unhealthy obsession, revived

So, I tend to get obsessed with facts, figures, and numbers. It’s not healthy. Initially I was obsessed with the visit statistics here on scatterplot. I stopped caring about that after a few months. But when my book came out in January… wow was that an entirely different story. Particularly, I started an unhealthy obsession with my amazon.com sales rank. I had forgotten about this too (actively, upon the encouragement of others who told me to stop obsessing), until today when I was talking with my editor (hi Eric!) and again, I started to think about. Now here’s the thing: according to everyone under the sun, your Amazon sales ranking is really really hard to make sense of. It’s not just raw sales numbers. But still, since my 11AM conversation I’ve been looking at my sales ranking like a day-trader following stocks. Luckily it only updates on the hour. But I checked at 12, 1, 2, 3, and I’m sure I will again at 4. If it updated every 15 minutes, I worry that I’d never get anything done. Now, it’s not like I have a high rank or anything… Or that the ranking changes all that much. It’s silly of me. It’s also not like checking the ranking is going to improve it, or encourage more people to buy the book! Yet there I am, obsessing over it yet again. I know others who obsess over their citation counts, or their teaching eval numbers, or the number of students in their classes. For those of you who have books coming out and want to join my unhealthy habit, check out authorcentral.amazon.com. It allows you to track your book (and your sales by region of the country). Here’s a screenshot of my data:
The early jumps make lots of sense. The ranking starts high because the moment the book is listed at Amazon, my mom buys some copies. Then no one does. Then no doubt some other relative, etc… until January when the book actually comes out and things are relatively stable. Yet still I check. And I begin to think of weird things. Like, “What happened May 16-22nd?!? Why did fewer people buy the book?”
I suspect that soon this ranking will rise and fall with the semester schedule, as a few people teach the book (thank you!!!) and sales have a small spike with fall and spring enrollments. And other than that it will settle down, eventually, into the 4,000,000 range. At which point I will stop checking. Because who wants to know that you’ve just written the 4 millionth best selling book in the world? Although that makes you the modal book. And doing better than half the books out there… well… I guess that’s not too bad.

7 thoughts on “unhealthy obsession, revived”

  1. I agree, and I hope everyone is above the median (shout-out to G. Keillor). But more importantly as the fiscal year ends for many of us and we are forced to use (or lose) research funds I am thinking we should coordinate when we purchase our good Dr. Khan’s book. Is there anyway to manipulate the amazon rankings, even if for a very short period of time. If so, then for those of us still without this book on our shelves let’s do this one little thing for Shamus. (Or am I the only one on here that doesn’t own a copy yet?)


  2. Several years ago, when my crim text was barely still in print, an adjunct instructor mentioned to me in a casual conversation that according to Amazon the book had sold 400,000 copies. Before I started thinking seriously of how I was going to spend my million dollars, I check Amazon only to find that, of course, that was its ranking, not its sales. What tiny twitch of obsession that might have taken hold ended right there. (And the adjunct didn’t last much longer either.)


  3. You mean 400,000, not 4,000,000, right? I am in awe that you topped 50/week sales. Totally understand the obsession. Heard of this little website called RateMyProfs?


    1. Rate my profs? Yes! Back when I was at Madison, that was all the rage. Here at Columbia we have something different/internal: culpa.info

      Same thing. And yes, I check that at the end of every semester too!

      As for 50/week: not so normal. Probably a summer school class. Believe me, I’m not pulling down thousands off this book. I’ll buy drinks with my royalty check at the blog party. That should cover two grad students. For two rounds!


  4. When my book came out, I visited the booth at the ASA, and my editor was so excited to tell me he sold all the copies he had brought. I was floored! Great success! Huzzah!

    And then my friend asked how many he brought.

    Eight. Eight copies.


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