Note: I originally published this article in April 2017. A lot has changed since then. The leader in tracking, SalesRank Express, and the best free platform for tracking Amazon sales, NovelRank, shut down after Amazon decided in 2018 to no longer allow outside companies to have access to sales data. All the other services I mentioned in the original article are either defunct or no longer offer sales insights.
The only source that remains for non-self-published authors to track their Amazon sales is Amazon itself. I describe how you can do that below.
If you’re interested in learning more about what used to be available, you can look at some older versions of this page on the Internet Archive.
AuthorCentral is a sales tracking and promotional platform open to any author who has books available on Amazon. Amazon stores in each country operate their own associated AmazonCentral platforms, with services varying from country to country. Here, I’ll limit my discussion to the US.
Sales rank information can help with marketing because:
- You’re better able to determine which books need better marketing and can work with your publisher to improve things on that front.
- You can make an informed decision about switching categories in order to attract the right group of readers to your product page.
- You can use sales rank itself as a marketing tool. If your book achieves Top 10 or Top 100 status in its category, spread that news far and wide!
Please note that ANYONE can sign up for an AuthorCentral account with US-based Amazon, regardless of where they live, as long as they have a book available in the US store. In fact, you’re welcome to have AuthorCentral accounts in every country where your books are sold, and you might want to, because each country’s AuthorCentral reports only on books sold in that country.
Amazon AuthorCentral (US) allows authors to track:
- Estimated print book sales by US region, pulling data not only from Amazon, but from 75% of book sales nationwide
- Estimated print book sales by week, based on the same data as above
- Amazon sales rank
- Amazon author rank
The first two services are provided via Nielsen BookScan, which pulls point-of-sale data from over 10,000 online and brick-and-mortar retailers. BookScan estimates that its retailers account for three-quarters of book sales in the United States.
I like BookScan because it helps present a fuller picture of a book’s sales performance. For example, the Untethered anthology, which only has so-so sales as an ebook on Amazon, has decent print sales. If I didn’t look at BookScan, I wouldn’t know that and might draw the conclusion that it’s underperforming.
Interestingly enough, Amazon’s reporting on sales at its own stores is less detailed. You can get sales ranks for your books against all other books sold through Amazon US (not by category) as well as your author rank (but if you’re a romance writer and your name’s not Nora Roberts, don’t bother looking). Amazon lets you break out the data by:
- the past two weeks
- the past month
- the previous six months
- the last year, two years, etc., or
- since Amazon started carrying your book
Interestingly, Amazon does not report on the actual number of books sold. You have to join Kindle Direct Publishing to get that info.
Your Amazon Book Page
This is the lowest tech option, but if you don’t want to sign up for any of these services, you can check your book’s current Amazon ranking by going to its page and looking under “Product Details.” This section appears under the book cover image, summary, “customers who viewed this item also viewed,” and sponsored products.
At the end of the section you can find the book’s overall rank in the Kindle or Amazon print store (depending on your format), followed by its ranking in various subcategories.
These rankings aren’t very informative, though. They change throughout the day and might not say much about your book’s overall performance. Still, if you happen upon the ranking when you’re book temporarily hits #1, congratulations!
There must be a programmer somewhere who knows how to pull Amazon’s category rankings throughout the day into an RSS feed, then send that feed into a chart for tracking category rank over time. But I am not that person. Any volunteers?
Knowing Is Only Half the Battle
It’s all fine and good to know your sales numbers, but there’s not much point unless you plan to do something with the information.
If your sales are low, it’s time to get to work.
Research alternate categories and keywords. Talk to your publisher about pricing. Do a push for reviews. Rewrite your blurb.
And if they’re high? Congratulations! Boast about it–politely, of course—on your website, on your book’s sales page, and in your cover letters.
You can plug your sales rank into the Kindle Best Seller Calculator to estimate of the number of books sold per day and compare these to your publisher’s royalty reports. This is fairly labor intensive, however, as it requires knowing what your sales rank is every day of the year.
If you do decide to go this route, keep in mind that these numbers are estimates, not hard-and-fast figures you can use in a court of law. A discrepancy of a few books may be due to book returns or similarly above-board activity, but large differences could mean it’s time to take advantage of the clause in your contract that says you have the right to examine the publisher’s accounting records. (You have an accounting clause, right?)
I hope this post will be helpful to you in your writing career. If you like this kind of content, please consider making a donation via my tip jar to keep this blog going. You can also browse other tips for writers and submission calls. Thanks!
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