John Scalzi writes:
Amazon has started ranking authors by total sales via Amazon, updated hourly. This is certain to make a whole bunch of authors begin to freak out as they constantly refresh their Amazon author pages to see where they stand in the rankings, and, independently, give a whole bunch of people who have their own hobby horses about the state of the industry a bunch of ammunition to make proclamations about how the industry is changing in exactly the way they want it to change, so there, ha ha!
So, on this subject, some thoughts for people to consider when they look at these rankings.
Famed and highly successful SF writer John Scalzi critiques the ranking system. Scalzi makes some really good points, but it reminds me a bit of criticisms of the US News law school rankings and scholar citation counts. There's never going to be a perfect ranking system in any field, I suspect.
The critique that seems most pertinent to me is Scalzi's observation that "it helps to promote Kindle-only (or Kindle-majority) writers, many of whom move large numbers of books for free or for reduced cost relative to authors with publisher ties." Now that Amazon has become a major player (the major player?) in the burgeoning self-publishing field, Amazon has incentives to promote its self-publishing clients at the expense of those with regular publishers. The trouble is that Sturgeon's law understates the percentage of self-published titles on Amazon that are pure crap. As a result, we readers now must wade through the slush pile instead of leaving that task to the publishers. Amazon's rankings system won't help us do that (indeed, Amazon has an incentive to structure the ranking system so as to make that job harder).