Sunday 3 August 2014

Authors Buy Way onto Bestsellers' List

When my Dad wrote and published the book Meet Me at the Lakeview Casino fifteen years ago, he did it the old fashioned way.  He pounded the pavement, going from bookstore to bookstore.  He didn't have the help of or any of the other big websites taking off.  He didn't even own a computer.  It took a few years, but in the end he sold about 3000 copies -- not bad for a self-published book by a first time author.

A few days ago, I wrote a post about how the novel Jaws got published.  I was a bit surprised to discover that movie producers Richard Zanuck and David Brown, along with director Stephen Spielberg and some close friends, each bought 100 copies of the book, driving up sales and landing it on the California bestseller list.  While their purchase definitely helped the book's sales, it still spent 44 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.  Clearly, the novel about a local fisherman catching a great white shark had mass appeal.

While I was mildly surprised about Spielberg et al buying mass copies of Jaws, I was astounded to hear that today, an author can hire a company to purchase thousands of copies of their book, just to land it on the bestseller list.  Leapfrogging, a business book by Soren Kaplan, landed on the bestseller list last year.  Mysteriously, a week later, sales plunged by 99 %.  Similarly, Melanie Wilson's Networking is Dead also landed on the bestseller list recently.  After a week, her sales plunged by 96 %.  

It turns out that both authors hired a company named Result Source to purchase thousands of copies of their books.  These purchases guaranteed them a spot on the bestsellers' list.  And, even if just for a week, the authors believe it's a worthwhile investment.  Firstly, they hope the move will drive up sales.  Secondly, with the title of "bestselling author" behind their name, these writers can charge exhorbitant speaking and consulting rates.

But what about authors, like my Dad, who do it the honest way?  What about the authors who spend hours making connections, who hold book signings by the dozens, who give book readings for countless audiences?  They will never be able to compete with those who buy their way onto the bestsellers' list.  It's true -- they may not be on the bestsellers' list.  But at least they'll have the satisfaction knowing that people are reading their books and that they're not just collecting dust in a warehouse.  


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