Sunday, February 24

Exposing The Bestseller: Money Can Buy Fame

Exposing The Bestseller: Money Can Buy Fame

Yes, money can buy fame. In this case, a lot of money.

The Price Of Fame

ResultSource is a company that, for about $50,000 will guarantee your book, however briefly, will make it onto the bestseller lists.

For instance, take the enterprising Soren Kaplan.
Mr. Kaplan purchased about 2,500 books through ResultSource, paying about $22 a book, including shipping, for a total of about $55,000. (The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike, Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, The Wall Street Journal)
In return, ResultSource made sure Mr. Kaplan's book, Leapfrogging, sold 3,000 copies in its first week pushing it into the number three position on "the Journal's hardcover business best-seller list". In addition, "it hit No. 1 on on Aug. 7".

It's amazing what money can buy.

There is a trick, though.  Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg writes:
To make a business-book best-seller list, a title doesn't need to sell as many copies as in other, bigger categories, like general fiction and nonfiction.

A title that sells 3,000 copies in a week, for example, might hit the Journal's business list, confirmed Nielsen BookScan. (The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike)

But Mom! Everyone's Doing it!

Here's what Soren Kaplan has to say about his decision to game the system:
I ... was introduced to someone who had just left her role as an executive at Harvard Business School Publishing. She was the first to mention “bestseller campaigns” to me. According to her, “everyone” was doing it, especially for non-fiction business books like mine.

I also spoke to two of my professional heroes, gurus in the field of management and both regular staples on the Thinkers 50 – the who’s who list of the world’s leading business thought leaders. Both of them told me that if they hadn’t used bestseller campaigns for their own books, they wouldn’t have hit the bestseller lists. “Guruship,” they told me, came from playing the game in a way that reinforced their personal brands as thought leaders. Ponying up the dough for the bestseller campaign was a small investment that would pay off later in speaking fees and consulting contracts. (Debunking the Bestseller)
Soren Kaplan was told that "Three thousand books sold would get me on The Wall Street Journal bestseller list. Eleven thousand would secure a spot on the biggest prize of them all, The New York Times list."

11,000 books at $22 a pop is a far cry from 30 pieces of silver, but it feels the same.

Do you think buying ones way onto the bestseller lists is a common practice?

Other articles you might like:

- The Importance Of Finding Your Own Voice
- Write A Novel In A Year, Chuck Wendig's Plan: The Big 350
- Plot, Story and Tension

Photo credit: "Viv does XPRO Fujichrome (tungsten) T64" by kevin dooley under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.


  1. Yep, sure do! I'm currently watching a book that's so poorly written it's astonishing, and is is in the top 100 at Amazon. For the life of me I can't figure out how the author pulled it off.

    Envious? Sure! Jealous? Not really. Mystified- absolutely. 50K copies in a month? For that? Beats the hell out of me.

    Something's fishy, and I don't know what.

    1. Selling 50k copies in a month is impressive. I imagine that there are countless ways to game the system we don't know about. It's sad. But I honestly believe their success doesn't limit mine. That's my silver lining. :)

  2. Not sure if it's a common practice, but it is very dishonest. This guy is no better than Lance Armstrong.

    Whatever happened to hard work???

    Money won't buy the admiration of readers. I hope Mr. Kaplan knows this.

    But really, I am not surprised. If people can buy their way into prestigious universities, why not buy your way onto the bestseller list too? Doesn't mean it's right, but to each his own...

    I'd rather work my way to such a thing, if such a thing is even possible anymore...

    1. "But really, I am not surprised. If people can buy their way into prestigious universities, why not buy your way onto the bestseller list too?"

      Excellent point! I hadn't thought of that comparison, but it's apt.

      "I'd rather work my way to such a thing, if such a thing is even possible anymore..."

      I believe it is. Joe Konrath, for instance, is doing very well. I don't think he's made The New York Times bestseller list, but he's making about $500,000 a year. I could live with that! ;)

  3. I think tradpub does it all the time.

    This probably wouldn't work for someone trying to break out as a fiction writer. For nonfiction, apparently it does. Guruship does indeed come with a full pot of gold and minor celebrity status.

    1. "I think tradpub does it all the time."

      Yes, I expect large traditional publishing houses have both the resources and the knowledge to influence the placement of books on the bestselling lists, though I don't know the extent of the influence.

      I know of at least one author whose publisher made a major effort marketing his book, hoping it would reach the bestseller lists, but it never did.


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