I haven’t picked up a copy of Ted Cruz’s new book, A Time for Truth yet, but it’s on my list. (I always bring a few books on my summer fishing trip, which comes in handy when it inevitably rains half the time.) There is another list, however, where Cruz’s book isn’t showing up, and that’s the New York Times best seller list. As Politico’s Dylan Byers discovered this week, that’s rather curious since it’s sold more copies than most of the entries which do show up there.
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.
Cruz’s “A Time For Truth,” published on June 30, sold 11,854 copies in its first week, according to Nielsen Bookscan’s hardcover sale numbers. That’s more than 18 of the 20 titles that will appear on the bestseller list for the week ending July 4. Aziz Ansari’s “Modern Romance,” which is #2 on the list, sold fewer than 10,000 copies. Ann Coulter’s “Adios America,” at #11, sold just over half as many copies.
“A Time For Truth” has also sold more copies in a single week than Rand Paul’s “Taking a Stand,” which has been out for more than a month, and more than Marco Rubio’s “American Dreams,” which has been out for six months. It is currently #4 on the Wall Street Journal hardcover list, #4 on the Publisher’s Weekly hardcover list, #4 on the Bookscan hardcover list, and #1 on the Conservative Book Club list.
For the Gray Lady to have some sort of editorial vendetta against Ted Cruz wouldn’t be shocking in the least, but when you look at the rest of the political entries on the list that’s a pretty exclusive bucket of prejudice. I mean, if you’re morally offended by Cruz, how did Ann Coulter make the cut? The also can’t claim that they don’t want to promote people running for office or “controversial” political figures, as is explained at Red State.
In 2006, then-U.S. Sen. Barack Obama’s book “Audacity of Hope” made #1 on the Times’ bestseller list even though it was widely known Obama was beginning to eye a national bid for office.
In 2010, Mitt Romney’s “No Apology” was listed by the Times, as was Rick Perry’s “Fed Up.” Both men went on to run for president in the 2012 cycle.
Also in 2010, Sarah Palin’s “America By Heart” managed to secure the #2 place on the list, and while Palin didn’t run for national office in the 2012 cycle, she was certainly a highly polarizing political commentator at the time.
In a later update to Byers’ story he receives an answer from the Times in which they explain that Cruz’s book did not meet certain criteria for such a listing. Specifically, they said that sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases. On the one hand I suppose I could understand that as a policy if it’s evenly applied. It may no longer be the case, but at least at one time the paper’s best seller list was a guide for many people considering book purchases so getting on the list was a huge plus. If you had the kind of money it would take to buy thousands of copies of your own book in bulk and launch it onto the list, you might make that investment back in spades if the rest of the country saw it and jumped on the bandwagon. But I have to wonder how they would know when “bulk purchases” were fraudulent. Don’t the big booksellers like Walmart buy in bulk? Or don’t those sales count until the retailer actually sells them and reports back to the press? And what of the copies which are purchased to sign and sell or give away at promotional events? Do those count?
The truth seems to be that the raw numbers don’t have that much to do with it. One marketing expert who deals with such things checked into the question last year and found that the major best seller lists rarely reflect reality. And that’s particularly true if the author is a conservative. (From The Wayfinder)
Here’s two conclusions he came to from his own personal search comparing real BookScan sales figures to the books deemed by NYT staff to be best sellers:
1. If you happen to work for the New York Times and have a book out, your book is more likely to stay on the list longer and have a higher ranking than books not written by New York Times employees.
2. If you happen to have written a conservative political leaning book, you’re more likely to be ranked lower and drop off the list faster than those books with a more liberal political slant.
I’ll pause here while you all faint from shock.
The final, really depressing revelation in these stories (at least for me) was the raw numbers revealed in the sales columns. The initial sales for a new book by Ted Cruz – not only a Senator and presidential candidate, but one of the most exciting, high profile political figures in conservative circles – only amounted to less than 12K in the first week, including bulk sales? And Marco Rubio’s book sold only half that many in six months? Are people just not reading books anymore? I suppose it’s possible that those are only hard cover figures and maybe a lot of the cool kids are all reading e-books or whatever, but that’s still depressing. It makes you wonder why anyone puts in the effort to write a book on a truly meaty political subject if the only way to make money is to write Game of Thrones or Fifty Shades of Gray.