By Michael Melville
Well-known bestseller lists like the New York Times and USA Today are on the top of many books we have bought and read in our lives. Amazon.com also has its only best seller lists and are divided into genres. Granted, Amazons aren’t as illustrious as the bigger and older ones and can be gamed so a book gets a “best seller” badge with some ease as some undignified writers have done.
Yes, the popularity of those lists and their importance is waning largely because of the growing indie market which they pay little attention to. For many readers seeing the words NYT Times Best Seller or USA Today Best Selling Author still means something and many people still only buy books from those lists. Right or wrong they consider authors with those words on top of their covers to be “the real deal” and in many ways, they might be right. In recent years, we’ve even seen a slight uptick in Indie writers earning a place on these lists. Regardless of the waning importance of those lists the words Best Seller or Best Selling Author still means something to many writers and is a mark of accomplishment. It shows that we “made it” in some way in this uphill battle of ours. What about the authors that cheat though?
What about the authors that cheat though?
No, you can’t just throw NYT Times Best Seller or USA Today Best Seller on your cover and call it a day. If you do heads will roll and cease and desist orders will be sent for sure; besides just looking like a tool. But what about just saying, something semi-ambiguous like a simple “best seller” or “bestselling author” on top even with no explanation of what and where?
I know of two authors right now who do this and sadly they are both relatively unknown indie authors and I am sure there are more. One has it on the cover of every book in her series and none of them are best sellers on Amazon or anywhere else. I won’t call her out by name but I would like to. It’s wrong on so many levels. The other author only has it on one book (thankfully) Saying you’re a best seller when your not is a lie. Presenting your work as a best-selling work when it’s not is a lie (not to mention false advertising). Using something that writers still hold sacred is a slap in the face when someone is using it purely as some halfwit marketing idea.
They’re not just screwing themselves
The thing is, is that it doesn’t just make them look ridiculous, dishonest and unprofessional. It makes all of us look bad. All of us independent authors who are still trying to earn those words she is using so flippantly. We already have to battle with the disdain of the writers in the mainstream establishment, the industry, the continuing questioning of our writing abilities, our editing, and occasional poor cover design. Now we have this crap.
So, when she or someone like her goes and puts those words on something that it is not it makes her peers look bad. I can see someone from some publisher or a literary magazine saying something like, “Oh look now the indies have the fake best sellers.”
Even If they were best sellers in their sub-genre on Amazon I guess that would be something (personally, I wouldn’t slap that on a cover though). But, they are not or this particular author would have the Amazon provided badging and she doesn’t and judging by both their book rankings not even close to being one. To make matters worse the covers on their books look, well…bad. So, they put “best-selling author” on a decent story (I did read one) with a crappy cover in order to sell books. It’s clearly not working.
It’s really disappointing to see someone with some talent sinking to this level. Readers are not dumb, they have tons of options and know BS when they see it. It’s sad to see some authors use a cheap ploy like this while disrespecting their audience, potential audience, and peers in the business. Ambiguous or not putting “Best Seller” or “Best Selling Author” on a book cover when it or you hasn’t made best sellers list anywhere is a bad attempt at cheating the system. By doing it you’re saying that your book and your writing have reached a certain level when actually it hasn’t. Authors who do this are wrongly assuming people are not smart enough to notice. If I did others will and maybe they already have.
I think what really surprises me is that Amazon (KDP) and they’re POD platform (Createspace) do not have some checks in place to prevent this sort of thing. I would think they would keep this sort of thing off the system in an effort to have a show of quality or at least honesty.
Yes, myself and hundreds of thousands of other authors would love to just put “Best Seller” or “Best Selling Author” on our covers. The fact of the matter though is that we don’t. We don’t because we know it would be a lie and just bad for business. Being a best selling author is a highly sought after credential for our resumes as professionals in this business and a major achievement in our careers. Lying about being one is no different than lying about anything else on your resume.