H/T for the title to James Cagney in White Heat.
Note: for background on methods, start reading this thread on Amazon sales data with Scraping the Gorilla – Picking data off of Amazon
Amazon publishes a list of the top 100 authors, which is updated daily – mostly. I did a running sample of this list for a few weeks to get a feel for how that list changes, and with a little sampling of individual authors, perhaps to learn how that list is constructed.
First, let’s look at how that list churns. In the below graph (I apologize for the clutter) we see those authors who have appeared in the top 20 at some point during the 24 days of the sample. You can see a bigger, and possibly more legible, version by clicking on it.
Note the pause in updates during 6/8 and 6/9, a weekend. From this I might speculate that the list is manually updated rather than based on an automatic algorithm, and whomever was responsible was off. In the legend they are ordered by the number of days they were in the top 20.
While the top authors plug along well, we can see many authors quickly climb from lower in the list, and almost as quickly descend. I presume this is the result of a sudden and temporary increase in sales. This was not practical for me to verify retroactively – I can evaluate present sales but not past sales unless I were to catalog the rank daily of every one of the thousands of books belonging to all the author in the top 100 list. This would be impolite to Amazon.
Note: start reading this thread on Amazon sales data with Scraping the Gorilla – Picking data off of Amazon
UPDATE: The below data is a bit cleaner than the previous data published earlier. This time I was able to collect all best seller lists and the associated 30,000 book pages in a single 24 hour period (6/19-6/20), eliminating most of the motion blur.
Amazon has around 460 fiction categories on five menu levels. The “Level 1” categories I am considering are:
| Science Fiction & Fantasy
| Literature & Fiction
| Mystery, Thriller & Suspense
| Teen & Young Adult
Below these are Levels 2, 3, and sometimes 4 and even Level 5 (Amish Romance, for example, which has less than 100 titles). On Amazon all roads lead to Rome so within Literature & Fiction is a category of Genre Fiction which somewhat duplicates the other four Level 1 categories. I will focus initially on the Level 1 genres above.
The first question that came to mind was, “What genre sells the most?” Unfortunately I cannot answer that, other than looking at the top 100 in each genre. That’s a start.
Note: See previous posts for caveats and background on how I arrived at these numbers.
Clearly Science Fiction and Fantasy is not as popular as I would like, given that it is my genre. Still, 22,000 books sold each day on Amazon is respectable. So how crowded is the field? Here are the title counts in each of the four genres. ( Including Literature & Fiction on this particular graph would have been misleading because it duplicates so many genre titles and includes categories like criticism and poetry.)
Ouch. SF&F, the smallest category in sales has a huge catalog. Good news for Teen & Young Adult writers though, as they have a big chunk of the sales and relatively fewer titles. Now I have a better feel for who the genre players are.