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How to buy your way onto the bestseller list

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(Read caption) “Bought bestsellers” may have strong debuts but sales generally plunge thereafter.

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The fastest way to get your book on a bestseller list? Buy your way on.

That’s according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal outlining the dark practice of buying bestselling status. According to the article, at least one marketing firm, ResultSource, charges client-authors thousands of dollars to buy up books en masse ahead of a book’s publication date, creating a sales spike that lands the title on coveted bestseller lists.

Phony? You bet.

The paper outlines the story of Soren Kaplan, a first-time business author who used the service to ensure his book, “Leapfrogging,” would attain star status.

“Mr. Kaplan purchased about 2,500 books through ResultSource, paying about $22 a book, including shipping, for a total of about $55,000,” the Journal reports, adding that he also “paid ResultSource a fee in the range of $20,000 to $30,000.”

Thanks to ResultSource’s efforts, his book sold 3,000 copies in its first week, enough to hit No. 3 on the Journal's hardcover business best-seller list. (It later hit No. 1 on BarnesandNoble.com.) Sales plummeted after that, dropping off to about 1,000 in the six months following.

The “bought bestsellers” are easy to spot, following a pattern of strong debuts and plunging sales thereafter. As the Journal reported, one title debuted on the WSJ’s own bestseller list, only to see a 99 percent drop in sales the following week. Another soared to the top of the list only to have more copies returned than sold – just a week later. Clearly the work of a marketing firm vacuuming up books en masse to ensure bestseller status, even if real people weren’t actually buying all those books.

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