I’m writing this because I think it’s an interesting experience that others might find enlightening. But I’m going to start with a caveat. I have nothing against Raymond E Feist at all. He’s a good guy, and this is entirely beyond his control. What happened is totally down to his publisher and Amazon, so no yelling at Ray, please. Look, here’s he and I on tour together at Supanova a couple of years ago:
(Click on any image in this post for a clearer look.) We had a good time then and I’ve nothing against him now. I greatly admire his body of work. Okay, so with that established, what happened?
Well, last Friday I very nearly hit my first number 1 bestseller spot on an Amazon list with paperback pre-orders of my new short story collection, Served Cold. But it didn’t happen. I stalled out at #2, which is a fantastic result and THANK YOU so much to everyone who kicked in, but you don’t get that sweet Bestseller badge for #2. Now obviously, an Amazon Australia sub-category is not the NYT Bestseller list by long way, but I’m not a big seller. I love my job and I do okay, but I’m no bestseller. I’ve topped a few bookstore charts and things when I’ve had events and signings, but I don’t shift a lot of weight, as they say in publishing. Which means I don’t sell heaps of books. So a bestseller badge on Amazon would mean a lot to me. It would be something I haven’t achieved before and every little step up like that is valuable in a career like this. And it has real value – a book that’s hot, gets hotter. People see a bestseller tag and give a book a go when they might have looked past it before. It gets the book added to bestseller lists that are presented when people search. That’s why such things exist. Building a career in writing is about getting hot and staying hot, otherwise it’s easy to languish and never sell much. So let’s break down what happened on Friday.
Served Cold went up for pre-order at the start of last week. On Friday I saw a sudden spike in the sales rank on Amazon Australia for the paperback pre-order. One of the things I saw was that not only was the book up to #86 in the overall store (a fabulous result already!) but it was at #2 in Horror Anthologies. I got excited, as I was obviously close to one of those #1 bestseller tags. So I put the word out on social media and asked people if they could help. I said that if they were thinking of getting the paperback, pre-ordering that day while the rank was hot might push me over the line to #1 in Horror Anthologies. And thank you so much to every one who jumped in to help – this community is fantastic and I can’t express how much I appreciate you all.
I watched the rank increase. It went up to #57 in the overall store, but still #2 in Horror Anthologies. Come on, I thought. I must be close. Then it got to #36 in the overall store, then #27, then #23. Holy crap! An amazing result. But still #2 in Horror Anthologies:
What’s going on? So I clicked through to see which book was holding me out of that #1 spot. Turns out it was a box set of Raymond E Feist fantasy novels. Holding #1 in Horror Anthologies.
That day I beat out actual horror short story collections by Stephen King and H P Lovecraft (holy shit, right?) but I can’t beat a box set of Feist novels. Here it is, with that orange #1 Bestseller badge that could have helped me out so much:
That badge is what I was after. What I thought I was so close to getting. But remember, I’m not a big seller. Even when I’m doing well, I can’t outsell Ray’s novels, especially with a collection of horror short stories. I especially can’t outsell a boxed set of the complete Serpentwar Saga. But what’s that doing listed as a Horror Anthology anyway? It’s dark in places, sure, but they’re fantasy novels. This highlights something publishers do to raise a book’s profile. Where do you think it’s easier to hit #1? In fantasy novels or horror anthologies? Even under Fantasy Anthologies this same box set is sitting at #8, not #1, because fantasy sells more than horror. Publishers know that. And while it’s a set of four books, it’s not really an anthology. But the publishers know a #1 bestseller tag is valuable, so they list books in sub-categories where competition is lesser, and then they can swiftly outrank the stuff that does actually fit that category. Which is good for them, but bad for the others. Bad for folks like me. Like I said at the top, I bear absolutely no ill-will to Ray Feist. He’s a great author and he sells heaps of books for good reason, and he had nothing to do with where the publisher listed his books. But I do get pissed off with publishers gaming the sub-categories like this, when I could have topped the Australian Amazon store, which would have been a career first for me, but this stopped it. Kinda bites the big one. You get no fancy badge and increased exposure for #2.
Oh well, that’s what happened and that’s the business. It is what it is, right? I topped out at #23 in the overall store, and that’s amazing. So a huge thank you to everyone who stepped up to pre-order their books and give me a shot at this. I appreciate you all so much, and I really hope you love the book. If you do, be sure to tell people, as word of mouth about books is ultimately more valuable than that orange badge I missed out on. Meanwhile, I’ll be over here writing more books. Maybe I’ll get that badge one day. Maybe I’ll sell as many books as Ray Feist one day. I’ll certainly keep trying. Meanwhile, Served Cold is still up for pre-order. It comes out on the 17th of September, so not long to wait.