Amazon: A True Crime Mystery

Regular readers of this blog will know that I write in the genre of true crime. My book The Green Bicycle Mystery is published by Mirror Books, both in paperback and e-book editions. I have a simple question: which is the best-selling true crime paperback on Amazon right now? And the answer is… not quite so simple. Read on.

In the category ‘Best Sellers in True Crime Biographies’, Amazon list separately the different editions of the same title – the paperback, hardback, kindle and audio book versions will be counted as different books. This is the same for all its best seller lists. So, it is possible the same title might have up to four entries in the Top 100. For example, as I write this post, one title is at #16 for its Kindle edition and also at #74 for the paperback edition. One title, two editions, two entries.

Nothing wrong with that, you say. I would agree if you could sort by edition – say, paperbacks – but you cannot. You only get the hybrid chart. This is unusual: Amazon are among the best companies for giving the user the power to search and sort. There’s no problem with having one chart, you might think, but there is: it skews the Top 100 towards – you guessed it – Kindle versions.

How? First, a Kindle e-book is normally cheaper than the paperback and hardback. Certainly, a publisher is able to discount a digital version far more deeply than a physical copy. Second, the rank in the Kindle Store is also affected by Kindle Unlimited, where a book is able to be downloaded for free, if the customer has paid a monthly subscription. So, Kindle versions are often cheaper and, for some, free.

There is irrefutable support for this observation. As I write this post, seven out of the top ten true crime bestsellers are Kindle editions. For example, the #1 title is published as both a Kindle edition and a paperback version. The Kindle edition is priced at £0.99 and is also available for free on Kindle Unlimited, while the paperback is £6.99. The Kindle version is ranked #88 in the Kindle store as a whole – only 87 Kindle books in any genre are selling more than this e-book. Yet, the paperback version is ranked only 5,905 in books. Titles ranked far lower in the True Crime Top 100 are better selling paperbacks than the #1 book. Indeed, the paperback version of the ‘best selling’ title would struggle to make the Top 200. Is this a fair and accurate reflection of book sales on Amazon? I would say “no”, not unless the user can also sort by the type of book in which they are interested. Of course, having an “all types” list is useful, but the user should be able to filter results depending on the type of book they want.

I am not against publishers discounting Kindle books and giving customers a better deal. My point is this. Amazon should do what it does best – give power to its customers – and allow us to sort by the edition we are interested in. Not only is it better for the customer it will generate fairer best seller lists, allowing customers to compare like with like.

What is the best selling true crime paperback on Amazon?

Now there’s a true crime mystery for you.