Update to the Fantasy Bestseller Breakdown

Back in February, I posted the results of some data mining, specifically about the bestseller lists for fantasy and science fiction. You can see the old article here. It seemed like now might be a good time for an update. There's been much to-do about the change to the Amazon algorithms. The very-important "Popularity" ranking has seen significant changes in March and again in May. The new algorithms have made major changes to how books show up in the "Popular" ranking - which is the default manner customers see ebooks on Amazon, making it vital to sales.

Roughly how it works: you get sales, your rank goes up. The more sales you get over the period tracked, compared to other books, the more your rank goes up. The old system made loans via the Select program about the same as sales, and gave a lot of weight to free books given away through Select promotion periods. The new system rates free books at perhaps 10% of the value of sold books, does not seem to give any boost for loaned books, and most crucial - it seems to factor price into the equation, weighting higher priced books more heavily.

So how does this affect indies, whose books have been selling like hotcakes because they're priced lower? If Amazon weights higher priced books higher, then this makes breaking out at $0.99 or $2.99 that much more difficult.

It's the end of June, four months since my last survey and over a month since the May algorithm changes. Seemed like it was time for new data!


Fantasy Genre, Top Hundred Bestsellers

Well, top 95 bestsellers, anyway. There seem to be some issues with doubled up versions of some of George R.R. Martin's books, which resulted in only 95 books actually listed in the top 100.

The breakdown was 53 (56%) traditionally published books vs 42 (44%) self published books. This is a significant change. In fact, it's the first time this year that I've seen the genre drop much below 50% indie/self pub books; in February, indie books were 53% of the top list for fantasy, and it's stayed at that level +/- about 4% through early May.

Some other interesting data points:

Indie price average: $3.24

Trad price average: $9.56

Overall average price: $6.77

Breakdown follows. Note, there were several books I raised to the X.99 levels to make the data easier to chart. These were Indie at $2.51 and $4.95, and Trad at $4.90, $7.29, $7.39, $8.32, and $9.34 (actual numbers were used for the averages above, no rounding).

$0.99 – Indie 6 (down 7), Trad 0 (same), Total 6 (6%)

$1.99 – Indie 2 (same), Trad 0 (same), Total 2 (2%)

$2.99 – Indie 16 (down 7), Trad 0, Total 16 (17%)

$3.99 – Indie 13 (up 1), Trad 0, Total 13 (14%)

$4.99 – Indie 4 (up 2), Trad 2 (up 1), Total 6 (6%)

$5.99 – Indie 0, Trad 0, Total 0 (0%)

$6.99 – Indie 1 (up 1), Trad 0 (down 1), Total 1 (1%)

$7.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 20 (same), Total 20 (21%)

$8.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 15 (up 4), Total 15 (16%)

$9.99 – Indie 0 (same), Trad 7 (up 4), Total 7 (7%)

$10.99 Total 0 (same)

$11.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (same), Total 1 (1%)

$12.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 6 (same), Total 6 (6%)

$13.99 Total 0 (same) (0%)

$14.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (down 2), Total 1 (1%)

$29.99 Indie 0 (same), Trad 1 (same), Total 1 (1%) (Martin boxed set)


Fantasy Graph

As ever, a picture is worth a thousand words:



This is not enough data to draw conclusions from. However, coupled with the excellent analysis done by Ed Robertson, it's possible to hypothesize that the changes he noted to the Amazon book algorithms are damaging indie sales penetration. Some of this might be the loss of impact from Kindle Select promotions and loans. Some could also be due to algorithms favoring higher prices (note the upward trend across the board for prices of indie books which made the top ranks).

I think we need to do substantial more work on data crunching to see where things are headed, and I'm open to collaboration with others. In the short term, however, I think it's extremely likely many indies are selling themselves short by pricing too low - to their detriment.

Hopefully this helps some folks out.


Thanks for stopping by! I hope you found this information interesting and useful. I'd love to hear your thoughts on the data, what it might mean, and how writers can best adapt to these changes.

To celebrate a year of indie publishing, I have my novel, "By Darkness Revealed" reduced to FREE on Amazon for today and tomorrow - 6/21 + 6/22 only. If you enjoy urban fantasy, you might enjoy checking it out, and you'll aid my in my quest to break the top 100 free books! http://www.amazon.com/Darkness-Revealed-Blackwell-Magic-ebook/dp/B005G8L3X4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1340283711&sr=8-1&keywords=by+darkness+revealed