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This Isn’t Cheating, Is It?

Here’s an interesting Wall Street Journal article by Carl Bialik (“The Numbers Guy”) on how authors (and their public-relations firms) try to push a book to No. 1 on or Barnes&

For $10,000 to $15,000, you, too, can be a best-selling author. New York public-relations firm Ruder Finn says it can propel unknown titles to the top of rankings on and Barnes & Noble with a mass email called the Best-Seller Blast. Popular authors such as Mark Victor Hansen of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” series recommend your book in messages to fans, and offer a deal: Buy the book today and you’ll get downloadable “bonuses” supposedly valued at thousands of dollars — such as recordings of motivational speeches and contact information for important people. Orchestrating even 1,000 book purchases in a single day can drive a title from obscurity to the top of the charts.

This probably strikes some people as clever marketing, and it probably strikes others as something close to cheating. I lean heavily toward the clever marketing side. It was interesting to me that in this post about optimizing my bus commute, a few commenters thought I was a cheat for walking to a better bus stop. To paraphrase an old love song: if cheating like that is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

As for jacking up your Amazon rating: what’s described in the Journal article strikes me as less troubling than what the author David Vise reportedly did back in 2002, buying up thousands of copies of his own book.