How some books become best sellers: surprise!

A few years ago a friend wrote a book. She began referring to it as “a New York Times best seller.”

Her book was not on the New York Times best seller lists which, each weekend, give you the top 20 books.

So what was she talking about? Apparently, publishers proclaim a book a “New York Times best seller” when it gets to 35 or thereabouts, even though the books ranking from 21 to 35 are not published in the Sunday book review. (And even if a book makes 35 only once. Forever after, it’s called a “New York Times best seller.”)

I did not begrudge her the claim. But I did start wondering why a whole bunch of right wing conspiracy books, listed as non-fiction, were in the top 10s. Crowding the top 10s, in fact.

Did right wing nuts write more books than left wingers? Did right wing readers buy more books than my own cohort in the left-liberal northeast?

I was dubious.

Then I learned why all these right-wing conspiracy things were up there on the best seller lists.

Today Publisher’s Marketplace had this news–about Donald Trump, as it happens–which amplifies what I learned about the whole right-wing best seller book thingee: these authors and their publishers buy a bulk of their own books from retail booksellers like Barnes & Noble to insure the books’ placement on the New York Times list. That is, they buy their way onto the lists.

This is part of the Times explanation of its methodology in compiling their list:

Sales are defined as completed transactions by individuals during the period on or after the official publication date of a title. Institutional, special interest, group or bulk purchases, if and when they are included, are at the discretion of The New York Times Best-Seller List desk editors based on standards for inclusion that encompass proprietary vetting and audit protocols, corroborative reporting and other statistical determinations. When included, such bulk purchases appear with a dagger (†).

So wouldn’t you think certain publishers wouldn’t exactly “bulk buy” at one store but would buy, say, 20 books from each of a large group of retailers to evade the Times’ scrutiny?

That’s what I suspect they do to get their authors on the best seller lists.

Anyhow, what did Donald Trump do? For one thing, he didn’t have his publisher bulk buy; his so-called campaign did it all by itself. Which means that, for one thing, “Crippled America” (his book) probably isn’t going to get on the best seller list without at least one dagger.

And his own bulk book purchase probably violated federal law.

How screwed up can these people be?

A May 10 filing with the Federal Election Commission disclosed that the Donald Trump campaign bought more than 3500 copies of Trump’s 2015 book Crippled America at Barnes & Noble, spending $55,005. The Daily Beast quoted an unnamed Trump spokesperson saying the expense was “as part of gifting at the convention, which we have to do” but since buying retail copies at Barnes & Noble, rather than through the publisher, would result in royalties, it is likely to run afoul of campaign finance laws. “It may be the case for a candidate to instead donate those royalties to charity—that might be a permissible arrangement,” Campaign Legal Center spokesperson Paul Ryan told the Daily Beast. “But the bottom line is, no money of this $55,000 from the book can end up in Donald Trump’s pocket without violating federal law.”

This entry was posted in Law, suits and order, Politics and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.