Ranking measures where, in all the books offered in a store, an author's book is. So, for instance, a #100 rank means a book is the 100th most popular book in the store -- beating out all but 99. That's FABULOUS.
As I write, for example, my new book Random Acts of Crazy is in the 700s on Amazon and the 140s on Barnes & Noble. Not too bad!
But as Hugh writes:
The most recent victim is Maya Cross. Maya reported on KBoards that her new release LOCKOUT was sitting at #5 in the Nook store. Her first book, LOCKED, soon began to shoot up the lists. But when it hit #126, it stopped. It didn’t go any higher. Even though it was selling very well.
This was only mildly suspicious until she woke up the next morning to find the former #5 bestseller, LOCKOUT, sitting at #126. LOCKED, meanwhile, had dropped to #127. The two books sat side by side, pinned, selling more than the ranking would indicate. And poor Maya watched as her sales gradually diminished due to the lower visibility.
I should point out here that many indie authors are expert at reading sales numbers from sales rank. We’ve shared enough data and collected our own as we move through the lists, so that even as the numbers required to hit certain rankings grows over time with the growth of e-books in general, you can tell when something is amiss. At this point, it was cause for alarm.
But then a pattern emerged.
Read more at Hugh's site.
The problem for authors is obvious: you lose visibility. The higher your ranking the more "also-boughts" your book goes into. In other words, when a book is popular the eBook store "pushes" your book as a suggestion to readers -- like you! You're exposed to books that other readers have bought that are similar to the books you buy.
As ranking is halted, artificially, by retailers like B&N, it deprives readers of choice.
No one wants that.
I'll watch these trends carefully, and if my book's ranking gets "stuck" at 126/7, how very suspicious that will be.