Sunday, February 24, 2013

Deceitful Bestseller Lists?

There’s no doubt about it: publishing and marketing is a crazy business full of scandals, unethical practices, and, on some levels, desperation. I don’t like it, but I understand how things like sock puppetry (stacking reviews in an author’s favor) happen, as writers scrap for every bit of attention they can get.

This week, I came across another tasteless and discouraging aspect of the book business, revealed in an insightful blog by Soren Kaplan, the author of Leapfrogging. His nonfiction book made it onto The Wall Street Journal’s (WSJ) bestseller list at #3 the week it debuted, then promptly fell off the list a week later.

For years, I’ve heard rumors about the skewing of bestseller’s lists by those in a position to play with the numbers, but Kaplan writes a detailed piece on exactly how he did it, and why. Kaplan’s bio describes him as an educator, speaker, and consultant on how to create business breakthroughs. Therefore, he has a lot of contacts in the business world, which he used, along with his own money, to pre-order 3,000 copies of his book. According to a company called ResultSource, who apparently cracked the bestseller code, this is what it takes to get on the WSJ list. In fact, Kaplan talked to people in the book business and was advised to start a bestseller campaign because “everyone was doing it”, especially for nonfiction books. So, Kaplan hired ResultSource to do help him create a bestseller the moment it hit the stores.

He’s the first to admit that people with money and contacts are the ones most likely to get on the bestseller list. He also admits that if an author and/or publisher can buy his way onto one of these lists, then how reliable is the list in the first place? Kudos to Kaplan for having the courage to go public with his experience, although I imagine not everyone will be happy with his decision.

I’m sure, that the #3 debut helped Kaplan sell his book and garner desperately sought attention. After all, plenty of people still believe what they read in the newspaper. The question is, should they? I’ll never look at bestsellers lists the same way again. To read more of his insightful blog, go to

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