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Creating more neurotic authors: Amazon's Author Rank

October 10, 2012|By Carolyn Kellogg
  • A screenshot of Amazon's Author Rank listings.
A screenshot of Amazon's Author Rank listings. (Amazon.com )

As if intending to bring back the emotional scars of not being popular in high school, Amazon has rolled out a beta version of something called Amazon Author Rank. If you are not an Amazon bestseller, you are not going to be in the top. Go on, sit over at the loser table.

There are two sides to the Amazon Author Rank. One is the public-facing one, where the 100 top-selling authors appear. The other is for authors' eyes only -- Amazon provides authors with the ability to see their own sales data in a portal called Author Central. Now the Author Rank has been added to it.

Authors have been crying out in pain on Twitter ever since.

"Thank you, Amazon, for introducing 'Amazon Author Rank'. What a depressing start to the morning that was," tweeted award-winning horror writer Michael Marshall Smith.

Young adult author Maureen Johnson wrote, "'Are you an author? Check out your Amazon Author Rank at Amazon Author Central' Or stick your hand into this woodchipper! CHOOSE NOW"

"Breaking: Amazon proposes digital author rank displays be implanted in foreheads. Lower-rankers have to call high-rankers 'sir,' or 'ma'am,'" wrote Myke Cole, author military fantasies published by Penguin.

Novelist and screenwriter Chuck Wendig joked, "My Amazon Author Rank today is: 'Trembling Wombat.'"

None of those authors are currently sitting with the popular kids in the Top 100. So far, those Top 100 rankings, which are updated every hour, seem to be somewhat fluid. Legendary science fiction author Philip K. Dick, for example, dropped a number of spots Wednesday morning, trading ranks with Todd Burpo and the co-authors of his book "Heaven is For Real."

And it's also imperfect. Wednesday morning, Dr. Seuss appeared to be ranked 56th and 64th simultaneously. Neil Gaiman also held two simultaneous spots, 84th and 88th.

The Author Sales Rank is determined solely by sales of all of an author's books on Amazon. Because this is Amazon, there are some peculiarities. For example, the person holding the first place Amazon Author Rank is not E.L. James (2nd), James Patterson (4th) or J.K. Rowling (11th). It's Sylvia Day.

Sylvia Day is an erotic novelist whose books "Reflected in You" and "Bared to You" have followed E.L. James up the bestseller charts.

By the looks of the list, it seems that the Amazon Author Rank may be based only on recent book sales through the site. Yet that's just a guess; Amazon has not yet replied to our request for further information about the Author Rank feature.

In the meantime, for those authors who are worried about their rank: Just like being popular in high school, it may not mean all that much in the real world.

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Carolyn Kellogg: Join me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+

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