Example of Bestseller List

Can Authors Buy Their Way onto Bestseller Lists?

Can authors buy their way onto bestseller lists? Apparently, the answer is still yes.

Newspaper shot of articleAccording to a recent article in The Guardian, Author loses spot in Top 10 after buying 400 copies of his own book, author Mark Dawson admitted to purchasing 400 copies of his book to get a higher position on the Sunday Times bestseller chart.

After his admission, book sales monitor Nielsen BookScan revised their figures and booted Dawson from the list.

I guess we shouldn’t be surprised. This method of gaming the system isn’t new, The Wall Street Journal and Forbes wrote about the controversial practice back in 2013, but I thought new, improved policies had put an end to it.

More than a million books are published each year, and very few become best sellers. The reason writers strive for the coveted status is because it dramatically increases their credibility and establishes them as thought leaders. In addition to the prestige, becoming a “best-selling author” allows them to charge a lot more for speaking fees and consulting contracts.

BESTSELLER CAMPAIGNS

Thus, the “bestseller campaign” was born. Initiated by marketing firms, these campaigns enabled people with enough money and contacts to buy their way onto bestseller lists. The campaigns required authors to make bulk pre-sale purchases of their own books. Those sales were then counted on the publication dates and the titles were propelled onto the bestseller lists.

Authors would line up these sales by getting their corporate clients to purchase copies in lieu of their speaking fees, or by buying copies themselves to resell at public appearances.

After the Nielsen BookScan, New York Times, and Wall Street Journal list makers caught on, they implemented new rules and stopped counting bulk sales. So, the crafty “bestseller campaign” marketers learned how to break those orders down into small increments to make them look like organic retail sales. Although apparently The New York Times still counts them but puts a dagger symbol next to the title to denote bulk purchases.

The campaigns are very expensive. An author cited in the Forbes article said he paid $70,000 for his bulk books, plus a $20,000 fee to the marketing firm.

Sample of fake book sales
Photo Credit: The Wall Street Journal

One tell-tale sign that a best-selling title isn’t really legit is that it falls right off the list the following week. The Wall Street Journal created a chart showing three examples of this, Prescription for Excellence, Networking is Dead, and Leapfrogging. In each case, the authors freely admitted to hiring a firm to help manipulate the system with bulk presales.

Soren Kaplan, author of Leapfrogging, didn’t think he was gaming the system. “An executive at Harvard Business School Publishing said ‘everyone’ was doing it, especially for non-fiction business books like mine.”

Others assured Kaplan that “‘Guruship’ came from playing the game in a way that reinforced their personal brands as thought leaders. Ponying up the dough for the bestseller campaign was a small investment that would pay off later.”

BESTSELLER LIST INTEGRITY CONTINUES TO ERODE

And last year, The New York Times reported “R.N.C. Spent Nearly $100,000 on Copies of Donald Trump Jr.’s Book.‘Triggered,’ published Nov. 5, topped the best-seller list thanks in part to a big order from the Republican National Committee.”

Book cover for foot bookSome say Amazon has destroyed any remaining legitimacy in the “best-selling author” label. Brent Underwood’s brilliant and hilarious article in Quartz lays out how he became “a best-selling author on Amazon in five minutes with three dollars.”

He writes, “I took a photo of my foot, uploaded it as a book to Amazon, and in a matter of hours had achieved ‘№1 Best Seller’ status, complete with the orange banner and everything… How many copies did I need to sell? Three. Yes, a total of three copies to become a best-selling author. And I bought two of those copies myself!”

Underwood is a partner in the marketing firm Brass Check, where they’ve helped launch 30 legitimate New York Times bestsellers. He didn’t do this exercise to make his foot famous. He did it to illustrate that you should take any person presenting themselves as a “bestselling author” with a grain of salt.

He also wanted to “illustrate that the best marketing tactic you can use for a book is to write a great book that actually sells over the long term.”

“It’s easy to be seduced by best seller lists, sales numbers, speaking fees, and all the ephemera in this industry,” he cautions. “Don’t let all of that make you lose sight of the importance of quality and authority in your work. Anyone can be a one-hit wonder; focus on crafting a book that will sell for decades.”

Too bad no one told Mark Dawson.

Are you looking for a legitimate book publicity campaign? Call today for a free consultation to discuss your PR needs.

Call 510-426-4100 or send us an email.

Book author doing podcast interview

Podcasts for Book Publicity: Hip or Hype?

Podcasts are booming, but are they really a windfall for book publicity? The numbers are impressive:

  • There are currently over 800,000 podcasts and 30 million episodes.
  • In 2019, weekly podcast listeners totaled 62 million.
  • Fifty-one percent (144 million) of Americans have listened to a podcast.
  • Podcast listening has increased by 122% over the past five years.

Now that podcasts have gone mainstream, major media companies are jumping in:

  • In 2018, iHeartMedia acquired Stuff Media.
  • January 2019, Spotify acquired podcast company Gimlet Media and other properties making it the second largest podcast platform after Apple.
  • May 2019, Sony Music announced a collaboration with podcast developers Adam Davidson (co-founder of Planet Money) and Laura Mayer (veteran podcast producer).
  • In July 2019, Apple announced it would begin producing its own podcasts.

What accounts for this increase in popularity? The combination of easy, portable access, the ability to listen on demand, and the wide variety of diverse, niche programming means it’s easier than ever for listeners to find and stick with shows that reflect their interests.

Not All Podcasts Are Ideal for Book Publicity

On the other hand, although podcasts are a great new vehicle for publicizing your book’s message to an engaged targeted audience, there are a few things to keep in mind.

We’ve had authors acknowledge that, while podcasts are really hot, they only want their book publicity campaign to include the “big ones.” However, a quick reality check reveals that of iTunes’ top 20 podcasts, only four have guest interviews, and then only with household names.

Some podcasts with the largest audiences have become so inundated that they no longer accept guest suggestions. For example, The Tim Ferriss Show, often ranked as the #1 business podcast, no longer accepts unsolicited books. (All books are immediately donated to libraries).

At the other end of the spectrum, many small podcasters also have day jobs and don’t book guests or record interviews on a regular schedule, or they may have very few downloads.

The Requirements for Podcast Guests

As of this writing, January 2020, this medium is in its infancy. Podcasters are still figuring out the best way to monetize their shows, experimenting with advertising, subscription, and “sponsored guest” models. We’ve also noticed an emphasis on reciprocal booking (“You book me on your show and I’ll book you on mine.”), and many are requiring guests to have large social media followings to help promote the interviews afterward.

Podcast advertising rates are currently ranging from $20 for small shows to a whopping $100k+ for the big ones. Tim Ferriss says, “Per-episode sponsorship is currently $54K, and we ask for a minimum of 2 episodes to start.”

Podcast or AM/FM Shows?

Even though podcast listening is exploding, it has a way to go before catching up with traditional terrestrial radio. While 62 million Americans listen to podcasts weekly, 227 million adults tune to AM/FM radio each week. Radio still offers excellent interview opportunities for authors and we recommend including both radio shows and podcasts in your book tours.

The lines are also blurring. AM/FM radio finds enormous additional listenership when released as podcasts following their initial airdates. Radio companies NPR and iHeartRadio are two of the most successful podcast publishers in the world, each boasting around 150 million global downloads and streams.

However, successful radio and podcast campaigns aren’t necessarily all about audience numbers. Terrestrial radio needs to program for as wide an audience as possible, whereas podcasts are more niche. They can delve deeper into their subject matter and, even if their audiences are smaller, they typically have better audience engagement than radio shows.

The Podcast Search

As you can imagine, there are many book review podcasts, for example, BookRiot; the New York Times’ The Book Review Podcast; The Guardian Books; and Just the Right Book; as well as specialty review podcasts like Read to Lead (business and leadership); Science Fiction Book Review; AAWW Radio (New Asian American Writers & Literature); and Black Chick Lit.

Your book may have appeal to other genres as well. With nearly 200,000 new podcasts launched in the last year alone, it can take a tremendous amount of research to find all of the potential targets for your campaign. Some authors think they can simply scroll through the Apple Podcast and Stitcher rankings and send an email blast to the top handful of shows.

If only it were that easy. Many of the podcasts don’t have guests, only record sporadically or are on hiatus, or don’t list any contact information anywhere. And there aren’t many searchable podcast lists online, although I think we’ll see more in the future.

Carney & Associates subscribes to Cision’s expensive online media database, but when it comes to having more information on podcasts, shockingly their response is, “At the moment our vendor does not monitor podcasts.”

I compare it to trying to find blogs 10-15 years ago. Everyone was launching blogs, but there wasn’t an efficient way of finding relevant ones for book promotion. That’s why the podcast research is so slow at this stage. You can find some by googling—for example, 21 of the Best Book Podcasts to Listen to When You’re Not Reading, but they only scratch the surface.

The Podcast Pitch

If you want to pitch podcast hosts, remember you are often approaching individuals, not professional radio show producers, and they require a much more personal approach.

I’d suggest the following:

  • Let them know you’ve listened and are familiar with their podcast.
  • Explain why you think their audience would be interested in a conversation with you. Emphasize the expertise that you have to offer, not the other way around (“Your listeners are perfect customers for my book!”).
  • Include your social media following (many podcasts hosts give preference to guests with large followings) and assure them you will promote your episode heavily.
  • If possible, offer something reciprocal. If you have a blog or podcast of your own, offer to feature them as well.
  • Be prepared to fill out a lot of online contact forms. They typically don’t include hyperlinks so you’ll need to type out URL addresses for relevant links you’re including in your pitch.

In the end, even though podcast research and pitching can be a challenge, you’ll be rewarded by reaching engaged, loyal listeners who are interested in your specific knowledge or book. If you have the time to invest in research, or you can hire a professional publicist, I highly recommend adding a radio and podcast tour to your book publicity campaign!

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About Carney & Associates

For more than 20 years, Carney & Associates has been providing publicity services for authors, experts, products and services that improve our world. We specialize in providing earned media coverage for clients whose mission aligns with our values, with an emphasis on sustainable living, lifestyle topics, thought leaders and books. We share their stories through strategic placements in radio, podcasts, TV, print and digital media.

We originally wrote this post for Nancy Christie’s A Writer’s Place, “Where writers share their tips, thoughts and observations on writing and the writing life, and toss in their “two cents” on the topic of the month.”

Are you looking for a publicity specialist? Call today for a free consultation to discuss your publicity needs.

Call 510-426-4100 or send us an email.

WAMC radio logo

Comedian Jessica Holmes on National Radio 51%

Our fabulous client, comedian and motivational speaker Jessica Holmes was recently featured on national radio show 51% to discuss her battles with depression.

Jessica has opened for comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Leslie Nielsen, and Ellen DeGeneres, as well as hosted events for such visionaries as Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, and Oprah Winfrey.

Jessica Holmes

Recently Jessica has become an advocate for women’s mental health. After battling both post-partum depression and “regular, run-of-the-mill garden-variety depression” (her words), she became a Life and Career Coach, and now tours regularly on motivational speaking circuits in addition to her work as an in-demand comedian. She has performed wellness keynotes for such companies as 3M, Allergan, Carstar, Deloitte, Genworth, Atlific Hotels, and Habitat for Humanity. 

Above all, Jessica urges communities to de-stigmatize mental health, and offers a healing message for all: when we acknowledge the inherent humor of our human condition, we can begin to accept ourselves for who we truly are—jokes, junk-food and all.

About 51%: In America, women make up more than half the population. Worldwide, women are expected to outnumber men within the next fifty years – and every issue we face is one that affects us all. Whether it’s the environment, health, our children, politics or the arts, there’s a women’s perspective, and 51% is a national radio show dedicated to that viewpoint.

The program originates at WAMC Northeast Pubic Radio and airs throughout the U.S. on public and community radio stations, some ABC Radio Network stations, Armed Forces Radio stations around the world, on the internet, and as a podcast.

Are you looking for a PR firm for your business, practice, products or books? Whether you’re looking for a San Francisco publicist or a national PR campaign, please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.

Call 510-426-4100 or send us an email.

The Quarterly Review of Biology Features JAWS

The September 2019 issue of The Quarterly Review of Biology features a positive review of our client’s book, Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic by orthodontist Sandra Kahn and  world-renowned evolutionist Paul Ehrlich (Stanford University Press).

The reviewer wrote, “Jaws‘ subtitle could have been ‘Just when you thought it was safe to feed your babies applesauce.’ … This thought-provoking book should be widely read by biologists and physicians who are interested in oral biology or child development. The ideas it presents are not yet accepted by the dental community but they should be.” Subscribers can read more here

JAWS: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic

Crooked teeth, undeveloped jaws, and narrow airways are a surprisingly modern phenomenon: up to 70% of children now need braces, while our ancestors did not.

Jaws is a breakthrough book about the growing epidemic of crowded teeth and the medical consequences (sleep apnea, high blood pressure, impaired cognitive abilities and more), all caused by “the most stunning environmental change in the last 66 million years.” 

Ehrlich explains, “The agricultural and the industrial revolutions transformed the entire biosphere. People settled down, moved indoors, and radically altered their diets. We moved with our hunter-gatherer genes into an entirely novel environment, and are now paying a high price for it.”

Cultural industrialization has changed how we suckle, chew and breathe as infants, which has led to a dramatic increase in crooked teeth and crowded jaws. Roughly one-third of children are now afflicted, as well as an increasing number of adults.

Symptoms include crowding, impacted wisdom teeth, and mouth breathing. What’s more alarming is that these issues are directly related to snoring and poor sleep, which in turn are linked to serious lifelong health problems including sleep apnea, ADHD, depression, cancer, and heart disease.

The book has already received dozens of endorsements from medical professionals, and the authors include approximately 400 endnotes citing the scientific literature supporting their statements.

Are you an author looking for a book publicist, an expert looking for a PR firm, or a small business in need of publicity? Whether you’re looking for a San Francisco book publicist or a national PR campaign, please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.

Call 510-426-4100 or send us an email.

Publishing Sales Continue to Grow

A new report from the Association of American Publishers reveals that book publishing revenue continued its upward trend, increasing 5.5% January–April 2018, over the same period in 2017. While downloadable audio books had the strongest sales increase (up 36.1%), hardcover, trade paperback, and mass paperback also rose.

Publishers Weekly goes into more detail:

In the trade segment, sales of adult fiction and nonfiction rose 7.3% in the four-month period and sales in the children’s/young adult category rose 6.6%. Sales of religious presses increased 9.8%.

These figures are from AAP’s StatShot Monthly Report, which draws information from more than 1,100 publishers in the following categories: Trade – fiction/non-fiction/religious, PreK-12 Instructional Materials, Higher Education Course Materials, Professional Publishing, and University Presses.

This infographic from AAP shows similar sales increases in 2017:

Image by Association of American Publishers

Not all categories are moving upward. Ebooks continued their slide with a 5.3-percent decline in revenue during the same period.

I think the trend away from Ebooks and toward audiobooks reflects our desire to get away from our screens in our downtime and to pursue other activities while still enjoying a good book. All in all, this is encouraging news for those of us in the book industry!

Are you an author looking for a book publicist, an expert looking for a PR firm, or a small business in need of publicity? Whether you’re looking for a San Francisco book publicist or a national PR campaign, please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.

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Top of Mind with Julie Rose features Sustainable Nation

BYUradio recently featured our client, leading green urbanist Doug Farr, on their excellent interview program Top of Mind.

Top of Mind is known for smart, informative conversations that go beyond mere headlines and sound bites, so we were thrilled to have our client interviewed by its host, Julie Rose. The show reaches a broad, national audience of 56 million listeners comprised of BYU alumni and people affiliated with Brigham Young University, as well as satellite radio subscribers looking for smart, informative and uplifting radio content.

Julie interviewed Doug about his latest book, Sustainable Nation: Urban Design Patterns for the Future (April 2018, Wiley Press), which asks the question: How can we make the world we want in the least possible time?

For people frustrated by slow government responses to climate change, the book offers dozens of plans that are actionable on an individual and community level. Farr inspires individuals to envision a more sustainable future at a neighborhood level, and work with other neighbors, friends, and community members to make it happen faster than ever before.

Doug and Julie discussed how cities can become more equitable, sustainable, walkable, and liveable one well-designed building and public space at a time. Give the episode a listen at BYUradio’s website!

Are you an author looking for a book publicist, an expert looking for a PR firm, or a small business in need of publicity? Whether you’re looking for a San Francisco book publicist or a national PR campaign, please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.

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Radio Health Journal Features Jaws

Our clients Paul Ehrlich and Sandra Kahn, DDS were recently featured on Radio Health Journal as part of our national PR campaign for their latest work, JAWS: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic (Stanford University Press).

Radio Health Journal is an energetic, entertaining, highly-produced, contemporary radio magazine that’s syndicated to more than 500 stations.  Each week, Radio Health Journal features interviews with guests that have expertise and real-world experience regarding current issues in health and medicine. This week, they interviewed Professor Ehrlich and Dr. Kahn about the serious medical consequences of humans’ rapidly shrinking jaws.

Host Reed Pence also included a nice write-up on the show’s website:

3.5 million children get braces every year, and many adults live with obstructive sleep apnea. These two complications, along with several others, are all part of an epidemic that began when hunter-gatherers moved to an agricultural environment and lifestyle. Co-authors of the book Jaws: The Story of a Hidden Epidemic, Dr. Paul Ehrlich, Professor Emeritus of Population Studies at Stanford University, and Dr. Sandra Kahn, orthodontist, identify the cause of these problems to be a shrinking jaw.

About 75% of kids have alignment problems with their teeth by the age of 13, and many adults sleep in a CPAP machine to keep their airways free, because their tongue is too big for their jaws. The root of both of these issues is the fact that the jaw is too small and doesn’t get enough exercise. Over time, our diets have become progressively made up of softer foods, mothers don’t breastfeed for three to four years like they used to, and we wean children to soft foods. All of this adds up to a jaw that hasn’t developed well, leading to wisdom teeth, crooked teeth, and sleep apnea later on. Basically, “we’ve brought hunter-gatherer jaws and teeth into a McDonald’s environment,” Dr. Ehrlich says.

JAWS is a breakthrough book that uncovers a serious, mounting public health crisis: the human jaw is shrinking. Crooked teeth and crowded jaws have increased dramatically in recent decades, and research is now linking this change with an epidemic of sleep apnea, high blood pressure, cancer, diabetes, and diminished cognitive ability.

Jaws reveals why this sudden transformation has happened, how it’s impacting our sleep and therefore our health, along with simple, practical steps that parents can take to ensure their child’s jaw develops in a healthy manner.

Are you an author looking for a book publicist, an expert looking for a PR firm, or a small business in need of publicity? Whether you’re looking for a San Francisco book publicist or a national PR campaign, please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.

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Extraordinary Lessons From U.S. Prison Camps

We’re honored to provide publicity services for Life after Manzanar by Naomi Hirahara and Heather C. Lindquist, and published by Heyday in collaboration with Manzanar History Association.

In 1942, the United States government ordered more than 110,000 men, women, and children of Japanese ancestry to leave their homes, and detained them in remote, military-style camps. Two-thirds of them were born in America. Not one was convicted of espionage or sabotage.

Photo Credit: Toyo Miyatake Studio

Life after Manzanar is a compelling account of this relatively unexamined period, known as the “Resettlement,” and examines the very different directions that these innocent people’s lives went after the war.

Given twenty-five dollars and a one-way bus ticket to make a new life, some ventured east to Denver and Chicago to start over, while others returned to Southern California only to face discrimination and an alarming scarcity of housing and jobs. Hirahara and Lindquist weave new and archival oral histories into an engaging narrative that illuminates the lives of former internees in the postwar era, both in struggle and unlikely triumph.

Readers will appreciate the painstaking efforts that rebuilding required, and will feel inspired by the activism that led to redress and restitution—and that built a community that even now speaks out against other racist agendas.

This April 28th marked the 49th annual pilgrimage to one of ten former prison camps, Manzanar National Historic Site in Southern California, where Naomi and Heather spoke about the dozens of survivors profiled in their book.

The book has extraordinary relevance with contemporary conversations surrounding race, immigration and social justice in the United States, and we could not be more proud to promote such a powerful and important project.

Are you an author looking for a book publicist, an expert looking for a PR firm, or a small business in need of publicity? Please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.

New Client Spotlight: Sustainable Nation – Urban Design Patterns for the Future

One of the best perks of specializing in sustainability topics is getting to promote experts and ideas that create genuine, positive changes in our world. To that end, we’re honored to be providing publicity services for Sustainable Nation: Urban Design Patterns for the Future, an extraordinary new book by renowned urbanist and architect Douglas Farr (March 2018, Wiley Press).

Douglas Farr, author of Sustainable Nation.
Douglas Farr, author of Sustainable Nation: Urban Design Patterns for the Future.

The highly anticipated follow-up to the acclaimed Sustainable Urbanism, Farr’s new book tackles humanitarian, population, and climate crises by addressing them as three facets of the same interrelated human existential challenge. In compelling prose and stunning imagery, Sustainable Nation poses one big question: how can we make the world we want in the least possible time?

The answer: Help local communities rapidly accelerate the pace of human progress in order to create more equitable and sustainable neighborhoods. The United States has always been a DIY country, and Sustainable Nation argues that individuals are uniquely equipped to make lasting and significant solutions for their communities, and for the planet at large.

Cover of Sustainable Nation: Urban Design Patterns for the Future (Wiley)

Sustainable Nation‘s toolkit includes over 70 urban design patterns from celebrated industry leaders, each offering a different actionable, future-oriented plan to develop key aspects of a neighborhood. At once an urgent call to action and a guidebook for change, Farr’s book is an essential resource for urban designers, planners, and architects, as well as environmentalists and general readers.

Our firm looks forward to providing a national book publicity campaign for such an excellent title.

Are you an expert looking for a publicist, a publicity firm for nonprofits, a PR firm for small business, or an independent book publicist? Carney & Associates specializes in earned media for sustainability topics. Please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.

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Growing a Better World with Money

Our awesome client Joel Solomon has made it his mission to save the planet, and humanity, with money.

Environmentalists are often unwilling to see wealth as a force for good. In a world where corporate greed has resulted in environmental destruction and financial inequality, some even see it as evil. But Joel explains that, “Money has no values of its own. Money doesn’t account for fairness, justice, or the well-being of the planet. That’s our role, and it’s more crucial than ever that we assume it.”

Joel is a pioneer in the emerging world of mission-driven finance and the author of The Clean Money Revolution: Reinventing Power, Purpose, and Capitalism. He’s also the chair of Renewal Funds, one of the largest mission venture capital firms in North America, investing $98 million in entrepreneurs with green businesses, inventions and social policies.

Joel was recently interviewed on the popular long-running radio show The Visionary Activist Show which airs on KPFA-FM, Berkeley, KPFK-FM, Los Angeles, KFCF-FM, Fresno, and many more stations. (This interview is one of many in our book publicity campaign for Joel’s new book.)

Host Caroline Casey said, “Let all good-hearted people release disdain for wealth, and be willing to direct its swoosh in the desirable direction, to irrigating our Best Dreams… transforming dread into dedication.”

“There’s more than enough money in the world to solve our problems. Whether you’re living paycheck to paycheck or a multimillionaire, there are steps we can all take right now.”

The clean money movement has already begun. Small businesses, entrepreneurs and consumers are increasingly using their money to make the world a better place, and Joel believes that we are on the cusp of one of the largest economic shifts in history . . . impact investing will decide the fate of our planet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Are you an expert looking for a publicist, a nonprofit looking for a PR firm, or a small business in need of publicity? Please contact Kathlene Carney for a free consultation to find out how our publicity services can contribute to your success.