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.
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.”
So the Times appears to have backed itself into a corner. Will it cave in and start listing A Time for Truth in a manner consistent with the book’s sales? Will it apologize to Cruz and HarperCollins? It is perhaps worth noting that legally, it is just about impossible to defame a politician. But that isn’t true of a publisher. If the Times said that it didn’t list Cruz’s book because its “sales were limited to strategic bulk purchases,” while knowing that this statement was untrue or having no grounds to believe it true, HarperCollins could very well have a cause of action against the Times, should the publisher choose to pursue it.
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.
You might find it interesting to actually sit down with Harper’s sales manager and take a look at their sales outflow on the Cruz book, and then try to go over to the NYTBR and get them to show you their “evidence.” You are likely to find disarming openness at a commercial enterprise like Harper, and a total haughty coverup at what is supposed to be a transparent media company that serves the public.
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.
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.