All Things Writing

The Craft of Writing


Buying Your Way to the Top

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece about business authors who have bought their way to a top spot on various best seller lists. The idea is that the books are purchased in bulk in such a way that they are not recorded as bulk sales. The author pays for the books that are purchased as pre-sales, either as a reduction in speaking fees or by collecting the check from clients and friends. Alternately, a significant number of books are sold as pre-sales on that first day. The following week, more copies of the book are returned than are purchased.

How does this get a book to the business book best seller lists? When the book comes out, there are immediate sales that number in the thousands. This is enough for a business book to capture the number one spot for oh, say 15 minutes. Those fifteen minutes are enough, however, to earn the author the bragging rights to earn higher speaking fees and to be asked to speak by organizations that might otherwise never have heard of them or the book.

There is one company at the heart of this lying cheating questionable business practice — ResultSource. Interestingly enough, ResultSource principal, Kevin Small, declined requests for an interview. The WSJ states that ResultSource states on its Web site that, “We create campaigns that reach a specific goal, like: “On the bestsellers list,” or “100,000 copies sold.” Several ResultSource clients filled in some of the details. One author – who shall not be named (why add more fuel to this joke?) – said he was able to purchase about 2,500 books by collecting the funds for pre-sale orders from his clients. All it took above that was a fee in the range of $20,000 to $30,000. What did he get for his money? His book hit number 3 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover business best-seller list in the first week. It hit number 1 on the list soon after. Sales since then — about 1,000 print copies total.

So, you may ask, what difference does it make if the author sells all the books he’s going to sell in week one? My question in return would be to ask why there is such a hefty fee and why it’s necessary for ResultSource to skirt the safeguard against bulk sales that are in place by the companies that calculate sales for the purposes of the best seller lists.

Whatever happened to writing a book and promoting it through hard work?

Wall Street Journal, How are Some Authors Landing On Best-Seller Lists?

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Review of My Book!

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Time to Read!

I’ve been reading and listening to a number of new nonfiction titles. Some have been great. Some not so much. It just feels wonderful to have enough balance in my life to add this back into my routine. A quick rundown:

Extra Virginity: The Sublime and Scandalous World of Olive Oil” by Tom Mueller — Overview: Just what is in that bottle of Extra Virgin Olive Oil? Does the designation have any meaning? Is there any hope for this product? Plus: Exhaustive treatise on extra virgin olive oil. Well written. Minus: Sometimes circles around on itself. Sometimes has far more information than you could possibly want. Bottom Line: Well worth the time to read or listen. Will give you a solid working knowledge of the topic.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking” by Susan Cain — Overview: This book posits that there are introverts and extroverts, and that introverts are far better suited to many positions of importance. Plus: I learned a lot about studies into personality. Minus: More a personal journey than a scientific work. Bottom Line: The pro-Introvert bias is annoying enough that I nearly did not finish the audio book.

The Perfection Point: Sport Science Predicts the Fastest Man, the Highest Jump, and the Limits of Athletic Performance” by John Brenkus — Overview: Just how fast can a man run? How far can he drive a golf ball? How much can a person bench press? Plus: Convivial voice. Thoughtful reasoning. Minus: A lot of conjecture despite the ‘science’ in the book. Bottom Line: The conjecture is right up front. An interesting book.

The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon” by David Grann — Overview: Percy Fawcett vanished in the Amazon jungle in 1925. This book tells the story as Grann works to solve the mystery of his disappearance. Plus: Well written. Fascinating topic. Minus: Too many threads and outtakes. Bottom Line: The book is well done and the topic fascinating enough that it is well worth the read or listen.