Do you believe that an author who hits the bestseller list becomes famous, triples his speaking fee, and gets new doors opened for his career? If your answer is yes, how far would you go to make it happen? Would you risk your compromising your integrity to gain that recognition?
I’m proud to say that clients of WildFire Marketing have racked up eight New York Times bestsellers in the past two years (six consecutive novels for Wanda Brunstetter and two non-fiction titles for Lysa TerKeurst). These are amazing accomplishments, and the authors deserve a ton of credit for their hard work, talent, and dedication.
However, when other authors hear about this success, some approach me and ask, “What was the secret to getting on the bestseller lists? Did the author get lucky and land a TV interview on The Today Show?” Or, I get a more sinister question, “Did the author buy a bunch of their own books and spike their way onto the list?”
I want to state for the record that I never advise my clients to manipulate their way onto the bestseller lists. Furthermore, I am completely against those unsavory tactics. Instead, I teach my clients how to build their author platform large enough to make the bestseller lists in a legitimate manner – and do it more than once.
Yet, there are people within publishing and marketing circles who don’t seem to value integrity and feel no reservations about misleading the public. They use shadowy promotional tricks designed to spike a book onto a bestseller list that doesn’t technically belong there. The approach usually centers on the author buying 3,000 – 9,000 copies of his or her own book through a behind-the-scenes agent who places the sales through retailers that report to the bestseller lists.
It’s ironic that authors in the business leadership, how-to, and advice categories tend to use this devious practice more than others. Isn’t integrity supposed to be central to the idea of leadership and giving other people helpful advice?
These authors justify their actions by claiming that the books are legitimately sold later at their speaking events or given out to attendees in lieu of a speaking fee. The problem is that creating this type of “bulk sale” to a captive audience of 3,000 isn’t the same as 3,000 different people purchasing the same book using their own free will.
When the average consumer sees a bestseller list, they usually think a lot of individual readers separately purchased a book from a major retailer or independent bookstore. Nobody thinks that they’re looking a list that is rigged by an author who pays $50,000 – $150,000 to buy thousands of copies of their own book. Yet, this situation occurs more often than you might think.
I’m a marketer, not a journalist. So, I’ll let the reporters reveal the facts about some of the games played in the publishing world. I think you’ll find these articles eye-opening and shocking:
Here’s How Your Buy Your Way onto the New York Times Bestsellers List
Forbes.com by Jeff Bercovici – February 22, 2013
The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike
Wall Street Journal by Jeffrey Trachtenberg – February 21, 2013
As an author or a reader, how do these articles make you feel?