Have you ever been perusing your local bookstore’s bargain bin/shelf and seen a title, or two or three, languishing there, despite having “New York Times Bestseller!” splashed across the cover? I know I have, and I’ve noticed that they tend to be in the self-help or business management areas. I figured that lots of people and companies probably went crazy over it for a week or so, then moved on to the next big thing, and now this store has a glut of them taking up valuable real estate. Holding these small hardcovers with their slick dust jackets and trite prose, I’m left with the feeling that, for the right genre, getting on the bestseller list must be incredibly easy.
But this article in Forbes explains things nicely. Apparently, a certain marketing consultancy offers an option whereby, for enough money, it can guarantee you a spot in the NY Times’ and Wall Street Journal’s bestseller lists. For enough money, it can even get you #1 ranking. How is this possible? “It does this by taking bulk sales and breaking them up into more organic-looking individual purchases, defeating safeguards that are supposed to make it impossible to ‘buy’ bestseller status,” according to Forbes.
Amazon disapproved of these business practices, so it refused to do business with that consultancy anymore. Of course, Amazon has its own troubles with fake reviews…
It can make a struggling author feel jaded: is nothing based on merit anymore? Is everything for sale?