Monday, February 02, 2015

Buying Your Way onto the Bestseller List

While promoting my first book, I heard a story about an author who bought his way onto the bestseller list. Apparently he had enough disposable income to buy a bazillion copies of his book at once, shooting his novel's numbers way up.



The story made me think. I always said that if I won the lottery, I'd continue to write. I would also have continued to pursue traditional publication because that was my original dream.




But as I work hard to promote my current book, I notice that someone with money has a decided advantage in book promotion. A wealthy person could, for instance, hire a top-notch publicist to give his or her book the best chance possible.




With enough money, you could pour big bucks into fun promotional products and mail them to every bookstore in the world. You could take out an ad in the biggest trade publication or put up a billboard in Time Square.




You could even try to get it green-lighted in Hollywood. Although money won't necessarily get you far in the land of dreams. Money also won't guarantee the public will like your book, even if you managed to catch the interest of a publisher. Money can, however, introduce your book to a large number of readers who might not have known about it otherwise. Will that lead them to buy it? Read it? Tell others about it?


But say you won the lottery and could afford to push your book to the top of the charts. What would it mean? Chances are, not much if people didn't seek it out on their own.


What would you do if you won more money than you could ever spend? Would you stop working? Authors--if you had more money than you could ever spend, would you buy up enough copies of your book to make the bestseller list?


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100 comments:

  1. Buy up all those copies? That seem desperate. All right, that's just selfish and stupid.
    Money does buy display spots in the bookstore. That's why the books up front are always from the big publishers as they can afford to do that.

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    1. I think it's pretty stupid! Yes--those displays can be pricey. Of course, the author can have all the money in the world, but it won't do any good when it comes to bookstore placement. I guess they could buy up tons of ad space on Amazon? Not sure how all that works.

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  2. You just put into words what I always thought. My brain is imploding from trying to promote my books on a very tight budget...

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    1. I think no matter how much money you have, you can only do so much. It has to be a good book to get anyone to read it but your family! But people with big budgets do have an advantage in that they can better get the word out about it so it gets a chance to be seen.

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  3. I would be doing a lot of traveling if I had unlimited means. The weather is awful here right now!

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    1. Winters in Florida, summers...wherever it's cool!

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  4. What's the point of making the bestseller list if you wasn't put there by the readers? The same for people who sell most of their books to other fellow bloggers who buy them just to be friendly. What's the point?
    But all is marketing these days...
    I'd open DESIGNING HOUSE OF DEZZ if I won lottery :)

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    1. I think it's sort of like the "love potion" stories. It doesn't mean anything if it isn't free will. However, for bloggers, I think the hope is that the bloggers will like it and tell others about it. I post reviews for every book I read, for instance, which boosts the book's number of reviews.

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    2. yes, but what I meant is that tones of book from bloggers exist only within the blogosphere, and most of the copies sold are bought by other bloggers in the way of support. It would be good if those blogging writers could reach a wider audience, not just other writers. People who would buy because they love not because they just support.

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  5. My dream has always been to make the bestseller list, but I want to MAKE it, not buy my way in. Dreams don't mean anything if you don't have to work for them. Now, I would buy TV and billboard ads and such to promote. Why not? But I'd never buy a ton of my own book and then celebrate being a bestseller when I've only sold to myself. That's just strange.

    Besides, I want to use some money to travel with my family and give my daughter a good life. That's much more important to me.

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    1. I think it's stupid, but I'm sure the author's idea was that once he was on the bestseller lists, others would see it and want to know what the buzz was about? But if the book wasn't good, that plan would fizzle.

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  6. If I had all that money I'd spend more time writing - and traveling.

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    1. I'd pay to have my groceries delivered. That's a pain! In fact, I'd probably have all the things I don't like to do handled by someone else.

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  7. I would not buy up all my books, but I might only work part time so I could finish one of my books!

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  8. If I was a writer and had a book published, even if I had the money to do so, I don't think I would want to buy lots of copies of it to make it be more popular. I would want it to be popular, like you said, because people found it and enjoyed it and told others about it. If I did have lots of money, I think I would still work in something I was passionate about, like in your case, writing. I just don't know what I would do with myself all day at this point if I didn't have that work commitment :)

    betty

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    1. Everyone says they'd stop working but I think we'd all get bored with that fairly quickly.

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  9. That is just dumb and I actual know one who did it. They bought up a ton of their own books, made it to the top 100 of amazon and then went straight back down, because no one cared! Buying your own books does nothing but prop up your own ego.

    Oh if I had tons of dough I'd still write and probably travel some. I'd have to write as it would want to be written and I'd get bored to death lying on some beach all day every day or something.

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    1. So it backfired! I never heard the end of the story. Yeah--a book like "The Girl on the Train" gets attention because buzz builds AFTER people read it. You can't generate that buzz just by your book being on the top of some list.

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    2. Yep, backfired big time and they spent 20+ grand lmao must be nice

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  10. If I had all that money there are a million things I'd do but I'd never do that. So dishonest and just plain wrong! I've always heard about books through good old fashioned word of mouth and I'd hope that's how mine would spread :) man, I'd pay off my parents' house, pay off all our student loans, pay all outstanding bills--buying my own book would not be high on the list lol!

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    1. No, but I'd definitely hire a good publicist and let them handle a lot of the legwork I've been doing!

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  11. I say this knowing full well that I am a reader far more than a writer...

    The world doesn't need more best sellers. The world needs more good books.

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    1. Stephanie, I've nominated you for an award over at my blog.

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    2. Yay. Thank you. I'll check it out.

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  12. It doesn't mean a thing in sales if you are the one who bought the book and not readers. I wouldn't do that. I would hire a Publicist though to help me spread the word about it. I would continue to write as a matter of fact I would probably write full time instead of on the whim now.

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  13. That author sure didn't make much money from buying his books did he!!!!
    Buying your own books is like shovelling your own s****, hahaha. The author's idea will probably backfire. It's also like lip syncing when the DVD stops playing.

    I much better appreciate the way you're going about promoting your books.

    Wishing you continued success.
    Hugs,
    JB

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    1. Thank you, Julia! I'm promoting on a limited budget.

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  14. This is why I think of my writing as a hobby. I have a day job, and I don't want it to be writing. I want to be able to create what I'd like, and sometimes that isn't what's popular or even commercial. So if I had all the money in the world, I'd probably still write, but it would still be a hobby. And no, I wouldn't buy a bunch of my own books...

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    1. I once had a full-time job and wrote on the side. It probably would have legally qualified as a hobby, but it eventually became my work!

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  15. an interesting thought - buy up your own book and send it out to thousands of places for promo and a spot on the best seller's. hmmmm. but, yeah, you'd hope that you had the 'stuff' to back that up.

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    1. I don't know if he sent them out--we do have to buy a certain # of books for giveaways, but we get them at a discount. I buy only what I need to buy to promote the book, though.

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  16. Your summation of the value of purchasing large quantities of your own book is spot on...what would that mean? I realize many writers are trying to make a living at the craft, but I can't see putting forth the effort to write just to have artificially inflated numbers.

    I loved your book!

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  17. What did the author do with the books? Donate them? That'd be cool, if that was the case. If s/he resold them, then that wouldn't be as cool. I don't think I'd do it myself. It doesn't feel earned.

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    1. I'm not sure... If he was smart, he would have sent them out as promo items to get reporters and bookstores to carry it...but it doesn't sound like it was anything anyone wanted to read.

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  18. It's certainly true that money goes a long way. We have this problem in politics with billionaires buying their own candidates. If I were to suddenly become rich, I think I'd still write. I have some stories that i'd like to get out of my system. But I'd do some traveling as well!

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    1. That's a sign that writing is what you'd love to do. They always say that--if you won the lottery, the thing you'd do is what you should probably be doing.

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  19. I've often thought about this one! If I ever won the lottery, would I buy a boatload of my children's book..? Hmmm
    If I did decide to buy a ton of my books on Amazon, I would donate them to lower income kids who can't afford books. But then again, I could always buy them through my company cheaper and still donate. This is something I do often.

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    1. You could also donate them to libraries in schools in lower-income areas. From what I understand, teachers are always looking for great books that will inspire them to read.

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  20. I wouldn't buy my way with that. If I had a ton of money and *had* to spend it on something to increase sales, I'd instead spend it on travel. I already do free book talks to schools in my area, but with a lot of money, I'd expand and visit schools all over the U.S. for free. It would be fun to interact with kids all over the country.

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    1. That would be awesome. You could get an RV and take it on the road!

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  21. Most of the time, the little man can never win

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  22. Stephanie.. I wouldn't buy copies of book. I would however stop working, travel the world and write. If people wanted to buy it that would be fine, if not I'd still write.♡

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    1. Yeah, if you had all the money in the world, you wouldn't care if your book sold a million copies as long as you were doing what you love and SOME people were reading it.

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    2. Thanks for the idea about car pooling... unfortunately Halifax is too small for a lot of these things and Uber has two cars here but I guess they are expensive. I continue to look for alternatives...

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  23. I know I wouldn't stop writing if I had all the money in the world, but I would definitely hire some people to help with promotion/marketing. People with money have the advantage there--it's easier for them to get their writing done when they're not split between the two. Or, like me, working an obscene-hours job, and then trying to market and write, too. Ahh, one can dream! lol!

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    1. That is true, although I was just doing research for an article today and I read an expert's advice to never hire a marketing firm. The expert said they usually split their time between multiple clients and don't put the passion into it that you do...although it couldn't hurt to hire a firm AND do your own marketing, too!

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  24. Even if I had a lot of money, I wouldn't buy copies of my book to make it to the best seller list. I would know that status wasn't real. I'd rather get there because others really liked my book and bought it.

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    1. That seems to be the consensus today.

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  25. I definitely think that having money can make getting the word out there about a book much easier (publicist, swag, giveaways, travel to events, billboards, etc.).

    I think I may have heard about the same story you mentioned at the start of the post. All the books the author bought helped to create a buzz about his books (I believe his friends helped buy some too). Then, with the buzz people heard about his book and the publishing company picked up his next book and the rest was history. He became a bestselling author and didn't buy his own books anymore. I think if I did buy my own books I would donate them to schools and libraries, so they would go to a good cause. I know a lot of authors donate their books and people don't always realize that most of the time they had to pay for the books they are donating or giving away.

    Fascinating post!
    ~Jess

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    1. That is true--I think most of us wish we could go to more events and conferences but we just don't have the travel money (or time off work).

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  26. I would say that man is quite insecure and wants to blather on about his book being #1 but that doesn't mean it's good. It is sad that people who have peanut brains, but are famous, can "write" a book and it sells. I will never forget looking at Vanna White's biography...yup she actually "wrote" a book years ago. I decided to open this book to see what she could write about....not much! It was pretty vapid and sad. I laughed out loud but now can't recall what was so silly that made me laugh. If I won some major $ I would not work at my job any more but I would look into helping out like at the Humane Society.

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    1. I made the mistake of reading Susan Lucci's autobiography a few years ago. I couldn't make it through it. It was very surface-y. You could tell she didn't want to offend anyone, so every story was, "He was SUCH a joy to work with." After about 50 pages of that, I could tell she wasn't going to say anything interesting about anyone, so I bailed!

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  27. I don't think I would. If you love to write then that's the best part of the experience. If you're good and throw in some luck you just may make a name for yourself. The bottom line is how do you feel about your work. I think that's the secret in anything we do.

    Have a fabulous day. ☺

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    1. The whole joy in gaining popularity as a writer is that it happens because people like what they're reading...so if you take that natural discovery out of it, success would be no fun.

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  28. Hi Stephanie! (This time the rafflecopter showed up, so I entered!)
    What a great question! Well, two questions really. If I were rich, would I still write? Boy, I hope so. I think that is what God has called me to be. That shouldn't change because I can now afford anything I want. It's not like writing a lucrative profession either. Unless you're Stephen King or something.
    Would I spend my own money to get on the bestseller list? Nah. I would want to earn it myself. Besides, if I had all kinds of money, what difference would it make if sold a ton of copies? I wouldn't need the money. Hopefully, what I wrote would have merit.
    Happy Monday!
    Ceil

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    1. I think you'd want it to reach readers, but you wouldn't care about the money. I think for someone like that, the goal would just be to add "bestselling author" to his list of accomplishments. Writing isn't a true passion.

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  29. It seems really shady and unfair to buy your way onto a bestseller list. You're not getting there honestly or through hard work, but by cheating. This kind of person would also probably try to bribe a teacher for better grades or rig a contest to win.

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    1. Probably...but what a sad life. Well, except for having a nice house and being able to do whatever they want!

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  30. Anyone who buys their way onto a best seller list is about the sales. Not the writing. The fame. Not the writing.
    Which seems wrong to me. So very wrong.

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    1. Definitely. And you have to wonder what kind of book someone like that would write.

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  31. I truly can't imagine not writing - money or not - so I definitely think I'd continue. It's too big a part of who I am to leave it behind. Just going a few months between books makes me miss it terribly. Oh, and I agree with the others - someone who buys their way onto a bestseller list seems to be in it for all the wrong reasons. Writing should be about so much more than that!

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  32. Rush Limbaugh bought thousands of copies of his book and distributed them to schools. That worked.

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    1. Doesn't surprise me! Of course, he has a name that sells books already, so I have a feeling his goal was to get his views into those schools more than have success as a writer.

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  33. Buying your own book so you make it into the top, sounds like cheating to me.

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  34. Won the lottery? I'd never stop writing! It's work, but it's still fun. It's entertainment at its most basic form--imagination.

    It seems counter productive to buy a zillion copies of your own book. I wouldn't do it. I might buy a lot of them to give as gifts because I'd be so danged proud of it.

    I think Elephant's Child's comment is spot on.

    Good post, Stephanie.

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    1. A writer writes whether we do so to earn money or to feed our souls!

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  35. Nothing but writing a damn good book works!

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    1. I agree! Although someone above mentioned an author who made it work.

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  36. I've never thought about what I'd do writing wise if I had a ton of money. I'm hoping the writing will eventually GET me a ton of money (ha ha ha...) But if I had the money, I'd for sure hire a publicist. Which is totally out of my income bracket at the moment!

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  37. I'd love to share this book with my niece!

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  38. i can not imagine ... i guess when you make millions you don't worry about those things ... i guess you can dream of that way. or maybe remember how you want to be when you get there?? i wish you well ...
    ( ;

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  39. I wish I had a ton of money to promote my books, but I don't. As a matter of fact, I had NO money when Hurricane Crimes and 30 Seconds came out so I relied on free promotion such as blog tours.

    I love your giveaway! Thanks for sharing!!

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  40. Great post! I wish I had money to hire someone to market my books. Promoting is not a part of being an author I like, but it's necessary. I also know word-of-mouth is the best way to sell books. You can't buy that!

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  41. It would be nice to have enough money to hire a publicist. That still might not make my book a success. They say reviews help with sales. I don't know. Just trying to get the word out the best I can. Interesting post.

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  42. If funds weren't an issue I definitely would hire a good publicist.

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  43. With loads of money, that would mean I wouldn't have to work and I'd have more time to write. And perhaps more time to promote on social media. Or advertise. But buying up many copies defeats the purpose--we write to tell our stories to others.

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  44. Huzzah, Stephanie. Money can't buy peace of mind. I'm with you. That author might have bought his way onto the best seller list, but he knows who bought his books. Ha. If I had that much money, I'd find a way to save the bee population, give more money to Samaritans Purse and Beads For Life and also to some animal rescues across the world. And I would write.

    Wonderful post! Schweet reminder, pal.

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  45. You are right--some people have financial advantages others don't.
    Have you looked into Costco? I know someone who just called corporate and set something up. She did very well.

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  46. Stephanie -such a bittersweet and funny post. My nieces and nephews like the little stories I do. Strangely I'm content. If I won the lottery? Open a soup kitchen and shelter.

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  47. I have heard that only a few best-seller lists have a way to prevent noticing if you've "bought your way on." Basically, the sales must come from multiple sources. That being said, I'm guessing the best bet would be to send those copies to reviewers. Though there are only so many who will read an indie author. So with huge funds, buy a publishing company. Then publish it. LOL. Actually, if I won some powerball mega millions jackpot, that's probably closer to what I'd do. I can't imagine a better investment than books.

    But no, all the money in the world can't make a story good. It can buy the time of others who do have the skill, or buy an education to apply to improving the skill, but money itself cannot make a writer. It can buy celebrity, which sells books no matter how well or poorly written. I don't know if those people should be proud of that, but they obviously exist.

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  48. If I won the lottery, I'd still do what I do, just with added perks like traveling. I definitely don't want to be bored, so I'll continue working.

    I'd rather have buyers want to read my book because of word-or-mouth or it looks interesting, not because I bought copies and put it on a bestseller's list.

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  49. If I'd won the lotto, after paying off all my debts, I'd quit working full-time. But I'd work part-time at the library (really would love to do that). Then I'd use the rest of my time to write, market, promote and publish my books. Maybe even take some classes like public speaking.

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  50. I would not quit my day job if I won the lottery, but I'd travel around promoting my book, if I had one. It would be the fun side of my business plans.

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  51. To display a book's full cover on the shelf as opposed to just the spine costs the publisher/author extra money. I remember going into bookstores and facing mine so the cover showed. It actually worked and I did sell more copies this way.

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  52. Money equals influence no doubt, but it has to be used wisely to have successful impact. I read a story about an attorney who paid for a Kirkus review and bought a few well placed adds--if I recall correctly I think she spent about a thousand bucks--and her book became a big seller. A thousand dollars for some of us is a big risk, but if an author feels confident I guess it's worth that risk as it might pay off.

    If you bought a bunch of your own books and just gave them away it might have about the same impact as putting up your ebook for free on Amazon as a temporary promotion. Just because you move a bunch of free stuff doesn't mean you've secured any foothold in the sales for future books.

    Sure I'd like tons of money. I'd feel a greater freedom to write more and feel confident that I'd have the resources to influence whatever was needed to get published. Doesn't mean I'd have a bestseller or establish a legacy as an author, but I think the money would provide me an upper hand.

    Arlee Bird
    A to Z Challenge Co-host
    Tossing It Out

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  53. It would be awesome if we could build huge readership from money alone...

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  54. Hope you're having a great Tuesday.

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  55. I think if I won the lottery, I WOULD have to quit my day job right away b/c I'm a teacher and as soon as some of these parents heard about it, they'd make up some crap to sue me and get the money. I guess I wouldn't mind giving my books a boost! But there are other more worthwhile causes I focus most of the money on. It'd be nice to be able to write full time though :-) Good food for thought!

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  56. You pose some very interesting points here!!! My hubby has a great income and yes, I could spend big bucks on promoting my books. So why don't I? Because it doesn't guarantee anyone will buy my books. Yes, more people would know about them, but it's not a risk I want to take. I'd rather donate to charities that will benefit more. It's a bigger win-win for me.

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  57. Hehe, the photos are funny. The ups and downs of being a writer, huh? Well, I think everything we do has one.

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  58. I am not an author but if I were -- I would want people to read my books because they were drawn to them -- and without bribing them!

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  59. I'd travel the world...and keep on writing.

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