Bestseller Fraud

By | May 28, 2011

I’m a bit more interested in how people choose the books they buy, now that I’ve put out a novel. I’m also a bit more sensitive to the term “Bestseller”. You really should be too.

Remember, back when we were kids and FM radio was just catching on? Remember how all of the DJs talked about “the charts”? We all thought that those were accurately compiled from actual sales numbers and call in requests. It wasn’t until some years later that most of us learned only a few major record store locations were counted and that all of the major labels had identified those locations. If they wanted to boost a record/album’s standing they would simply arrange a free giveaway of a couple hundred copies at one or more of the locations. When the next set of numbers came out the artist was skyrocketing up “ the charts” and they were a “top 10 artist”.

I haven’t yet figured out if the New York Times Bestseller List has a similar sampling flaw being exploited or if there really is some form of overall ethics in the listing. I do know that the secondary uses have nothing to do with ethics at all.

You have to understand the “wow factor” to understand what is honking me off. I see it in all of the writing and book business magazines. You read it in press releases for books and even in IT magazines when they talk about books. They usually couch it to avoid direct criminal prosecution, but some don’t even bother with that these days.

A bestseller from xyz publishing!

 In part, I have to be pissed with the NY Times. All of us, from Junior High forward have heard about the NY Times best seller list. This list was supposed to convey accuracy and integrity. Even if you didn’t listen to your English Lit teacher telling you about it, you heard about it on TV talk shows. In the American Psychology, bestseller became synonymous with NY Times Bestseller. The NY Times worked to achieve this, then didn’t defend it, now, we get raped by it.

Some years ago, I became aware of the blatant abuse when reading some trash put out by PMA, now called IBPA or something like that. Basically a lapdog organization herding sheep to the slaughter at Amazon. There was an article talking about a member publisher’s “new bestseller”. When you dug deep enough to find the actual numbers you found out the book had “almost sold out its initial print run of 5000 copies”. To say that I had cognitive dissonance when discovering that would be an understatement.

I have even encountered the same thing with my own books. When “The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer” came out, some write-ups referred to it as a bestselling application development book for the OpenVMS platform. Well, it certainly never made the NY Times list, but, the only book in print in that category so….technically they are correct…I just wish the NY Times had defended its turf somehow. When most of us here “bestseller” we think there was some process which went into measuring that title against all others. Sadly, that is almost never the case.


Category: Publishing Thank You Sir May I Have Another Tags: , , ,

About seasoned_geek

Roland Hughes started his IT career in the early 1980s. He quickly became a consultant and president of Logikal Solutions, a software consulting firm specializing in OpenVMS application and C++/Qt touchscreen/embedded Linux development. Early in his career he became involved in what is now called cross platform development. Given the dearth of useful books on the subject he ventured into the world of professional author in 1995 writing the first of the "Zinc It!" book series for John Gordon Burke Publisher, Inc. A decade later he released a massive (nearly 800 pages) tome "The Minimum You Need to Know to Be an OpenVMS Application Developer" which tried to encapsulate the essential skills gained over what was nearly a 20 year career at that point. From there "The Minimum You Need to Know" book series was born. Three years later he wrote his first novel "Infinite Exposure" which got much notice from people involved in the banking and financial security worlds. Some of the attacks predicted in that book have since come to pass. While it was not originally intended to be a trilogy, it became the first book of "The Earth That Was" trilogy: Infinite Exposure Lesedi - The Greatest Lie Ever Told John Smith - Last Known Survivor of the Microsoft Wars When he is not consulting Roland Hughes posts about technology and sometimes politics on his blog. He also has regularly scheduled Sunday posts appearing on the Interesting Authors blog.