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Books The Almighty Buck News

Buying Your Way Onto the NY Times Bestsellers List 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the next-you're-going-to-tell-me-letterman's-top10-is-made-up dept.
Freshly Exhumed writes "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. While the first two require the favor of a benevolent deity, the third can be had by anyone with the ability to write a check — a pretty big one, to ResultSource, a San Diego-based marketing consultancy — in what Forbes says is essentially a laundering operation aimed at deceiving the book-buying public into believing a title is more in-demand than it is. 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. '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.'"
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Buying Your Way Onto the NY Times Bestsellers List

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    from how the rest of the world operates?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Seriously, I'm trying to wonder who would be so naive or child-like to think people with, "...enough money, contacts and know-how..." somehow aren't the ones that accomplish 99% of everything anywhere. That's how it's been since we still wore pelts and threw rocks at one another.

      Manipulate the process until you own it. Or be content sitting out of the race.

      • by alen (225700)

        slashtarts? people who think the world is like star wars or star trek and everyone is always open and truthful and only hard work is enough

        truth is there are lots of people with an idea close to yours and you need to market your idea to make money on it

      • by Dunbal (464142) *
        Only the 1% wore pelts. The rest were in loincloths or naked. Now go out and hunt me some more pelts...
      • by tehcyder (746570) on Monday February 25, 2013 @05:26AM (#43001173) Journal

        Seriously, I'm trying to wonder who would be so naive or child-like to think people with, "...enough money, contacts and know-how..." somehow aren't the ones that accomplish 99% of everything anywhere. That's how it's been since we still wore pelts and threw rocks at one another.

        Manipulate the process until you own it. Or be content sitting out of the race.

        It's why we invented things like democracy and taxes. They limit the absolute abuses of the 1%.

    • This is something that I have never understood. Okay, so 27 billion people have read a book. I glance at it. It's a dry looking piece of shit, no artwork, the author is someone I've not read, the synopsis is unappealing - so I throw it back at the bookshelf that it came from.

      I don't CARE that 80 gazillion little girls found this book fascinating. I'm not a little girl.

      I don't CARE that two million law enforcement officers approve of the book. I'm not a cop.

      I don't CARE that two billion Catholics approv

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The authors of a business book called "The Discipline of Market Leaders" successfully manipulated the NY Times bestseller list in the '90s by buying thousands of copies of their own books at selected retailers (a paragraph on that episode appears here [wikipedia.org]). Ironically, reviewers agreed that the book was actually pretty good, even after the authors' dicey behavior came to light.

    And of course, Amazon.com is manipulated all the time by shills posting book and product reviews by allegedly disinterested customers.

  • I, Libertine (Score:5, Interesting)

    by sk999 (846068) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @01:46PM (#42996005)

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I,_Libertine [wikipedia.org]

    This book, by Frederick C. Ewing, made the best-seller list in spite of the fact that neither it nor the author even existed. The hoax was perpetrated by Jean Shepherd and his radio audience to protest the way the lists were compiled - this was back in 1956.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    WHat makes the submitter think that getting on Oprah's list any different? She takes sponsorships all the damn time, or you think she really presents things of her own choosing all the time? Like saying how awesome Surface was while sending it from her iPad?

  • Most books and movies are the same. Look at half the scifi books on amazon. Humans fighting aliens for some reason

    When this happens you go with brand name or marketing to tell you what everyone else is buying

    I check out the free books that indie authors drop the price on amazon to market their other books, and most times I rarely read them. They aren't that good and I go back to the brand name

    • by Mitreya (579078) <<moc.liamg> <ta> <ayertim>> on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:54PM (#42996407)

      Most books and movies are the same. Look at half the scifi books on amazon. Humans fighting aliens for some reason

      Is that really all you see in SciFi books?

      These are not documentaries to teach you facts -- so a second book that has humans fighting aliens is not a repeat. It's about the delivery -- good plot and/or mystery, interesting character development, etc.

      The aliens are sometimes (in good books, anyway) there just to provide a little more freedom in story-telling

    • by dywolf (2673597) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @04:16PM (#42996933)

      Scholars will tell you there are only 8 to 18 (depending on the scholar) unique plots in all of human civilization.

      Given the sheer number of stories we tell on a daily basis let alone all history...some overlap should hardly be surprising.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        Scholars will tell you there are only 8 to 18 (depending on the scholar) unique plots in all of human civilization.

        Given the sheer number of stories we tell on a daily basis let alone all history...some overlap should hardly be surprising.

        That sort of reductive structuralist approach is entirely unhelpful in deciding whether or not a work of art is any good. It's like saying that all detective fiction has the same story as it's about A committing a crime against B, or that Fifty Shades of Grey is basically the same plot as Anna Karenina as it's A falling in love with B.

        Well, thanks, that really narrows it down.

        • by dywolf (2673597)

          *whooosh*

        • by dywolf (2673597)

          *whoooosh*

          You really ought to read the parent of the post you're replying to first.
          Then you would see that I was making the exact point you were making and pointing out the futility of saying "they're all the same".

      • Scholars will tell you there are only 8 to 18 (depending on the scholar) unique plots in all of human civilization.

        UltraWord will increase the number of possible plots well beyond the 8-plot limit imposed by the old BookOS.

    • by dywolf (2673597)

      the "brand name" as you call it, and i must assume you mean the "known" author is a known author not because he is quality, but because AT ONE TIME he sold a significant QUANTITY of books. and oft times, quality isnt even required (*cough* twilight *cough*)

    • by HJED (1304957)
      Really, personally I have found a lot of brilliant independent books on Amazon. You just have to read the reviews first to check that it is actually readable.
    • by LordLucless (582312) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @06:10PM (#42997749)

      Most books and movies are the same. Look at half the scifi books on amazon. Humans fighting aliens for some reason

      Yeah. Every book I've read is just a sequence of words, one after the other. All the same!

    • by chrismcb (983081)

      Most books and movies are the same. Look at half the scifi books on amazon. Humans fighting aliens for some reason

      I look at half the SciFi books on amazon and they are human fighting humans (one of the seven conflicts) Aliens aren't as predominate in SciFi as you might think.
      But in reality, yes most stories are similar. What is your point?

    • by tehcyder (746570)
      Not sure if a troll, or whether poster is just a philistine moron. As this is slashdot, it's impossible to tell for sure.
  • by alen (225700) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:02PM (#42996093)

    There are companies that will "buy" your app to get you on the top of apple's charts

    Apple has even been cracking down on it

    • by nametaken (610866)

      I guess the nice part of that is that you give them a few grand, they buy the app, and you make back most of the money they spent on your app.

      With these book campaigns you've preordered 3,000 books made of actual plant matter, that costs serious money, and you don't make the majority of that back in a sales check. You have to count on making it back with the, "New York Times Bestseller" moniker, over the rest of your professional life.

      • by Bronster (13157)

        What do you think happens to those books? They don't magically disappear into thin air. They can be put in a box and sent to a store again.

        • by gl4ss (559668)

          What do you think happens to those books? They don't magically disappear into thin air. They can be put in a box and sent to a store again.

          that still assumes they'll eventually get sold.

          but maybe the point is that the amounts aren't really that great.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:05PM (#42996111)

    How do you think all those gods-awful L. Ron Hubbard books got on the best seller lists? The cult members were ordered to buy as mony copies as possible of *every single book*, then they would return them to the book store a week later. And if the stores refused them, they'd "contribute" the stores to librraries. They'd especially do this if the libraries had books by former members explaining the cult secrets, to get the demystification books off the shelves, combined with campaigns to steal the demystification books.

    Take a good look at the history of "The Scandal of Scientology", published by Paulette Cooper, and how the cult killed that book. Then ask your local librarian about why they have so many copies of Dianetics and Battlefield Earth and any of the L. Ron Hubbard fiction in the last 20 years. (They'd get hundreds of copies from cult members after each new book.) And ask the local bookstore owners, if you can get them to discuss it at all. The cult would even isolate the bookstores that were surveyed for bestseller lists and aim members at *those* bookstores, although modern data collection has made this more difficult to aim. (It's easier now to collect the data from *all* bookstores and directly from publishers.)

    • by Troll-in-Training (1815480) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @06:29PM (#42997883)

      How do you think all those gods-awful L. Ron Hubbard books got on the best seller lists? The cult members were ordered to buy as mony copies as possible of *every single book*, then they would return them to the book store a week later. And if the stores refused them, they'd "contribute" the stores to libraries.

      This explains why the public library I visited when I was a kid had the entire Mission Earth series. It was quite possibly the most horrible thing I have ever read. I read the entire 10 book series in 2 days because it was so utterly insane, so incredibly bad that I couldn't stop reading. It was obvious that copious quantites of powerful mind altering substances were used in the creation of those novels.

      I remember thinking to myself as I read :

      This is a product of mind on drugs...

      lots and lots of drugs...

      very powerful drugs... "

      If this is what LSD does it is very very very bad.

      It was because of L Ron Hubbard and his Mission Earth series that I resolved never ever to use LSD or any other hallucinogen. Anything that could inspire the type of warped, demented and utterly insane thought that went into those books and the poor judgement that resulted in releasing those books for public consumption was clearly a bad thing to be avoided at any cost.

      • by tehcyder (746570)

        I read the entire 10 book series in 2 days because it was so utterly insane, so incredibly bad that I couldn't stop reading

        I've never found that works with books. Really bad films and TV shows are different, because you can just let it wash over you and drunkenly pick out the egregious parts. But really bad books are simply too painful and require too much effort to make it worth it.

  • by fermion (181285) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:09PM (#42996121) Homepage Journal
    I assume that all business books. I mean it is like a bunch of kids. If one laughs they all laugh. So if a book sells a lot, then other frims thinking there are missing out on something.

    I have also seen another effect through team building. Some writes a book, often gibberish, but then consultants use it to market team building or efficiency seminars. Every seminar involves dozens of books, which generate revenue for the author. Of course, if the seminars are going to be successful, the book must have been a best seller. An upfront investment of $100K, and maybe the cost of ghost writer, can generate years of income.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I assume that all business books. I mean it is like a bunch of kids. If one laughs they all laugh. So if a book sells a lot, then other frims thinking there are missing out on something.

      I have also seen another effect through team building. Some writes a book, often gibberish, but then consultants use it to market team building or efficiency seminars. Every seminar involves dozens of books, which generate revenue for the author. Of course, if the seminars are going to be successful, the book must have been a best seller. An upfront investment of $100K, and maybe the cost of ghost writer, can generate years of income.

      FFS Slashdot, how does parent get modded +5 Interesting? Parent is spewing same gibberish that content of post references, citing NO sources in the process. P.S. Amazon does a fantastic job of rating business books. Good ones have 1000+ reviews with 4.5 stars or above. The rest get trashed pretty quickly and have less than 10 reviews.

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        I assume that all business books. I mean it is like a bunch of kids. If one laughs they all laugh. So if a book sells a lot, then other frims thinking there are missing out on something.

        I have also seen another effect through team building. Some writes a book, often gibberish, but then consultants use it to market team building or efficiency seminars. Every seminar involves dozens of books, which generate revenue for the author. Of course, if the seminars are going to be successful, the book must have been a best seller. An upfront investment of $100K, and maybe the cost of ghost writer, can generate years of income.

        FFS Slashdot, how does parent get modded +5 Interesting? Parent is spewing same gibberish that content of post references, citing NO sources in the process.

        P.S. Amazon does a fantastic job of rating business books. Good ones have 1000+ reviews with 4.5 stars or above. The rest get trashed pretty quickly and have less than 10 reviews.

        replace team building with multilevel marketing. oh wait you don't have to.
        and google the sales tactics up.

        if you're such an idiot that you read 10 business /attitude building books a year, maybe you're the sort of idiot who goes and rates them up based solely on that you bought them and you wouldn't buy a bad book...

      • Parent is spewing same gibberish that content of post references, citing NO sources in the process.

        Oh, quit whining, Mr. Covey [amazon.com]. Your day's finished [amazon.com]. Get over it...

  • Selling appearances (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cruciform (42896) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:17PM (#42996175) Homepage

    Look at someone like Ann Coulter. Her target audience wouldn't bother to read the book, so why does it become a best seller? Because that part is engineered. The lets Coulter and her ilk make their money on public appearances. An ingenious scam, and doesn't even require writing ability.

    • by Charliemopps (1157495) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:54PM (#42996409)

      You need to think outside of your own little social circle. I've seen Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'reilly's books on many a coffee table. I often suspect that the owners of the books likely never read them but put them out as some kind of statement to guests, but whatever. I've read bits and pieces and most of their content is directed at conservatives that are likely not very good at debate, and the books basically a guide regarding how to frame their arguments when arguing their political points. They serve a purpose, and they have no need to be on the newyork times best seller lists. In fact, Bill O'reilly's books have often been blackballed from the list despite being the number one selling book in the country for several weeks running.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Citation needed.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        If you've seen many books by the likes of Coulter, Limbaugh, and O'Rielly on many coffee tables, you need to expand your social circle. Only by limiting your associates to members of the RNC would you get such a warped view of the world.

        • by cffrost (885375)

          If you've seen many books by the likes of Coulter, Limbaugh, and O'Rielly on many coffee tables, you need to expand your social circle. Only by limiting your associates to members of the RNC would you get such a warped view of the world.

          It could have been one person with multiple coffee tables full of books.

      • Anecdotal: One of my family members reads this type of book. From time to time, I'm told "You need to read this book!" Somehow, I can't bring myself to purchase my money and waste my time on these things, but they do get read by some people... and they like it.
    • by alexgieg (948359) <alexgieg@gmail.com> on Sunday February 24, 2013 @06:25PM (#42997849) Homepage

      Look at someone like Ann Coulter. Her target audience wouldn't bother to read the book, so why does it become a best seller? Because that part is engineered. The lets Coulter and her ilk make their money on public appearances. An ingenious scam, and doesn't even require writing ability.

      I have to disagree. I've read a few of her books and while I disagree with many, many points she makes, she does indeed write well and she is very funny if only you go into it with the proper mindset. If you don't, it all falls flat.

      Don't think I'm trolling. Comedy is based on twists made to something shared between the comedian and the public. Take anything meant to make people laugh that comes outside from your cultural framework, for example a translation of some of the ancient Greek comedies available online, and try to laugh at the jokes. Most of the time you won't even notice what *is* a joke. The context is so alien that the "punch line" simply isn't.

      On the other hand, conservatives also have a very hard time noticing the joke in liberal comedy about conservatism, much less laughing at it. For them to be able to do so would require them to stop, concentrate, start thinking as liberals for the duration of the reading, allow themselves to laugh, then go back thinking as conservatives. Most people, on both sides of the political spectrum, simply aren't mentally flexible enough to do that.

  • I've always assumed that Winfrey's endorsement was for sale as well.

    • by russotto (537200)

      I've always assumed that Winfrey's endorsement was for sale as well.

      I'm sure it costs more.

  • by nospam007 (722110) * on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:32PM (#42996259)

    Rich people bend the rules?

    Say it ain't so!

  • by rueger (210566) * on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:34PM (#42996267) Homepage
    It has long been acknowledged that the "Best Seller" lists limit themselves to certain genres anyhow. For instance, romances and science fiction books which actually outsell many mainstream "best sellers" simply don't appear on the big best seller lists.

    I tend to think of best seller lists as being of interest to people buying books in airports, and not much else.
    • by tehcyder (746570)

      It has long been acknowledged that the "Best Seller" lists limit themselves to certain genres anyhow. For instance, romances and science fiction books which actually outsell many mainstream "best sellers" simply don't appear on the big best seller lists.

      That's mainly because genre fiction has much more of a long tail. With the exceptions of phenomena like the Fifty Shades of Grey books, best sellers tend to sell a lot in a few weeks.

  • by ReallyEvilCanine (991886) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:35PM (#42996277) Homepage
    The Criminal Cult of Scientology has been doing this for decades [latimes.com]. The only surprise is how long it took others to start.
  • by flyingfsck (986395) on Sunday February 24, 2013 @02:48PM (#42996355)
    It is pretty obvious that a printer cannot know that a book will be on a best seller list before it is printed and there is no way to print covers retroactively. Yet, lots of people probably get fooled by it.
    • It is pretty obvious that a printer cannot know that a book will be on a best seller list before it is printed and there is no way to print covers retroactively.

      [citation needed], please. I assume that you can actually show some real examples of first-edition hardcovers with preprinted "bestseller" covers, right?

      A common formulation I see on covers is "By the bestselling author..." or "By the bestselling author of Foo...", both of which can be true before the book is printed.

      Another option is to print a "bestseller" dust jacket for the second print run. (In principle, the dust jackets on the original first editions could even be replaced with the "bestseller

  • Top 40? Marketing money (altough thanks to web this has started to change). Box office? Marketing money (but not only). And let's not start with "special introducions" or playing song three times in one hour. Why it should be any different with books? People waste incredibly huge money for so called marketing and exposure.

  • by guygo (894298)
    Typical American Elitist crap. If you have enough money you don't wait in lines like the rest of us, you don't have to earn your place in society you can just buy it, you don't have any real merit to your life so you just buy your way into whatever you want. More of the 1% supporting the 1% and screw the rest of you.
  • It's almost like talent doesn't even matter
    • by Torodung (31985)

      Oh, it matters. It's just that it is not enough, and it is not the indispensable determining factor for a publication's marketing success. But success+talent beats money making "success" in every meaningful way that I can imagine, just not necessarily in terms of monetary gain.

  • Scientology has been doing this for years, keeping Dianetics on the top of the charts. Members buy the books in bulk then send them back to the publisher - often in their original boxes - which are then sent back to booksellers.

    At least ebooks make book laundering difficult and more expensive.

  • People actually pay attention to the NYTimes best seller list??? I never have. I find an author I like and read their books. Occasionally I'll look at reviews on Amazon but those have to be taken with a table spoon of salt. I read a lot of books and I've never looked at the NYTimes rating. Best is to be able to read a few pages randomly in the book. That tells me more than any review.

  • > 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.

    Yeah. I'm sure Solzhenitsyn craved Oprah's blessing.

  • Not news at all.

    I have never, N E V E R taken the NYT BS list seriously. If a novel, can debut at #1, it should be obvious that the fix is in, the list is rigged, it's either buying the spot or paying off the managers quietly.

    When I began to consider buying books for entertainment, I realized this whole best-seller stuff was as fake as can be.

    And while we're at it, those books released a week before the next version of whatever is actually shipped. Advertising. Pathetic.

    • by Burz (138833)

      I..

      Slashdot, where the first-person anecdote is still tirelessly trumpeted at evidence.

      (Hint: Its not about you.)

      BTW, never say "never".

  • I stopped paying attention to "best seller" status after I learned that one can have a best seller without a consumer ever buying a single book. It seems that it's based off wholesale sales not retail sales, so the whole thing is something of a sham to begin with.

  • This explains everything.

  • Mitch Joel (six Pixels of Separation blog) had a great post on this. We've known folks in social media who have been leveraging their networks and bulk sales to help boost their book onto the list or manipulate Amazon rankings for years now. Once you are on the list, the trick is to stay on, but the list helps increase sales and make the next book deal even more likely... So every incentive is in place to try to get your whole network to work in concert, write reviews, and otherwise promote your latest t

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