5 Secrets Authors Need to Know About Amazon’s Book Sale Algorithms

Self-publishing is a huge undertaking. Understanding how book sales platforms work is critical, and because Amazon sells more books than any other platform, understanding how Amazon works is critical. Here are five things every author needs to know about the company.
1. Free does not count the same as a sale. When you give your book away for free on Amazon, the algorithms count it differently than an actual sale. This means your book will need many more free downloads to rise in the rankings and most of Amazon’s lists.
2. If you have set up your book on any platform other than Amazon’s, you will not be able to directly control the price of the book. You set the retail price only. Amazon decides when to discount it and how much of a discount to offer.
3. After a sale or giveaway that includes many distributors, track your book’s price on Amazon. They often do not restore the original price right away, leaving your book at a sale price for longer periods than you’d planned. Note, too, that they have the ability to leave it at that sale price, including free, forever.
4. If you have a short-term sale that shoots your book up Amazon’s rankings, you will see a very sharp drop-off after the sale. Be prepared for this to happen and continue your marketing efforts over time.
5. Multiple sales spikes, even small ones, are given more weight than single-day or week-long spikes. For best results, spread your efforts out over time. Each smaller sales spike will benefit your book more in the long term than one short, exponential spike.

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3 thoughts on “5 Secrets Authors Need to Know About Amazon’s Book Sale Algorithms

  1. Kylie Betzner

    So when you publish on Amazon do you start the book at sale price or the price you want to sell it for?

    And do you mean the other sites set the sale price and duration of sale or does Amazon?

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  2. Laine Cunningham Post author

    Always start at the retail price. Then you can use various methods to either change the price via Amazon or force Amazon to change the sale price through their price-match guarantee.
    If you use other platforms (like Book Baby) to publish and distribute the book, you can control the price by setting the retail and offering sales through the publishing platform. However, Amazon’s contracts always give it the opportunity to put your book on sale without your approval. This is the same for any bookseller, so it’s not a bad thing.
    The problem comes in when you have ended a sale, pushed the new price out, and Amazon decides not to return to the original price. Additionally, they can (and often do) leave books on sale for much longer than other sites. They also discount according to their internal measures, so even if you never run a sale, your book might always be discounted there. Not a problem unless Amazon discounts your book for more than your sale price, or if you want to push sales through a different channel to capture a larger percentage of the price readers pay, capture email addresses, or for other reasons.

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