Understanding Amazon Best Seller Rankings

7161285Since publishing GONE TOMORROW on Amazon, I’ve grown more curious about how the best seller rankings work.

It was a laughable moment for me when I saw that my short story was ranking higher than several books that had been best sellers a year ago.  I wondered how that was possible since mine had sold only a handful of copies on the day it was posted.

It turns out the Best Seller rankings are essentially a number that represents the number of books selling more copies than your book is selling, over an extremely short period of time.  The ranking has nothing to do with cumulative sales, instead it has much more to do with sales velocity.

Book rankings are updated every two hours, so it’s possible for a book to significantly jump, or fall in the overall rankings very quickly.

Some research shows that selling as few as ten copies of a book a day will keep your  book in the top 3,000 of the paid best sellers listing.  (Please note - I’m talking about the paid best sellers list, not the free best sellers list.)

Some authors manage to get their books ranked into specific categories, rather than just being ranked against all paid books.  You may have seen things as specific as this:

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So in this case, the book THE VILLIANS SIDEKICK, is ranked #45 in the Noir category, so people searching specifically for Noir fiction are fairly likely to come across this book.  Of course, the author can also claim a top 50 seller on Amazon as well.

Most book postings don’t have that level of detail in the best seller ranks, but a few do.  There’s obviously a secret, and I intend to find out by the time I post my next book.  If anyone knows the secret please post it in the comments.


Reading ADD – Warning, danger ahead

BookstoreI’ve got nine ten physical books sitting on my desk to read as preparation for interviews. I’ve got three more sitting on my Kindle that need to be read within the next six days. I’m in the middle of four books that I’m reading purely for pleasure and three other non-fiction books that I’m reading for educational purposes.

That’s nineteen books that I’m either reading, or will soon be reading. That doesn’t count all of the books I’ve purchased electronically over the past three months that I haven’t even been able to start yet.

Last night I spent time reading four different books. Why? So I can keep the story lines in mind.

I love reading, but this is getting out of control. I’m reading books by authors whose work I adore and treating the reading as a task, rather than a pleasure.

I love reading and have tremendous respect for the amazing authors who create the characters and worlds that we as readers want to keep visiting. But, I can’t help but feel as though I’m doing them a disservice by allowing my reading focus to become so fractured.

The solution? Get my books, both physical and digital organized in such a way that my reading ADD becomes more difficult to feed. Instead of opening one of my Kindles and seeing hundreds of choices. Open it and see three. One non-fiction, one book that I’m reading as interview prep, and one book that I’m reading purely for pleasure.

The easiest way of doing this would be to use some kind of web app from Amazon (my e-reader of choice) to organize all of my digital books, across various Kindles. But, to the best of my knowledge there is no such app. It’s possible to organize collections of books on your Kindles, but those collections are device specific. I use both a Kindle Fire and a Kindle Paperwhite, so that isn’t a good long term solution for me.

I’ve read about people who’ve successfully used the Goodreads To Be Read list to organize this kind of reading, but that too requires manually entering your books and organizing them.

Amazon already has all of my E-Books in their database. Why the heck can’t I use that database to organize books on the different devices? Come on Amazon. Making it easier to read across multiple devices is one of your strengths. Why not expand that to making it easier to organize over multiple devices?

I’m going to try using Goodreads to organize my reading for now, but I sure would like a less manual solution. If anybody knows of one will you please let me know?

Creative Commons Image by Kristin Nador

Shamus Awards to be Presented this September

shamus winners bannerThe Shamus Awards are presented annually by the Private Eye Writers of America to recognize outstanding achievements in Private Eye fiction.  This years winners will be presented at the PWA banquet on September 20, 2013, in Albany, New York, at the annual mystery conference called Bouchercon.

The finalists for each of the awards were announced in July, but since this site didn’t exist then I’m posting them now.  Chuck Greaves, the author of Best First P.I. Novel nominee for Hush Money, will be a guest on Murders, Mysteries and Mayhem in October.


  • Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby by Ace Atkins *
  • Taken by Robert Crais *
  • Hunting Sweetie Rose by Jack Fredrickson
  • Blues in the Night by Dick Lochte
  • The Other Woman by Hank Phillippi Ryan *


  • Hush Money by Chuck Greaves *
  • Murder Unscripted by Clive Rosengren
  • Black Fridays by Michael Sears
  • Racing the Devil by Jaden Terrell
  • The Twenty-Year Death by Ariel S. Winter


  • Death Warmed Over by Kevin J. Anderson
  • And She Was by Alison Gaylin
  • Archie Meets Nero Wolfe by Robert Goldsborough *
  • False Negative by Joseph Koenig
  • Pulse by John Lutz


  • “The Sequel” by Jeffrey Deaver in The Strand
  • “After Cana” by Terence Faherty in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine
  • “O’Nelligan and the Lost Fates” by Michael Nethercott in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine
  • “Illegitimati Non Carborundum” by Stephen D. Rogers in Crimespree
  • “Ghost Negligence” by John Shepphird in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine


  • Stranger in Town by Cheryl Bradshaw *
  • Enamorted by O’Neil De Noux
  • One-Eyed Jack by Christopher J. Lynch
  • White Heat by Paul Marks
  • Devil May Care by James Mullaney

* Books I’ve read at the time of this posting.

Portable Magic – Do you remember where you were when you read that book you loved?

“Books are uniquely portable magic.”  So said Stephen King in his classic book on the craft of writing,  On Writing.  If you’re a reader, you know just how true it is.

Summer 2012 002 (2)The book, whether physical or electronic, can be taken anywhere, but the magic remains.

I’ve read thousands of books, and I often forget titles, and even authors, but I find that I often remember where I read them.

I was sitting on a bench on a beautiful fall afternoon the day I began John D. McDonald’s One Fearful Yellow Eye, the eighth book in the Travis McGee series.  I remember that day, and the excitement I felt reading the book, as though it were yesterday.  Of course, as soon as I finished the book, I went to the local bookstore to buy books one through seven in the series.

I was on vacation in Las Vegas, at the Bellagio Hotel, and I’d finished every book I’d packed for the trip. So, like any self respecting reader I went into the bookstore, browsed through their modest selection and found a futuristic crime thriller by someone named J.D. Robb.  I took that book, Origin in Death, to the pool, and fell right into the story of a New York City police detective that took place 45 years in the future.  I’d never read anything like it before.

I’ll admit to being mortified when I found out the book what actually written by the amazingly prolific romance writer, Nora Roberts, but by that time I didn’t care.  I was hooked on the series.

I was about 40 miles north of Fort Lauderdale, on a small island, resting up for a long bike ride when I opened my first Elmore Leonard novel.  It was Get Shorty.  I read the first half next to the pool on one day and the second next to the Atlantic, the next.

I’d read every Nero Wolfe story I could get my hands on by the early 1990s when I learned that another author, Robert Goldsborough, had continued the Wolfe series, with novels of his own.  I was able to get one of his books, I believe it was The Bloodied Ivy, at a local book store, while I was spending time with my retired parent in their Airstream travel trailer.   I read that entire book, which stayed fairly close to the way I remembered Nero and Archie, in the small living room of that travel trailer.

I was Camp LeJeune in Jacksonville, North Carolina a few years ago.  My wife and I were there to see our son, who’s  Marine, off on his first deployment to Afganistan.  I’d taken a couple of non-fiction books with me, but there were some delays, and I finished them and needed something new.  The last thing I wanted to read at that time was a pulse pounding, hard core thriller where I’d feel a sense of fear for the protagonist.  We already had enough of that in real life with this deployment.   I wanted a light, funny mystery.  I drove off  base to the local Barnes and Noble and found Wanna Get Lucky, by Deborah Coonts sitting on the front display  I bought it, and spent every spare minute in the world the author created until we left for home.  Ms. Coonts and Lucky O’Toole have been on my must buy since that day.

Through the years, the overwhelming majority of my reading has taken place inside my home, wherever that may have been.  But it’s comforting to know that the magic of reading is portable, it goes wherever you choose to take it.

Photo by David Jace