amazon best seller

5 Secrets to Becoming an Amazon Best Seller

Ann O'Brien

Ann O'Brien

September 19, 2022

Just about every published author eagerly tracks how well their book sales progress. Authors pore over retail and online sales and compare those sales to other books on the market or even their own previously published books. But one of the most coveted titles many authors want, as they watch their book sales take off, is to become labeled an Amazon Best Seller.

What does it take to have a book labeled a best seller? Let’s take a look at how Amazon calculates its best seller list and how you can get your book on it so you can call yourself an Amazon best seller.

How Amazon Calculates Best Seller Lists

Books with the coveted orange flag on Amazon are noted as best sellers. A book that already has a well-known title or large author recognition might seem an obvious choice to be called an Amazon best seller, while other books with unfamiliar titles or authors also sport the best seller designation.

What authors and readers may not realize is that Amazon calculates its rankings for best sellers through a variety of metrics including how many books are sold, when they are sold, and what category (or categories) the book is in.

Total Book Selling Volume

Of course, the key metric that determines Amazon best seller qualification is how many total books are sold. Print rankings and digital book downloads including eBooks on Kindle Unlimited (KU) and the Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL) are calculated separately and books can be ranked as print best sellers, digital best sellers, or both.

While not directly released by Amazon, the estimated print book volume of sales that are needed to become a best selling book is partially determined by looking at Amazon’s current and past book rankings. Those estimates are:

  • To rank #1 – #5, a book must sell at least 4,000 books a day
  • To rank #6 – #20, a book must sell between 3,000 and 4,000 books a day
  • To rank #21 – #35, a book must sell between 2,000 and 3,000 books a day
  • To rank #36 – #200, a book must sell between 500 and 2,000 books a day
  • To rank #201 – #500, a book must sell between 175 and 500 books a day
  • To rank #501 – #3,000, a book must sell between 70 and 175 books a day

Time Frame Matters: When Books are Sold

Not only are the number of books sold important, but when the books sell is also a critical component of determining Amazon best selling designations. Amazon updates book sales data every hour, so new bestsellers are anointed potentially every single hour of the day. Seeing new sales data update so frequently is exciting for authors for two reasons:

1 Real-time sales data can show trends and help drive marketing efforts. Authors can look at when their book sales are happening to see if marketing promotions are affecting sales. Social media tie-ins, author events, and other book promotional activities can have a direct impact on book sales, so authors can track their sales in as little as one-hour increments to evaluate their efforts.

2 Book sales that jump in one hour’s time may significantly impact rankings. Since one of the biggest metrics to move up in Amazon’s book rankings is to sell more books than your competitors, a book that is currently sitting at #2 has a new shot every hour to push up to the #1 ranking if the second-ranked book outsells the top-ranked book in an hour’s time. For some authors hoping to crack the top spot, a one-hour concentration of sales can land their book in the number one position if their sales beat out the competition’s sales during that same time frame.

How Book Category Affects Ranking

The third part of the Amazon best seller ranking relates to book categories. Every book is self-categorized by its author when it is placed on Amazon for sale. Some categories are extremely competitive, like Mystery or True Crime, with hundreds of new books added to the category regularly. Authors who want to reach the best seller level in these categories will have a harder time simply because there is so much competition within these huge categories.

But other categories are more niche and have much less competition for best seller rankings. Since an author can also place their book into more than one category, doing so gives the book a greater chance to become a best seller simply because there is less competition for that book to outsell and fewer books to outrank to reach that status.

Authors should always consider providing the most appropriate subcategory classifications for their books not only to reach the right audience for their work but also because these smaller, less populated subcategories provide a better chance for their book to become a best seller.

Rankings Change

Amazon’s ranking algorithm accounts for all sales in the past 30 days rather than just cumulative sales for the entire life of a book on their platform. So this means that the ranking system is very dynamic and the algorithm weighs more heavily on books that are currently selling a good volume rather than books that have been around a long time and have sold many copies over many years.

For newly published books, this means that an initial quick rise in sales could potentially land a book on the Amazon best seller list if it is categorized correctly and happens to fall during a time period that the competitor’s books are not selling as rapidly. Book rankings change frequently and rankings are relative to other books’ sales.

So a book that hits a popular streak, racking up big sales in a short amount of time, may quickly rise in rankings for the short term. But that author will still be able to claim the best seller title as a result.

Digital Books and How They Impact Best Seller Rankings

A self-published author who has focused on print rankings may want to enter the digital rankings as well to give their book a shot at a new audience. Amazon’s ranking system for digital books accounts for books that are sold free through Kindle or downloaded for free with Kindle Unlimited (KU) as well as books that are borrowed electronically through Kindle Owner’s Lending Library (KOLL).

Each time a book is sold, downloaded, or borrowed as well as read, Amazon’s digital ranking algorithm counts this as if it was a book sale. These digital rankings are separate from Amazon’s book seller rankings but books are ranked in both systems simultaneously if the book is available in both print and digital formats.

Authors may have a best seller book that is in print, digital, or in any of the book’s categories or subcategories, providing multiple opportunities for an author to be able to rightly claim that they have authored a best seller.

Increasing Sales of Your Book

Authors seeking to move their books into the best seller ranks have plenty of opportunities to increase their sales and focus attention on their books. Some of the most effective ways to increase sales and reader awareness are:

  • Create a social media campaign to engage readers with your book, characters, and genre enthusiasts.
  • Develop an author’s page to provide readers with information about you, the book, and to engage further with your readers.
  • Use social media to connect with potential readers and direct them towards outlets to purchase your book.
  • Consider re-releasing your book with an updated cover that also includes book reviews to entice potential readers.
  • Include freebies like copies of other books you have written with your book sales as an incentive to potential readers.
  • Create author awareness in your community by volunteering to speak at events, talk about the genre, or give information about the book or topic that would engage and excite potential readers.
  • Think about seasonal tie-ins to your book by connecting with holiday purchases around Christmas time when book sales typically rise.

Becoming an Amazon Best Seller

The algorithm that Amazon uses to determine their book best sellers relies on a book’s sales, when the sales occurred, and what the book’s categories are. But if your book sells between 3,500 and 5,000 copies in 24 hours, the book will likely end up as a #1 best seller as a result.

Books with a gorgeous cover that hints at the genre will help attract the right readers, but authors should make sure to place the best categories and subcategory tags on their books on Amazon as well so that their work has the best possible chance of earning the coveted orange best seller tag.

Authors can do their part to encourage sales through strong social media marketing and by creating an effective author engagement strategy to increase awareness about the book, themselves as an author as well as ramp up book sales.

But becoming an Amazon best seller is potentially within reach of every author when writers have a little knowledge of how Amazon’s algorithm ranks books and are willing to put in some extra effort to increase reader engagement with their book. Authors can begin the path to their bestselling book dreams by working with a trusted printing company, like Publishing Xpress, to take their concept to publication and straight to the best selling book list.

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