The Krugman effect

As I left Diane Rehm’s radio studio in Washington after doing her show in July, her parting words were, “Watch your Amazon ranking.” I did, and the Rehm effect was impressive, driving Myth of the Rational Market from somewhere in the 200s to as high as 112. The Daily Show effect was similar (on the Amazon rankings, at least—the Rehm show appearance also landed the book on the NYT extended bestseller list, which going on Jon Stewart did not do). I’ve already written here about the Nocera effect and the new Laffer curve.

Turns out the Krugman effect may be the most powerful of all (for my book, at least; we’re not talking Oprah material here). When Paul Krugman’s review of Myth went online the afternoon of Friday, Aug. 7, the book was in the 500s. Here’s how high it got the following Monday:

No 29

That’s a new record. The book hit No. 30 in its first week on sale, but that was the result of multiple reviews and (I would imagine) the first-week boost one gets from having a bunch of pre-ordered copies suddenly ship. This was basically just Krugman. Yes, the book was also “long-listed” for the FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year award the same day Krugman’s review hit the internets, but I find it hard to believe that many people outside of the book business even noticed that.

I should add that nobody outside of Amazon seems to have any real idea of what being No. 29 in the rankings means. Marion Maneker—who back in his HarperCollins days persuaded me to write Myth—had a Kindle Chronicles column recently that promised to reveal “The Secrets of the Amazon Best-Seller List.” The best he came up with was this guess from author Andy Kessler:

“I’m not sure of the exact number,” Kessler says of the weightings, “but my guess is 40 percent hour, 30 percent day, 20 percent week, and 10 percent month. So if you have a huge spike in sales, you don’t completely dislodge books that have been in the top 10 or top 100 for months and months. Though you might pass them for a very fun hour.”

It’s got to be more complicated than that. So complicated that we mortals cannot hope to understand it. All I know is that, right now, the book is at No. 142.

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