Friday, November 10, 2023

Wall Street Journal Leaves Authors With One Less Best-Seller List To Manipulate


The Wall Street Journal recently announced it would stop publishing its weekly best-seller list. The move is believed to be a cost-cutting one.   

This means there is one less list for book publishers and authors to manipulate. Yes, I am afraid these lists are not very reliable. I personally know of several authors whom each easily spent well over $100,000 to get a book on the WSJ best-seller list.   

Spots on these lists can be bought. Here is one simple example: 

Say you have a business book written by a CEO of a company with 15 offices across the country, employing 12.000 people. The CEO says he would like to gift a copy to every employee. Maybe even one for each of their spouses, too. Rather than the CEO buying deeply discounted books from her publisher and then handing each employee a free copy, the CEO asks that each employee go to their local bookstore and to amazon to order the book and she will reimburse anyone who submits a receipt. By doing so, these get registered as book sales that happen in a short period of time. Hello, WSJ best-seller list! 

The truth is, every single best-seller list has fingerprints of manipulation all over the place. One of the best indicators of people not deserving to be on the list? When they hit very high or even No. 1 one week, and then completely disappear the very next week. 

Additionally, if you see a few months or a year later that more than 75% of the book’s lifetime sales came from just a one-week best-seller surge, it was likely a bullshit feat. 

Other hints: When a book has few professional reviews— especially a few positive ones — before it hits high on a big best-seller list, could be indicative of some trickery at play. 

I would argue the WSJ book section is one of the best of any newspaper in the nation, save for The New York Times. The national business newspaper claimed it won’t cut back on its book coverage. 

USA Today had announced it would do away with the publishing of its best-seller lists a few years or two ago, but in less than a year, it returned by popular demand. I expect the WSJ, too, shall return to publishing a best-seller list. 

It had published a total of six fiction and nonfiction lists, as well as a hardcover business list. All were powered by Circana BookScan. 

Publishers Weekly noted of the lists: “The fiction and nonfiction categories were both divided into hardcover, e-book, and combined lists. In something of a unique feature, the lists combined adult and children’s titles on one list.” 

Think of the old joke: How do you know when a lawyer is lying? When he talks. The same is rue here.

How do you know when a best-seller list is tainted or manipulated? When it was compiled. 

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About Brian Feinblum

Brian Feinblum should be followed on LinkedIn. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2023. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester with his wife, two kids, and Ferris, a black lab rescue dog, and El Chapo, a pug rescue dog. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s The Independent.  This award-winning blog has generated over 3.4 million pageviews. With 4,600+ posts over the past dozen years, it was named one of the best book marketing blogs by BookBaby  and recognized by Feedspot in 2021 and 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. It was also named by as a "best resource.” For the past three decades, including 21 years as the head of marketing for the nation’s largest book publicity firm, and two jobs at two independent presses, Brian has worked with many first-time, self-published, authors of all genres, right along with best-selling authors and celebrities such as: Dr. Ruth, Mark Victor Hansen, Joseph Finder, Katherine Spurway, Neil Rackham, Harvey Mackay, Ken Blanchard, Stephen Covey, Warren Adler, Cindy Adams, Todd Duncan, Susan RoAne, John C. Maxwell, Jeff Foxworthy, Seth Godin, and Henry Winkler. He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America, and has spoken at ASJA, Independent Book Publishers Association Sarah Lawrence College, Nonfiction Writers Association, Cape Cod Writers Association, Willamette (Portland) Writers Association, APEX, and Connecticut Authors and Publishers Association. His letters-to-the-editor have been published in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, New York Post, NY Daily News, Newsday, The Journal News (Westchester) and The Washington Post. He has been featured in The Sun Sentinel and Miami Herald. For more information, please consult:  

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