How Amazon Recommendation Algorithms Help Sell Your Book

A few weeks ago my friend Joel Friedlander sent me an email (partly shown left) that he had been sent by Amazon which recommended my novel Pentecost next to John Connolly whose supernatural mysteries I really love to read myself.

I was absolutely overjoyed by the news! I put it on Twitter and also received the tweet below showing that Pentecost is being shown in the list of books that other people have bought. Subsequently I have seen it come up myself when I’ve gone in to look at other fiction books of a similar type.

This is evidence that the Amazon algorithms are kicking in and they are starting to market Pentecost themselves. These algorithms are top secret and no one knows for sure how to ensure this type of thing happens, but here’s what we can infer.

  • Rankings get you noticed. Pentecost has been in the Religious Fiction rankings since Feb 7th when it launched. It goes up and down but basically has been in the Top 40 or so for that bestseller category and around 2500 overall in the Kindle store. It has also been in the Top 100 of the same ranking in the UK but that site seems to run entirely separately from the US store.
  • Ratings and Reviews make a difference. Pentecost has 32 reviews as I am writing this with 4.5 star rating on This is more than a whole lot of big name authors and clearly Amazon pays attention when readers are enthusiastic about a book. (THANK YOU so much if you have left a review – it makes such a difference! If you love a book, the author will be very grateful for a review!)

Why is this important?

Amazon have an amazing amount of information on readers. They target you with offers that you often find irresistable! They know the types of books you read and offer you similar ones. This is gold for authors as it means that Amazon can reach people with your book who would never have heard of it otherwise.

Why do Amazon do this?

Clearly it’s not for your benefit! They are a business and want to make more money so their algorithms look for the books that are selling in specific genres and they try to sell more of them. It’s an entirely business point of view but it benefits authors who are selling well – regardless of the publisher! That is a very key point because I can’t hope to get into a bookstore near you with my novel, but I can hope that you’ll get an email from Amazon recommending my book (if you currently buy books in this genre anyway).

As an author, have you seen evidence of this recommendation algorithm and do you have any ideas on how it works? As a reader, do you pay attention to Amazon’s recommendation emails?

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  1. says

    Great Stuff. I always say that everyday is a learning experience for self-published authors… running across this article added to my knowledge, for that I wanted to say thank you.

    Michelle Hughes

  2. says

    This is such mysterious stuff! Thanks for your breakdown of it, it’s helpful. I have a traditional publisher (Llewellyn Worldwide) for “A Haunted Life: the true ghost story of a reluctant psychic”
    but have published my supernatural suspense novel, “Sarah’s Shadows” through my own company. It’s getting 5 star reviews and selling 60-80 a day, but that’s not enough to put it high enough-yet! I just released it a few weeks ago though, so I am hopeful. thanks for all your helpful articles by the way, Joanna, I am a fan! And you might like Sarah’s Shadows-it’s right up your supernatural alley! :) You can check it out here if you’d like.

  3. says

    I wish I knew the answers as UK and US audiences vary so much. UK prefer my childrens book The Stolen Christmas and US prefer The Silver Cross and Blue Angel. But one thing that I got wrong was I published under three different versions of my name, J Winton, J L Winton, June Winton, so have asked for these to be merged as the books would not show up all together when somebody searched for one of them. I’ve just changed the title of all my books to include more info e.g. The Stolen Christmas (a children’s story) – this does not show up on the cover but is the title given to Amazon. I’m just playing really as don’t have a clue.

  4. says

    Hello Joanna,

    I’m Dave Alfvin, author of the book “Left For Dead,” which has done quite nicely in its first 120 days, making it into KINDLE’S top-100 in True Crime 12 days in a row. Ranking: B/T 14,500 and 24,000 and B/T #50 and #84 in True Crime, generally speaking. I sometimes lose my top-100 status during a day (approx. 26,900 or more), but have retained top-100 status for 12 straight days. I’m not sure if an expert would consider this a “meteoric rise,” but it certainly looks good to me. Paperback sales are awful, but this is true with other successful Kindle books.

    I have performed tracking on the book and have an excellent sampling of data that has shown me some tendencies; plus, because the book is fairly successful and mingles with other new/successful books (recommendations), I believe this makes my data even more interesting.

    If you’re interested in my data, please let me know; I will send it to you. All I ask is that you give me an idea what the data tells you about my book…and of course, whether you believe your org can help me in the future. I look forward to hearing from you.


    Dave Alfvin
    Author, “Left For Dead”
    Tate Publishing
    Top-100 in Amazon’s True Crime listing! OMG!!!! Now what?

    Contact me:
    Ph: 414-793-0615 (Mon thru Sat…..until 8 pm CDT)
    Author’s website:


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