With the publication of my first story, The Masq, my meteoric rise to the top has been nothing if not educational. Well, maybe that’s all it’s been.

Bestseller lists have received their fair share of criticism, and I’ve now seen firsthand how these Amazon Best Seller lists are ripe for abuse. They open the door for clickbait titles (like the one for this post), misleading book descriptions, and disingenuous author bios.

I’m not a bestseller. Maybe technically, but not really.

There are a number of variables at play, and they all impact Amazon’s bestseller lists.

Time

Whereas something like The New York Times bestseller lists aggregate weekly sales data from thousands of brick and mortar and online stores, Amazon updates their rankings hourly—from a single sales channel. This allows for “snapshot best sellers”, like when I sat at #1 for a couple hours. This was during the second day of my sale. It simply means for a very brief time (not enough to watch a single installment of The Lord of the Rings), more people bought my story than any other in the category.

Categories: Paid vs. Free

Amazon divides best seller lists into two main categories: Paid and Free. Obviously, as I was doing a two-day promotion giving the story away, it was in the Free column. But it was still listed as a bestseller. Seriously though, should it really be considered a best seller if you’re giving it away?

(The answer is no.)

More Categories: Genre

It’s common practice for bestseller lists to focus on genres. In their print edition, The New York Times has eight bestseller lists according to genre and format (hardcover, paperback, etc.). It has another six lists online. Amazon has 24 genre lists. When combined with Paid vs. Free, that makes 48 lists. That’s 48 potential new bestsellers every hour of the day, seven days a week.

Bestseller lists have always been an area of contention and criticism. Depending on the source, the can be more about marketing than actual sales.

Even that holiest of grails, The New York Times (which is not without its own controversies), has admitted it is not only possible, but rather common practice, for authors and publishers to game their system.

Strategic bulk or other purchases made by an author or an entity working on behalf of an author with the intention of skewing the lists happen with frequency.

It’s not only disingenuous, but patently absurd, for me to claim to have had a bestseller. Even though, Amazon would tend to disagree.

 

As mentioned in the previous post, I’ve decided to start selling stories on Amazon.

Amazon has an interesting system in place. They’ll pay 70% if you price your book between $2.99 and $9.99, but everything priced outside those parameters will only reel in 35%.

Looking at other short fiction pricing on the site, and as my first story is only 7,400 words, I’ve priced it at $1.99.

I’ve also enrolled it in KDP Select, which means anyone with Kindle Unlimited can read it for free. (They offer a 30-day free trial when signing up.)

The first story is The Masq and what follows is the blurb I wrote for it. Did I compare myself to three of the greatest speculative storytellers in history? No, of course not. I simply mentioned them out of respect.

“How many photos are you in?” Francis Tipple asks his audience.

“Suddenly you’re a meme. Famous overnight, for all the wrong reasons, and you are forever digitally enshrined on the internet.”

A brilliant young engineer, Tipple has invented a groundbreaking new device. A pair of glasses with the power to block a person’s face from registering on the sensor of any camera in the world. He is offering something his generation has never known.

Anonymity.

The success of his product will not only change his life, it will change the world.

This 7,400 word short story follows in the vein of Mary Shelley, Ray Bradbury, and Neal Stephenson, where new technology takes man to questionable new frontiers.

 

As I work on slicing and dicing 30,000 words from one novel, edit the first draft another novel, consider changing tense in my very first novel, and continue writing and submitting short stories to an ever-expanding list of periodicals, I figured why not dip my toe in the Amazon?

After all, it might be a nice change from the sea of rejections.

Using a complex calculus of variables, expressions, and operators,* I have devised a system in which to work Amazon into my submission process.

I plan to put up a few short stories and one novella over the next couple months.

Using short stories is also a good way to put pseudonym conundrum to the test.

First up is a 7,400 word speculative fiction story called The Masq.

 

* math terms I quickly looked up