I’ve written more than once about the games people play to get their books on The New York Times best-seller list. (Blog 4/10/14). The direct route, used for years by Evangelical writers, politicians, (Blog 1/14/16)) and well-known authors, like Jaqueline Suzanne and Wayne Dyer, is to purchase their publications in large numbers and distribute them as best they can — down manholes, if necessary. Those who can make that financial sacrifice, says writer Alex Shephard, can “land more book deals, TV appearances, and other lucrative gigs.” (“Art of the Steal,” by Alex Shepard, New Republic, October 2017, pg. 13.)
To be fair, The New York Times has tried to stop self-promotion. Says Shepard, “they’ve added a dagger symbol next to books that benefitted from large bulk purchases.” Unfortunately, the strategy hasn’t stopped ambitious authors, particularly politicians who use campaign contributions to bulk buy their books. Ted Cruz got into a spat with the newspaper because they ignored his tome even though he spent $122,000 to purchase copies. Others from the political right and left have managed it, however, including Sarah Palin and Joe Lieberman. (Ibid pg. 13.)
Not having a pot of gold, most writers will never see their titles listed as a best seller. But pity the writers who makes the investment. Getting rid of 30,000 copies of a book no one wants is a challenge. One needs a sophisticated distribution plan. Religious writers have their church networks, for example. Politicians have their political rallies. Donald Trump sells his book in the gift stores of his hotels and resorts. Or, if all else fails, room service leaves a copy on hotel guest’s pillow. Me, I’d rather have mints. (Ibid, pg. 13.) The irony, as Shepard observes, is that Trump knocks himself out to impress a paper he derides as the source of fake news.
Bottom line? For a writer, too often public acclaim comes to those who have the means to pay for it. The majority can’t afford to be famous. They write because they must. Or, because they have a cat that is a good listener.