Home » Amazon, Bestsellers » Amazon Titles Dominate Amazon E-book Bestseller List

Amazon Titles Dominate Amazon E-book Bestseller List

30 July 2017

From Publishers Weekly:

The biggest surprise in our annual roundup of bestsellers for the January-June period came on the Amazon Kindle e-book bestsellers list. The sheer number of bestsellers that were published by the e-tailer’s own in-house publishing imprints—fiction and popular nonfiction imprint Lake Union, mystery imprint Thomas & Mercer, literary fiction imprint Little A, and Montlake Romance—was remarkable. Amazon had 12 of its own titles on its e-book list, a stark contrast not only from the BookScan print list but from Amazon’s list for the first half of last year, which saw only a single Lake Union title make the cut, and that in its final slot. (Beneath a Scarlet Sky, a Lake Union title, was #2 this year.)

In response to inquiry, a representative from Amazon denied that anything has changed. “Nothing has changed in the way we count sales,” she wrote in an email. “We haven’t changed how titles are promoted. These titles are priced competitively and participate in new and growing reading programs like Prime Reading and Kindle Unlimited.”

. . . .

Relevant backlist dystopian fiction also had a moment. Both Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and George Orwell’s 1984 were in the BookScan top 20 and on Amazon’s list of Kindle e-book bestsellers, where the Atwood—which was adapted as a critically acclaimed Hulu original television series starring Elizabeth Moss earlier this year—took the top slot overall. (Vance also found his way onto the Amazon list, at #20.)

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Amazon, Bestsellers

33 Comments to “Amazon Titles Dominate Amazon E-book Bestseller List”

  1. In other news, NYTs best seller list strongly disagrees that anything ‘Amazon’ should be on any best seller list … 😛

  2. Mark Williams Int.

    Data Guy described the trend as “unsettling” in the October 2016 Author Earnings Report and the February 2017 AE Report showed no let up.

    It will be interesting to see what the next AE Report shows in this respect.

    Amazon says nothing has changed its end, but Data Guy, in comments here on the Passive Voice in regard to the October Report, had this to say as to why indie sales plummeted through 2016:

    “I think what happened is that the indie share of Amazon sales was getting too ridiculous (closing in on 50% of all Amazon purchases). So Amazon decided to pull some algorithmic merchandising levers behind the scenes (in their nightly marketing emails, for instance) to start pushing traditionally published ebooks at customers more aggressively.”

    • What is the problem here? Amazon are entitled to promote whatever books they want.

      • Yes, Yes, we know that “technically” they can do whatever they wish.

        But don’t put your thumb on the scale and claim ignorance when all your books suddenly climb to the top and expect me to believe it.

        • Have they commented on rankings?

        • I think the growing popularity of the Kindle First program has a lot to do with this. One YA author said she had more than 100,000 downloads during the month leading up to her release in 2016. That’s a substantial starting point.

  3. Amazon certainly pushes it’s own books. I have a favorite author whose first few books were published by 47 North, and they would show up in my recommended list all the time. When he broke away and went pure indie I stopped seeing his name at all unless I deliberately went to see what he was up to.

    I also read anthologies in order to find new authors. I’ve noticed that when I finish a story I like by an unfamiliar author and search out their backlist, they often have many works available and yet none of them have ever shown up in my recommendations, even though are often right in my wheelhouse, so to speak.

    So as time goes by I have come to the conclusion that Amazon’s recommendations aren’t quite as far-reaching as some people might wish they were and definitely not so much as I might like. Discovery is still an issue for me, one that Amazon doesn’t totally meet.

    • Discovery is still an issue for me, one that Amazon doesn’t totally meet.

      It’s likely consumers don’t know what the whole universe of potential recommendations is. As long as they are presented with a number that is sufficient to make a satisfying selection, they are happy.

    • Richard Hershberger

      In fairness to Amazon, their recommendations have always pretty much sucked. There is no need to assume anything nefarious here.

  4. Since Amazon advanced its own imprints over other Indie writers, the later saw their sales drop through the floor. Of course good intentions last as long as there is money to be made. Some Amazon analyst figured out that Amazon imprints, backed by Amazon’s marketing, make more money than from Indie eBooks. A lot of Indie eBooks are free or $0.99, and the sales are meager, not much profit there.
    On the other hand Amazon imprints with $4.99 eBooks can make a decent profit and outsell the Trad-pubs who priced their eBooks at $12.99 or higher.
    Amazon makes a profit only once when it sells a Kindle, but many more times when it sells eBooks. Its like the printer and the ink cartridges. Money comes from ink, or eBooks for Amazon.
    Amazon leveled the playing field once, when it sought to acquired market dominance in eBooks, but now the field is tilted. Although not as bad as it is in the paper book stores.

  5. Amazon launched as a platform for Indie writers, and once it exploited that market, began diversification into the online monster it has become. Now, Amazon leaves the Indie writers in the dust, and forgets whom it was that launched the Amazon online business to begin with.

  6. Felix J. Torres

    Hmm, I dunno.
    I see little hard data, a few anecdotes, and some rushed judgments.

    Absent actual numbers and Data Guy grade analysis, I’m withholding judgment.
    Sure, Amazon might be tilting the field to favor APub titles.

    Here’s a thought experiment:

    1- Amazon says they haven’t changed the rules or changed their promotional efforts. Assume it is true and they are promoting APub titles the same as last year.

    2- If they are indeed doing the same thing as before but doing better against the field, might it not be that it is the field that has changed? Which, btw, is something we *know* has happened: BPH titles are selling less ebooks. By a lot. These are new release titles that come with broad promotional efforts and used to take up a good chunk of top sales slots. Maybe APub titles were hovering just below the threshold of the lists? Remove/reduce the chart-topping BPH titles and their ranking goes up without needing a big boost in sales.

    3- The lost BPH ebook sales are being picked up in varying degrees by Indie, Inc, smaller tradpubs, and APub. From AE reports we know APub is getting a big chunk of them but not all.

    4- The added sales “donated” by the BPHs get spread across both the new releases and the full catalog of the other three camps. APub has the smallest catalog of the three possibilities which means the donated sales get spread across less titles and each one gets a bigger visibility boost, leading to higher sales.

    5- There is a group of consumers that likes low ebook prices but absolytely positively refuses to buy Indie titles. How many are they? Nobody knows but they do exist. They want cheap tradpub titles only. And who has cheap tradpub titles? Apub. And, again, lower BPH sales…

    6- Amazon says they haven’t changed how they promote APub titles but that is not entirely true. They haven’t made qualitative changes to their promos and they might even be doing the same amount of conventional promotion but they have made (unavoidable) quantitative changes in three areas.

    6a- KU is bigger. APub is probably the most prominent tradpub on KU in terms of number of titles.
    6b- They offer a small subset of KU to Prime members under Prime Reading. APub is a big part if Prime Reading.
    6c- They have grown their Prime subscription base. More subscribers, more ebook perks exercised.

    7- kindle First went from offering a choice from four titles to a choice six titles. Theoretically this would spread the prime “sales” over 6 titles and result in lower boosts for the featured titles. (Unless Prime has seen a ridiculous 50% year to year growth.) However…
    7a- In going to six titles a month, Amazon is now offering litfic and contemporary titles along with the more popular genres they have always featured. Prime subscribers that prefer litfic and contemporary that were passing on featured genre titles might now be picking up their Kindle First perk.
    7b- nothing stops Prime subscribers from using their own money to buy Kindle First titles. Faced with having to pick only one title, some choose to pick a second or third. It’s not as if they cost $12 each…

    Now, I’m not saying that any or all of these effects are why APub is growing its presence. I can’t because the scope of each is unknown. They might each be insignificant or enormous. They might cancel out or compound. They are simply known unknowns.

    This is, however, in contrast to the unknown unknowns that are suspected, like Amazon pushing magical levers or tweaking algorithms.

    As I said, barring actual numbers and something resembling a smoking pistol, I’m witholding judgment.

    • One possible explanation is that Amazon imprints have first bite at the apple when a promising indie author comes along. They are going to see the trends in sales that indicate real sales potential, and get an offer out to that author before anyone else sees whats going on. And their offers are likely substantially better than what trad publishers have been putting forth.

      • Felix J. Torres

        Also, they do work with agents.
        So they compete with the other tradpub for dreamers as well as for Indies. And since they don’t put out as many titles they don’t need to pick up a title just to fill a slot in the schedule.
        Sometimes lots of tiny advantages add up to big boosts.

        Or not.

        At this point it’s all speculation, really.

        But all this talk of APub titles getting unfair support is bound to help APub manuscript acquisitions.

    • Good detail on your analysis, Felix.

    • Well Felix, since 2016 as my ebook sales plunged all over sudden, and many other writers agree in this blog, it is not speculation or anecdotal. Maybe Godamazon is punishing me, but I don’t think so. I’m not relying on Data Guy’s numbers. I have my own and it hasn’t been cheery for over a year now. I’m a big boy and Amazon doesn’t owe me anything, but being aware how the playing field has tilted is just good knowledge to have in the eBook business.
      Something drastic happened, and Amazon imprints seem to be the most likely culprit, unless the Russians did something.

      • Nobody is denying that APub is the biggest (but not only) beneficiary of what changed.
        But culprit?

        Sorry, but that requires some sort of direct proof.

        Correlation is not causation.

    • I would suggest that most readers don’t really know or care about whether a book is indie or trad pub. If two books are side by side and appear to have the same level of quality in terms of a professional cover and well-written blurb, they most likely don’t care if the story is equally good. They know authors and they know price points, if that matters to them. They don’t know publishers.

      The issue comes down to whether that equally well-written and presented indie book is put in front of the same number of readers as the imprint or trad published book.

      If not, indie books won’t be seen and chosen and we really can’t say anything about what readers prefer.

      People can only choose to read from among the options they are given. If Amazon pushes its own imprints or trad pub, and neglects indie books in its internal promotions or algorithms, readers don’t really have a full choice. They have a choice, but it’s limited. We can only say limited things about that choice as a result.

      I polled my readers about what publishers they like. Almost to a reader, they said one of Amazon, Barnes & Noble or iBooks. No one said Random House. Or Penguin. Or Harlequin.

      They don’t know publishers. They don’t know trad pub vs indie — unless they are authors or in the biz.

      They know authors and they know retailers.

  7. Isn’t including Kindle First, KU, and Prime Reading in “sales” kind of misleading?

    • Probably no more misleading than the method the NYT used for years.

    • Felix J. Torres

      1- They’ve been doing it for years so it’s not a change. Nobody saw it as terribly unfair while APub titles held only a sliver of sales.

      2- Amazon is not a unitary company but rather a federated company. The various units support each other…to a point. Prime pays APub for the books they use as perks. APub pays the Kindle store the standard 30% distribution fee.

      3- The logic of counting KU/PR reads and KF selections as “sales” is that readers in all three services are choosing to spend a limited “currency” on those titles. (It’s like a voucher system.) In KU readers pay out of their subscription funds while Prime pays in the other two cases. Actual money changes hands. Again, few griped when Indies were getting the biggest benefit.

      4- In earlier times, free books also counted so it’s not like Amazon is extending the definition of sales. They’ve actually reduced it.

      Amazon’s approach has always been to count reader choices. Readers choose to buy or bypass.
      They pay with curency, Prime “vouchers”, or reading time. The current guideline seems to be that if reader choice triggers a payout somewhere, it counts as a sale for the rankings. (This ranking boost is a non-currency parf of the KU publisher payout.)

      Reasonable people can object to this reader-focused approach and some have. But it hasn’t been a big issue for the last nine years. Consumers certainly don’t mind as the system reflects the choices they and their peers make which is what they want out of a reporting system.

      It is certainly consistent with Amazon’s stated policies of favoring consumer interests over supplier interests.

      • @ Felix J. Torres

        Stop that! Stop that at once!

        How the heck are these people going to get a good old ‘Amazon must be doing wrong’ rant in if you keep going and pointing out the simple facts?

        Shame on you! 😉

  8. Hats off to Amazon they’ve played their hand well. They are profiting off every link in the chain.

    First they take a cut of each book the self pubs sell. Then they’ll help you advertise for a few pennies here and there. Finally they’ll edit your book for you in return for a modest fee.

    Let’s not forget the easily scammable KU of course or rigging the charts just a bit in favor of their stable of in-house authors through 47North et al. I’ve seen a few books dropped from categories and an in-house author just happened to move up in rank as a result.

    Seems like we’re taking more and more of the risk and getting less and less in return. Wasn’t the whole draw of self publishing to get rid of gatekeepers?

  9. Amazon promotes its own books above those of any other publisher, and visibility is what sells books.

  10. I’m an APub author, and I am an extremely little fish in that very massive pond. I am prone to think, from what experience and interactions that I have, is that APub is looking for the bestselling authors (both indie and trad) and are courting them into contracts. So it’s not necessarily that they’re getting extra promotions, but rather by bringing the biggest names in each genre into the fold, those are the top sellers. Just my two cents.

    • One more chunk into the fire — Amazon will always show the best sellers sooner than less sellers. The problem then becomes: Do the best authors rise to the top, or the best promoters? I believe that says more about what happens at the Amazon label self-promoting its authors end.

      It’s a digital monster choosing who wins/sells, not a human editor. Should that change ?? Maybe not, as then we get back into the same game before – gatekeepers.

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