As a follow-up to a lot of discussion about KDP Select, author David Gaughran has an excellent post on the topic:
For most writers, anonymity is the biggest hurdle they face. The open nature of digital distribution can be a double-edged sword; there are 1.1 million titles in the Kindle Store after all.
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When you publish an e-book on Amazon, for example, your title is eligible for something called the Hot New Releases list.
The HNR list is a function of the Best Seller List, limited to books that have been release in the last 30 days (as well as pre-orders). Like the Best Seller List, readers can drill down by genre and sub-genre.
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Getting on the HNR list (especially the first page or two) is a real driver of sales and should be part of any launch strategy. As it is limited to books released in the last 30 days (and pre-orders), it’s much easier to qualify for than the Best Seller list. Taking the above example, to hit the Best Seller list for Historical Romance, you need a rank of around #2000 (which translated to selling roughly 50 books a day), but to hit the back of the HNR list, you only need a rank of #13,000 or so (roughly 10 books a day).
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Another way that Amazon manage visibility and churn is with the much-misunderstood Popularity list. If you click on that link, you will notice it looks quite similar to the Best Seller list but the order of books is different.
The Best Seller list is ordered by Sales Rank and the only thing that affects ranking is sales (despite popular beliefs to the contrary surrounding reviews, free downloads, price etc.). It’s a weighted average, with more recent sales being given most value, and historical sales counting for very little. It’s supposed to be updated hourly, but there’s often a lag. Sales normally take a few hours to affect your ranking, but, again, that depends on the current glitchiness of the system.
The Popularity list is very different. Ranking is (currently) calculated using a rolling 30-day average of your sales, with no greater weight given to more recent sales. This is a radical difference that rewards consistent sellers over those who spike and fade. Other crucial factors are free downloads (which are worth one tenth of a paid sale), and price (more expensive books are given a greater weighting and 99c books are now actively discriminated against).
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Because of the rolling 30-day average that’s used to calculate the lists, once that sales spike is more than a month old, your book will “cliff” and plummet down the Popularity lists. That decreased visibility leads to less people buying your book, which in turn affects Sales Rank, and pretty quickly your book gets sucked back into the primordial ranking ooze.
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However, for both titles, their time at top is usually short-lived. Even when I’ve been at top of the Best Seller list for my genre, I’ve been nowhere on the respective Popularity list. This is partly because I’m competing against books who have recently been on a free run.
As I explained above, those free downloads are worth one-tenth of a sale on the Popularity list. Every day, books coming off a successful KDP Select free run (i.e. those that garnered thousands of downloads), would appear above me on the Popularity list, pushing me down.
It became pretty clear that without regularly garnering thousands of free downloads myself, the sales potential of my books would be limited – as I wasn’t able to maximize any hard-won visibility.
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When KDP Select was announced, I was dead against it. I objected to the limited-pot model of compensation, and, particularly, the exclusivity requirement. I’m more of a pragmatist than an idealist, and while I’m still against a limited-pot model on principle, in practical terms it has worked out quite well.
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As I gained a greater understanding of the algorithms that feed into things like Sales Rank, Best Seller lists, Hot New Releases lists, and the Popularity lists, it was clear that the best way to maximize my sales would be to enroll in KDP Select – particularly now that sales elsewhere have dried up, and I don’t seem to be able to resuscitate them.
Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital and this is one you’ll want to read all the way through.