Kindle to finally get separate paid and free bestseller lists

Publishers Weekly brings confirmation that Amazon are finally splitting out free books into a separate Bestsellers List -

A representative at the e-tailer has confirmed that the company will be splitting its Kindle bestseller list, creating one list for paid books and another list for free titles.

The date for the switch is vague—the rep would only say it will happen in “a few weeks”—but the switch will certainly be noticed.

That would mean that free books would no longer be stealing spots from deserving paid books.  

What people are saying about it

Publishers Weekly’s Rachel Deahl provides a very Publisher centric view -

 many industry members interviewed said Amazon’s Kindle bestseller list remains the one they examine to get a feel for what e-books are selling

Her concern that free books will not be as valuable a tool to promote authors and books doesn’t make sense. Nearly everyone will check both lists (free and paid) and now Publishers have 100 slots to use for their free book promotions.

The Free Bestsellers list is going to be very popular – perhaps more so than the Paid Top 100.

L. A. Times’ Jacket Copy blog talks about the change too -

All of us were a bit perplexed about the use of “bestseller” to designate book that are not, well, sold. Grammarians, at the very least, will welcome the change.So, too, will major publishers. Amazon is doing the right thing, an executive at HarperCollins told Publishers Weekly, which reports “consumers ‘want to know what books everyone is reading, and buying,’ and that a list which combines free downloads and books for sale doesn’t deliver this information.”

L.A. Times thinks that independent publishers will be hurt by this change – However, it’s underestimating the draw of the Free Bestsellers List.

Here’s Deb Smith, Publisher and Editor of independent publisher BelleBooks, with her thoughts -

The giveaway DOES produce real sales both on the promoted title and the authors’ backlist. More important, it highlights small press titles and gives them a chance to find the readership they deserve. My tiny press can’t begin to compete with the big pubs in terms of advertising, but via Kindle we accomplish a similar level of publicity and results.

There are big financial rewards for getting to the top of the ‘paid’ list and paid independent books are probably not going to make it to the top for the first 6 months or so. However, they have bigger problems than that.

The biggest problem for Independent Publishers and Authors is getting publicity. They can’t even get into stores. A spot on the Kindle Free Bestsellers list would be hugely important.  

Reasons putting free books on a bestseller list doesn’t make sense

Lots of reasons a combined list was unoptimal -

  1. It’s much tougher to get people to pay for a product than to give it away free. 
  2. It’s basically letting some authors/publishers get free marketing at the cost of other more deserving authors/publishers.
  3. Lots of people download free books and never read them.  
  4. There is no ‘selling’ in free books.
  5. Readers were only finding 30-40 paid books in the Top 100 Bestsellers List. There were 60+ other books they wanted to find and had no easy way to.

At the moment there are 38 paid books in Top 100 Bestsellers List. That means there are 62 paid books (that people are paying good money for) losing out to $0 public domain books and to $0 books being used as promotional vehicles for other books.

It’s pretty unfair and it’s good that Amazon are ending it. 

There are also some benefits of having two lists -

  1. You get 100 extra spots. Currently 101 through 200 are virtual unknowns. Now they’re there for everyone to see.
  2. People can go find what they want. The bargain hunters can go to the free books list. The people looking for the best new books can go to the Paid Bestsellers list.  
  3. You don’t have two completely different categories of books competing against each other.  

What would a Top Bestsellers List made of Paid Books look like?  

Currently we have 39 paid books of which – 26 are at $9.99 or less, 9 are at $12.99, and 3 are at $14.99. Scale that up and we’re looking at approximately 68 books at or below $9.99, 24 books at $12.99, and 8 books at $14.99.

We might see more than just 8 new books priced at $14.99 make the list because people who don’t want to wait will buy them when they are initially released. Also preorders all show up on the same day making it likelier that newer books hit the top of the charts. In a way a separate paid bestsellers list helps the Agency Model.

We’ll also get the occasional low-priced independent author’s book sneaking on to the list. In fact, if the boycott of the Agency Model continues we might see 5 or more independent authors on the Top 100 Paid list soon.

Overall, it’s a very good change and it will give a lot more authors exposure and lead to good things for books.

3 Responses

  1. Hi. Thanks for the shout-out, but I disagree with the idea that a paid list somehow represents really , really important books while a combined list doesn’t. Books are made into bestsellers by the clout of the publisher (in general) and many great books are undiscovered because of factors that have nothing to do with the quality of the book and author. LET READERS DECIDE. I suggest that Amazon regulate the potentially skewed impact of freebies by limiting the time frame for giveaways and/or instituting a Free Book icon that attaches to any bestseller that is free. But by relegating the free books to a ghetto in order to preserve the faux-credentials of the “real” bestsellers (OFTEN propped up by major publishing discounts, ad campaigns and general payola) Amazon is essentially saying that readers are too stupid to recognize a quality book unless they’re forced to pay for it. This decision of Amazon’s smacks of a cave-in to the powerful Big 6 and not a sincere effort to represent what readers really want to buy.

  2. I think that’s an odd way of looking at it. Because of the way the Kindle library works, I personally will snap up any free book that looks even vaguely interesting just because it usually won’t stay free but once I’ve snagged it I have access to it forever.

    Which means that my picking those books has nothing to do with quality or whether I’m reading them or any of that. It just means they’re free books in genres I read. Having a separate free book listing will make it easier to find these deals while they’re active. That’s not a ghetto at all.

    (I also don’t put much faith in bestseller lists, to be honest. Simply purchasing a book doesn’t mean it’s good or that I liked it, because it’s a statistic recorded before I spend any time with it. And when the popular zeitgeist latches onto people who absolutely cannot write – like Dan Brown – it only reaffirms this for me.)

  3. Why are the Big 6 pubs complaining? They use the Kindle giveaway program too. A recent perusal of freebies shows books by Kim Harrison and James Patteson among the offerings. So are the big pubs mainly annoyed that small press titles are kicking their freebies’ butts?

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