Yesterday I received an email from Amazon. It started:
Are you looking for something in our Mystery, Thriller & Suspense books department? If so, you might be interested in these items.
The initially amusing thing is that the first book in the list was The 8th Doll by Chris Rakunas, a book we published last month. I say initially amusing because they were basically asking me to purchase a book I published, but in the end it has turned out to be a lot more interesting. I forwarded the email to Chris, who replied that he had received the same email and had chalked it up to how often he has checked the Amazon ranking of his book.
This morning I noticed something pretty interesting. The Amazon ranking for the paperback version of The 8th Doll had dropped by over 700,000 (from a little over 1,000,000 to a little over 300,000), while the Kindle ranking had dropped by about 250,000 (meaning a lot more copies sold over the past 24 hours than on average). I also noticed that most of the other books in the email were in the “Customers who viewed this book also viewed” list on The 8th Doll’s Amazon page, and that both of Chris’s book were on some of their pages. So clearly the email had resulted in customers viewing most of the books in the list and, in our case, an increase in sales.
I called Amazon customer support, eager to find out why our book had made this esteemed list that had obviously resulted in sales. Was some Gnome who feasted on dragon’s hearts secretly reading these books in the bowels of some building in Seattle? As a small publisher, this seemed like important information to know – mostly so I could help our other authors achieve this same visibility. The woman in support initially had no idea what I was talking about or that emails even went out, but none-the-less was very courteous and eventually found the answer. After a lot of research by Amazon customer support, the answer is far less exciting than anything to do with Gnomes:
- Amazon tracks every time you look at a book page, whether you purchase the book or not. Thus, because Chris and I had looked at his page several times, we ended up on the Thriller/Suspense email list.
- The books selected for the list are selected completely at random by a computer. In fact, the best customer support could find out was that the list is not even tailored based on an individual’s viewing habits, and the same list is sent to everyone.
So the short answer is that Chris apparently hit the “Amazon Lottery,” where out of over 10 million-plus balls his came randomly shooting out of the machine. But this has also shown me something about the importance of the “Customers who viewed” lists on Amazon, in that Chris’s book now also appears on all of their pages, just like their books appear on his page. It will be interesting to see if this helps sales in the long run.