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.


11 thoughts on “Amazon Stays Ahead of the Curve

  1. Great choice indeed. Although I have sold few, this is such an easy way to publish. You will have to be your own literary agent though, since they don’t sell unless someone hears about them. Great recommendation. I agree.


  2. What is “Total Units” mean on the top of the Sales by Geography mean anyway?.
    I am very confused. When Amazon’s Author Central has “Total Units: 61, yet on the sales by geography map has 117 ares with 2 copies sold in each combined area, plus one area having 59 copies sold, it is confusing. What does it mean by “Total Units?” Is that how many books are sold or books per unit? I”m confused. If you want I can send you a print-screen of the sales by geography map of my book sales. If I am reading this correct, then my print sales are well over 300 in 10 weeks, which means my e-book may be equal to that or double which puts my book sales at over 1,000 in the first 10 weeks. I’m a newbie, this is my first book and outrageous, it must be a mistake on my part.


  3. Kristina: The “Total Units” on your Author Central page are only the print books that have sold and been tracked by Nielson BookScan. These Total Units are usually the number of books sold that were tracked by Nielson BookScan over the past year. As for the areas, Author Central only shows 15 areas at a time, you would need to look through all the areas to see where your book is selling. I hope this helps you understand better.


  4. Here is where I am confused. The total amount of areas shaded is 117 “combined areas,” each says 2 copies sold. One area, my home town says 59 copies sold. This is where I am confused, is it 117 times 2 copies plus the 59? I can send a print screen of the map if that will help you see my confusion. Thanks.


  5. So, then I only sold 61 and not 1098 copies total in the 10 weeks? What about all the shaded areas?


  6. It sounds to me that you have sold 61 total. In the combined areas you have sold 2 and 59 in your home area.


  7. If I move the mouse over a shaded area it says, 2copies sold and names the area, 117 times. There are areas that are blank, not shaded and if I move the mouse over the areas it says 0 copies sold and names the area. If I put the mouse over Lexington where is shaded dark is says 59 copies sold. I know that for a fact. I sold and signed them.


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