However, it’s the “that I know of” part that’s important, here. Since January 1st I personally haven’t sold any copies of my seven books, and Amazon has recorded only two sales as of the 14th. But I have no way of knowing how many may have sold through various websites, including those of my publishers, or online booksellers. I have no idea how many copies of Images of America: Albion and Noble County may have sold at the brick and mortar Barnes and Noble in Fort Wayne, or indeed if they’re still stocking it. I haven’t checked on whether any sold at the several other locations that carry one or more of my books.
So an author shouldn't stress about Amazon rankings: Assuming they’re accurate, they’re only one of many channels through which readers may buy your books.
Still, sometimes it’s not easy to find out how you're doing—even for self-published authors, who have a more direct channel. Some authors believe online sellers don’t accurately report sales … by accident, or on purpose. For those published more traditionally that worry remains, if you’re the untrusting sort. If you’re the trusting sort, the untrusting will say you’re too trusting. That’s probably true.
What about traditional publishing? How many copies of my latest book were moved by Arcadia Publishing, for instance?
Arcadia did an initial print run of 1,200 copies of Images of America: Albion and Noble County. I can count up how many I moved at various signings, and how many local retailers sold, but the publisher’s total numbers are something else. You see, most publishers give a quarterly royalty statement, but it’s delayed a quarter—much like not getting your first paycheck on a new job right away. My book came out in August: If the end of that quarter was September. I won’t get my first royalty statement (and payment) until after they’ve done their number crunching at the end of the quarter after that. That means my sales numbers could come in any time now … or, if they wait for full quarters, not until around mid-April. And who knows? I might only earn a quarter.
With self-published works that all comes a bit sooner, of course. Still, there are three big lessons to learn from this:
1. In all aspects of the writing and publishing biz, patience is a virtue.
2. Assuming you ever get rich, expect your riches to be delayed.
3. Don’t stress out over Amazon rankings.
I should probably write that last one down and tape it to my computer monitor.