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Lessons Learned From the Mein Kampf Digital Best-Seller Story

Remember hitler[1]last week’s story about Mein Kampf, Adolf Hitler’s 1920’s manifesto and memoir, suddenly becoming a best seller in the Kindle Store?

It was a hot news story with everyone from Gizmodo, Huffington Post, and Gawker, to the New York Daily News, the Daily Mail, and the Los Angeles Times bemoaning the fact that such a deplorable (yet clickbait worthy) ebook was generating so many sales. One excitable commentator even went so far as to suggest that it was a sign the second Holocaust was imminent.

If you’re like me then you may have ignored the story, which means that you missed the detail that was bogus on several levels.  The copies of Mein Kampf mentioned in the story were only technically best sellers in certain specific categories but not in the Kindle Store overall.

I skipped that story last week because I was busy with CES 2014, but David Gaughran took a deeper look and he discovered that the particular copy of Mein Kampf was not a best seller – not even after the news broke. This copy of Mein Kampf never actually got into the top 100 titles in the Kindle Store; it peaked at around 800. In fact, until this story broke that copy had barely managed to crack a sales rank of 8,000.

David beat me to this story in part because he knew about a tool which collected sales rank data from Amazon. And it is this tool that I want to bring to your attention.

Retailers like Apple are something of a black box, but it’s relatively simple to track the performance of any book on Amazon. With a tool like KND’s Tracker, you can also view the historical performance of a title, once someone has already added it to the system.

As luck would have it, we have the relevant historical data for Mein Kampf.

This particular edition of Mein Kampf wasn’t selling at all until October 2013, when the publisher dropped the price to 99c – which is hardly surprising given the number of competing editions out there, many of which are available for free.

hitler trackerIt then settled into a range of #7,825 to #9,995 on the Amazon rankings where it stayed until this story broke.

For those not familiar with the Amazon rankings, this equates to just 10 copies being sold a day – not a bestseller by any stretch of the imagination. (Note to journalists: it took me 60 seconds to find this out.)

I don’t know whether David’s estimates for daily sales are accurate, but that’s not the important detail here. What matters here is how he got the data.

David has reminded us of the value of factual information. Anyone who knew about the Tracker service from Kindle Nation Daily could have looked up this title and they would have seen this story for what it really was: nothing more or less than clickbait.

And for that reason alone I am going to bookmark the Tracker and refer back to it on occasion. It’s going into my toolbox along with eReaderIQ. That free ebook site tracks prices in the Kindle Store and serves up a historical timeline of price changes for just about any ebook in the Kindle Store.

Can you think of another tool worth mentioning alongside the KND Tracker and eReaderIQ?

Mein Kampf

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flyingtoastr January 17, 2014 um 2:45 pm

"…it’s relatively simple to track the performance of any book on Amazon"

Unless it’s one of the erotica novels that Amazon purposely prevents from appearing on the general bestseller list.

All bestseller lists are bogus.

Nate Hoffelder January 17, 2014 um 2:48 pm

Yes they are. Good point.

Evan January 18, 2014 um 11:14 am

I am familiar with KND tracker but don’t understand how one converts sales rank to number of books sold. Could you explain further?

Nate Hoffelder January 18, 2014 um 11:33 am

David was making a guesstimate based on his experiences as an indie author.

David Gaughran January 18, 2014 um 2:34 pm

While we can’t be absolutely sure how any given sales rank translates in terms of hard sales numbers, we’ve gotten good at ball parking it. The first attempt I saw was by an author called Theresa Ragan. I then attempted to build on that with some crowdsourcing on this self-publisher’s forum which found similar results. That thread is here, if you want to examine our methods and see if there are any obvious flaws:

tl:dr by comparing data, self-publishers can roughly estimate what anyone is selling, once we see the sales rank.

Evan January 18, 2014 um 5:02 pm

Helpful. Thanks. Still living for the day when Amazon grants access to the obvious metrics inherent in the system.

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