Before I started book blogging, I knew very little about publishing. In the past eight years, I've learned a lot about the industry, especially about how books are marketed. I've learned that a good marketing budget can make all the difference in how well a book sells. I've learned that authors are increasingly responsible for marketing their own books and some authors really, really want to get on a bestsellers list. So much so that that some of them are willing to spend thousands of dollars to get there.
Credit: Bestsellers area in bookstore via Shutterstock
The Wall Street Journal recently featured an article by Jeffery Trachtenberg called, "The Mystery of the Book Sales Spike." If you closely follow bestsellers lists you may have noticed that sometimes a book will unexpectedly appear high on a publications bestsellers list and then disappear. Trachtenberg reached out to a few authors of those books and discovered that yes, people can really buy their way onto those lists. Two of the people he spoke to used a service called ResultSource.
ResultSource is a paid service that works with authors to create marketing campaigns for their books. They offer a variety of services, from helping authors plan their book launch to yes, helping authors get their book on a bestsellers list.
"Publishing a book builds credibility, but having a Bestseller initiates incredible growth—exponentially increasing the demand for your thought leadership, skyrocketing your speaking itinerary and value, giving you a national (even global) spotlight, and solidifying your author brand as the foremost leader in your niche."
I know that getting on a bestsellers list is a very big and important thing for authors but I have to confess that after reading the article in the Wall Street Journal I was still confused about why an author would do it. Luckily one of the authors interviewed in the article, Soren Kaplan, wrote his own post. In "Dunking the Bestseller", Kaplan explains a bit more about how it works and why he used it.
"There’s good reason why most industry insiders would prefer that the wider book-buying public didn’t learn about these campaigns. Put bluntly, they allow people with enough money, contacts, and know-how to buy their way onto bestseller lists. And they benefit all the key players of the book world. Publishers profit on them. Authors gain credibility from bestseller status, which can launch consulting or speaking careers and give a big boost to keynote presentation fees. And the marketing firms that run the campaigns don’t do so bad either."
Ah! It's all about marketing! How much does it cost an author to buy their way onto a bestsellers list? Well, let's just say that it's probably not an option for a lot of authors. In the Wall Street Journal Kaplan said that he paid a fee between $20,000 to $30,000. That amount does not include the money he personally paid to preorder books for his clients. While he would have later sold those books to his clients, making the money back, it was still a hefty check to write.
The title of bestselling authors undoubtedly is a status symbol. In the last few years we've seen more variations of it popping up. There are Kindle bestsellers, international bestsellers and the biggest one of them all, the New York Times bestseller. How all the bestsellers lists are composed, and the New York Times lists in particular, are a bit of mystery. The methods are kept tightly under wraps. Dear Author examined what these lists and the titles mean and revealed as much as is known about how they are made. No matter which list you are talking about, or how that list is composed, the bestseller status means a lot to readers and authors.
"To authors, it’s a prestige thing and a sales thing. Once an author makes it on the list, it’s hard to bump that author off in each successive publication. Readers use the list to filter their purchases. Why not go with what others have deemed worth purchasing rather than one of the riskier selections throughout the store?"
As a reader, I pay attention to bestsellers lists. I don't often buy something because it's on one of those lists but I like to know what books people are talking about and reading. As Dear Author states in their post, the lists may not be perfect but they do a good job of displaying books the country is talking about. If I was an author, would I want to be on one of those lists? Of course I would. Who wouldn't? But would I be willing to pay to be one on them? I don't think so, though thanks to Kaplan I have a better understanding of why some authors do. I know that I certainly couldn't afford to at the rates indicated in the Wall Street Journal.
Authors, would you try to buy your way on to a bestsellers list? Readers, do those lists influence your buying and reading habits?
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