Did This Book Buy Its Way Onto The New York Times Bestseller List?
August 24, 2017 1:00 PM   Subscribe

Did this book buy its way onto the New York Times bestseller list? An interesting read on how Phil Stamper and others dug into a book seemingly no one had heard of showing up at the top of the New York Times YA list, without the notorious dagger (†) indicating significant bulk orders (and usually something fishy).

Here is Stamper's Twitter thread on the subject if you'd like to read it that way.
posted by ODiV (76 comments total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Pajiba story is really good at delving into this.
posted by arkhangel at 1:17 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Someone has excerpts. About as nice as you'd expect.
posted by zabuni at 1:22 PM on August 24 [10 favorites]


Do read the comments on Pajiba. They're delicious and contain more baffling/enraging/hilarious info. And are updating in real time with more.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:24 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


Well. That is certainly magick with a K, no doubt about it.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:24 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Not only did they jimmy their way onto the bestseller list, but they also broke Betteridge's law!
posted by chavenet at 1:25 PM on August 24 [20 favorites]


It's been amazing to watch this unfold in real time, especially when the Blues Travelers made a cameo appearance.
posted by maxsparber at 1:30 PM on August 24 [8 favorites]


cripes she's literally trying to direct the shot from inside the novel

my perfect flowy Lucky's top
posted by Countess Elena at 1:31 PM on August 24 [8 favorites]


It's been amazing to watch this unfold in real time, especially when the Blues Travelers made a cameo appearance.

Oh, Lani. The hook will not bring you back.
posted by AlonzoMosleyFBI at 1:38 PM on August 24 [10 favorites]


I met Thomas Ian Nicholas, the listed producer for the film of this book (and maybe the guy behind the bulk purchases) at a party once. He was on the receiving end of a lecture from somebody who said that his problem was that he was too unfocused, that he needed to pick one thing, because all anybody knew him from was American Pie movies, and there's only so far that that can take you.

He got very defensive, pointing out that he has released four CDs, been in 26 movies, married and had a kid, and considers himself successful. And, fair enough. Nobody wants to be lectured at a party about what you should be doing.

But he probably shouldn't be doing this.
posted by maxsparber at 1:40 PM on August 24 [23 favorites]


I can't believe I actually have a Thomas Ian Nicholas story. I also met Jedward at the same party and complimented them on their clothes, and they seemed weirded out by my compliment.
posted by maxsparber at 1:41 PM on August 24 [19 favorites]


Equally important, this raises serious questions about how the NYT Book Review is tabulating sales and naming their "bestsellers."
posted by twsf at 1:42 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


My theory is that someone, whoever they may be, hopes to use the “#1 New York Times best-selling novel” moniker as a launching pad to a studio deal for this planned film. The problem with that is that studios, producers and the like still require solid numbers before making a call, and you can’t provide said evidence when you just bulk buy some books then never pick them up. Handbook for Mortals, conveniently, has an IMDb page ready to go.
I think this is naive.

I don't doubt whoever owns the book and associated properties has every hope and expectation for its success, but the author of the linked piece alludes to what I think is really behind this effort at the beginning of the article:
Nowadays, you can make the bestseller list with about 5,000 sales. That’s not the heights of publishing’s heyday but it’s still harder to get than you’d think. Some publishers spend thousands of dollars on advertising and blogger outreach to get that number. Everyone’s looking for the next big thing and that costs a lot of cash. For the past 25 weeks, that big book in the YA world has been The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, a searing politically charged drama about a young black girl who sees a police officer kill her friend, and the fallout it causes in her community. Through publisher buzz and exceedingly strong word of mouth, the novel has stormed to the forefront of the YA world and found thousands of fans, with a film on the way. Knocking that from the top of the NYT YA list would be a major deal, and this week it’s going to happen. But something’s not right.
This isn't so much about A Handbook for Mortals and the money it might make as it is about the book it would displace, The Hate U Give, which is about as pro-BLM and therefore anti-Trump as you can get at this particular political moment.

And the worst of it is, I don't doubt the NYT knows what's going on and is choosing to go along with it. It's no coincidence the the new 'book Czar' of the NYT previously specialized in the care and feeding of the ultra-wealthy, and that Michiko Kakutani has resigned.
posted by jamjam at 1:43 PM on August 24 [17 favorites]


Oh my God, I just realized I have a photo of myself with Thomas Ian Nicholas.
posted by maxsparber at 1:44 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Yeah, I feel embarrassed for Angie Thomas, seeing her book being displaced not by a genuine piece of craft or even an honestly trashy fad book, but by Ebony Darkness Dementia Raven Way here.
posted by Countess Elena at 1:48 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


It was a very dark and very stormy night. It's like how much more dark could this be? None. None more dark.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 1:48 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]




I don't see this book on the NYT YA list, The Hate U Give is currently number one. Is it possible they've already pulled it?
posted by justkevin at 1:57 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Latest update on the article has this tweet from Phil Stamper: "Okay, NYT is on it and is reaching out to the booksellers for more info. My work's done here." Looks like they didn't like what they found.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:03 PM on August 24 [8 favorites]


Someone asked that in the twitter thread, and apparently this is next week's list, not the one currently on the website.
posted by tavella at 2:03 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I don't see this book on the NYT YA list, The Hate U Give is currently number one. Is it possible they've already pulled it?

The list on the site says The Hate U Give has been on the list for 24 weeks; the one in Stamper's tweet says 25 weeks. He must have got an early release.
posted by Etrigan at 2:03 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Interesting thought, jamjar, but I would think it would be easier and cheaper to piggyback onto a real release for the week if you just want to displace the no. 1.
posted by tavella at 2:04 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


This isn't so much about A Handbook for Mortals and the money it might make as it is about the book it would displace, The Hate U Give, which is about as pro-BLM and therefore anti-Trump as you can get at this particular political moment.

And the worst of it is, I don't doubt the NYT knows what's going on and is choosing to go along with it. It's no coincidence the the new 'book Czar' of the NYT previously specialized in the care and feeding of the ultra-wealthy, and that Michiko Kakutani has resigned.


I think it's easier to attribute this to complacency than malice. The NYT already has procedures in place to identify bulk sales. The publisher just knew what those procedures were and realized it could circumvent them at least once before anyone noticed.
posted by Etrigan at 2:06 PM on August 24 [24 favorites]


According to IMDB, Lani Sarem is known for Jason Bourne. You know, for her extremely memorable role as "Conventioneer".
posted by tobascodagama at 2:18 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


This isn't so much about A Handbook for Mortals and the money it might make as it is about the book it would displace, The Hate U Give, which is about as pro-BLM and therefore anti-Trump as you can get at this particular political moment.

No, I think this is exactly the dumb scam it obviously looks like, a couple of industry hangers-on trying to shamelessly game the system in order to get money behind their shitty movie adaptation of this spikenard-level-shitty book.

Not that the anti-BLM conspiracy would surprise me, but the shit Sarem and Nicholas are trying to pull here is real real transparent (thanks to Stamper's digging.)
posted by Navelgazer at 2:32 PM on August 24 [30 favorites]


Navelgazer, that was a great link. I shed a tear of laughter.
posted by Emmy Rae at 2:53 PM on August 24


Aw, man, I missed what Blues Traveler had to say.
posted by anem0ne at 3:06 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


I am a YA librarian and I had never heard of this book until this story broke. The sad thing is that now there is this publicity I probably will have patrons asking me to buy it.
posted by Biblio at 3:18 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


What Blues Traveler said was that the author used to be their manager and she was a schemer but kind of entertaining. IIRC.
posted by suelac at 3:20 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


What Blues Traveler said was that the author used to be their manager and she was a schemer but kind of entertaining. IIRC.

Yes, she had given them the run-around; it was a sure-fire way to speed things up, but all it did was slow them down, so to speak.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 3:24 PM on August 24 [67 favorites]


*throws harmonica at Homeboy Trouble's head*
posted by Atom Eyes at 3:29 PM on August 24 [25 favorites]


Oh right, they're the ones who do that song with the harmonica solo.
posted by thelonius at 3:41 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


There is no industry created by man's hand that can't be corrupted by the same. :-(
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 3:50 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


I see how the author cast herself as the heroine and then wrote in a character that she "would describe in a similar way that one might describe Harrison Ford," and I can't blame her for trying.
posted by Emily's Fist at 3:57 PM on August 24 [12 favorites]


For people who enjoy terrible liars, there's also this recent article about a literary con job/long grift. Not as cool on the updates as the Pajiba article, they did such good work.
posted by jessamyn at 4:08 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


According to Publisher's Weekly, NYT is removing the book from the list:

At press time, the New York Times sent a note to subscribers of its bestseller lists alerting them to a revision to its Young Adult Hardcover list. A spokesperson told PW, "After investigating the inconsistencies in the most recent reporting cycle, we've decided that the sales for Handbook for Mortals do not meet our criteria for inclusion. We'll be issuing an updated Young Adult Hardcover list for September 3 which will not include that title."
posted by justkevin at 4:12 PM on August 24 [7 favorites]


Getting an actual book on the NYT bestseller list is not nearly as challenging as getting a non-existent book on the list.
posted by plastic_animals at 4:29 PM on August 24 [4 favorites]


Of note: the reporter of that PW article also actually spoke to the author:

Claiming that she has been championing the title at Wizard World events (which are trade shows focused on comics and other pop culture properties), Sarem said the book landed with a lot of buzz, even if the YA community was not aware of it. And, having worked in Hollywood in various capacities—she has done some acting, and managed various bands, among other things—Sarem also said she has gotten some invaluable plugs for the book on social media. Among others who have tweeted about the title are former N'Sync band member JC Chasez (who is Sarem's cousin).

Speaking about those who have disparaged the title online and questioned how it could become a bestseller, Sarem said: "It's silly to say I didn't know about this book, so how can it be doing well? We should all be supportive of each other." She then added that she has not read many of the books by some of the YA authors who have disparaged her novel on Twitter, but that doesn't mean she would question their success if they became bestsellers.

posted by retrograde at 4:31 PM on August 24 [3 favorites]


that doesn't mean she would question their success if they became bestsellers

That "if" is carrying a lot of weight in that sentence.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 4:35 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Oh right, they're the ones who do that song with the harmonica solo.
posted by thelonius at 8:41 on August 25 [+] [!]

There is no industry created by man's hand that can't be corrupted by the same. :-(
posted by KleenexMakesaVeryGoodHat at 8:50 on August 25 [+] [!]


A simple "your favorite band sucks" would have sufficed.
posted by No-sword at 4:42 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


I have been following this all day wishing desperately that I had not run out of popcorn last week. The sheer chutzpah involved! God grant me the confidence of being JC Chasez's cousin and the bankroll to be able to afford thousands of copies of my own books (although I would, admittedly, spend said bankroll on world travel and fancy cheese, because I am a fan of ethics).

Happy I'm not the only one who immediately thought of "My Immortal." Tara Gilesbie must putting her middle finger up all OVER the place today.
posted by angeline at 5:02 PM on August 24 [9 favorites]


the bankroll to be able to afford thousands of copies of my own books

The thing that struck me was, Did they even actually buy the books? It sounds like the book wasn't very available, so was it in stock in these places, or did they just order it close enough to the reporting deadline that it wouldn't get in before they had to pay?
posted by Etrigan at 5:10 PM on August 24 [12 favorites]


Well. Really they just strategically placed big orders with bookstores. Which may not even have to be paid for!
posted by angeline at 5:15 PM on August 24 [1 favorite]


Not only did they jimmy their way onto the bestseller list, but they also broke Betteridge's law!

Are Millennials Killing the NYT Bestseller List?
posted by ODiV at 5:45 PM on August 24 [18 favorites]


My understanding is that the orders were placed, and no one has said that they saw any orders being cancelled, but they could conceivably be cancelled because printed copies of the book don't actually exist and so nothing has shipped.
posted by quaking fajita at 6:30 PM on August 24 [5 favorites]


This isn't so much about A Handbook for Mortals and the money it might make as it is about the book it would displace, The Hate U Give, which is about as pro-BLM and therefore anti-Trump as you can get at this particular political moment.

I absolutely believe this is true.

And the worst of it is, I don't doubt the NYT knows what's going on and is choosing to go along with it. It's no coincidence the the new 'book Czar' of the NYT previously specialized in the care and feeding of the ultra-wealthy, and that Michiko Kakutani has resigned.

Having worked in a previous life with the people who put together the Times Bestsellers list, there is almost no chance this is true. Reviewers (like Michiko Kakutani) and editors have nothing to do with it. Authors are always trying to game the lists, right-wingers particularly, and the people who put the lists together do their best to catch them. Apparently this time they failed until it was brought to their attention and now they've corrected it.
posted by mrmurbles at 6:56 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


In a way, I'm glad this happened because it brings to light the WTFery that is the Times list. Like, for a few years they had an ebook list that was very easy to game so long as you got a bookbub ad and had a sale the same week. Publishers knew this and self-pubbed authors knew this (it happened, unfortunately, a few months after I had an ebook sale that would have qualified me for the list, damn it.) I had a friend working to get a spot for a self-pubbed title on the list--she had the sales, had done everything right, but oddly her book didn't appear that week (but some ancient book by, I think, Terry Pratchett did appear that week). And not long after, the Times abruptly got rid of the children's ebook list and went back to traditional reporting.

It's pretty clear that basing most of their reporting on specially selected (and semi-secret) indie bookstores (as well as some, but not all, of big box and chain retailers) is a matter of maintaining a certain veneer of literary quality and prestige. Which, fine, I guess, but then they leave up these big gaps that make it possible for people with heaps of money to game it. And like....publishers game it, too. They target mailings and book events to certain stores, they heavily court reporting indies. The Times doesn't even know to track a title unless they've been informed in advance. It's a big messy weird system.

Meanwhile, the public just thinks "bestselling" means "selling the best." Which is...frustrating. Really frustrating.

Anyway, this looked wonky to me the moment this book hit the list yesterday The website turned publisher was a little nothing blog, the author did a bunch of random events with various morning show programs (why?) but nothing in the way of traditional book marketing, and she looks and dresses just like her main character. Plus the book wasn't even YA. Can't tell if that was intentional--YA sales are lower and so it was probably easier to grab the number one spot--or if they just didn't know what "YA" actually means.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:02 PM on August 24 [14 favorites]


Jedward! My god, just how deep does this thing go?!

*Steps back, looks at wall covered in press cuttings, photos and timelines, all linked with coloured string*
posted by fallingbadgers at 8:04 PM on August 24 [13 favorites]


I'm glad YA twitter squashed this scam, but do we know what the objective of it was? Pushing THUG off the #1 slot seems like a possibility, but a lot of the players here such as they are, are liberal D listers like the Buffy old timers, and not Adam Baldwin
Did their politics change? I can see these people as being dumb scammers oblivious to the timing of their friend's publicity stunt knocking a politically important book out of the #1 spot, and I can see them being pawns to some right wing plot, but I don't think they're secret Trumpers. Who paid for (or at least ordered, and put themselvs financially on the line for) all these nonexistent books?
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:34 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


It's pretty clear that basing most of their reporting on specially selected (and semi-secret) indie bookstores (as well as some, but not all, of big box and chain retailers) is a matter of maintaining a certain veneer of literary quality and prestige.

with regards to "specially selected (and semi-secret) indie bookstores"

This is more about not being able to track sales from literally every indie bookstore in the country every week. And this incident is a great illustration of why they try to maintain some opacity around it. At least this way people trying to game the system have to call stores to find out if they're reporting-stores before placing orders with them

(as well as some, but not all, of big box and chain retailers)

they track data from any big-box/chain willing to give it to them. Exclusions are not on the Times side, they're on the retailer side. Not every chain is willing to give their sales data to the Times

I don't know anybody who thinks it's a perfect system, or couldn't be improved, but once again, this is not about bad people being bad, or shallow, or pretentious, or evil Republicans or whatever. Impurely motived. It's about the fact that there's not actually anyplace anybody can look to find out the actual correct sales figures for every book available for sale in the United States every week.
posted by mrmurbles at 8:39 PM on August 24 [7 favorites]


The DeviantArt-circa-2003 cover and other signals from the author's twitter kind of make me wonder if this was a generational/tech literacy issue. Like, looking at that twitter bio I think it's entirely possible these folks just did not know social media would unravel this scam instantly. I'm still wondering who their financial backer was though! Would the bookstores they hit have been on the hook in any way for the thousands of copies of this nonexistent book they could not deliver?
posted by moonlight on vermont at 8:40 PM on August 24 [2 favorites]


And the worst of it is, I don't doubt the NYT knows what's going on and is choosing to go along with it. It's no coincidence the the new 'book Czar' of the NYT previously specialized in the care and feeding of the ultra-wealthy, and that Michiko Kakutani has resigned.

Except it almost certainly was a coincidence, and the NYT seems to have stopped "going along with it" quite quickly once they became aware of it. As in, the official list does not include this new work.

I am in no way a defender of the NYT, having ranted about them on many another thread. But these data-dump lists are way more important to the authors and publishers than to the Times itself. The "book czar" is not wandering the halls asking to see the latest data on young adult hardback best sellers and chuckling at the latest numbers. In general there's no reason to think the Times are going to be paying that much attention or be the first ones to catch an anomaly.

It's the authors and publishers who live in this world and catch this stuff and for whom this can be make or break. The Times staff doing the list is just some office drones.
posted by mark k at 8:45 PM on August 24 [7 favorites]


Oh my God, I just realized I have a photo of myself with Thomas Ian Nicholas.

Or, you know, you don't.

And, once again, the intersection of Goons and MeFis becomes more obvious...
posted by Samizdata at 8:59 PM on August 24


I'm glad YA twitter squashed this scam, but do we know what the objective of it was? Pushing THUG off the #1 slot seems like a possibility, but a lot of the players here such as they are, are liberal D listers like the Buffy old timers, and not Adam Baldwin
Did their politics change? I can see these people as being dumb scammers oblivious to the timing of their friend's publicity stunt knocking a politically important book out of the #1 spot, and I can see them being pawns to some right wing plot, but I don't think they're secret Trumpers. Who paid for (or at least ordered, and put themselvs financially on the line for) all these nonexistent books?


Again, this doesn't look like it was an intentional ploy to know The Hate U Give off #1, but just stupid people who thought they were clever trying to cook up numbers to get funding for their movie.
posted by Navelgazer at 10:09 PM on August 24


Remember the payola scam back in the day? In a lot of ways, despite efforts to reform those kinds of pay-for-play/media exposure systems, the reality now is it's almost all payola and whether that's by accident or design, it's awful for culture and society. Nothing really happens by accident or organically anymore but it's not so much due to any deliberate effort as a byproduct of constant industrial disruption and the gaps in all these different complex systems that can easily be exploited if you've got the cashflow. Notice how often wealthy people make themselves famous just to amuse themselves by hiring PR and "accidentally" leaking sex types. It's all about glorifying the values and lifestyles of the narcissistic rich these days.

Anyway, it will always be absurd to me that most people are in such denial about how absolutely not even pseudo-meritocratic most media success stories are. I'd bet that one of these SOP PR scams happening to catch enough attention this go around to raise eyebrows is probably less common than these kinds of PR/media marketing scams are in general, based on admittedly limited exposure to how PR works in other, similar industries.
posted by saulgoodman at 3:39 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


*puts on New York Times Bestseller hat*

Folks, publishers try to influence the NYT list all the time. It's not entirely a coincidence, as an example, that publishers schedule book tour dates at bookstores known to report into the NYT, with the hope that those (actual) sales will help push a book onto the list. Conversely, the NYT (and other entities that produce bestseller lists) are aware publishers will attempt to influence -- or outright game -- the system and will control for those factors. It's an arms race, basically, driven by the fact that being able to call yourself a "bestseller" is actually a useful marketing hook, and the NYT bestseller list, for better or worse, is the gold standard in the field.

The folks in this particular case were stupid about it, enough so that they were stricken from the list entirely, and as a result have given the NYT a case study to control against: A bulk buy strategy that doesn't even (apparently) require purchasing books. Other publishers will no doubt attempt to influence the list in the future, but they'll have to do it a different way than this; this way is now closed. All that work for nothing.

As others have noted, the NYT keeps its formulation criteria for its lists opaque, probably to avoid gaming like we've seen here. The NYT isn't the only list source its own particular "secret sauce" to formulate its bestseller lists, it's merely the best known.

To anyone who would grouse that the NYT doesn't just do straight reporting on sales, in its defense it's really difficult to get complete sales numbers. Nielsen (the tv ratings people) have Bookscan, which tracks point-of-sale, but not every independent bookstore uses it, and it doesn't track all formats (it doesn't track most ebook or audiobook sales). Recently, Bookscan has tracked usually less than 20% of my own total sales. Booksellers report sales to publishers, but publishers don't always (or really actually only rarely) publicly report their own internal numbers. And even publishers don't necessarily have all the numbers. As an example, my novels in the US have two publishers -- Tor for print/ebook and Audible for audio. They both know their own numbers, but not each other's. There's no central clearing house for any of this data. Anyone putting together a bestseller list lives within that informational universe.

The NYT lists are the gold standard because of longevity, familiarity and because barring a a specific engineered push they haven't already accounted for, they are reasonably good at correlating to sales. But it's possible to sell lots and lots of books and not get anywhere near an NYT list, if, for example, your book sells steadily for a very long time, or if the pie chart of your sales doesn't quite line up with the NYT's bestseller chart divisions (if you sell disproportionately well in audio, for example; NYT doesn't track audio sales). Conversely, you can get on the list with (relatively) few sales -- if you know where to make those sales.

*takes off NYT bestseller hat*
posted by jscalzi at 3:46 AM on August 25 [26 favorites]


I'm sure I'm pubsplaining this to someone like jscalzi, but couldn't they just poll bookstores at random instead of having a list of specific stores that report in?
posted by Rock Steady at 5:35 AM on August 25


This is more about not being able to track sales from literally every indie bookstore in the country every week. And this incident is a great illustration of why they try to maintain some opacity around it. At least this way people trying to game the system have to call stores to find out if they're reporting-stores before placing orders with them

Other lists have historically pulled right from Bookscan (though it looks like the internet is saying that the USA Today list doesn't, anymore, which is a shame). Bookscan doesn't capture all sales, either--like amazon sales and certain big box stores don't report to them, and it only captured 1/5 of my sales, personally--but using wider reporting makes it more difficult to game, not easier. And when there was an ebook list, it was very easy to just track actual sales. But they got rid of it. Why? I'm going to guess it's because indie authors figured out how to get themselves on it with relative ease, and those authors' books didn't fit the profile of what they consider a NYT bestselling books.

(And I say this as someone who leans hoity literary writer these days. But I've done stints ghostwriting other kinds of books and know a fair bit about how people engineer these pushes to get on the lists).

I mean, I love my local NYT reporting indie. They are really great! However, I also understand that the booksellers there get preferential treatment with white box mailings full of books and swag, industry dinners where they meet big name authors and editors, and they're included on nearly every book tour that comes through the area. When Stephen King and his son are doing an event in September--one that will fill a lecture hall at a local college--where do you think they're getting the books for the event? At my local NYT reporting indie, of course, and not at any of the other independent book stores in the area.

Anyway, in the case of this person, specifically, my guess is that it had nothing to do with Angie, or the content of her book. It had more to do with the fact that to hit the #1 YA title off the YA list, you have to sell thousands less than you would to qualify for the top of the adult list.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:18 AM on August 25 [5 favorites]


At least this way people trying to game the system have to call stores to find out if they're reporting-stores before placing orders with them

How in the world does the NYT not have reporting stores under some form of secrecy that would at least preclude some random person from calling up and asking "Are you a New York Times reporting bookseller, and I promise I am not asking this because I am attempting to game the bestseller lists?"?
posted by Etrigan at 6:30 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


So if I'm following all this correctly, you're telling us that the NYT is now using special hats for tracking book sales?
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 6:40 AM on August 25 [10 favorites]


How in the world does the NYT not have reporting stores under some form of secrecy that would at least preclude some random person from calling up and asking "Are you a New York Times reporting bookseller, and I promise I am not asking this because I am attempting to game the bestseller lists?"?

When I had my book launch at a Times-reporting indie, they flat out told me that they'd report there and therefore I should try to drum up as many guests as possible. Which I did anyway, of course, but I didn't have the sales at other Times reporting indies to make the list. :P It's an open secret, from what I can tell. Like publishers know exactly which bookstores report to them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:50 AM on August 25


[Which bookstores report is] an open secret, from what I can tell.

I hadn't thought about it but I guess it would be. I can't imagine the typical bookstore has a culture of keeping trade secrets and they'll have an awful lot of ex-employees circulating who know what's what.

couldn't they just poll bookstores at random instead of having a list of specific stores that report in?

You could but I think if you run through the ways of actually implementing this you'll get a raft of this way too. The cost of polling a 1000 bookstores a week and trying to convince them to give you accurate counts of every single sales for example.
posted by mark k at 7:39 AM on August 25


Why would the bookstores keep it secret? It's in their benefit to be known as a reporting store.

Even if NYT threatened to cut them off for blabbing, if that happened they would...not have to do the work of reporting to the NYT.
posted by quaking fajita at 7:44 AM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I don't think the work is substantial compared to the benefits (like being included on book tours, which means big sales.)

Keep in mind that retailers track sales pretty closely already, as do publishers. It's how authors know if we've earned out our advances and need to get paid.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:55 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]






The DeviantArt-circa-2003 cover

Which appears to have been plagiarized: "Hey can I copy your homework?" "Yeah just change it up a bit so it doesn't look like you copied."

The original image looks to be by Gill Del Mace.
posted by Lexica at 11:13 AM on August 25 [4 favorites]


Oh man, that's just the icing on the cake.
posted by quaking fajita at 11:23 AM on August 25


Except they walked into the bakery, and when nobody was looking, they scraped all of the icing off somebody else's cake into their handbag and then walked out of the bakery without buying anything. Then they went home and smeared the stolen icing all over an unopened box of cake mix and called it the best selling cake in the country.

It's like they learned to bake at Trump Academy.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:58 AM on August 25 [2 favorites]


That old cake vandalism AskMe is one of the true fountainheads of MeFi culture.
posted by jamjam at 12:14 PM on August 25 [11 favorites]


@jamjam Oh man I think I need to read this. Will it be like when you finally read a classic book and then a million little references over the years make sense?
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:53 PM on August 25


Oh, man. Now I'm mad for poor dejah420 all over again. That was just the worst.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 1:09 PM on August 25 [9 favorites]


That cake story! I would have been ENRAGED.

... but now I have a recipe for chai butter cake! Score!
posted by suelac at 2:51 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


This somehow ended* in Blues Traveler's frontman helping to fund a library of diverse books for a Texas high school.

* actually, I expect more fallout eventually, especially at the next Wizard World.
posted by retrograde at 6:22 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


JOHN POPPER: Well, I’m always out there on Twitter, and I heard that this was going down and it involved us. I always try and check our name to see what’s going on, because usually I just like to argue with people. That’s kind of a silly pastime and occasionally it gets me into trouble, and I wanted to see what was going on.
That's one way to look at it.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:25 AM on August 28 [2 favorites]


No one covers good publishing drama like @PublishersLunch. They hold nothing back. Tweet has excerpts from subscriber-walled story about how the author is claiming that she was working entirely within the NYT's rules (false).
posted by Etrigan at 11:48 AM on September 8




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