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?