Amazon Stays Ahead of the Curve

The big news for authors last week was that Amazon is now providing Nielson Bookscan’s data to their Author Central authors for free.

What does this mean?

First, to get access to this information, you must be an author with books listed on and you must be registered with Amazon’s Author Central. Nielson Bookscan provides book sales data for print books sold throughout the United States. They get their sales data from participating retailers, including Borders, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Target, and A number of retailers do not participate in this program, including Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club. Sales listed by Nielson Bookscan do not include ebook sales (including Kindle), wholesale purchases, or sales to libraries.

I think it is absolutely fantastic that Amazon is providing this information to their authors. It is this sort of innovative offering that has kept Amazon the number one source for books for years. Did you know that Amazon accounted for 22 percent of all book sales in 2009 (19 percent of print books and 90 percent of ebooks)?

When I learned that Amazon was providing authors this data, I trotted (virtually of course) on over to my Amazon Central Author Page to look at what Bookscan reported on recent book sales of my books.

Here is what I found.

Nielson Bookscan provides reports on sales of books by week and sales by geography (where in the United States books were sold). Since BookScan relies on retailer reports of sales, they do not report all books sold. BookScan estimates that they report 75 percent of retail book sales.

Since I sell Christian books, BookScan probably reports much less than 75 percent of the retail book sales from my books. Many independent Christian bookstores (those more likely to carry my titles) do not report sales to BookScan.

Since I have multiple books for sales on Amazon, BookScan data provided me with the total number of books I had sold within the last four weeks by title. In other words, I am able to track how many books of each title were sold.

The biggest drawback I found with the data had to do with the sales by geography section. This section does not allow me to find out where a particular title was sold, only where my books overall were sold. Since I have both adult and children’s books, I would find it helpful to know if my children’s book were being sold more heavily in one region. If I knew this, I could concentrate more advertising and marketing effort in that region. Since I can’t break down sales of title by region, the geographic information is not as helpful as I had hoped.

Overall, I give Amazon a thumbs up for taking the initiative and making this great sales information available to authors. If you are the author of books being sold on Amazon and are not signed up with Amazon’s Author Central, I encourage you to do it today.