How To Make Your Book A Chart Topper

Have you ever wondered how those lucky authors get into the top one hundred on Amazon and yearn to join them? If only you could get a break, your book would break free from the pack and become a best-seller.

Just how many sales do you need to rise in the charts? 2,000? 200? Using Novelrank, I discovered that even two or three sales seemed to get my books to move quite significantly up the charts – admittedly, it was still lurking about in the thousands—however, I had a theory that might ensure it a place in the hundreds.

I asked my few of my real-life friends (all three of them) and the IU team to help me (they are real too, apparently.) I sent each of them an Amazon gift card for a copy of the book, and explained what I was doing.

The volunteers were asked to download the book on Monday June 10th. I chose the day in the hope that there would be fewer sales on a Monday, thus giving my book more of a chance to take off. I expected to make twenty ‘fake’ sales for both the Amazon UK and US sites that day—not enough to make my book number one in the Amazon best-sellers, but sufficient to see what would happen if a certain number of people downloaded a book on the same day.

The day didn’t start as I hoped. One enthusiastic volunteer had bought the book the night before, so my ranking was higher than it had been on June 8th. Thanks to that one sale How Not To Murder Your Grumpy began the day at #63,187 on the US chart and #7,048 on the UK chart.

I monitored the book’s progress every hour, making a note of sales and positions. The book fell back a thousand places in the first hour of monitoring the UK site, but rose to #23,220 on the US site, even though it was night there and my IU friends were tucked up in their beds. There were no sales there, so I guess it moved in response to the aforementioned purchase.

The next four hours saw only minor movement. Two people bought the book and emailed me when they had done so. Two further sales in the next hour, and the book had almost regained the thousand places it had lost earlier, and now sat at #6181 in the UK charts.

It hung around at #43,849 in the US charts. With no further sales taking place in the States, it began to drop.

After midday, it hung around #3661 for four hours on the UK charts. The morning sales had begun to trickle through and were affecting the movements.

It dropped to #51,911 on the US charts, waiting for the early risers to purchase it.

Late afternoon, it all began to get exciting. Grumpy began to jump up the charts, moving a thousand places at a time, and rising to #857 UK by evening. It made greater leaps in the US, even though there were fewer sales than in the UK, and hit #28,424.

When four people in the US downloaded it the same hour that evening, it made a mighty leap up from #17,233 to #9,299.

By the early hours of the following morning, the book had reached #7,645 in the US and was #2 in the category ‘aging’.

The UK results were even more pleasing. By morning, it had reached #649 and #1 in ‘aging’. That wasn’t the end of the experiment. Driven by its #1 position, the book continued to attract sales (another nine copies sold) the following day in the UK, rising further, to reach #1 in three categories.

In the United States, it reached a plateau, and then gradually began to descend. It took five days to sink back to its original position.

Only eleven of my twenty gift cards were used in the US and eighteen in the UK. However, those sales made my book rise 55,542 places on Amazon US and 3,786 places on Amazon UK.

It seems the lower down the charts your book is, the more impact those few sales will have on driving it upwards. I guessed that would be the case, and that continues to be my theory.

What have I gleaned from this? If you want to give your book the best possible start, then you can propel it into the limelight by getting friends and family to buy it on the same day, at a similar time. You don’t need to make huge sales to achieve best-seller status, but if you want that fabulous #1 best-seller spot in the top 100 chart you will need considerable sales.

I am none the wiser as to the exact criteria Amazon employs to work out positions, but if you get a few sales, your book will go into the ‘Movers and Shakers’ chart on Amazon which will attract interest. If that results in a few more sales, your book will go higher up the charts. If you get a #1 status in one of your categories, that too should result in some more sales.

The upshot is, if you have enough friends to help you, you can get into the charts and you can earn a best-seller sticker for a while. As for maintaining that status, that, my friends, is undoubtedly up to marketing, continued sales and Lady Luck smiling down on you. However, you will for a while, bask in the same glory that other writers enjoy, and be able to say you are a best-selling author.

Author: Carol Wyer

Carol E Wyer is a Contributing Author for Indies Unlimited and an award-winning and best-selling author of humorous novels including MINI SKIRTS AND LAUGHTER LINES, SURFING IN STILETTOS, and HOW NOT TO MURDER YOUR GRUMPY. Carol has been featured on NBC News, BBC Radio, and in The Huffington Post. For more about Carol, go to her website or her Amazon author page.

33 thoughts on “How To Make Your Book A Chart Topper”

  1. It *is* an eye-opener, Carol. Congrats on improving your reach!

    If you haven’t already seen it, you might like to sample David Gaughran’s book “Let’s Get Visible”. I’m reading it bit-by-bit and he’s just been talking about Sales Ranking, BestSeller Lists, etc., and how to have the greatest impact on them. I sampled it after seeing Joanna Penn (“The Creative Penn”) recommend it on Goodreads.

    Here’s to your ongoing success! 🙂

    1. Thank you very much, Joanna. I have heard many good things about David’s book and it is on my TBR pile. I also follow The Creative Penn who I think is a superb blogger. I’ll move that book up my pile now. Always looking for new ways to promote 😉

      1. I just finished “Let’s Get Visible,” and I’m now incorporating a lot of his info into my upcoming book launch. Nice to see exactly how the numbers worked for you, hour by hour. Good job, Carol!

  2. When my rockstar book was released early in the year on day one of release it lingered in the overall top 200 paid sales for 48 hours at and I had between 300-500 sales per day while it was in that position.

    1. Well done on all those sales JoJo. It’s weird isn’t it how different categories require different number of sales. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to quite fathom it all out.

  3. Thanks, Carol. This is very encouraging news, and I plan to use the plan myself. How would you use this trick if you were me trying to promote my YA trilogy? For the first book Time and Again (the least of the three) or the third book Every Hill and Mountain (the best)?

    Thanks, Joanna, too. I’m going to check out “Let’s Get Visible.”

    1. Hi Deborah, I am no expert on this as the third in my trilogy of Amanda Wilson novels is not out until next year. However, I intend making one of my trilogy a free book, ahead of launch of the last one, in an attempt to gain new readers. With you having all three out, it might be an idea to promote the best one so readers who enjoy it will come back and purchase the following two. If anyone here has had experience of trilogies could they leave Deborah a comment here please? Hope that is sound enough advice. Feel free to email me and I’ll try to give a more detailed response.

  4. “I monitored the book’s progress every hour, making a note of sales and positions. The book fell back a thousand places in the first hour of monitoring the UK site, but rose to #23,220 on the US site, even though it was night there and my IU friends were tucked up in their beds. There were no sales there, so I guess it moved in response to the aforementioned purchase.”

    This is interesting, I had always assumed that the two sites were completely independent in terms of sales and ranking. I’m in the US and sales in the UK don’t seem to improve my US numbers at all.

    I’m also reading “Let’s Get Visible” – it has some interesting ideas but I can’t help feeling that if everyone starts using the same tactics then unless you get in at the beginning you could (as they say) be flogging a dead horse. At one time every one used to sing the praises of the ‘free days’ but from what I’ve read the benefits of that has dropped away considerably in terms of providing post-free sales.

    Thanks for doing the experiment and sharing it with us.

    1. I always like to test out possibilities for authors and am very interested in how Amazon rankings work but you are absolutely right. If we all do it….

  5. Be very careful with this. I can’t find it, but I distinctly remember reading an article a few months ago about authors getting into trouble by gaming their rankings with gifts. It’s one thing to ask all your friends to buy a copy of your book at about the same time on a particular day — that’s kosher enough — but don’t gift them and ask them to redeem the gifts on the same day. Amazon can notice it and shut you down.

    1. Really, gosh Christie, I am really grateful you have said this. I had no idea. So many authors give free books away. Right, I shall have to put another post warning people not to ask people to redeem on same day. I asked a very small number of people and as it happened only had a few people download on the same day. I shall highlight your comment on my FB page. Thanks again.

    2. That answers the question I was going to ask – would this still work if you gifted the book directly onto friends’ Kindles? The answer is, not if Amazon catches you. What Carole did – sending a gift card, which could theoretically be used to purchase anything, and asking that they use it on her book, might fly under the radar.

      1. Yes, I think it might be an idea to tread carefully as suggested by christie’s comment. Don’t want people being blocked thanks to my post!

  6. yeah, its a neat ‘trick’ if you can get or have enough people to do this. One of the replies was correct about amazon getting upset over the ‘gifting’ thing. the best way to handle that is to simply offer to reemburse your friends if you want to go the gifting route.

  7. Amazon crankiness aside…this is a great post, Carol, and it’s very interesting to see how only a few sales can lift a book out of the 5- or 6-digit cellar into 3-digit territory. That confirms what I’ve been seeing over the past few weeks with the latest experiments with my series.

    1. Thanks very much, Lynne. Yes, I was curious to know what sales you needed and was very intereseted in the results. It was definitely a worthwhile experiment but I don’t know how long we’ll be able to use this information to boost our books.

  8. Interesting article. Is NovelRank a program or app? I’m curious as to why one of my books is doing so well, yet fails to even make it close to the top 100. Granted it’s in a massive category (contemporary romance) but there has to be something stimulating folks to buy it (and I only have 1 review). All of us at home are scratching our heads. Would be nice to have some light shed on this.

    1. Novelrank is a website and an app you can use on iPads, iphones etc that tracks your book sales. I wrote a post about it here on Indies.
      My head is raw through scratching…I wish I had the answers.

  9. Well done Carol! I’m going to pinch your strategy in a week or two when I publish my book of short stories. I don’t expect the same phenomenal results but I’ll definitely let you know if The Plan worked. 🙂

  10. Good stuff Carol. I should have done that with my first book (Truth’s Blood) and will certainly do it for the sequel. Thanks for the info!

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