Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Here's How You Buy Your Way Onto The New York Times Bestsellers List Jeff Bercovici , FORBES STAFF http://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffbercovici/2013/02/22/heres-how-you-buy-your-way-onto-the-new-york-times-bestsellers-list/#10ee05983fd1 I cover technology with an emphasis on social and digital media. Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own. Delivering Happiness (Photo credit: Wikipedia) An endorsement from Oprah Winfrey. A film deal from Steven Spielberg. A debut at the top of The New York Times bestsellers list. These are the things every author craves most, and while the first two require the favor of a benevolent God, the third can be had by anyone with the ability to write a check -- a pretty big one. ResultSource, a San Diego-based marketing consultancy, specializes in getting books onto bestseller lists, according to The Wall Street Journal. For clients willing to pay enough, it will even guarantee a No. 1 spot. 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. And it's not cheap. Soren Kaplan, a business consultant and speaker, hired ResultSource to promote his book "Leapfrogging." Responding to the WSJ article on his website, Kaplan breaks out the economics of making the list. With a $27.95 list price, I was told that the cost of each book would total about $23.50 after various retail discounts and including $3.99 for tax, handling and shipping. To ensure a spot on The Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list, I needed to obtain commitments from my clients for a minimum of 3000 books at about $23.50, a total of about $70,500. I would need to multiply these numbers by a factor of about three to hit The New York Times list. So it would've cost more than $211,000, and that's before ResultSource's fee, which is typically more than $20,000. Kaplan settled for making the Journal's list, reaching the pre-sale figure of 3,000 by securing commitments from corporate clients, who agreed to buy copies as part of his speaking fees, and by buying copies for himself to resell at public appearances. Kaplan expresses significant reservations about taking part in what is essentially a laundering operation aimed at deceiving the book-buying public into believing a title is more in-demand than it is. "It’s no wonder few people in the industry want to talk about bestseller campaigns," he writes "Put bluntly, they allow people with enough money, contacts, and know-how to buy their way onto bestseller lists." Yet ResultSource's methods aren't exactly secret. The company's website features an endorsement from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and a breakdown of the campaign it mounted behind his book "Delivering Happiness," which included a Groupon offering of 1,600 copies. Via a spokeswoman, Hsieh confirmed that he hired the firm and detailed the services it provided. (You can read Hsieh's full statement at the bottom of this post.) Still, Amazon disapproves strongly enough of ResultSource's methods that it told WSJ it will no longer do business with the company. What about the publishers of the various bestsellers lists -- particularly the all-important New York Times list? The Times's methodology (which you can find at the bottom of this page) samples sales from a diverse range of retail outlets, a measure specifically intended to weed out books whose sales surge is a product of artificial demand. Books that benefited from bulk sales are supposed to have a dagger icon next to them to denote that fact. Yet when Hsieh's book debuted on the list in 2009, it had no such symbol. I called and emailed the Times with several questions, including whether it was aware before today of ResultSource's activities. Here's the reply I got from a spokeswoman: "The New York Times comprehensively tracks and tabulates the weekly unit sales of all titles reported by book retailers as their general interest bestsellers. We will not comment beyond our methodology on the other questions. ResultSource CEO Kevin Small did not reply to a voicemail. Here's Tony Hsieh's full message: ResultSource booked us for various speaking events in many of our cities during our 2010 book tour, where we went to 23 cities over 3.5 months on the Delivering Happiness bus. For part one of our trip, see: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NtiIXo9Id-s At many of those events, people paid to come watch me speak and receive an autographed copy of my book. ResultSource managed the speaking, book ordering, and distribution of the books for us during the tour. We're excited that the book has continued to do well over the years since the launch, and are also excited that the paperback version of the book will be coming out next month! Since the book launch, "Delivering Happiness" has spun off into a company, and now has its own apparel line as part of its mission to help spread the Delivering Happiness message: Kenneth Rapoza 4 years ago the best seller list is nothing but a scam. Its like the author comments on book jackets; Jeff’s thriller makes Steven King look like the Mickey Mouse club circa 1950 — by some famous author who is your BFF and read a whole two chapters in your book, OR is repped by the same agent/publisher. Ive interviewed “best sellers” and they and their agents told me that they had no idea how they got there, because total sales were 20k. Admit it, we all thought that a best seller sold millions of copies, or at least a few hundred thousand. 20k? You and I have written blog posts that have had more readers than that! Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink • djvanderhoeven 4 years ago At least Amazon’s process is much more transparently flawed (and I do mean that as a good thing. Don’t know if you’re very familiar with the web comics community, but one of the more popular ones, Dinasaur Comics (www.qwantz.com) inspired an anthology of short stories written by readers and compiled by various web comic artists. It was called “Machine of Death”. Anyway, the authors used their considerable web tug to tell all of their readers to make sure to buy the book on Amazon on the a certain day. Guess what? A few thousand buys quickly knocked it up to a #1 best seller, and as a bonus, pissed off Glen Beck (whose book debuted below it on the Amazon list) at the same time. For what’s it’s worth, I’m one of those readers/orderers, and it really was a very good book. Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink • gbooker 4 years ago Yup, the same trick can be used to make a top selling record album. Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink • Marianne Canter 4 years ago All best seller lists can be bought. Whether I’m in a bookstore or buying online, I avoid the Top Ten racks and search for selections recommended by friends or co-workers. Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink • Katherine Sears 4 years ago And yet, it is the first thing people ask about my business (Booktrope Publishing): “how many bestsellers have you had?” My answer, “that depends”. Do you mean via Amazon, Barnes and Noble/Nook, the NYTimes? The latter who, in their policies, state they reserve the right to ignore books they deem unworthy (and who all acknowledge prefer companies who give them advertising dollars). Amazon, who makes no pretense of telling anyone how their lists are calculated at all – maybe it is fair, who knows? Barnes and Noble, who just says nothing at all. But, regardless of it all, readers do not care how a book made “the list”. They just want a trusted recommendation, and they don’t want to make an incremental effort to get it. Well, until there is an impartial source for the casual reader, those of us in the business will continue to do our best to work within the current flawed system, to bring great books to market and to the public’s attention. Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink • Elizabeth Vennekens-Kelly 4 years ago An interesting article but a sad commentary on the industry. As an author whose book, was published by a boutique publisher, I know my chances are slim to none when it comes to making a best seller’s list. If you want to help the ‘little guy/gal’ and/or have an interest in cultural differences, check out my book Subtle Differences, Big Faux Pas, available from Amazon. Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink • Peter de Jager 4 years ago Ah yes Ethics – a case of “out of sight, out of mind” Welcome to the new world of marketing. I’ll pass Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink • ignacio sanabria 4 years ago Meanwhile, we the authors, have to do the selling of our books by ourselves. Perhaps a book tour would be most effective. Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink • Teresa de Grosbois 4 years ago It’s sad that there are outfits like this that advocate cheating the system. It really doesn’t serve the author or the industry in the long run. A foundation built on mud won’t stand. As someone who works with authors, I’d recommend running fast from anyone who would tell you to buy your way onto a list! Top Comment REPLY Flag Permalink •