Saturday, April 15, 2006

Rank

Last week, I mentioned some obscure (and not so obscure) musicians and composers. This week, to see just how obscure they really are, I decided to check their rankings at Amazon.com. In today's post, I present some of my findings.

First off is 10+2:12 American Text Sound Pieces, the CD that contains the Charles Amirkhanian piece Just. The LP was issued sometime in the mid-'70s and it's been a collector's item ever since it went out of print about a decade later. The CD was issued in 2003, and as of today (Saturday, April 15), its ranking at Amazon is 99,356. That rank is in Music, of course, not in everything Amazon sells.

By way of contrast, the complete works of Edgard Varese, as performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, is ranked at 32,671. That's nowhere near the 272 for Eminem's Curtain Call, or the 186 for Gwen Stefani's Love. Angel. Music. Baby., or the 37 for Kelly Clarkson's Breakaway, but it's pretty good for a guy who's been dead for over 40 years. And it's a lot better than 10+2:12 American Text Sound Pieces is doing, despite its collector's item status.

Now, remember last week when I mentioned Bo Anders Persson's Proteinimperialism? I was complaining that it wasn't on CD, but Folke Rabe's Was?? (which was on the other side of the Proteinimperialism LP) is, both as a normal version and a slow version. Well, as of today, this CD (which has been retitled What?? for the benefit of English-speaking audiences) has a rank of 226,896. I don't know how much higher it would rank if it included Proteinimperialism, but I know it would be a little higher, because I'd buy a copy.

I didn't mention this last week, but sometime in the '70s, I heard part of Anthony Moore's Pieces from the Cloudland Ballroom on the radio. I liked it, but I didn't rush out and buy the album. But I did buy the CD reissue a few weeks ago as part of my recent Amazon purchase. As of today, Pieces from the Cloudland Ballroom ranks at 338,899, which is about the lowest of any CD I checked. The only one lower is Amirkhanian's Walking Tune, which I've owned for a few years but don't really listen to much. It's a radical departure from his earlier text-based pieces. It's ranked at 350,025.

So where am I going with all this? Why have I bored you with all this useless information about music you don't care about? To establish the foundation for more useless information about something else you don't care about -- in this case, two books of mine.

My first novel, At The Arms, has a rank of 379,846 (in Books). It's down from yesterday's 327,266, which is down from the previous day's 204,826, which is down from the day before's 89,320. That's pretty pathetic -- there's no getting around that -- but on the other hand, I'm doing about the same in Books as Anthony Moore and Charles Amirkhanian are doing in Music.

My second novel, Vacationing with Jel, isn't exactly flying off the shelves either. Today it's at 373,673, down from yesterday's 320,502, which is down from the previous day's 194,857. That's bad, but the day before that, it wasn't even ranked at all. So I assume that someone must have finally bought a copy. (Actually, this is more than an assumption. I was talking to a friend of mine a couple of days ago, and he told me he would buy a copy.)

Now, as I'm sure you know, Amazon isn't the only bookseller in the world. So I decided to see how my books are doing at Barnes & Noble. They don't have a numeric rank for everything they sell, like Amazon does, but they do have a list of books that people who bought my book also bought.

As it turns out, people who bought At The Arms from Barnes & Noble also bought Secret Life of Bees, My Sister's Keeper, Memoirs of a Geisha, Saturday, and The Plot Against America. Do you see a pattern here? Neither do I, but that last one, The Plot Against America, is by the highly-esteemed Philip Roth, so I figure if the same guy bought a book by each of us, I'm in pretty good company.

The people who bought Vacationing with Jel at Barnes & Noble also bought Can You Keep a Secret and Confessions of a Shopaholic, both by Sophie Kinsella, which makes me suspect that the same person bought all three books. They also bought two versions of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which again makes me think that one person bought all three books. Someone also bought Starter Wife, which I think I've heard of, but I'm not at all familiar with.

I realize that this is much more interesting to me than it is to you, but I have two observations to make. First, I find it interesting that no one who bought one of my books at Barnes & Noble also bought the other one. Draw whatever conclusions you will from that. Secondly, even though Amazon also has a "Customers who bought this book also bought" section, neither of my listings at Amazon shows that anyone who read either of my books ever bought another book from Amazon. From that I can only conclude that after reading my brilliant prose, they were no longer interested in reading anything else.

Last week, I mentioned a fun little game you can play when you're ordering things online from different merchants. The game was to guess which package you'll receive first. I realize that might not be so much fun for a lot of people, so this week I've got a little game that I promise will be much more entertaining: Buy either of my books from Amazon (using two of the links I've provided above for your convenience), and see how your purchase affects my rank. If a book can go from 89,320 to 379,846 within a matter of days, it seems likely that the purchase of a single copy will affect its rank dramatically.

For even more dramatic results, watch what happens when you buy 2 copies, or 10 copies, or even a hundred copies. I'm sure you'll feel very empowered when you see how easily you can affect the sales at one of the world's largest online retailers. And don't worry about the cost -- keep in mind that postage is free on orders over $25.

And in case you're wondering what to do with all those books you bought, they make excellent gifts for your friends and loved ones. Of course, if you're the sort of person who doesn't want to give excellent gifts to the people you care about, you can always return them to Amazon. But you'll have to pay the shipping charges to return them, so I think you'd be better off if you just kept them.