any second.

It's no surprise at all that when something went wacky over at Amazon, I noticed right away.

Now, before I go any farther down this road, I just want to say that this could be a glitch! It could be that the sky is not falling, Amazon is not making a change, and I'm getting my panties in a wad over nothing. But then again, maybe it's not a glitch.   Only continue reading if you care to know my thoughts on possible changes at Amazon with the best seller lists.

First thing I saw: all the rankings on all the books on the best seller list disappeared. Poof! No more rankings for anyone.

Then, about twenty minutes later, rankings came back, but they were missing something. Instead of showing my ranking on the Top 100 Best Seller list for the Amazon book store, it only showed my ranking on the Top 100 Kindle Store. For the last few hours at least, this has not changed.  I'm beginning to think it's permanent, hence this blog post.

Search by "BOOKS" or "KINDLE BOOKS"

Search by “BOOKS” or “KINDLE BOOKS”

Before I get into the details, here's a screen shot of the two different searches you can do as a reader:  First, you can search on BOOKS (orange word, left column) > BOOKS (black word right column).  Makes sense, right?  I want to find a book, I click on … BOOKS.  But you can also search by BOOKS (left column)> KINDLE BOOKS (right column).  I own a Kindle, but most of the time I don't bother scrolling down to KINDLE BOOKS.  I just click the first link: BOOKS.  Once you click there, you can click on “BEST SELLERS” and see the Top 100 books on that list.

What does this mean?

Well, assuming it's a permanent change at Amazon, it means this to me:

First, now my books are no longer visible side-by-side with traditionally published books that are selling a lot of paperbacks. That's going to hurt my sales.  It's going to hurt my visibility.  It's going to hurt my chances of ever getting on the NY Times or USA Today best seller lists.

Why do I think this is the case? Because I believe the reason my book (and those of many other authors) were pulled off the main list (i.e., search by: BOOKS>BOOKS>BEST SELLERS … I'm calling this BBB) is because they were only selling in good quantities as ebooks, not paperbacks.

So before, my book was for example #64 on Amazon's BOOKS>BOOKS>BEST SELLERS [BBB] and #62 in the BOOKS>KINDLE BOOKS>BEST SELLERS [I'll call this: BKB] and showed just the BBB ranking on my book's product page (even though the book was present in both places, BBB and BKB.) Now, instead, it shows the book in the Kindle store (BKB) and it's only present in the Kindle store. I searched the whole BBB list and my book was no longer there.  Anyone searching the overall BBB for best selling books will not see my book or other indie best sellers at all. Only if readers go to the BKB will they see those books selling well in ebook format.

That sucks.  It sucks for my sales, and it sucks for the readers, because if they pick option number one, BBB, they are not truly seeing the best selling stories!  They're just seeing the best selling story in a single format. Paperback.  And if they don't realize they're being limited to seeing books that sell well in paperback, they'll miss a HUGE amount of books, mostly indie titles, that they might enjoy.

Second issue:  Amazon is making a more clear distinction between paperbacks and ebooks.

I cannot fathom why they'd do this. Anyone using Amazon for even a minute or two will see that when they search for a book they might want, both format options are usually there right on the same page (ebook or paperback) just a hyperlink click away. Why distinguish at all? Why two separate stores/lists in the first place? I get that maybe Amazon was trying to make a clear division; if you want to only buy a paperback, you only want to see paperbacks. But don't readers want to see the best selling STORY and not just the best selling paperback story?  The way ebooks are outselling paperbacks, you'll end up with a really skewed best seller list; it'll have only books that sell a ton of paperbacks.  Those are traditionally-published books, not indie books.

I hope this is just a glitch.

I don't really see the point anymore in having two different stores, BBB and BKB.  Why not just publish all the best sellers in one place and let the readers find out if it's in both formats or not once they get there?  Or they could click a button to exclude books not available as paperbacks.  Most books are available in both formats, and as time goes on, the few who aren't will be a smaller group.  Certainly most best sellers are available in all formats.  Not having paperback sales obviously doesn't hinder overall sales, since up until now, indies were either side-by-side with or outselling their traditionally-published peers' books being combined on the same list.

I don't know the answers yet, but I hope eventually this works out to the benefit of readers finding good stories.  To me as a reader, it shouldn't matter whether the book sells well in one format over another.  That's just distribution more than anything these days.  It matters whether the story is good.  No matter what Amazon does, I hope they make it easier for readers to find those good stories with minimal confusion and fuss.

25 comments on “Is this a glitch, Amazon? Or a permanent change?

  1. It’s interesting because at the BBB level, all of the book thumbnails are defaulting to the hardcover/paperback prices. One level lower in Literature&Fiction, where your book is presently in the Top 100, all of the books are defaulting the Kindle edition.

    It seems too specific to be a glitch.

  2. I hope it’s just a glitch – I just did an Amazon KDP free promotion for two days and they NEVER put up my rankings – I think they’ve been having some issues and are figuring out how to fix the enormous amount of inventory that’s coming in. At least, that’s the hope. Good luck with your novel!

  3. I didn’t know they had one list ever, to be honest. Since the Author Central rankings are books, I guess I assumed it was always separate. I do agree that all sales should be treated as one. Have you checked whether a traditionally published famous name (Dan Brown maybe) is at different ranks on the two lists? I’d be interested to know their reasoning, unless they were getting pressure from the traditional publishers. Although when amazon paid attention to that, I don’t know!

    • Yep, always at different rankings. When the two lists were up, I was #64 and #62 on the two lists. Weird. Now the overall list is full of cookbooks and non-fiction titles that I KNOW are not outselling the fiction ebooks.

  4. Just one hypothesis on why Amazon might do that as a permanent thing. It is conceivable that the audiences for paper books and e-books is separated by more than is readily visible.

    Which is to say, maybe the people who browse the best selling paperbacks rarely buy the best selling e-books for reasons other than that they are e-books.

    I don’t know if there might be genre complications or what, and I am not really suggesting that it’s true, just suggesting it as a possibility.

    Also, there might be financial concerns involved. Consumer financial things, I mean. That is, the books list is going to contain hardcovers and paperbacks and maybe eliminating the e-books allows for more room for paperbacks so the more price conscious buyers don’t just give up.

    Or, it could be something else entirely.

    Either way, it really kinda sucks.

    • I just wish there was an announcement or something. Feels kind of like a sneak attack when it’s done this way. But that sounds personal, and I know Amazon is not personal, so … yeah. We just flow with the winds of change, I guess. 🙂

      • I haven’t been involved with ebooks long, but I sense Amazon takes a ‘bad programmer’s’ approach when it comes to announcing things. You’ve been on those kind of DIY websites, haven’t you? A non-communicative programmer MOVES your stuff and doesn’t even bother to tell you about it?

        An average person would let you know things. In fact a ‘good marketer’ would LAUD changes.

        I won’t discount the thought that this is ONE of Amazon’s problems.

        On the other hand, I heard they do ‘lawyer’ approach. They have a BATTERY of lawyers. And lawyer approach is they’ll try anything listed in the TOS as ‘legal’ til you catch them at it–THEN they’ll consider changing it. Playing around with the LEGAL law…

        Instead of the moral one.


  5. I was wondering if it would help if enough of us customers wrote and complained about it? I’d be happy to write them and let them know that I don’t like what they’ve done. I don’t care about format, I just want to see what’s selling well sometimes. I find a lot of really good books that way. Mostly I buy Kindle books but sometimes I see a cover that’s just too beautiful to only be able to look at in Black and White on my Kindle and I’ll buy the paperback/hardback. Should we wait a bit and see what happens? Just let me know, I’ll be happy to start complaining. And I have a lot of free time on my hands atm so Amazon really wouldn’t enjoy my complaining every 2 seconds 🙂

    • I think Amazon is in the middle of making some bigger changes and this is just the first step. I’m going to wait it out until it’s all done and then see what I think. If they would just change the search links to “paperback” and “ebook” it would clear up a lot of the problems.

  6. Just a glitch, I think. My book (To Carry the Horn – Fantasy) just went on sale yesterday for $0.99 (ebook only). I also have a paperback edition. Today I am #1 in Fantasy/Arthurian for both the ebook and the paperback, even though not a single paperback has been sold during the sale.

    #1 in Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks > Literature & Fiction > Fantasy > Arthurian
    #1 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Arthurian

    • I’m into process. This is curious. You can have a book ‘listed’ as number one WITHOUT selling a book?

      So what does ‘Number one in a category’ actually mean? It’s the only Arthurian book?

      That means everyone can create a new category or find an unused category and have THEIR book be number one in THAT category. Did you ‘create’ this category or was it already ON Amazon?



      • Amazon creates the categories and authors select 2 to be in. Some authors are granted an additional 3, including all traditionally published books.

  7. I just want to offer you a glimmer of hope that this might not be a bad thing. While I don’t know all of the inner workings of Amazon, I can offer a consumer’s view. Before I got my eReader, I was over-flowing my house with books. I like to keep what I read. My husband built me a huge bookshelf, which I promptly filled. Same with the 2 additional ones he bought me. I was reading us out of house and home! Anyway, now that I have an eReader, I no longer buy paperbacks. When I’m on Amazon, I don’t even bother with the paperbook format lists. Why should I? I know I’m not buying one. I go straight to the Kindle eBook store, and I start my search from there. I think that as more and more people start taking the eReader route, this will be their story, too.

    I agree that it sucks to not reach as large as an audience, and Amazon is doing a great disservice to both readers and authors, but maybe there’s some hope that it won’t be as great an impact as feared, and maybe might call over some exclusive eBook readers.

      • I think a lot of us are like Sarah W now. I too had so many books, boxes and boxes and once I got my Kindle I just don’t buy many anymore. I always go straight to the kindle lists but it’s nice having options. Every once in a while I see a cover just too beautiful to want to look at in black and white so I’ll buy it in paperback/hardback. I think the last actual books I bought were the Infernal Devices because I loved the covers and wanted the family tree that was in the last book. Kindles are definitely tree friendly, plus it is so much easier on my poor eyes.

      • I agree with Sarah! I never search real books. More expensive, takes up more space, and I would have to wait for delivery. I discovered you via goodreads. Such a fan of this book! Buying more of your stuff now!
        Ps…I am recommending this book like crazy!!! At least 3 have read it today. It is such an addicting story! Great job!

  8. Pingback: Apple, and Barnes and Noble, and Amazon, Oh My! | Falls Into Writing

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