PR firm that buys authors spots on bestseller lists hit with controversy
For a fee, Result Source would allegedly buy enough copies of a new book to get the author onto all the most prominent bestseller lists. This service was specifically aimed at religious authors, to inflate their reputations, and to give them street cred they hadn't actually earned.
But when you're a nonprofit using tax-exempt monies to inflate your own ego, the IRS sometimes gets curious.
A few weeks ago, the San Diego-based firm quietly scrubbed most evidence of its existence from the web. Its website, which previously contained numerous case studies describing the many campaigns it has executed for authors, has been reduced to a bare-bones landing page with a logo and a contact form.
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Curiously, all this comes more than a year after an expose in the Wall Street Journal revealed Result Source’s business model for what it is: Basically, the company requires authors to make bulk purchases of their own books, then breaks those orders up into small increments to make them look like organic retail sales. For this service, authors or their publishers pay tens of thousands of dollars, on top of the cost of the books whose purchases Result Source launders. The total price tag can approach $250,000.
WSJ’s reporting prompted a strong response from Amazon, which declared that it would no longer do business with Result Source. Yet according to the Wayback Machine, which takes historical snapshots of websites, Result Source’s full website was still online as recently as Feb. 3, 2014.
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The timing suggests it has to do with a scandal that’s been unfolding in the evangelical community over the past six months. Result Source started out as a marketing firm catering to Christian authors, and they still make up a large part of its client roster. Several well-known pastors, including Steven Furtick, Mark Driscoll and Perry Noble, have recently been accused of using their congregations’ funds to pay for bestseller campaigns.
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Duncan and others have floated the idea that the IRS should get involved, arguing that the pastors in question have been exploiting their churches’ nonprofit status for personal enrichment.
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All of this seems to have led Result Source to the belated realization that everything it does makes everyone involved look pretty bad.