CAN A SPOT ON A BESTSELLER LIST BE BOUGHT?

Every author wants a bestselling book — and those who can pay for the services of ResultSource Inc. just might get one. The company describes itself as “a boutique marketing firm that works with today’s thought leaders to build bestsellers.”

In 2013, the Wall Street Journal talked with authors of two books who paid thousands of dollars to ResultSource and subsequently landed on bestseller lists. Precisely how ResultSource goes about its business is unclear.

A new report about the sales numbers for “Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together” by evangelical pastor Mark Driscoll and his wife, Grace, reveals some details of how ResultSource gets books on bestseller lists. Driscoll heads Mars Hill Church, a megachurch in Seattle.

The church paid an estimated $210,000 to ResultSource to make “Real Marriage” a bestseller, according to a document obtained by World Magazine, a Christian periodical. “Real Marriage” topped the New York Times’ hardcover advice bestseller list on Jan. 22, 2012. The following week, it was gone. The spike onto a bestseller list and then disappearance — as opposed to an up-and-down arc, or a high debut followed by a decline — can indicate something other than typical consumer book-buying behavior.

The report reveals what ResultSource did to get “Real Marriage” on the list. First, it bought a lot of books all at once….purchasing at least 11,000 total orders in one-week. Then the company went to great lengths to make that purchase of 11,000 books appear to be made by individuals or small groups. The contract called for the ‘author’ to ‘provide a minimum of 6,000 names and addresses for the individual orders and at least 90 names and address for the remaining 5,000 bulk orders. RSI used over 1,000 different payment types (credit cards, gift cards, etc).”

Measures like these are designed to game the systems set in place by BookScan and other book sales talliers to protect the integrity of their bestseller lists. “Stringent rules and controls exist to help validate consumer sales, and confirmed bulk sales are always flagged and pulled from BookScan’s bestseller-chartmaking process,” the general manager of Nielsen BookScan commented.

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