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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Michelle Malkin's Asterisk

I'm sure most of you remember Barry Bond's alleged shattering of the home-run record some short years ago. Sports fans and stats keepers were either for it or against it for obvious reasons. That is why there remains the ever present asterisk next to the home-run number.

Best selling books are the same in many respects. And when you are talking about right-wing fringe material written by the likes of Jerome Corsi, Sean Hannity, Dick Morris, or Ann Coulter and Michelle Malkin, the asterisk should be glowing red-hot.

The reason for this is because bookstores will purchase bulk quantities and right-wing websites will purchase bulk as well to give away to website subscribers. Just take a look at and you'll likely see a pop-up that offers Glenn Beck's latest nonsensical piece that allegedly is a re-write of "Common Sense".

One, more recent, example of inflated right-wing book sales is Jerome Corsi's work of fiction "Obama Nation"

Several anti-Obama books have recently arrived in bookstores, but Obama Nation is getting the most attention, in large part because it is so inflammatory and is being heavily marketed. The book's publisher has 475,000 copies in print, according to a company spokesperson. In contrast, the first serious liberal book about the Democratic candidate -- Robert Kuttner's Obama's Challenge -- is being released August 25 with a first printing of 75,000.

What responsibility, if any, do publishers and booksellers have in calling the book a "best-seller" when that label may be as fictitious as the information contained in the book itself?

Indeed, the New York Times currently lists Obama Nation as its #1 "best seller" even though the paper acknowledges that sales of the book have been influenced by "bulk orders." Does the paper have a responsibility to find out whether these included large purchases by the author or by right-wing organizations?

But even after all of this, Malkin's book isn't even listed on the current Best Seller List in the current issue of the NY Times. It's not going to show up on the list until Aug. 16th. That's 10 days from now, so how do people like Sean Hannity know this ahead of time?

The New York Times puts a dagger next to some books, indicating that "some bookstores report receiving bulk orders." Among the Times' top 16 non-fiction books for August 24, three others -- Stori Telling, a memoir by actress Tori Spelling (#3), The Case Against Barack Obama by David Freddoso, published by Regnery (#5), and Fleeced, another anti-Obama book by conservative political operative and pundit Dick Morris and coauthor Eileen McGann (#8) -- have similar daggers.

The other major best-seller lists don't have comparable designations, but the sales figures reported by their sample of booksellers can also be influenced by bulk orders.

The New York Times best-seller list, the most prestigious, is based on weekly sales reports from national samples of independent and chain bookstores, online booksellers, as well as wholesalers that provide books to other retailers like department stores and supermarkets. The Times' list of 4,000 sellers is a closely-guarded secret. Other best-seller lists use a different mix of chains, independents, on-line sellers, and wholesalers.

With all the subterfuge surrounding not only the actual number of copies purchased by the end user as well as the list of sellers, who is to say what books are and aren't, in fact, "best sellers"?

More to the point, who's to say what books will and won't sell more copies than Malkin's in the next 10 days. Is there some written agreement between Regnery Publishing and the mysterious list of sellers that this book will be purchased in bulk at a higher volume than any other they sell or their competition sells?

And this will obviously extend to not just other authors in the conservative realm, but it may very well apply to the likes of mainstream fiction authors, biographers, and hundreds of other writers in various catagories.

It would seem that just because you are #1 on the pile that that doesn't necessarily mean that you are a superior writer, just that your publishing house is ready to market whatever gimmick is hot at the moment.

1 comment:

Suzan said...

I believe all of these rightwingnut-written book numbers are fiction.

But we never find out how many are returned unbought.

And the rightwingers buy thousands to give away at conventions/meetings of the easily led.

Somehow, not even "sellers," let alone "best."


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