The Wall Street Journal published an article about how some authors get on bestseller lists by pre-buying books.
One of the main perpetrators is ResultSource in San Diego, which has a cozy clientele of mega pastors and the religious right.
Tyndale, Crossway, Harper Collins Christian, and other large Christian publishers have regularly used these tactics.
Until they are willing to declare such practices unethical, you can expect this to continue.
The rationale to manipulate rankings makes sense– guys like David Jeremiah and Mark Driscoll note that they otherwise wouldn’t get the attention.
In niche markets, selling 3,000 copies is often enough to make a New York Times best-seller list.
Yet bulk orders and free copies shouldn’t count the same as individual purchases, even if these bulk orders are funneled through buying networks disguised to look like authentic purchases.
Pre-buying books are the equivalent of buying Facebook fans and Twitter followers.
Promoting yourself as a New York Times best-selling author definitely drives follow-on sales, lucrative speaking gigs, general cachet, and the whiff of sweet prosperity.
It’s no different than gaming your Alexa ranking, buying links for tricky Google SEO, or embellishing your resume.
But this unethical behavior by the most self-righteous of people backfires– undermining their cause.
It’s like the cheaters who are calling for Brian William’s head– that he should be kicked off NBC.
And it led to the downfall of Mars Hill Church, perhaps not indirectly, but a compounding of manipulating people, media, and book sales.
In the shared economy, where we crowdsource opinions and make decisions by relying upon the preferences of others, do you expect such behavior to be more rampant?
Likewise, do you trust people who are acutely image-conscious and actively seek the public spotlight?
Personal branding is neither good nor evil, used by hypocritical maniacs and good people alike.
I was recently asked to join an exclusive club for folks who have a 70+ Klout score.
Aside from whether Klout is even an accurate measure of influence, the notion of hanging around influencers is silly.
It’s wanting to join Mensa to hang out with other high-IQ people (I’m guilty of trying this).
What matters is not your intellect, but what you stand for.
I could hang around a bunch of people with a Klout of 80, but if they’re influential about car repair, home furnishings, or things I don’t care about, it’s no good.
Likewise, having a bunch of random followers on a social network or nameless people who bought a book (but didn’t read it), is pointless.