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In New Attack on Author Productivity, Amazon Announces Free Offering of Neilsen BookScan Data

Some indieKindle readers may be under the impression that Amazon is doing good things for authors and indie publishers these days, but I dunno.

The bookseller, er, ebook trailblazer, er, global behemoth, er, multi-platform international publishing company announced a new venture this morning that is likely to reduce total creative productivity among American authors by 60 to 75 per cent during the next year.

What evil has Amazon wrought?

The company announced today that “authors who use Amazon’s Author Central service ( can now view Nielsen BookScan’s weekly geographic sales data for their print books for free.”
The sordid story of author suffering in the grip of ASRS (Amazon Sales Ranking Syndrome) has, of course, been chronicled with increasing frequency on the web and was the subject of documentary coverage here at indieKindle just last week. It has been known to affect entire families and even certain neighborhoods such as Park Slope and Studio City, and now — it appears — the syndrome is showing an amazing resiliency and ability to fight back against antibodies, antidotes, and 12-steppers.
Prior to Amazon’s launch of the Kindle in November 2007, it was widely believed that there was, roughly speaking, a 50:50 ratio between the time that professional authors spent writing and the time they spent checking their Amazon Sales Rankings. Post-Kindle, the ratio, at least in the U.S., has exceeded 2:1 in favor of time sapped from writing by ASRS. 

Amazon’s “free” offering of Neilsen BookScan data to individual authors will, in all likelihood, be the final tipping point for ASRS, after which few new books, if any, will ever be finished.

Amazon’s news release follows:
Weekly Nielsen BookScan Data for Print Book Sales Now Available for Free to Authors in Amazon’s Author Central Service
For the first time, authors can track their books’ weekly print sales, including geographical distribution, as recorded by Nielsen BookScan (widely regarded as the best source for industry print book sales)
Author Central also launches tracking of historical Amazon bestsellers rank for each of an author’s books
SEATTLE–Dec. 9, 2010 – (NASDAQ: AMZN) today announced that authors who use Amazon’s Author Central service can now view Nielsen BookScan’s weekly geographic sales data for their print books for free.  Author Central is a free service provided by Amazon that helps authors promote their books and reach more readers. Also announced today, Author Central has added a feature that shows authors past history on the Amazon bestsellers rank for their books.
“Authors are an important community for us,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Amazon. “We’re really happy to make it easy and free for them to see geographical BookScan data updated weekly, as well as historical Amazon bestsellers rank, for their books.  We hope this creates an improved feedback loop for authors and enables them to develop more effective methods for reaching the widest possible audience.”
For the first time anywhere, authors can access timely geographic sales trends aggregated across retailers by Nielsen BookScan, widely regarded as the best source for industry print book sales.  The new “Sales by Geography” feature displays a map of the continental United States, highlighting the areas where copies of authors’ books have been sold. The new “Sales by Week” feature displays a bar chart of an author’s sales recorded over the trailing four weeks. Authors can also see how many copies of each title were sold by print-edition type, e.g. hardcover or paperback. Digital book sales are not included in BookScan data.  Nielsen BookScan estimates that it tracks 75 percent of print trade books sold in the United States, collected at more than 10,000 online and offline locations.
“I love the new sales information features on Author Central, especially the interactive sales map,” said Sarah Mlynowski, author of “Gimme a Call.” “Seeing retail sales by city allows me to effectively target my offline and online promotional efforts—and track their impact.”
The new Amazon Bestsellers Rank History enables authors to see their bestseller rank over time, without needing to frequently refresh their books’ pages on
“Authors hate to admit it, but checking our Amazon bestsellers rank can become nearly addictive,” said Karen McQuestion, bestselling author of “A Scattered Life.” “Author Central has made it easier for me to track my rankings over time. This feature, along with others on Amazon Central, saves me time which is better used for writing.”
In addition to these new features, authors who use Author Central have the opportunity to share the most up-to-date information about themselves and their work with readers. Authors can view and edit their bibliography, add a photo and biography to a personal profile, upload missing book cover images, add video, information about speaking events, and use a blog to connect with readers. Authors only need a book listed in Amazon’s catalog to be eligible to join Author Central. The Author Central service is also available in the United Kingdom, Germany and Japan.
Authors can learn more about Author Central and these new features at
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