For many authors, checking their Amazon ranking is an addictive daily activity.

For others, it’s a confusing statistic they don’t understand (which is probably why they have time to do things like shower. When you understand it, it can become an obsessive hobby that causes you to forsake all other daily activities).

So here it is, the meaning of your Amazon rank, plain and simple:

Your rank is how many books on Amazon are selling more copies than yours.

Let’s break what this means down a bit.

Your book is ranked 14,000.
This means that there are 14,000 other titles on Amazon that have sold more copies than you.

But is that a good number?
Absolutely. There are a bajillion titles on Amazon and there are more and more listings added every day. If there are only 14,000 titles selling more copies than you, that’s a gold star for you!

How can other books have the same rank as my book?
Because there are ALSO 14,000 more titles selling more copies than it. It isn’t like class rank where there are 300 students and you are ranked 20th in your class because 19 other students have better grades than you. This is where many authors get confused. Amazon calling your position in the “how many titles are selling more than yours” platform a RANK is misleading a bit. I’m guessing they just couldn’t think of a better term (or Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, is just trying to confuse us all and make us write blogs about it).

Why does my rank fluctuate?
To drive you crazy of course! OK, not really. The rank is generated by a system that is constantly calculating it. However, your rank is reported to you by a system that is not constantly updating you with information that is usable. One minute your book rank is 1,000,000 the next 500,000. So it will change and it won’t make much sense.

How do I know what my rank is then?
Try not to be too fanatical about checking your rank. Think of it like you would a diet where you track weight loss: you want to take an average of a few days because the constant fluctuations can give you a misread of the reality.

If my rank jumps by 100,000, does this mean I’ve sold a bunch of books in a spurt?
No. Sorry. What it means is that you maybe sold 2 books and the 50,000 titles you were behind sold none. There are really a supermillion amount of titles on Amazon. Many of those titles don’t sell. Not a copy. So when you just get started, your one book sale can skyrocket your ranking far and away from those duds. Try not to get too excited about the rank. Focus on the amazingness that you sold a book despite all the competition on Amazon!

So, if I can’t really use rank as an indicator, how can I determine success?
Rank is a good thing to watch because it gives you something you can see to help you determine if your marketing efforts are working … over time. What should you really look at? Book sales. You should be selling more books this month than you did last month. And so on and so on so that you are always making progress … even if it just one book at a time!