Recent headlines report that Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church, is under fire for using church funds to drive his latest book to best seller status. While the practice of an author buying large numbers of a book in a short period of time to game the best seller lists is not new or uncommon, using church funds to do so catches the attention of the media because it brings up the question of ethics.
For those who are unaware, best seller lists are driven by sales data. If an author either buys or has enough readers buy a large quantity of books in a short span of time, he can game the system to propel a title onto a best seller list, if even just for a week. The author can then claim that he is a best selling author having had a book on the New York Times Best Seller Books List.
According to the news story, Mark Driscoll, using church funds, paid a marketing firm $210,000 to make his book into a best seller. The firm did so—possibly in an unethical manner using techniques to game BookScan and others so that it would appear that multiple individuals purchased the books, not one entity, qualifying the book for the New York Times Best Seller List.
I think the question for any author goes back to motive. Is your intent in publishing a book to spread the gospel and glorify God, or is it to bring money and fame to yourself? Sadly, gaming the best seller list does nothing to further the Kingdom of God.
If you wish to promote the Gospel and bring glory to God, then I encourage you to make sure that your marketing techniques also do just that. Believe that God will empower your book to touch people’s lives whether it becomes a bestseller or not.