Bestsellers, Worst Ethics


Reading bestsellers lists can be baffling. You know the whole world isn’t going to spring for literary fiction or erudite essay collections all the time, but sometimes a book seems so bland and unremarkable that you wonder how so many people went crazy for it.

According to, the crazy may be coming from quite a different source: authors who pay a company exorbitant fees to bulk-buy their books and artificially inflate their sales stats. A quote from one such author:

To ensure a spot on The Wall Street Journal’s bestseller list, I needed to obtain commitments from my clients for a minimum of 3000 books at about $23.50, a total of about $70,500.  I would need to multiply these numbers by a factor of about three to hit The New York Times list.

Lauren O'Neal is an MFA student at San Francisco State University. Her writing has appeared in publications like Slate, The New Inquiry, and The Hairpin. You can follow her on Twitter at @laureneoneal. More from this author →