July 27, 2005

Amazon.com Best Seller? Ha! | printable version

by Richard and Angela Hoy

I received the following inquiry from a reader two weeks ago.


Angela,

I saw an ad in a well-known zine that offered a "free telephone seminar" about "how any author can become an Amazon.com bestseller."

What are your thoughts on their message?

C.

It so happens that Richard was perusing the posts of several book marketing blogs the other day and ran across a post with such unbelievably bad advice regarding this that he had a hard time accepting a respected book marketer was endorsing it.

In this post to his blog, John Kremer, long-time book marketing authority, seems to counsel authors to artificially manipulate the Amazon bestseller list and also to harvest and share email addresses among the collaborators.

We'll save you $2,500 to buy into one of these "programs." Here is the scam:

You find several dozen email newsletter lists with large subscription bases. You convince the list owners to run an ad at no cost for your book. You get them to do it at the same exact time and direct all the buyers to Amazon.com to purchase the book. (Oh, and don't forget to tell your family and friends to all buy your book at that specified time, too.) To further incentivize buyers, you offer some free giveaway. But they can only get the giveaway if they send you the email receipt from Amazon.com - proving they bought the book.

Now, if you are successful in getting all these people to buy the book at roughly the same time, the book will pop up at the top of one of the Amazon.com bestsellers lists. Then you can claim from that time forward that your book is an "Amazon.com Bestseller". And you'll get the contact information for all the people who bought your book through Amazon.com to boot.

The scam works by taking advantage of a loop-hole in the way Amazon.com calculates its bestseller lists. Amazon.com recalculates the sales rankings on an hourly basis for books with a ranking of #1 to #10,000. Amazon.com takes into account the sales rate of the book as well. If you manipulate the results of this calculation by selling a large number of books on Amazon.com in a very short period of time, you will rank as a bestseller for at least an hour.

Endorsing this form of cheating is bad enough in our opinion, but Kremer goes further. He writes:

"It is the obligation of the person carrying out the promotion to share the emails of everyone who bought a copy of the book as a result of the promotion. It is those email addresses that the various participating list owners can add to their lists."

Source: Amazon.com Bestseller Campaigns: Why They Work and Why They Fail - July 19, 2005

What this statement suggests is authors should agree to share the email addresses of all the people who turn in the receipt to get their free giveaway - regardless of who's list they actually came from.

This means that if you are on list A and you buy the book, list owner B will get your email address to put on his list, even though you may not want to have anything to do with list B.

There is very little difference between doing this and just going to a random discussion board to harvest email addresses.

Any self-respecting list owner has a privacy policy against such things. And those who don't bring into question their entire subscription-building process, and thus, the quality of their lists.

Here is a way to use the power of mailing lists that follows Internet marketing etiquette:

1.) You approach list owners and ask them to run an ad for your book with their Amazon.com affiliate ID in the link. That way, they get a cut of the sales. If that isn't enough to make a deal, you negotiate a reasonable payment for the ad or a higher split of the sales the list generates.

2.) When the buyer turns in the receipt for the free giveaway, you ask if it is okay to subscribe him or her to your email newsletter. That way, you are building a subscriber list of future customers you own, making it less necessary to have to cut deals with other list owners in the future. You should never share your customers' email addresses with anyone else unless they've given you written permission to do so.

Bestseller lists are meant to portray an honest reflection of what the public in general is buying, not a facade of who is best at cheating the system.

Editor's Note: There is also a thread the Amazon.com Bestseller seminar on our forum.

 




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