Amazon's ranking system has been the source of much speculation over the years. The ranking is not only based on the number of books sold by the day (or hour), but also takes into account how your book fares against other books in the same category, which Amazon calculates based on a secret algorithm which only clairvoyants, psychics, and 33rd degree Masons have access to. (It is not for "simple folk" to understand the ways of Amazon, which makes them all the more intriguing.)
If you do a Google search on “Amazon ranking” you will find pages of articles written by frantic, OCD rankaholics who have tracked their sales hourly, compared them to their ranking, and graphed them. Dream on! Only those who have enrolled in KDP Select – an Amazon promotional program designed to kill Barnes & Noble once and for all – can actually track sales against ranking. And even those chosen few are not privy to the Ultimate Truth. Ranking changes hourly, but sales reporting may lag by a day.
We can never truly perceive reality...
State Your Name, Rank and Title
But you can get close to it. NovelRank is a free website that allows authors to track their ranking on Amazon.com (US), Amazon.co.uk (England), Amazon.ca (Canada), and Amazon.de (Germany). You can also check a box to include Amazon.fr (France), Amazon.it (Italy), Amazon.co.jp (Japan), Amazon.cn (China) and Amazon.es (Spain). (NovelRank warns you that checking the box may clutter your details page, but, hey, if Pandora didn't care, neither do we!)
And that's not all! You can get RSS feeds to get updates when a book is sold and to view your hourly sales rank. Now you can be obsessed everywhere! You can get graphs!
How to Quantify a Bestseller
In the end, all this watching and waiting pays off! If you never, ever take your eyes off your sales rank, you may become a bestselling author. That's when you have hit pay dirt. StoryFinds knows exactly, uh, almost exactly, how many book sales it takes to enter the ranks of bestsellers. (I have personally checked this chart against my own sales and found it to be accurate.) Here it is:
Bestsellers Rank 40,000 to 100,000 - selling close to 1 book a day.
Bestsellers Rank 8,500 to 40,000 - selling 1 to 10 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 3,000 to 8,500 - selling 10 to 20 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 1,500 to 3,000 - selling 20 to 40 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 1,100 to 1,500 - selling 40 to 50 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 900 to 1,100 – selling 50 to 65 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 750 to 900 - selling 65 to 85 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 350 to 750 - selling 85 to 175 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 200 to 350 - selling 175 to 250 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 100 to 200 - selling 250 to 300 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 80 to 100 – selling 300 to 400 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 70 to 80 – selling 400 to 500 books a day.
Bestsellers Rank 50 to 70 - selling 500 to 650 books a day.
Bestseller Rank of 45 to 50 - selling 650 to 700 books a day.
Bestseller Rank of 30 to 45 - selling 700 to 900 books a day.
Bestseller Rank of 20 to 30 – selling 900 to 1,300 books a day.
Bestseller Rank of 10 to 20 – selling 1,300 to 1,800 books a day.
Bestseller Rank of 3 to 8 - selling about 4,000+ books a day!
Becoming a Bestselling Author on Amazon
If you've looked at your rank and are now depressed because you're not even close to a bestseller, don't despair. Becoming a bestselling author is surprisingly easy. If you join KDP Select and – this is crucial, so pay attention – promote the heck out your book's free days, you can turn your book into a bestseller within a day. Amazon counts free downloads as sales (you won't get royalties, however, because your book is free). When I got 6,000+ downloads in a 24-hour period, my book got the coveted yellow bar. That's an indication of how many you would need, more or less, to get to #1.
Once your book has risen to the rank of bestseller, it will appear on various lists (“top 100,” “top 20”), in relevant categories, which will increase its exposure. There is a caveat, however. Your book won't stay in #1 position for long. But you can use even a brief sojourn in the #1 spot to market yourself as a bestselling author on Amazon when you promote your work. (Make sure to take a screen shot!) Once you've hit the mark (it only takes once), you will almost certainly continue to rise in the ranks.
(If you want to know more about how I made the #1 spot, read Anatomy of An Amazon Bestseller.)