Monday, February 25, 2013

Musing Monday..Buyer Beware

Yes, it is Monday once again, so let's look at the questions at Should Be Reading...

Musing Mondays asks you to muse about one of the following each week…
• Describe one of your reading habits.
• Tell us what book(s) you recently bought for yourself or someone else, and why you chose that/those book(s).
• Tell us what you’re reading right now — what you think of it, so far; why you chose it; what you are(or, aren’t) enjoying it.
 • Do you have a bookish rant? Something about books or reading (or the industry) that gets your ire up?
 • Instead of the above questions, maybe you just want to ramble on about something else pertaining to books — let’s hear it.

Maybe I am just naive.
Maybe I expect better of people, who like myself, love books.
But it seems the bookish world is as full of cheating and finagling as any industry.

In the past, we have discussed how various sources, including the authors themselves, post fake reviews.  It is most visible when a "small" book, with a small number of reviews, does it but that certainly does not mean that any author or publisher might not do it for any book. How much would it get some people to write 100 five star reviews. Say $20 each and suddenly your book looks like a winner on Amazon or Barnes and Noble or wherever.

And you certainly can't believe the blurbs from famous, respected authors that you might read on the back of that book. I am no sure why they do it...friendship, bribes, publisher influence, but having bought more than a few books based on those recommendations, real stinkers, I really have to question them. It is hard to ignore them, but I must realize they might not be giving be their honest opinion.

But now I find out that it is possible to pay to make your book a bestseller.
I am talking New York Times, Wall Street Journal best seller list!

In an article called The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike , the Wall Street Journal discusses a strange phenomenon.
A book that was previously selling a very small number of units per week suddenly has a huge spike in sales in one week, enough to get them on a best seller list. The figure needed is smaller than I might have thought, perhaps 5000 for the WSJ and maybe 3 times that for the NYT. But they sell the needed number and there they are, on the best seller list. And then, just as quickly, the next week it disappears again, back to maybe a few hundred being sold. That seems a little suspicious, doesn't it?

Well, it seems that in many cases it might be due to the author or even the publisher hiring the services of a company like the marketing firm of San Diego-based ResultSource. For a fee, said to be about $20,000, they say they can make your book a best seller. For a little while...
"Precisely how it goes about that is unclear, though, and there is discomfort among some in the publishing industry who worry that preorders are being corralled and bulk purchases are being made to appear like single sales to qualify for inclusion in best-seller lists, which normally wouldn't count such sales."
Sometimes, they go out and buy copies of your book, which will cost you an additional $70,000-$100,000. But it seems according to the article, some authors, in this case of business non-fiction books, have already pre-sold many of these books to companies who are hiring them to give talks to their companies in lieu of their normal speaking fee. In that way, the author gets the money back for the books bought from the companies and all is good.

In another article I read a story about a once well known music producer who wrote a book and bought a huge number of the copies himself. He did it somehow in such a way that was it not caught by the methods and restrictions places like the NY Times have set up to try and prevent 'scams' like this. Small number of books from a large number of retail outlets...he then just gave the books away.
Why go to these lengths? Is one week of best selling sales worth it?

Well, if you make your living giving speeches for pay, yes, it may be. Because now you can be advertised as a "best selling author", and demand more for your presentations. I saw one man who about getting $30,000 for a speech. If now you could ask $40,000 or $50,000, yes, you could soon make that money back. And maybe even sell some more books at the talks. If your book was a best seller, you must know what you are talking about, right?
Hmmm...maybe not.
And if you have enough of you own money to waste, like that producer, yes, it might be just for the attention it brings.
Because then, forever, you can claim to be a best selling author!

Is everything a scam?
Can you believe anything?


  1. I read once that a "bestselling author," who shall be nameless here, did a number of tricky things in the beginning to sell a lot of books.

    As for reviews...I believe that many of those five star reviews, especially the really short ones that don't really explore the themes, characters, etc., are bogus. Or friends of the author, if not paid by the author.

    Just sayin'.


    1. Have to agree. Sometimes it is so obvious that I think they must think we are idiots.

  2. BRAVO!!! I almost never read reviews on Amazon anymore. I know authors want 5 star reviews, but in all honesty, not all book are deserving of 5 stars. I know authors work long lonely hours writing books, and I appreciate that, but don't get upset with me when I don't give you 5 stars for an honest review. Try harder to earn my 5 stars next time.

    As far as authors recommendations, if you notice the same quote appears almost always on all the books they recommend. I think it is just tit for tat. You say I'm pretty, and I'll say you are beautiful. Thanks for another fine commentary today. I award it 5 gold stars.

  3. If I read reviews on Amazon, I go straight to the 1 and 2 * reviews. That always tells me more than the 5 gushing stars.

  4. It is sad this kind of thing happens. I know if I see nothing but 5 star reviews for a book on Amazon, I'm immediately suspicious -- unless there are a huge number of reviews (1,000+).

  5. Who knew? We could all be bestselling authors, I guess. Pre-orders seems like an odd way to determine bestsellers too, since bookstores can return books.

  6. Very interesting musing! I don't often read reviews for just this reason.

  7. Wow.
    I don't put much stock in the best seller lists, since a lot of those authors aren't to my liking anyway. Still, it's disheartening to think of people buying their way onto the lists.

  8. How crazy! I'm very surprised it would be worth it to people to make their book a best seller for a week. Maybe other people pick books simply because they're on the a best seller list once, but I'm only likely to pick up a book based on hype if I hear good things about it from book bloggers I follow :)

  9. Enjoyed your post. I had no idea this went on - here's my MM:


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