NY Times Catches On to Rightie Book Scam (Updated)

Righties are apoplectic because the New York Times is not putting Ted Cruz’s book A Time for Truth (cough) on the best-seller list.

The New York Times informed HarperCollins this week that it will not include Ted Cruz’s new biography on its forthcoming bestsellers list, despite the fact that the book has sold more copies in its first week than all but two of the Times’ bestselling titles, the On Media blog has learned.

Just going by number of copies sold, ATfT ought to be #3 or so this week.  The New York Times, however, says that it has standards that include analysis of sales patterns, not just units sold. In other words, the NYT is looking out for bulk sales. It’s going to be harder to cheat your way onto the best-seller list by having organizations buy up your book in bulk.

Or, as Times spokesperson Eileen Murphy explained,

“In the case of this book, the overwhelming preponderance of evidence was that sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases,” she wrote.

This is a scam that’s been going on for a long time, and I’m glad the Times is calling it out, finally. As you probably know already, here’s how it works: Somebody writes a book titled Liberals Are Awful and Will Eat Your Baby. Conservative “book clubs,” think tanks, and other organizations buy up tens of thousands of copies in bulk, making the book a “best seller.” Then they either re-sell copies at a steep discount or give them away at conferences or as part of a promotion for something else (sign up for our newsletter and get a free copy of … ). It’s a variation of “wingnut welfare,” in other words.

Eventually, most of the copies will end up in landfills, unread. But the book is on the  best-seller list, which earns the author a lot of publicity and interviews and television guest spots to promote right-wing nonsense.

Back in 2007, five Regnery authors realized they weren’t being paid royalties for all the tens of thousands of copies that allegedly were sold, and they sued. Regnery was selling the books at a steep discount to its own affiliates, giving books away as premiums to newsletter subscribers, and donating them in bulk to like-minded organizations. Obviously, the authors weren’t making any money on all these books. Regnery called this a marketing strategy.

Sarah Palin boosted sales of her own books with $64,000 in bulk purchases made by her own political action group, SarahPAC. The books were offered free to anyone who made a donation of $100 or more. Awhile back Mitt Romney cranked up sales of his book No Apology by asking institutions to buy thousands of copies in exchange for his speeches

The hosts ranged from Claremont McKenna College to the Restaurant Leadership Conference, many of whom are accustomed to paying for high-profile speakers like Romney. Asking that hosts buy books is also a standard feature of book tours. But Romney’s total price — $50,000 — was on the high end, and his publisher, according to the document from the book tour — provided on the condition it not be described in detail — asked institutions to pay at least $25,000, and up to the full $50,000 price, in bulk purchases of the book. With a discount of roughly 40 percent, that meant institutions could wind up with more than 3,000 copies of the book — and a person associated with one of his hosts said they still have quite a pile left over.

For a while, the Times was marking “bulk sales” books with an asterisk, but now they’ve gone the extra mile and simply are not listing them. If more “best seller” compilers do this, it could kill right-wing publishing.

Getting back to Ted Cruz’s book — HarperCollins is part of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation, note. So far I haven’t been able to find out who the bulk purchasers were. Cruz does have his fans who no doubt bought his book legitimately. But do any of them read?

Update: Here’s another way to scam the system I didn’t even know about.

In essence, The Times accused Cruz’s publisher of trying to buy its way onto the bestseller list by having a firm like Result Source hire thousands of people across America to individually purchase a copy of “A Time For Truth,” in the hope that some of those retailers are on the secret list of booksellers who report their sales to the Times, or that the aggregate purchasers will simply be too high for the Times to ignore.

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