Climbing the ladder

One interesting detail that emerged from last year’s hugely depressing media-saturated celebrity trial was the revelation that Charles Saatchi was his own most avid fan (‘Elisabetta Grillo tells fraud trial of travelling round London four times a week to buy copies of art dealer’s book’). How common is it to bulk buy your own book to give it a boost up the best seller list? Are there any great historical examples? Many authors have enjoyed the humiliating experience of buying back remaindered copies of their work to save them from the shredder and many publishers have enjoyed the bittersweet experience of tipping unwanted and space-consuming stock into the recycling bin. But how widespread is the practice of discretely buying your own book to give it a fillip in the sales charts?

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E-publishing forums are awash with people asking this sort of question, although in the dilemma of digital discoverability one author, and her readers, still agonise over the ethics (and viability) of self-driven chart-rigging. In terms of physical books, hard evidence is much harder to come by. The tale is told (via Books & Such) of a business manual, The Discipline of Market Leaders, that allegedly gamed the system, using a network of consulting firms to bulk buy copies and raise the authors’ status on the lucrative lecture circuit: Did Dirty Tricks Create A Best Seller?

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