An Amazon discovery

I suspect many of you will know this, but it was news to me. Two weeks ago, in a burst of marketing  effort (actually planning), I looked at Amazon’s top sellers in women’s historical fiction. My purpose was to find comparables for a novel I plan to self publish, and from there to discover what sort of marketing the authors/publishers were doing as well as how they positioned and tagged their books.

I carefully wrote down the names of the titles and authors and then set about investigating the top 10 or so.

After looking at 13 of the top sellers, I came up with the following:

And here’s the question: Why are 7 of the top selling 13 novels in Women’s Historical Fiction published by Amazon?

I’ve read novels by a number of Amazon authors – most of them good to excellent stories. For example, I’ve read Aimie Runyan’s earlier novel Daughters of the Night Sky, which is a great read. But 7 of 13? I’ll let you know of the other categories I checked in a follow on post.


M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website


Share this post

About the Author

Picture of Meet M.K.Tod

Meet M.K.Tod

The historical fiction author behind A Writer of History...

All Categories

Subscribe to the Blog

Receive the latest posts on writing and reading historical fiction via email.

Join 2,208 other subscribers

19 Responses

  1. Interesting that you point this out, Mary. I’ve noticed it before as well, and not only with historical fiction. Reviews are similar. When I see books with tons of reviews, I often find the publisher is Amazon.

    My takeaway is Amazon authors are prioritized so their books show up toward the top of the list on customer searches. Also, I’d bet money that customer purchases are followed up by an email a few weeks later asking the customer to review the book, complete with a handy-dandy link.

    Only my guess, of course, but if true it certainly makes for tough competition. And yes, when Amazon owns the game they get to make their own rules.

    1. Anti-competitive practices are not OK … didn’t the House Judiciary Committee just haul Bezos and others in for close questioning? I have another post on this topic coming next week. It’s definitely a real issue.

  2. Excellent question, Mary. I’ve sent your blog post on to the Authors Guild, which submitted a complaint about Amazon’s antitrust violations yesterday with the AAP and ABA.

    1. Thanks, David. Next week’s post shows the same issue with 4 or 5 other genres. I’m shaking my head … how does anyone break into this monolith? The big publishers must be tearing their hair out.

  3. I’ve been running ads on Amazon since June for my independently published cross-genre books that appeal to some readers of historical fiction, so have also been watching the best sellers in the category. Many of the books, especially in the top 10, were Amazon Prime First Reads. Amazon has given Kindle copies away for free to Prime Members for an early read before publication date. Others can buy them at a much reduced rate. An email goes out at the beginning of each month with the list of books to pick from that month. Usually you pick one or two free books and get the reduced rate on any over that. So, it’s not just that the algorithm is skewed, rather Amazon is giving these books away for free for prolonged periods of time to artificially push them to the top. “Honeysuckle Season” in the #1 spot, was an Amazon First Read for August.

      1. Yes, as soon as I receive the First Reads email, I identify any books on the list that might appeal to my readers and immediately target them in my ads. There has to be relevance for this to be effective. I’ve seen others do it regardless of relevance. If you look at the sponsored products on each book page, you’ll see what I mean. Of course, I’d love for one of my books to be a First Read, but am not sure how that happens if Amazon hasn’t published the book.

        1. I just found an article from February 2019 that indicated all First Reads are published by Amazon.

  4. Its fantastic to see an analytical mind at work, Mary. Great undercover work, with backing data, of a serious and egregiously wrong issue. Its akin to stacking the odds against patrons in Vegas. I wonder if somehow Goodreads figures into this as well????

    1. Thank you for posting this, Mally. It seems that the Authors Guild and others have already identified the kind of issue I’m posting about. I wonder what sort of response they’ve received?

Leave a Reply