More Authors Hiring Firms to Buy Up Their Own ‘Bestsellers’

We can all agree that promoting books is a difficult and often thankless job complicated by the public’s rapid move away from paper and toward the digital model (which is less profitable but more efficient and far more agreeable to spouses who really don’t care for the dust and clutter of a big bookshelf).

For authors and publishers alike, the very ability to claim “bestseller” status can significantly increase sales in addition to related speaking and consulting fees (especially relevant if you write about business). Unfortunately, it seems that more authors are now responding to the PR and financial challenges of writing for a living by simply buying their way onto bestseller lists.

Here’s how it works: The Wall Street Journal outs a marketing firm called ResultSource which buys thousands of copies of books in bulk before their publication dates to create a false “sales bounce” and then returns them to the seller. (All for a significant fee, of course.)

Can you guess how we feel about this practice?

While there is “some discomfort” about the practice among those in the publishing industry, they don’t seem to understand how it all goes down.

Representatives from the firm, which hypes its ability to turn first-time titles into bestsellers, refused to comment on the matter, which is completely understandable because they are engaged in what we call “some shady business”. Hey guys: We know it’s a tough economy and all, but this is worse than paying people to write fawning reviews of your own work. (Amazon now says it has stopped doing business with ResultSource, by the way–and publishing houses supposedly discourage their authors from doing this kind of thing.)

The worst part about this story? “Bestselling” authors like Snooki and Lauren Conrad didn’t have to rely on ethically dubious PR stunts, because lots of real-life people actually paid money for their books.

Oh, and in case authors want to, you know, work to promote their own books, here’s a list of 89 helpful marketing hints. We don’t know if they’ll “change your life”, but they are practical!