Have You Ever Wondered How Amazon’s Algorithms Work?

Amazon has always mystified me, not just how they rank books but how some people who seldom promote manage to sell thousands of copies of their books, and others who seem to promote just as much languish at the bottom of the sales ranks. Today I learned two things.

1) Studies have shown that the number of reviews a book has on Amazon makes a difference, but their worth is still debatable, especially since so many people have found a way around Amazon’s rules. Not only are reviews for sale, but a single Amazon reviewer posted over 23,000 reviews in a single year.  It’s taken me a lifetime to read almost that many books!!

A fellow author sent me the link to a new Harvard Study with a note that the study shows customer reviews have just as much weight as professional reviews, but the study does not say that. According to an article at The Big River Review, “Though reporting in newspapers and blogs seems to present the work as a vindication of the current Amazon review environment, the study is not about, nor does it present itself as being about, the relative veracity or reliability of the two forms of reviews in the present day. It is about editorial favoritism related to the top 100 books from 2004-2007.” If you are interested in learning more about the dangers of Amazon’s review policy, please check out this website. Very interesting! http://www.thebigriverreview.com/

2) Amazon has two lists, a bestsellers list and a popularity list. The bestseller list reflects the number of sales in the past 24 hours, while the popularity list reflects the number of sales plus the price of the book for the past 30 days. Which is why giving away books might put you high on the bestseller lists but keep you off the popularity lists. Being high on the popularity lists can account for thirty to forty book sales a day. (You can find the entire article here: Updates to Amazon’s Book Ranking Algorithms: The Death of 99-Cent Ebooks? An End to KDP Select Perks?)

I still haven’t learned how to get on the lists, though. Obviously, selling a ton books helps, but that skill eludes me.

On the chance that reviews will help, I will be glad to send a coupon for a free ebook to anyone willing to review one of my books. Just let me know which one you would like.

2 Responses to “Have You Ever Wondered How Amazon’s Algorithms Work?”

  1. Ken Coffman Says:

    Hmmm, I suppose any system can be gamed, but surely digital karma will eventually catch up, won’t it? I think a potential customer can tell the difference between a shill review and an honest one and if the book offends a lot of people, then the one-star reviews will pile up. I don’t know how people get exposed to new stuff and how they can asses the expected quality. I don’t think there is any substitute for working hard, networking and build-build-building a bankable reputation.

  2. Selling Your Soul a guide yo getting book reviews Says:

    [...] jump. If you think a book’s rank is based only on the number of copies sold, think again, as this blog post from Pat Bertram explains. Amazon uses popularity and bestseller lists which are based on [...]


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