What is Amazon eBook Category Rank ?

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As a follow-up on my previous post about Amazon Best Sellers Rank, I thought it would be useful to explain in detail the functioning of the category ranking(s) for eBooks on Amazon.

When you have published your book and you haven’t made a sale yet, you will see something like this under your book.

category sales 1

After the first sale, you will see something like this.

category sales 2

And a while later, you may see some additional lines come up, like this:

category sales 3

These numbers (20, 60, 65) are the individual category rankings.

ALL categories and subcategories have their own ranking list. From N°1 to N°X in which X is the lowest ranked book. Ratings in a category will only be displayed if they are in the top 100.

So if your book is rated on N° 120 in a category, you will not see a line like that under your book, because it is not yet in the top 100.

This also explains why sometimes you will see such a line, and the next day it’s gone. This means that you’ve went from into the top 100 to a lower place.

Now what is the meaning of the following?

#20 Reference > Kindle eBooks, Writing, Research & Publishing > Editing

This is the Main category “Reference” in which there is a subcategory “Writing…” in which there is a subcategory “Editing”. (I left out the Kindle Store > Kindle eBooks part, because that just means the top category of the Kindle eBooks store under which ALL eBooks are organized).

Any book starts in the lowest category where it was submitted. In this example Editing. After a while the book gets into the top 100 in that category. And let’s say that it gets to number 20.

One level higher up, the category “Writing, Research & Publishing Guides” has its own ranking in which are listed ALL books in ALL categories that are listed under that category. One of them being “Editing”.

Now on a certain moment the book is going to enter also that top 100. For example on N°50. This number is of course always higher (=lower ranking) than the category below it.

In a similar way, after a while, when it gets high enough up in the category “Writing, Research & Publishing Guides”, it will enter the top 100 in the category one level up. The category “Reference”. And let’s say that it ends up there on N°80.

And finally, when the book really explodes, it gets into the top 100 of the next level up “Kindle eBooks”. But let’s say that that is not the case yet for this book and it is on N° 300 in that highest category.

So we have:

Editing: rank 20
Writing, Research and Publishing: rank 50
Reference: rank 80
Kindle eBooks: rank 300.

This will end up on Amazon as a rank 20, as shown in the image above.

In other words, the rank within a category that is displayed is always the rank that the book has in the lowest category that is shown.

How can you find out the rank of that book on the other, higher level categories? The only way is to click on that category and see where the book ranks. If you don’t see it in the top 100, it means that its rank is lower than 100.

After a while, and if the book sells, it will get to N°1 in the lowest category “Editing”. At that moment, the same line on Amazon will show:

#1 Kindle eBooks>Reference>Writing, Research & Publishing>Editing

And it will remain like that. Because when the book climbs up in the higher categories, it still will be shown as the line above. Until it reaches the N° 1 position in the category one level higher. So in this example, when the book hits N°1 in Writing, Research & Publishing, it will be reported by Amazon as

#1 Kindle eBooks>Reference>Writing, Research & Publishing

This is of course a bit of marketing from Amazons’ side. Because it just shows better to display

#1 Kindle eBooks>Reference>Writing, Research & Publishing>Editing

rather than

#50 Kindle eBooks>Reference>Writing, Research & Publishing

The second line in the example

category sales 3

is exactly the same reasoning, but in a completely different main category and subcategory with its own rankings. So, this book is on N°60 in the lowest category “Business Writing”. I cannot tell from this line how it scores in the higher level categories (Skills etc.)

Finally the 3rd line is the rating in the Kindle Book Store. This book store doesn’t have the same categories as the Kindle eBook store. It contains all eBooks AND the hard-copy books.

Note that all these ranking figures may change, even if the book doesn’t sell a single copy for a while. Normally, its ranking will go down, because the other books will sell. But if this book sells one copy and competing books in the same category sell more, the ranking of this book will go down.

In the same way, if this book sells some copies and the competition also, the ranking may not change for this book, despite its sales.

Finally, these figures are calculated on sales made over a certain period. So suppose that this book has recently made 4 sales and the book just above 5 sales. But the last sale of the higher ranked book was a couple of days or weeks ago. When the reporting window slides more forward in time, the book just above will “lose” a sale, in the reporting window. So its ranking will drop and the ranking of the book just beneath it will improve. Even without selling one copy.

To resume, the category ranking will not show you how many sales it made, but how its sales perform, compared to the others.

Free downloads are completely separated from paid downloads. So, you should imagine two completely different stores. One with paid books and the other one with free books. Free books have their own rankings. These rankings show up when you browse the free eBook store. Everything you see concerning a book under the “Amazon best sellers rank” on Amazon, concerns only real sales. No free downloads.

If you want more explanations on Amazon categories, keywords and how to market your book to make more sales, have a look at my book  “How to Make Money with eBooks. The Best Collection of Marketing Tactics to Boost Your Sales”.

Keep writing!


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