Friday, July 15, 2011

#9,157,713 with a bullet; Or, the very long tail

Many years ago--the year was 1995 and I believe the kids were all playing with hula hoops and listening to that crazy new rock and roll--I ghostwrote someone else's memoir. It was an "inspirational" book from the point of view of alcoholic who became paralyzed, and then turned his life around and became an wheelchair athlete.

It was put out by a then-new, small publishing house in Texas, owned by some local businessman who promptly decided that publishing was unprofitable and closed up shop. (He was way ahead of the times.) The book was in and out of print in a matter of months.

Periodically, I've taken a look at Amazon's ranking as a lesson in humility. This is what Amazon's page looked like this morning:

You're reading that correctly: #9,157,713.

Did you even realize there were that many books in existence?

Out of curiosity, I decided to buy a used copy (a bargain at 21 cents! plus $3.99 shipping, which isn't quite a bargain) to see what would happen.

Anyone want to take a guess how high it rose in Amazon's rankings?

Go ahead, I'll wait.

OK, here it is:

Yes, #91,068. One copy caused the ranking to jump 9,066,645 other books.

If I buy one more copy, I'm pretty sure it will be #1. (Right?)

UPDATE: In the last 24 hours, the rank has sunk to #308,382. The numbers may be out of date, but this post explains a bit about Amazon's rather arcane ranking methods.

UPDATE UPDATE: Three days later, down to #579,623.


Dave said...

If it weren't for that shipping, I'd help you.

Knatolee said...

What the.... when one copy of our book sells, it doesn't jump that much. Wow! said...

Hey, there's probably only a few copies hanging around because it's out of print, right? So order 5,000 copies. You won't have to pay for more than a few of them, and it'll shoot the book up the charts! said...