Bestselling Author Bullshit
Now that the final proofing and finishing touches are being added to my book, I am shifting to focus on the book’s launch. There are lots of launch marketing experts out there, with lots of opinions about this. And what I have been learning about how it all works makes me VERY VERY ANGRY.
It has been disillusioning to hear a former journalist tell me there’s no such thing as free media, and to receive offers from marketing agencies who are able to guarantee that I will achieve “bestselling book” status if I work with them (without ever having met me, or even knowing what my book is about)
Do you know what it means to be a bestselling author?
1. It might mean that your book is actually selling a lot of copies.
2. OR more likely, you put it in an obscure category that has few other books in it, and told all your friends to buy your book at the same time, so you can surpass the current sales leader and become “bestselling” in that category on that day (there is an Udemy instructor who proudly shares in his book marketing program that he became a “bestselling author” on Amazon by selling only 22 books on one day)
3. OR you paid a marketing agency or independent service provider to mess with the book’s settings in Amazon and optimize it for the algorithm, along the lines of the above. This process is so easily manipulated that they can actually guarantee the result of becoming “bestselling”. Many of these book marketing services sub-contract with a team of ghost purchasers and ghost reviewers who will buy and review your book, for a fee.
I naively believed that at least being a New York Times bestseller still means something, even if being an Amazon bestseller is a sham. But no. Now I know better. If you want to be a New York Times bestseller, it’s available to you, for a price. The same game is played; the price is just higher… starting around $100K. You can pay an agency to activate a sub-contracted army of purchasers to buy your book… using part of the money you paid them as a professional fee, to pad your sales.
It’s impossible to tell which bestselling authors achieved that dubious status organically and which ones paid.
Becoming a bestselling author… is a big business. There’s a whole industry that has grown up around this, as self-publishing becomes more and more common. Basically, IT’S ALL BULLSHIT.
You know who doesn’t bother to declare that they are a bestselling author on their resume? JK Rowling, who has sold 500 million copies of Harry Potter. Eckhart Tolle, who has sold 23 million copies of The Power of Now. Elizabeth Gilbert, who has sold 12 million copies of Eat Pray Love.
Why is it even a coveted thing to become a bestselling author?
The “bestselling author” badge is used to signal to people that they should listen to you or read your book, simply because a lot of other people have. It is essentially a form of manufactured authority. It is a calculated way to construct credibility. It manipulates the reader to abandon their own powers of discernment about whether something is valuable for them or not.
Many conscious marketing coaches would probably tell me “you need to play the game” or “you are keeping yourself small” or “you need to break through your resistance” etc.
Nope. I am opting out.
I refuse to play this game.
There are many things that I AM willing to do to help my book baby have the best chance at a full life…
I will start to share what is in the book and make posts about it on social media, when I feel moved to. I will write the Amazon description carefully to optimize it for SEO. I will email my friends and supporters to remind them to download and review the book when it launches, because that will help the search ranking for people who are looking for this. I will reach out to friends who have podcasts to talk to them about it.
What I am NOT willing to do, is pay someone who can manipulate the system so effectively that they have a 100% guarantee that I will become a bestselling author.
Even if by chance, I happen to become a bestselling author according to these industry standards, I don’t want to be presented to media outlets as that. If I am turned down for an interview because I don’t have the bestselling author title next to my name, then I am happy to move along. I would rather meet people who want to talk to me about the book because they are genuinely interested in my message, not because they are wowed by a (fake) title.
That game is so painfully old paradigm, and I am choosing not to participate in it. I am also giving up the delusion that I am in control of anything that is happening.
I am trusting, that if the book’s message needs to be heard, it will spread.
I am trusting, that if others find truth and resonance in it, it will spread.
And I am trusting, that if it doesn’t spread… the world will keep turning.