Having a book on the New York Times Bestseller List is a mark of distinction. More than anything, it’s a mark of profitability. But like winning a Nobel Peace Prize–past winners: Yassar Arafat (for being a terrorist), Barack Obama (for being Barack Obama), Al Gore (for being wrong about just about everything)–being awarded a spot on the list may be transitioning into being more a mark of parody or irony than distinction.
The NYT has long been known as a blatantly partisan, progressive publication, which its editors, with varying degrees of energy and outrage, generally deny. Occasionally, some conservative authors have complained about the treatment of their books on the NYT Bestseller’s List, particularly, that they’ve been unfairly downgraded, or entirely ignored. The NYT has always maintained that its listing decisions are entirely based on sales and literary merit. That is no longer possible. John Hinderaker of Powerline reports:
We wrote here about Ted Cruz’s feud with the New York Times. Cruz’s new book, A Time for Truth, is a hot seller, apparently #3 among hard cover nonfiction books. But the Times refused to list it on its best seller list, claiming that its ‘sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases.’ Both Cruz and his publisher, HarperCollins, have denied the charge, and Cruz has challenged the Times either to provide evidence to back up its claim, or else apologize.’
Bulk orders are a common factor in the sales of political books, particularly those “written” by politicians running for office. It is no secret at all that Hillary Clinton did not actually write her several books, or that her political fortunes–and personal fortune–benefited from bulk purchases. In a bulk purchase, a wealthy individual, political action committee, or generally shady purchaser buys, say, 20,000 copies of the book and gives them away to the politically like-minded, or merely warehouses them as a means of driving up sales figures.
Now Amazon has entered the fray, stating publicly that there is ‘is no evidence of unusual bulk purchase activity in our sales data.’ As of last report, A Time for Truth is #13 at Amazon among all books, not just hard cover nonfiction. Other sources that track book sales evidently agree that there is nothing fishy about Cruz’s book’s sales:
As HarperCollins has noted, Cruz’s book ‘ranked high on other publishing industry bestseller lists including Nielsen Bookscan (#4) … The Wall Street Journal (#4) and Barnes and Noble (#7),’ all of which ‘omit bulk orders books from their rankings.
This is actually a significant development. For a major publisher to publically call out the New York Times may suggest that publishers are at least beginning to consider getting their books on the Best Seller List to be of far less importance. Prior to this incident with Cruz’s book, no publisher took the NYT to task so obviously for fear of retaliation.
Cruz, of course, is a Republican US Senator, and among the front-runners for the 2016 Republican nomination for the presidency.
Meanwhile, Tom Lipscomb, a former CEO of Times Books, has written us with his thoughts on the controversy:
As President of Times Books at the NY Times, I got quite accustomed to arbitrary activities at the New York Times Book Review, usually directed at ‘politically undesirable’ books.
I hate ‘bulk sales’ and fake political bestsellers too, and some right wing publishers are experts at it, but Harper Collins certainly has the internal tools to know where their inventory is going. You might want to ask the NYTBR how the bulk sales influenced their Best Seller List reporting on Hillary’s last bomb. [skip]
You’ll also find the NYTBR relies more on self-reporting by bookstores filled with attitude and Harper just relies on boring invoices and numbers. Given the kind of people who run bookstores the results of bookseller attitude are predictable. A heartbreaking story of a one legged orphan in Detroit who became the 3rd string place kicker for the Detroit Lions will rocket up the bestseller list far ahead of its actual sales, while some proto-fascist politician from flyover country will be denied the attention he would get if the thousands of yahoos who buy his execrable book were given their proper due.
Booksellers also tend to be of the progressive persuasion, though occasionally, bits of delicious irony and humor sprout up:
The NYT Bestseller list depends on “reporting from bookstores;” not statistics. Harper has cold, hard, figures on actual orders placed, bulk or NOT.
Make them both show down.
No doubt in my mind what we will learn.
And Lipscomb was right. Brietbart reports:
The New York Times acknowledged on Wednesday [07-15-15] that the Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) book, A Time For Truth, belongs on its best-seller list and gave it a no. 7 ranking in nonfiction, after snubbing it and accusing the Cruz campaign of making ‘strategic bulk purchases.
This after Harper Collins, Cruz’s publisher, and the Cruz campaign took the NYT to task for the omission. The NYT didn’t bother to apologize:
The New York Times backed down on Wednesday without apology while maintaining they did nothing wrong.
‘This week’s NYT best seller list was arrived at using the same process as last week’s — and the week before that. That process involves a careful analysis of data, and is not influenced in any way by the content of a book, or by pressure from publishers or book sellers,’ Murphy wrote in an email to The Hill. ‘Our approach serves Times readers by authenticating broadly popular books through the confidential reporting of a wide range of retailers. In order to avoid compromising that process, we do not disclose who reports sales to us.
Hmm. Apparently the data changed rather dramatically within a week. Surely the NYT wouldn’t ignore Cruz merely because he is a Republican? Of course not! That would be wrong!
To see how the NYT has treated Marco Rubio, another 2016 Republican candidate, visit: