When a bestselling author isn’t really a bestselling author

Or not!

Or not!

Do you have a book you want to appear in the top ten of a “prestigious” bestsellers list?  Yes?  Okay, next question.  Do you have $85,000 to pay a company called ResultSource to manipulate your book sales for a day?  The sudden spike in sales will flash on the radar of bestselling lists and wham, bam, call it a scam, your book is listed as a bestseller.  Now, your sales will drop precipitously after you’ve reached such dramatic literary heights, but that doesn’t matter.  You can forever call yourself a bestselling author.

According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, here’s how it works.  ResultSource will use a portion of the $85K you paid, and “arrange the purchase of a quantity of books in such a way that they (are) counted toward national best-seller lists.”

In other words, enough books (2500-3000) will be purchased by a stable of buyers on a certain day to give you a sales spike.  ResultSource will reimburse those buyers for their purchase, and, I imagine, kick in a little “commission” for their efforts.  Now, part of this is conjecture on my part because ResultSource has never really revealed how their formula works, but common sense sheds a little light on the darker aspects of this fraud.

The article only addresses this tactic being used for business books, but I’m willing to bet that other categories and genres are afflicted by this dishonest practice.  Authors do not reap riches for their investment.  They merely use it to acquire the title of “Bestselling Author” to apply to their website, business cards, and Christmas newsletter for family and friends.  They may get a speaking engagement or two out of the deal, and a front of the line pass at Starbucks, but other than that this truly has a horrific ROI (Return On Investment).  You would think business book authors would know better.

The truly astonishing thing that one learns from this article is how few books you actually have to sell to appear in the top ten bestsellers lists from The New York Times to The Business Journal.

Authors who have used ResultSource have discovered that there is no lasting effect from their enormous investment.  You think?  They create artificial demand for a brief period of time.  The key to a books popularity and sales isn’t the people who buy it.  It’s the people who read it.  ResultSource isn’t finding readers for authors.  They’re finding buyers who will never crack it open.  They’ll never fall in love with it or find anything of value in it.  They’ll never rush to Facebook or Twitter to tell their friends and followers about it.  They’ll never call up their BFF or mom and insist they read this great new book they discovered.

You can manipulate a bestseller list for a brief moment in time, but you can’t manipulate readers.

Arm outstretched. Microphone dropped.

As long as I’m the least selling bestselling author unicorns will die.

I’ve decided I’m going to kick it up a notch this year and sell more books… a lot more books.  How?  First by picking a target.  Unbeknownst to Stephenie Meyer, I have decided that she and I are in competition.  We both published our first book in 2005; She with her first book in the Twilight series, and me with my first book in the Oz Chronicle series.  Her rise to the top has been meteoric, while I have clearly over-stayed my welcome at the bottom.  It’s time for me to move up.  

Currently, Stephenie has about an 85,000,000 copies head start on me, so I have my work cut out for me.  To illustrate just how far I have to go to catchup with her, I made this handy-dandy chart:

Move over Stephenie. I'm coming to take my spot at the top.

What’s that you say?  Insurmountable?   Not at all.  It is very mountable… er, doable.  Especially if you buy 85,000,000 copies of my books.  Yeah, didn’t think of that, did you? 

Seriously, I’m working on slogans for my “beat Stephenie Meyer” campaign that are sure to become part of the American lexicon in 2010.  So far, these are my favorites:

  •  “Every day R.W. Ridley sells fewer books than Stephenie Meyer an orphan cries.”
  • “If R.W. Ridley doesn’t sell more books than Stephenie Meyer in 2010, unicorns will go extinct.  I’m not kidding.”
  • “Have you bought one of R.W. Ridley’s books yet?  No? Jerk!  Didn’t you hear about the orphans and unicorns?”

Granted, they still need a little work, but I’ll iron out the details later.  The important thing to remember is that the fate of orphans and unicorns is in your hands.  Do the right thing.

BTW – I know the chart makes it look like I haven’t sold any books, but I have.  It’s just tough to register on a chart that tops out at 85,000,000.