Amazon Reviews – the Bestseller list and Different

Lets face it – Amazon is huge.  It controls a vast amount of commerce.  I want to try to crack the Amazon code myself with some data.  Fortunately the book “Different, the Story of an Outside the Box Kid and the Mother Who Loved Him” by Nathan Clarkson came out and debuted on the bestseller list giving me another project.

I want to take a look at a few different sets of data and analyze them for any potential relationships.  To begin this project I surveyed the list of bestselling books on Amazon.com for Sunday, January 23 at 9:00 AM.  Amazon reports that its bestseller list is based on sales and is updated hourly.  Since Amazon probably accounts for most of the books sold right now, I have a lot of confidence using them as a source.  My goal is to look at the number of customers who had taken the time to write a review and track how it changes over three days.

Reviews on Amazon

I don’t think anyone really knows how many reviews are written per sale.  There are a lot of guesses out there but nothing really backed by any evidence that I could find.  Searching on the popular site Quora I’m getting figures all over the place –  one comment mentions that one half of a percent of customers write a review while another states that 2 to 5% of customers write a review.  On sellercentral.amazon.com it appears that somewhat higher numbers are reported with several persons saying that around 10% of buyers are leaving feedback.

I checked the bestseller list about 30 hours later to see how many new reviews each book received.  Perhaps this can be a window into how many are being sold?  Who knows.  I want to believe that a new book is going to get more reviews faster than one that is older.  I also see a trend where readers of fiction write reviews at a faster rate than nonfiction.

As far as genre goes there were only a few fiction books on this list.  I was surprised by the number of cookbooks, self-help books and children’s books there are as well.  I also think its a sad social commentary when a book titled “Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely” is at #13 on a national bestseller list but this is a story for another day.  Another surprising (or maybe not-so-surprising) find was the ascendancy of Orwell’s 1984 to the top of the bestseller list by January 25 – a mere five days after the inauguration of the new president.

Just some general impressions from looking at these lists.  Fiction books have far more reviews than nonfiction – even if they appear lower in the list.  The top half of the list remained relatively stable with changes in positions but not a lot of movement out of the top 20.  There are some exceptions, such as Orwell’s 1984 coming in at #6 on 1/24.  The bottom half of the list shifted around a bit more.  For example, “The Lose Your Belly Diet” fell to #41 by Tuesday.

Regarding the list on Sunday, January 22.

  • Seven are self-help books.
  • Two are children’s books
  • Three are general nonfiction but they are what I would consider as biography
  • Four are fiction
  • One is a reference book
  • Three are cookbooks

I checked the Amazon list 24 hours later.  The order of books has changed somewhat – 5 new books came on the list and 5 came off.  One book “Dr. Kellyann’s Bone Broth Cookbook: 125 Recipes to Help You Lose Pounds, Inches, and Wrinkle” replaced “Milk and Honey” at #2.  George Orwell’s 1984 came in at #6.  Another Children’s book, “The Girl Who Drank the Moon” popped in at #17.  “We Should All Be Feminists” came in at #19.  Sinclair Lewis’ book “It Can’t Happen Here” took #20.  Off the Sunday AM list was “A Dog’s Purpose,” “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” and “Green Smoothies for Life” and “The Underground Railroad.”  

At two days later the order changed again.  Win Friends was down to #21, Green Smoothies at #22, Subtle Art at #29, Dogs Purpose at #32, and Lose the Belly at #41.  1984 came in at #6 while a book titled “Different, the Story of an Outside the Box Kid and the Mother Who Loved Him” debuted at #8.  Strengths Finder 2.0 came in at #16.  At this point my head is spinning.  Looking at the list on Wednesday, three days later it appears that 1984 has moved into #1 while the book Different has 66 reviews.

The book Different might be a book to track to see how it does over the next few days and weeks.  Right now, I know nothing about this book but I plan to research it in the near future.  I’m impressed at the speed the 66 reviewers had read this 256 page book.  These guys should be in the Olympics for speed reading!  Unless….they had it beforehand.  I think I might be onto something here.

Here is the Amazon bestseller list for books

Bestsellers on January 22, 2017                 Number of new reviews over 48 hours

1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance 85
2. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur 20
3. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly 26
4.The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig 7
5. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss 25
6.A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman 99
7.First 100 Words by Roger Priddy 17
8. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 6
9.The Instant Pot® Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Fast & Healthy Meals by Laurel Randolph 13
10. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman 20
11. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss 7
12. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero 9
13. Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst 9
14. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo 22
15. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie 6
16. The Underground Railroad (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Colson Whitehead 48
17. Green Smoothies for Life by JJ Smith 15
18. A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron 37
19. The Lose Your Belly Diet: Change Your Gut, Change Your Life by Travis Stork 31
20. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson 18
Different, the Story of an Outside the Box Kid and the Mother Who Loved Him – Debuted on Tuesday 1/24/17 66

Here is the list broken down to total numbers of reviews:

       Jan. 22                                 Jan. 24

1. Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J. D. Vance 4202 4287
2. Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur 1498 1518
3. Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race by Margot Lee Shetterly 331 357
4.The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom by Melissa Hartwig 2316 2323
5. Tools of Titans: The Tactics, Routines, and Habits of Billionaires, Icons, and World-Class Performers by Timothy Ferriss 1165 1190
6.A Man Called Ove: A Novel by Fredrik Backman 9600 9699
7.First 100 Words by Roger Priddy 6335 6352
8. Publication Manual of the American Psychological Association 3897 3903
9.The Instant Pot® Electric Pressure Cooker Cookbook: Easy Recipes for Fast & Healthy Meals by Laurel Randolph 820 833
10. The 5 Love Languages: The Secret to Love that Lasts by Gary Chapman 10543 10563
11. Oh, The Places You’ll Go! by Dr. Seuss 3413 3420
12. You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life by Jen Sincero 1933 1942
13. Uninvited: Living Loved When You Feel Less Than, Left Out, and Lonely by Lysa TerKeurst 857 866
14. The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo 11203 11225
15. How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie 5434 5440
16. The Underground Railroad (National Book Award Winner) (Oprah’s Book Club): A Novel by Colson Whitehead 2031 2079
17. Green Smoothies for Life by JJ Smith 280 295
18. A Dog’s Purpose: A Novel for Humans by W. Bruce Cameron 3446 3483
19. The Lose Your Belly Diet: Change Your Gut, Change Your Life by Travis Stork 245 276
20. The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson 624 642

Conclusions:

  • Fiction seems to get a lot of reviews the median number was 43 reviews per day.
  • “Different…” has a backstory to it.  There is more than meets the eye.  I’m not postulating anything here and want to investigate further.
  • There were as few as 3 reviews per day.
  • There were as many as 50 per day.
  • The median measure was 20 reviews per day.
  • The mean number of reviews was 27 per day.

Resources:

https://www.quora.com/What-percentage-of-buyers-write-reviews-on-Amazon

https://sellercentral.amazon.com/forums/message.jspa?messageID=2377939

https://www.amazon.com/best-sellers-books-Amazon/zgbs/books

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