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Bestseller Bullsh*t: Why You Shouldn't Fall for a Ghostwriter's #1 Brag


April 25, 2024

Future authors, listen up! There are only two reasons why a ghostwriter will boast during an interview that they've written bestsellers.

  1. Ignorance

  2. Deception


In either case, I say shame on them. And I say to you, please don't hire them.


It's Not About the Writing


Anyone slightly familiar with the publishing industry knows that prescriptive nonfiction books sell for many reasons, none of which have to do with the quality of writing.

Take, for example, the bestselling classic Rich Dad, Poor Dad. While it may contain pearls of wisdom about acquiring wealth, those pearls are few and far between, repeated across a string of 72,000 words—all of which your fourth-grader can read with ease.

As a writer, I can't fathom why this book has been at the top of international lists for decades.

As a businesswoman, I understand perfectly.

As I tell the authors I work with, at the end of the day, a book is a product. It's why agents and publishers won't take on any manuscript unless there's a brilliant marketing plan behind it.


What does a ghostwriter have to do with implementing this marketing plan? Absolutely nothing.

Why Books Really Sell

I write book proposals all the time that win my clients advances of over $200K. It's not because I've got some secret formula or a magical pen. Most of the authors I work with have achieved their high status in business and entertainment because they have one of the following:


  • a large, loyal social media following

  • the ability to hire a top publicist

  • connections with influencers

  • a formidable marketing team


All of this amounts to marketing leverage, NOT good writing. A good ghostwriter will know this. An ignorant one won't and will keep flashing their bestseller badge at you.

Besides the marketing, there's also a matter of the timeliness of the book's topic, what competitive titles are already out at the time you're shopping yours around, and how good an author's messaging is—which I'll admit is about the only (partial) credit a ghostwriter can claim.


The Dirty Practices No One Talks About


And then there's the dark side of achieving bestseller status. This involves authors engaging in the following practices:

Bulk Purchasing to artificially inflate sales figures


Manipulating Reviews by soliciting fake ones on Amazon or paying for review services


Exploiting Loopholes in bestseller list criteria, by assigning their book to a subcategory with a lower sale threshold


Paying Celebrities and Influencers to endorse their book


I haven't even mentioned other shady practices such as purchasing prominent book placements in online stores, offering gift incentives with book purchases, manipulating ebook sales rankings using software bots, or launching a book strategically during the period when bestseller lists are compiled.

Run, Don't Walk

I've written many articles about the markers of a good ghostwriter, so I won't go into them here.

If the ghostwriter you are interviewing truly believes that the success of their previous books is based mostly on their writing skills, then they're being naïve, and I say don't hang around to find out what else they don't know.

However, if they are indeed aware of the hoax that is bestseller status and are still bragging about it? Well then, they're just trying to sell you snake oil.

Finally, almost every book placed on Amazon enjoys a brief moment of "bestseller status" until the initial burst of sales levels off (which takes between one hour and several days). Some unscrupulous ghostwriters feel justified in using this phenomenon to stretch their best-seller body count.

Again, I say to you, author, run, don't walk.

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