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Crack Cocaine for Authors

Regular amazon.com customers may have visited that site hundreds of times without ever noticing one small statistic buried among esoteric data like a book’s dimensions or its ISBN. The magic number I’m refering to is called the amazon sales rank, a numeric value recalculated every hour to reflect how a book’s sales compare to the millions of others currently listed on amazon. And while READERS may not be aware of the amazon ranking, ask any author about it, and they will know exactly what you mean. Because as an author, when your book is on the rise, that number can become hypnotic, almost addictive. So much so that a senior executive at one of America’s largest publishers once called it “crack cocaine for authors,” since it is tempting to get a little obsessive, checking in every couple of hours to see if your stats are rising or falling.

To understand why the amazon ranking has such allure, you have to understand how starved authors are for information about how their book is doing. Typically, they get sales data quarterly, with about a 60-day lag, so if you want to know how your book is selling on, say, October 18th, you have to wait until sometime next February to find out. But amazon will actually tell you today. Right NOW, in fact.

And although I am not completely seduced by the amazon sales ranking for my new book, I confess that I have been hearing its siren song for the past few days.

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