The I, Libertine Hoax

In the 1950’s, radio host Jean Shepherd constructed one of the most infamous literary hoaxes of all time. Annoyed with how bestseller lists worked at the time, Shepherd urged his listeners to visit their local bookstores and request a book that didn't exist. Shepherd supplied the listeners with a fake title, a plot summary and a fictitious author. Soon, the nonexistent book, "I, Libertine," became a real bestseller.

WFMU has posted a 1968 radio show of Shepherd telling the whole story.

Via Boing-Boing

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The Best Seller list is still (and probably always will be) broken in some respects. It just counts for that week, so that is why that one guy is pumping the books heavily on TV one week so that it will be "#1 Best Seller". But, who the hell talks about those books even a couple months later, much less years.
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This story reminds me of Naked Came the Stranger:

The book was written by 25 authors who were frustrated that the books making top seller lists really only needed to offer stories about sex, and the sales would come.

So these 25 authors got together and purposely wrote the worst, saltiest piece of crap they could. Each author took one chapter, without really sharing with other authors what they were up to other than the basic premise (so there was not much consistency throughout the book). They even rewrote some sections which turned out to be too-well written.

It rocketed to #1, and eventually the authors came forward out of a sense of guilt from how much money they were making off of it.
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I think Jacqueline Susann, author of Valley of the Dolls, also gamed the NY Times best seller list by going to the bookstore and buying loads and loads of her own book - thereby pushing it to the Top 10 Bestseller List.

Subsequently, the NY Times changed their procedure to only count 1 book per purchase.
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