Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Faking a Bestseller

Pajiba has been documenting everything that happened with the book that tried to take the number one spot on the YA New York Times Bestseller list.  I want to address one small part of the fallout.  There has of course been some suggestion that the folks that uncovered this did so out of spite, or because they couldn't believe some book they've never heard of made the bestseller list, or that lots of people buy a bunch of copies of their own book to get on the list.  So, let's address those. 
1. People get mad at books all the time.  The idea that people could have used their spite to get it removed without any other irregularities, is nuts. 
2. It's surprising when a book most industry pros haven't heard of makes the list, especially the top spot, but it's not unprecedented.  What surprised people here was less that, but that it somehow sold perfectly (usually some bookstore puts the book out a little early, etc) in an incredibly high amount, and that, if you looked, there were no copies of the books to be had anywhere. Not even a digital version. (The digital is now available, and yes, sometimes things get stuck in the push to go live process, but really, if you didn't have it ready to go on the day you hit the list?  I wonder.  It basically says book sales were not your priority.)
3. It is kind of an open secret that if you can front the money to buy several thousand copies of your book and schedule it all for release week, then sure, you'll probably make the list.  The reason for spending the six digits doing this would cost*, is that you expect to make money back in several ways - future sales, especially through positioning the book as a bestseller and speaking engagements.  While the stated reason for these bulk buys of this book was to sell it at cons, there is not yet any evidence there are enough of these books to do this.  In other words, they got sales listed in the system, and most all of them have not been fulfilled.  Because the book is out of stock.  So...even if they were planning to sell it back at cons, there aren't currently enough books to do that.  So, and yes, this is me speculating at this point, but it mostly looks like they printed enough books to have a launch and to give out a few giveaways and then faked 18,000 sales because there aren't actually 18,000 copies of this book.  So, the Times amending their list because sales are at this point not fulfilled is not spite, it is reality.  I could release a book and call 50 bookstores to order my book and not spend a penny because the book is out of stock.  But that does not make my book a bestseller, because a key part of that word is sales, and none of the sales have been fulfilled. 

*The book is priced at 29.95.  To buy 5000 copies already has you over 100,000.