Saturday, November 10, 2007
Confessions of an Amazon addict

Ok, I have a confession to make. My name is Patrick Rothfuss, and I am addicted to

Not for the reason you might think, while I do use Amazon to occasionally pick up cheap DVD sets and hard to find out-of-print stuff, I actually do most of my book buying from the local independent bookstore. It's hard walking away from Amazon's sexy, cheap books, but I feel better about shopping locally. I know the money is staying in the community.

No, I'm addicted to Amazon for another reason entirely: the Amazon Sales Rank.

For those of you who don't know about it. The sales rank is how well your book is selling on Amazon compared to all the other books. As I write this, I can see my rank is at #1224 among all books. A very respectable ranking, especially considering that I'm a new author.

What you might not realize is that authors don't have any way of finding out how well their books are selling. We can read reviews and take guesses, but for the most part, we don't have access to any real factual information about how well are books are selling. Every six months we get a royalty statement and that's about it.

What we do have is the Amazon sales rank. You want to know the maddening thing? It updates, like, every 15 minutes or so. That means that I am fucking compelled to keep a Firefox instance open to my book's Amazon page ALL THE TIME. Then, no matter what I'm doing, I can hop over and click refresh. Again, and again, and again. Just to see if it's changed.

Ooh. Now I'm at 1028! Someone must have bought a book! Maybe two! I am a tiny god!

Because I'm constantly refreshing on Amazon, I've also developed a secondary addiction to the Amazon reviews.

Generally speaking, the reviews have been good. People like the book, and they have been generous with their praise. Every time I saw another 5-star review I got a warm fuzzy, and for several months, I was powerfully proud of my unbroken 5-star average. Then a few people gave it 1-star reviews and my average dropped to 4.5 stars, causing a great wailing and gnashing of teeth on my part.

Still at 1028.

As a whole, I respect the concept behind the Amazon reviews. They're like true democracy in action, everyone gets to chime in and let their voice be heard. PHD in English literature? You get 1 review. Fourteen year old boy who loves Nascar? 1 review. Benobo chimp addicted to methadone? Assuming you have a credit card, you get a review too.

Still 1028. Maybe it doesn't update every 15 minutes.

While I respect the egalitarian nature of the Amazon reviews, it does tend to occasionally remind me how really low the lowest common denominator really is. A couple days ago some choad posted up a 1 star review because the book was 900 pages (which it isn't) and because he'll have to wait for book two to come out. I can respect a bad review if the person makes a few salient points, but my suspicion is that this guy hasn't even read the book.

Nooo! I'm at 1375 now. I suck. The Karma gods are punishing me for defaming some poor anonymous reviewer's character. And perhaps for the gratuitous use of the word 'choad.'

Okay. Another confession. I just bought a copy of my own book to see if it would make the Amazon rank go back up. It didn't (I expect there must be a delay.) But when I made my order, I saw that right now they're selling my book for less than fifteen bucks. How cool is that? I'm all about shopping locally, but 40% off is a significant chunk of money.... Maybe I should buy a few more... Is it tacky to give away your own book as a Christmas gift?

Okay, I've rambled long enough. I should get back to revisions of book two....



P.S. Still 1375.

P.P.S. In the comments below, RoseNeko posted a link to an article so perfectly relevant to this that I wanted to
LINK IT HERE for all of you to see. Bless you Neko, and the person who wrote this article. Maybe now I can start letting my obsession go.

Y'know... using 'P.S.' Doesn't make much sense anymore. For one, it was a convention that came about when you wrote letters longhand, so the P.S. was necessary in case you left something out. Nowadays there's no reason to leave anything out. Since I'm typing everything out, I could just go back and add it into the original post.

What's more. P.S. stood for 'post script.' But I'm not scripting anything, I'm posting a blog. So really, it should be P.P. for 'post post.'

But somehow I don't think that's going to catch on...

P.P.P.S. 1087

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posted by Pat at


Anonymous Cameron Hunziker said...

If you return your book, will the rank go down? ; )

November 10, 2007 7:19 PM  
Anonymous Rhona said...

You ARE a tiny god!

:::skips out of thread giggling:::

November 10, 2007 7:47 PM  
Blogger KYDS3K said...

i know how it is. i have a widget that i created on the Yahoo! Widgets gallery, and i check it OBSESSIVELY to see how many downloads i have . . .

1,504 in 2 weeks! w00t!!!

( by the way :D)

November 10, 2007 8:04 PM  
Blogger Shane said...

Well, I'm happy to have contributed to your rank by buying my copy through Amazon.

Enabling addiction is a hobby of mine.

November 10, 2007 8:45 PM  
Blogger Kerry said...

Too funny, Pat. I really do enjoy your posts.

By the way, you can give me a copy of your book for Christmas if you like. :)

(Actually, I have it on reserve at the library - I got them to buy it - and aim to get a paperback copy when that comes out because it is withing my budget.)

There's a thought. Will you have to go through this all over again with the paperback release?

November 10, 2007 9:17 PM  
Anonymous Josie said...

I guess we all have our vices. Think of it this way: would you rather be addicted to your Amazon sales rate, or an illegal substance? And I hope the sales rate goes up, just for your happiness. After all, more happiness equals more imagination, which equals more books. Which, in return, equals another sales rate for you to check...

November 10, 2007 9:28 PM  
Anonymous RoseNeko said...

Hey, I'm right there with you. If I had a book published, you bet I'd be constantly checking the sales rank. Back in my fanfic-writing days I used to obsess over page views with equal fervor.

Have no fear, in a couple weeks I'll be buying a few copies for presents, all from Amazon. Just doing my part. =D

November 10, 2007 10:19 PM  
Anonymous roseneko said...

Oh, almost forgot. Here's a link to an article on the four-and-a-half star phenomenon, which the author has named (appropriately) the "Tyranny of the Twits". It likely won't help with dealing with said twits, but I figure you might like to see that you're in fairly good company. ;)

November 10, 2007 10:23 PM  
Anonymous Calavera said...

Funny thing the 4.5-theory. I even have a friend who only buys 4.5-rated objects and wouldn't touch 5s. Don't know if he's read the article or if he figured it out himself but it seems as if the opinion is quite widespread.

On a completely different matter: Did you really need 15 minutes for the passages between the selling ranks? If that's the case I'm really worried about new books of you within my lifetime ;-p.

PS: The german interface tells me to do a "Wortbestätigung" (might be translated as "confirmation of a word") to make sure I'm no bot. Now I should confirm that "wpitd" is a word!? These tests are getting too hard for me. Now I even ned a dictionary to check... ;-)

November 11, 2007 5:20 AM  
Blogger Michael Natale said...

Call me an enabler, but there's a Firefox add-on called "ReloadEvery" so you can feed your addiction without having to manually click "refresh".

Check it out:

November 11, 2007 6:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rank 1135
I never realized Amazon had a ranking system on the page...
Now you are going to have me addicted to checking too!
Still 1135

November 11, 2007 10:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Confessions of an Amazon addict"- sounds like a title of some cheesy E channel expose. Don't read to far into it though, personally I don't know anyone that uses amazon. Most people I know shop at Barnes and Noble or local used book shops. If B & N had some kind of rating system that would be more accurate then amazon.
I'm the new Neil Gaiman reader and now I have to thank you again for recommending Mistborn. Which is as original as your book and just as refreshing. Especially after reading some of the crap out there.
Its ludicrous that someone would not like your book because of the length. Length is actually one of the features I look for when looking at new novels. Sometimes it takes a couple hundred pages to really get immersed into the universe of a book.


November 11, 2007 11:55 AM  
Anonymous CreepyGirl said...

It is definitely not tacky to give your Quill-award-winning, phenomenally-reviewed, destined-to-be-a-classic debut novel as a Christmas gift.

November 11, 2007 12:13 PM  
Blogger Mary J. said...

Rank #1111

Quick, make a wish!

Choad is an awesome word, btw.

November 11, 2007 1:17 PM  
Blogger Brian Blomlie said...

This talk about reviews always reminds me of the reviews that end up on the books themself.

You can't really tell if a book is bad by reading the reviews on it. You won't find ANY criticism, or something that isn't whole-heartedly praise.

I saw "Name of the wind" same thing, awesome praise bla. bla.

Then I read about the author: "Practices civil disobidience" & "Refuses to dance"

I was like:"Cool!" this reminded me to check out the book on the net later that day. That biography Mr. Rothfuss has on his site is perhaps the best sign I've seen of a good author yet. One that doesn't take him/herself too seriously. It's bloody brilliant.

November 11, 2007 2:17 PM  
Anonymous katy said...

How long have you been checking this? 'Cause in early April it was at 580 on Amazon (and 403 on Barnes & Noble). I think that would have made you a full-fledged medium-sized god.

November 11, 2007 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Jenna said...

Nooo, #1582!! I must buy as many copies as my paycheck will allow and throw them at friends for the holidays! (or, um... give them copies... like a civil human being.)

This reminds me of DeviantART pageviews. It's addictive, man, especially with the day-to-day breakdowns they give. And the month-to-month. Whyyyy?!

November 11, 2007 4:37 PM  
Blogger Kelly Swails said...

As your Official Hamstringer I feel I must say the following: Dude, 1082? What's wrong with you? If you were any sort of author at all you'd be at #1.

And now: Cool. 1082 is some serious rankage. I did the same thing for Pandora's Closet for like two days--people don't really buy anthologies that much, and when the numbers didn't really move, it sort of tarnished the polish on the publication giddiness, you know?

November 11, 2007 4:54 PM  
Anonymous springbird said...

Wow! I just looked at Amazon, and you're at 756!

November 11, 2007 11:24 PM  
Blogger KYDS3K said...

oh yeah. forgot to mention - for some quality entertainment, go look up "Tuscan Milk" on amazon and read the product reviews . . . there are some masterpieces of humor in there!

November 12, 2007 9:58 AM  
Blogger Major Sheep said...

Huh. Now your rank is 569. I wonder if it's like the reverse of your credit rating; the more it gets checked, the higher it goes.

November 12, 2007 10:37 AM  
Anonymous Michelle said...

Or look at it this way, R.A. Salvatore, the author of the incredibly popular and best-selling Drizzt Do'Urden dark elf series, only has 22 reviews on his lasest book. YOU have 160...

November 12, 2007 1:12 PM  
Blogger Durham said...

Does it also count copies bought through other Amazons (as in .de or .fr)?

November 12, 2007 2:58 PM  
Blogger Arevanye said...

Just checked and your sales rank is at #393.

Thought you might like some proof of this über-godlike ranking, so here's a screenshot:


Nowadays, I use "ETA" (edited to add) when changing a blog or message board post after the fact. I feel awkward using P.S., just like using cc: for "carbon copy" on emails--does anyone even know what carbon paper is anymore?

November 12, 2007 3:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you should know you also have a great review on npr's webpage which is sending me to the bookstore on the way home...maybe you can figure that into your amazon ranking somehow? a theoretical sales counter, if you will.

November 12, 2007 4:23 PM  
Anonymous gareth said...

Hi Pat,
Ive looked at the UK one and you come in at 2581.

Incidently Im an obsessive reviewer. LOL So Im checking a lot to see how Im doing on that ranking list now that Im top 1K. LOL

Other than that is it bad form to give your book as a gift? Dunno, are you planning to personalise it to each person?

November 12, 2007 5:39 PM  
Blogger Mary J. said...

Hey Arevanye,

I work at a library and I cannot remember exactly what bogus workshop that I was attending but it was to do with computers and the "expert" explained that cc in email stands for courtesy copy. I cannot guarantee that the dude didn't make it up though... :-)>

Rank #356

Witness the mighty power of the minions!

Also, Kelly-
I have Pandora's Closet on my reading shelf right now!

November 12, 2007 6:23 PM  
Blogger Arevanye said...

Mary J:

"Courtesy copy" if that's what they want to call it now, I'm fine with that. But for those of us born long ago enough to have learned to type on an actual typewriter, cc will always mean carbon copy.

Now where did I put my cane? ;)

November 12, 2007 7:13 PM  
Blogger Kelly Swails said...

Mary J: cool!

November 12, 2007 7:45 PM  
Anonymous creepygirl said...


November 12, 2007 9:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, it may be #330 in books overall (fantastic, but it should be better), but it's #6 in the the scifi/fantasy category.

the universe is ruled by tiny gods, tiny and mighty.

November 12, 2007 10:35 PM  
Blogger Major Sheep said...

And congrats on the NPR review. Check you out, making national news 'n' shite.

November 13, 2007 1:12 AM  
Anonymous Xander said...

One point to you, good sir. Though I'm a busy college student with nary a moment to devote to leisure reading, your witty blog entries have obliged me to do my part in raising your Amazon Sales Rank. I have no idea what this book is about, but I can't imagine it won't be an improvement over the fantasy trash I normally read. That's correct, I am in fact that guy who's read all the Diablo books.

P.C. (Post Comment) I haven't started the checkout yet, so wait a few minutes before hitting refresh.

November 13, 2007 2:47 PM  
Blogger Mary J. said...


November 13, 2007 2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rank #244!!!

November 13, 2007 3:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. on for NOTW
#4 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Epic
#41 in Books > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary

November 13, 2007 3:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

P.S. on for NOTW
#4 in Books > Science Fiction & Fantasy > Fantasy > Epic
#41 in Books > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary

November 13, 2007 3:42 PM  
Blogger aaron said...

I am addicted to methadone (I am on a program) but I am no monkey. I liked the book! BTW, it has already been posted to many many torrent sites as an ebook, a PDF I believe. I suppose there is no way to stop piracy when it is ubiquitous as it is now. Just thought I would let you know.

November 15, 2007 8:34 AM  
Blogger Mary J. said...

Rank #199!

November 15, 2007 2:33 PM  
Blogger Terry said...

After reading The Tyranny of Twits I am moved to suggest that we have entered the Opinion Age where all opinions are thought to be created equal.

November 15, 2007 8:31 PM  
Blogger J M McDermott said...

I've had to pull my amazon page off my firefox toolbar links because it was so addictive, and my book isn't even out yet!

Don't forget to check tasty foreign amazons. Go to the ".com" spot and replace it with ".de" or "" or ".ca" to find your rank in foreign places.

I discovered that I, like David Hasselhoff, am far more popular in Germany than I am in America.

I always wanted something in common with the Hoff.

November 26, 2007 5:49 PM  

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