Selling books online

37 Signals have some social networking inspired ideas for promoting books. One of these is quite smart:

The book got decent reviews, but didn’t sell much until he added a note to the paperback edition. “I came up with the idea of putting the letter in the back of the paper back, with my e-mail address, and inviting book clubs to invite me to their evenings,” Shors explains. That was 200 book clubs ago.

However, the article also talks about a mass effort to “hack” the Amazon bestseller list by getting customers to all buy the book at once. This coordinated effort meant that, with a relatively small number of customers, the book shot up to number 12, attracting the attention of booksellers and publishing executives.

This kind of social hacking reveals how flimsy the algorithms powering things like the bestseller lists are, and how easy they must be to game. It’s worth remembering that computers and software programs are built by people, and the systems aren’t unbreakable.

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