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February 1, 2010 11:58 AM   Subscribe

Ever wonder how to get a book on the NY Times best seller list? Step one: Set up a PAC. ABCNews and others reporting on the recent revelation that Sarah Palin funneled upwards of sixty grand to a PAC she established to buy thousands of copies of her own recent "best-selling" book.
posted by saulgoodman (126 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite

 
And not to say I told you so, but I told you so.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:59 AM on February 1, 2010 [21 favorites]


This is my surprised face I know it looks like my unsurprised face but honestly I am astonished I'm not fooling anybody am I?
posted by Astro Zombie at 11:59 AM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well first y'all blame her fer not readin' any magazines, and now y'aller sayin' she bought too many books? Liberal media, I tell ya.
posted by sallybrown at 12:01 PM on February 1, 2010 [67 favorites]


There's long precedent for this. "Battlefield Earth", for example...
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:02 PM on February 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


20 years from now our kids are going to say "Sarah Palin once ran for vice-president? And it was a contest?"

(This is assuming they don't say "Praise the lord and God willing now that she is Prophet For Life she will guide us to Armageddon and into the arms of Jaysus.")
posted by DU at 12:03 PM on February 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


Was her PAC called "NewsMax" because I'm still seeing their commercials offering her book for $4 with a subscription, which says to me that either the subscription or the book is so bad that they have to offer an upsell to get people to buy it (ala Ron Popeil).
posted by Pollomacho at 12:03 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


No, but NewsMax is a Richard Mellon-Scaife funded propaganda operation, and since they're all in it together, you have to assume they pre-ordered thousands of copies to get the numbers up.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:05 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Before I get to my thoughts about this (below), let me make sure I'm not making a completely doofus out of myself....is it illegal to have a PAC do this?


Ok it says she directed them to buy the books to send to donors. Big deal. It's not like she bought them to sit in a warehouse. Seems pretty legit that you'd want to send copies as a reward for donors. It's not like her publisher is gonna give her 63 grand worth of free books to send.
posted by spicynuts at 12:06 PM on February 1, 2010


For those who find Going Rogue too challenging a read, there's Sarah Palin: The Untold Story - available at newsstands now.
posted by Joe Beese at 12:07 PM on February 1, 2010


Was her PAC called "NewsMax"

No, I believe it's called JoeSixPAC.
posted by uosuaq at 12:08 PM on February 1, 2010 [16 favorites]


It's not like her publisher is gonna give her 63 grand worth of free books to send.

Why not? Boosting their numbers benefits them as well.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:09 PM on February 1, 2010


It's retailing for $13.50 at Amazon. At $63,000 that comes to a little over 4,600 copies over a two month period. It sold around a million copies in its first 2 weeks on the market. Even if she had gotten them for $5 each, this purchase wouldn't have made much of a dent in her sales figures.
posted by zarq at 12:10 PM on February 1, 2010 [17 favorites]


At $63,000 that comes to a little over 4,600 copies

It is retailing at that. If NewsMax gives it away for $4 what do you think it wholesales at?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why not? Boosting their numbers benefits them as well.

Because it costs them money to print the books, and they don't see a return on that money from donated copies. Publishers are notoriously stingy when it comes to giving authors copies of their own books.
posted by zarq at 12:11 PM on February 1, 2010


5556! 5556! 5556! 5556! 5556!
posted by shakespeherian at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


For the past four or five presidential and mid-term years I've noticed the top of the NYT books list is often whatever crazy right-wing political book recently came out and figured it had to be PACs buying thousands of copies.

On the web, they call goosing your stats to be number one SEO. I always figured having a well-funded PAC help you ascend the best seller lists and get your crazy ideas out in public to be Book Sales Optimization and a way for tightly controlled PACs to exert some money for political speech, but under the radar of election law.
posted by mathowie at 12:12 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Sarah Palin: The Untold Story - available at newsstands now.

"Faith. Family. Freedom"

Never have those words seemed quite so terrifying.
posted by The Whelk at 12:13 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


As zarq notes, even being generous this doesn't amount to .5% of the sales figures.
posted by naju at 12:13 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


This is assuming they don't say "Praise the lord and God willing now that she is Prophet For Life she will guide us to Armageddon and into the arms of Jaysus."

In 20 years our kids will all be Irish?
posted by scody at 12:13 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


I agree zarq and was just going to post a similar analysis.

However, if you have 10 or 20 conservative groups pulling off similar large wholesale buys, it's certainly possible for them to manipulate the bestseller list enough to have some borderline titles hit the top ten.
posted by MegoSteve at 12:14 PM on February 1, 2010


No, spicynuts, it's legal. It just shows how the Right operates: they use tactics like this to stitch together completely false narratives, that then end up being reported at face value by the mainstream press.

The main purpose of tactics like this is to create the impression of popular support for political positions or candidates that don't actually enjoy much popular support, on the theory (which has been borne out again and again in the clinical research, BTW) that most people will change their positions to be more closely aligned to whatever they perceive as popular consensus. So the trick is to create the plausible appearance of rising popular support for some political position or candidate--maintain that appearance convincingly enough for a long enough time and it becomes the reality because many people really do form their opinions on the basis of what they perceive as the popular consensus.

It's just another variation on the old trope about how telling a lie often enough makes it true.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:15 PM on February 1, 2010 [23 favorites]


I don't see any reason to believe her book couldn't have made the bestseller list based purely on the size of her fanbase.
posted by lostburner at 12:16 PM on February 1, 2010


Seems pretty legit that you'd want to send copies as a reward for donors.

Se we are positing people who are so pumped up about Sarah Palin (and literate) that they will send $50 to her but also so uninterested and cheap (or illiterate) they didn't want to shell out $15 for the book?
posted by DU at 12:16 PM on February 1, 2010


Because it costs them money to print the books

Yes, but they make money by selling books. Making a book look hotter than it may have been otherwise is good for selling books. Giving away thousands of copies at a minor loss in order to lock in a contract and bosst a book's image is good for Harper-Collins in the long run.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:17 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


As much as I dislike right-wing astroturfing, this seems a bit off. She bought at best 5k books? I imagine her PR person's list of people to keep happy is a few thousand large. I wouldnt be surprised if these 3 or 4k books were sent out as gifts.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:18 PM on February 1, 2010


Also worth noting that when Hillary Clinton's book Living History came out, Bill O'Reilly announced that the DNC had purchased a hundred thousand copies in order to boost sales. The DNC issued a denial.
posted by zarq at 12:19 PM on February 1, 2010


Also, its amusing on how this meme has traveled. Yes, Id love to believe she really doesnt have millions of fans all over the country willing to buy her book and vote for her - but she does. There's something wrong with the US on a fundamental level, where otherwise educated and good people somehow get trapped into the right-wing hate machine's echo chamber.
posted by damn dirty ape at 12:19 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Se we are positing people who are so pumped up about Sarah Palin (and literate) that they will send $50 to her but also so uninterested and cheap (or illiterate) they didn't want to shell out $15 for the book?

Clearly you've never worked in any business that gives out comp copies/freebies as reward for anything. People will do ANYTHING FOR FREE STUFF. Hello, reality tv. So yes, I'm positing that.
posted by spicynuts at 12:19 PM on February 1, 2010


This doesn't make any sense. Nobody in her family can read.
posted by mhoye at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Se we are positing people who are so pumped up about Sarah Palin (and literate) that they will send $50 to her but also so uninterested and cheap (or illiterate) they didn't want to shell out $15 for the book?

Well, if I give money to NPR, they give me a gift back (unless I ask them not to). Seems like the same idea would apply here -- they give back a gift of lesser value because that _does_ get people to send money who otherwise wouldn't (which is also why my local NPR station, at least, also points out you can not take the gift and then they can use that money on something else instead). This is hardly unusual.
posted by wildcrdj at 12:20 PM on February 1, 2010


Because it costs them money to print the books, and they don't see a return on that money from donated copies. Publishers are notoriously stingy when it comes to giving authors copies of their own books.

It doesn't just cost money to print them. The whole process is not exactly cheap; particularly, even though it was obviously ghost written and not actually by Sarah, I bet the editing still took a whole lot more man-hours than your average non-fiction title.

Publishers usually let authors buy books at the same discount bookstores get, and if the author buys enough of them, they'll sometimes get a further discount on any copies over X number. (Bookstores also usually get that further discount, but only the chain stores buy enough to get it most of the time, assuming they don't just demand the further discount right off the bat and then get it because they have so much market share.)
posted by Caduceus at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Re: Post title

Are you saying Sarah Palin is a robot programmed to love?
posted by ekroh at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2010


It's retailing for $13.50 at Amazon. At $63,000 that comes to a little over 4,600 copies over a two month period. It sold around a million copies in its first 2 weeks on the market. Even if she had gotten them for $5 each, this purchase wouldn't have made much of a dent in her sales figures.

I'd refer you back to the comment about NewsMax. You can bet Palin isn't the only one buying copies of her book in bulk.

As I've mentioned before, David Brock and others have already described in detail how there are numerous conservative-political organizations (including Heritage Foundation, CATO institute, the American Enterprise Institute and countless others) that all essentially act as proxies for wealthy conservative political activists like Mellon-Scaife. Brock, who worked on behalf of these organizations back when they were trying to impeach Clinton, outlines in specific detail how these organizations knowingly worked in concert to artificially inflate book sales for various conservative writers in order to push the movement conservative political agenda.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:22 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Didn't it come out back around 2005 or so that a big component of Ann Coulter's sales was Regenery buying up copies?
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:25 PM on February 1, 2010


The main purpose of tactics like this is to create the impression of popular support for political positions or candidates that don't actually enjoy much popular support

I'm going to see if I know anyone at Dell's publicity department. I play softball with a lot of those guys. Maybe I can find out how many comp copies of Al Franken's Rush Limbaugh Is A Big Fat Liar were 'bought'. Having worked in publishing for quite a while, I'd bet a testicle this is not a 'right wing' tactic. As much as I hate 'em.
posted by spicynuts at 12:26 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Some of the comments in this thread seem to be predicated on the fervent wish/belief that maybe, just maybe, Sarah Palin only has like nine fans, and the rest is astroturfing.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:28 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


I bet the editing still took a whole lot more man-hours than your average non-fiction title

And who exactly told you it was non-fiction, young man?

You're all in it together, I tells ya.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:28 PM on February 1, 2010


Well, Brock (and there have been others) claims to have had his own books hyped in this way, and there have been others.

Also, Palin's book was already on the best-seller list when it was released. When that happens in the record industry, it's almost always hype (as Radiohead has been quick to point out about Kid A). I doubt the publishing industry is any more ethical. But it wouldn't be Dell's publishing people you'd need to talk to, it would be organizations like NewsMax, Heritage Foundation, and others that are beneficiaries of wealthy Right wing activists like Scaife, as well as all the various PACs affiliated with these wealthy individuals and the organizations they sponsor. On paper, they would just look like legitimate book buyers (but you'd expect to see much higher than usual volumes of advance and bulk sales).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:34 PM on February 1, 2010


Having worked in publishing for quite a while, I'd bet a testicle this is not a 'right wing' tactic.

I'd wager it's not just the political books. This is how publishing works these days. Why do you think we have such huge numbers for such shitty books when people are actually reading less paper and ink?
posted by Pollomacho at 12:35 PM on February 1, 2010


Is this something I would have had to be alive in 2008 to know about?
posted by haveanicesummer at 12:37 PM on February 1, 2010


Is this something I would have had to be alive in 2008 to know about?

No, Astro Zombie has been dead for years but was the second person (zombie) to post in this thread.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:38 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Some of the comments in this thread seem to be predicated on the fervent wish/belief that maybe, just maybe, Sarah Palin only has like nine fans, and the rest is astroturfing.

You betcha!
posted by sallybrown at 12:38 PM on February 1, 2010


This story is a lot more interesting than just the book purchases. Her PAC is hemorrhaging money for things like wrapping her book-tour bus, private jet rentals and paying little-known bloggers with hastily registered llcs to "consult" for her.
posted by Biblio at 12:39 PM on February 1, 2010


And who exactly told you it was non-fiction, young man?

I'm just talking publisher and bookstore category. If I ran a bookstore I'd put all political books in the fiction section.

(Actually I wouldn't because that'd be a great way to annoy your customers. If I were super rich and ran a bookstore as a hobby which I didn't worry about the profitability thereof, I'd put all political books in the fiction section.)
posted by Caduceus at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I bet the editing still took a whole lot more man-hours than your average non-fiction title.

I'm sure they saved at least a little time by not producing an index.
posted by scody at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Publishers give authors a discount so they can give their book to people they feel are influential or decision-makers or who didn't get a review copy, not so they can bolster the best-seller numbers. $63,000 can buy a lot of half-priced books. God DAMN.
posted by mynameisluka at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2010


Isn't this pretty common? I remember hearing about some right-wing PACs buying up thousands of copies of "Obama Nation" and sending them to supporters/donators to bump up the sales numbers.
posted by jckll at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2010


Hold on... am I to understand that people are suggesting that the Right in general and Palin in particular, might game the system in such a way that makes them appear more popular and important than they actually are?

My world! It is rocking!

To be fair though, I'm finding that, more and more, groups that employ PACs are The Problem with our system, not the solution.
posted by quin at 12:40 PM on February 1, 2010


Some of the comments in this thread seem to be predicated on the fervent wish/belief that maybe, just maybe, Sarah Palin only has like nine fans, and the rest is astroturfing.

Whether she has some fans or not is not the point. David Hasselhoff has a lot of fans. Probably more than Palin. Do you think his book would make it to number 2 on the NY Times best-seller list on the day of its release?

You should read some of the first-hand accounts on the kinds of PR tactics used today that have come directly from former movement conservatives who participated in them, because it's unbelievable stuff and painfully revealing.

I don't mention this subject because I want very badly to believe Palin has no supporters. Of course she does. And some of those supporters have very deep pockets. I mention it because I don't think people are paying close enough attention to how the game is played now, how much it really is all about manipulating popular opinion through perception.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:43 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


No, Astro Zombie has been dead for years but was the second person (zombie) to post in this thread.

Of course, what with unliving in space, he has a unique perspective. It's surprising how on top of things you can be from orbit.
posted by Caduceus at 12:43 PM on February 1, 2010


I'd love to jump on the bandwagon here, but the premise of this FPP seems deeply flawed.

1. Palin's book, tragically, sold millions of copies. This is a fraction of the money spent on it.
2. Having been published myself, it's pretty standard fare for an author to be able to purchase copies of their book at cost in bulk from the publisher for reselling and gift purposes.

There's a story here that Palin's fund is being mostly used to give presents to her donors and not back candidates like a PAC is supposed to do, but the idea that this is a Best-Seller-List-Rigging scandal just doesn't float.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:48 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Also worth noting that when Hillary Clinton's book Living History came out, Bill O'Reilly announced that the DNC had purchased a hundred thousand copies in order to boost sales. The DNC issued a denial.

Of course establishment Democrats have done this stuff, too (the Clinton's were pretty good at it, actually, which is why I never trusted them). Everyone does this kind of stuff now, whether it's to sell books, records, or politics. It's just a great big unholy mess out there in media land, I'm afraid. That doesn't make it any less manipulative and dishonest.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:50 PM on February 1, 2010


I am shocked...SHOCKED!

On the sunday shows Roger Ailes was dismissive of the reporters books that were critical of Palin, saying, "I guess there's some sour grapes that their book didn't get on the NY Times best seller list."

Oh man... i'd like to serve him some cold coffee... like offensively cold coffee. That's as violent as a liberal like me gets.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 12:52 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


That's as violent as a liberal like me gets.

I'd like to introduce to a few people.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:57 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


More from American Prospect about Regenery Publishing, mentioned in passing up-thread.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:57 PM on February 1, 2010


I'd like to introduce to a few people.

Those people were all Leftists, not classic American Liberals (which is a different species of political animal).
posted by saulgoodman at 12:58 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Those people were all Leftists, not classic American Liberals

Looks like we got one of 'em Islamo-fascist Obamaniacs boy! Get a rope!
posted by Pollomacho at 1:02 PM on February 1, 2010


I'd like to introduce to a few people.

He said "like him," dude. Those clearly aren't liberals like him. They're of an entirely different stripe. And I feel like it takes an active attempt at being disagreeable to interpret his statement another way.
posted by Caduceus at 1:11 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


There's something wrong with the US on a fundamental level, where otherwise educated and good people somehow get trapped into the right-wing hate machine's echo chamber.
posted by damn dirty ape at 3:19 PM on February 1


Here's how it happens. People go to college or not. Some of them take jobs in sales (i.e. working out of their cars visiting offices, clients, etc.). Some of them take jobs in suburbia. You work long hours, and get up early to get into work, so you don't read the paper.

When lunchtime comes, you eat out. Working in a suburban office park is like the first circle of hell, but you get 1 hour leave each day and everyone takes to it ruthlessly. What do you do when you drive? You listen to the radio. You feel vaguely uninformed about the world, but you also feel vaguely stuck in your current position or career path. This breeds a kind of angst. You don't listen to the music on the radio, because new songs make you feel old and old songs are old. Plus music makes the time pass faster. So you listen to talk radio.

What comes on at 12:00?
posted by Pastabagel at 1:18 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Palin's book, tragically, sold millions of copies. This is a fraction of the money spent on it.

It doesn't matter how much they spent or how many books they bought. What matters is they got it into the racks in front of peoples faces. If it wasn't on the top ten most people probably wouldn't have seen or heard about it. It's not revelatory that grocery stores carry compulsive buy stuff near the checkout, including New York Times Top Sellers. What we're talking about is "escape velocity" from the dusty bins in the back and it doesn't matter if it was five bucks or sixty grand. Once you get in front of peoples faces more, up front in large bookstores, airports, and grocery stores; then there is an exponential increase in people buying the book just because they saw it.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:19 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Well, that takes care of February's two-minute hate against Sarah Palin.
posted by DWRoelands at 1:38 PM on February 1, 2010


What's with the editorializing? I don't see anything resembling a link between Palin's PAC spending and the book's place on the bestseller list in any of those articles. It doesn't sound like a terribly unique thing to do, given it's now an acceptable expense. And zarq pointed out above how ridiculous to it is to suggest her purchases put it over the edge. NYTimes marks all bestsellers with recent bulk purchases. Dave Pelzer was accused of similarly scummy things to keep his books at the top, which also ignored the large masses still buying his crap.

This is a bullshit Palin-hate thread
posted by FuManchu at 1:38 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Having worked in publishing for quite a while, I'd bet a testicle this is not a 'right wing' tactic.
posted by spicynuts


Heh heh. Lose that bet and it'll cost you $5 to change your username.
posted by marxchivist at 1:44 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm no Palin fan at all, but all of this irrational hatred towards her does not speak well of the commenters here. Are you forgetting that she and McCain lost? Let it go!
posted by PunkSoTawny at 1:52 PM on February 1, 2010


"Power and the money, money and the power. Minute after minute, hour after hour."
posted by peppito at 1:53 PM on February 1, 2010


Are you saying Sarah Palin is a robot programmed to love?

She's a robot programmed not to know that she's a robot.
posted by Astro Zombie at 1:53 PM on February 1, 2010


Well, all I know is my husband got a copy of it for Christmas from one of the kids.

Autographed.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 1:55 PM on February 1, 2010


Greta Susteren has a huge conflict of interest - I know, I know it's FNC - in interviewing Palin as Susteren's husband John Coale, scientologist, established the Sarah Palin PAC.

Why isn't the fact that Palin is being advised by a scientologist getting greater play? Methinks the jeebus brigade would be none too happy with that connection.
posted by j.effingham.bellweather at 1:56 PM on February 1, 2010


I thought she was a robot programmed to love... to kill all humans.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 1:57 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


When I read this in the morning, it seemed to me that the controversy wasn't "Ah-ha! She's increasing her own book numbers!" but that she was essentially funneling money into her own pockets through this maneuver.
posted by boo_radley at 1:59 PM on February 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Are PACs allowed to just give money directly to a candidate, or are they legally required to funnel it though things like book royalties as they did in this case?
posted by mullingitover at 2:10 PM on February 1, 2010


Or what boo_radley said.
posted by mullingitover at 2:10 PM on February 1, 2010


It doesn't matter how much they spent or how many books they bought. What matters is they got it into the racks in front of peoples faces. If it wasn't on the top ten most people probably wouldn't have seen or heard about it. It's not revelatory that grocery stores carry compulsive buy stuff near the checkout, including New York Times Top Sellers. What we're talking about is "escape velocity" from the dusty bins in the back and it doesn't matter if it was five bucks or sixty grand. Once you get in front of peoples faces more, up front in large bookstores, airports, and grocery stores; then there is an exponential increase in people buying the book just because they saw it.

What in god's name are you talking about? Racks? Faces? The fuck? Her PAC purchased these books direct from the publisher and mailed them to donors. All three of the articles you clearly failed to read said this. None of these books were "up front on the shelves." They were never placed in any bookstore, airport, or grocery store. Your argument makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

And yes- it does matter "how much they spent or how many copies they purchased" because I was making the point that the accusation levied against Palin in this FPP also makes no sense whatsoever. Because like the aforementioned nonsense you just flailed out, it makes people opposing Palin look really fucking foolish.

For fuck's sake, of all the shit that's worth pointing out that is wrong with Sarah Palin's PAC- including within this very story- do you really need to fabricate issues with her? Why are you letting her supporters win by proving their silly argument that liberals "lose their minds over her?"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:26 PM on February 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


It's not revelatory that grocery stores carry compulsive buy stuff near the checkout, including New York Times Top Sellers.

What grocery store are you shopping at that has hardcover books in the checkout aisle as impulse items?
posted by hippybear at 2:29 PM on February 1, 2010


hippybear: "
What grocery store are you shopping at that has hardcover books in the checkout aisle as impulse items?
"

Kroger's and Safeway both have hardcover books in their checkouts.
posted by boo_radley at 2:33 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


There's long precedent for this. "Battlefield Earth", for example...

Does this mean we can look forward to "Going Rogue: The Movie" starring Craig T. Nelson, Gary Sinese, and Chuck Norris?
posted by EarBucket at 2:33 PM on February 1, 2010


They would obviously have to get Tina Fey, and it would be fantastic.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:35 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I haven't heard anything about this, I don't read books.

What you say? It's only cool to say that about TV or movies?

redacted.
posted by ejoey at 2:44 PM on February 1, 2010


PAC?
posted by Eideteker at 2:56 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


They were never placed in any bookstore, airport, or grocery store. Your argument makes absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Honestly, I can't tell if your willfully being moronic or just being an asshole for the fun of it. So let's go one by one. First of all, relax. I could give a shit about Palin and don't spend my time gnashing my teeth over the mention of her name. Second, don't patronize me and say I didn't read the fucking articles. Third, I can't believe you had such a drop in logic that you couldn't follow what I said. Fourth, *eyeroll* I never said those specific books were placed in bookstores, etc. I honestly can't believe I just had to type that out and defend something I never even said.
Follow along if you can here, my assumption is (and somebody please clear this up if I'm wrong) that the top sellers are defined by selling X numbers withing Y time. So if a brand new book comes out and BAM it's on the top seller list, that means it sold a shit load of books in a short amount of time. Unless these numbers somehow don't count towards the total, how is a bulk sale of thousands of books NOT going to help get it onto the top sellers list? My point was, once a book is on the top sellers list the heavy work is already done. Casual readers want easy reads and will buy what is percieved to be, by and large, the best of the pick. Name recognition doesn't hurt. Dean Koontz is commonly up there because he's Dean Koontz, not because every damn book he writes is fantastic.
Did you get all that? Next time just ask instead of the hysterics.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:03 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


Kroger's and Safeway both have hardcover books in their checkouts.

Kroger's is not in my area.

Safeway, none of the 3 locations I've been to in the past year have hardcover books in the checkouts. It's all tabloids and Archie comics and pocket-sized horoscope guides and diabetes cookbooks.
posted by hippybear at 3:07 PM on February 1, 2010


saulgoodman: I'd refer you back to the comment about NewsMax. You can bet Palin isn't the only one buying copies of her book in bulk.

Probably not. But unless the neocon PACS are buying them directly from Harper Collins, we'd probably be aware of that something was happening. The NYTimes bestseller list indicates when bookstores have reported bulk purchases. (That's what the little dagger next to a book's description means.) Glenn Beck's most recent book was the recipient of conservative organization largess, which is why it was listed on the NYTBL with a dagger.

I agree that a good deal of her hype is perpetuated by propaganda and the media not wanting to let her story die. But I haven't seen any hard evidence that her book sales are being propped up by other conservative organizations in such massive numbers as you're suggesting. It's perfectly possible they are, of course.

Also, Palin's book was already on the best-seller list when it was released.

This isn't unusual for highly public figures. She's incredibly polarizing, and I would be willing to bet that most people (whether they were politically savvy or not,) were curious to see how badly she'd skewer her political enemies (including John McCain,) and whether she could possibly resurrect her reputation after becoming a late-night punchline. Also, she's a massive public spectacle, and we Americans sure do love a good show.
posted by zarq at 3:08 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Safeway, none of the 3 locations I've been to in the past year have hardcover books in the checkouts. It's all tabloids and Archie comics and pocket-sized horoscope guides and diabetes cookbooks.

Most of the Safeways, from what I've seen, have turned into Super Safeways so they have their own book aisles but that doesn't necessarily stop them from putting books up front. I've seen hardbacks right up front numerous times in a lot of stores, QFCs do this alot.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:13 PM on February 1, 2010


You can bet Palin isn't the only one buying copies of her book in bulk.

Then where are the articles substantiating this? All we have is a handful of write-ups about how her PAC bought a few thousand books, an FPP that suggests that PAC purchases were made to inflate the numbers, and a few comments that say 'Oh yeah I'll bet a bunch of other groups made big purchases too.' There's no substance to this.
posted by shakespeherian at 3:14 PM on February 1, 2010


Sisterm Mirriam of the belivers usually starts off strong but before long her slow research will more than remove any advantage that she began with.
posted by I Foody at 3:15 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


PAC?

Political Action Committee

That was in one of the articles I apparently didn't read.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:15 PM on February 1, 2010


Even Pueblo in Puerto Rico sometimes has best-sellers in the checkout lanes, and it's otherwise damn hard to find a book down there.
posted by Michael Roberts at 3:19 PM on February 1, 2010


By the way... in case anyone is curious, NewsMax's reported magazine circulation figures are 94,474, which is decent for a conservative magazine, but still pretty low. (I believe The Nation's is highest at about 185,000.) Their website Nielson netrating is about 4.8 million, which is very high. (CNN's is about 20 million, style.com's is about 2 million.)

If they added say, 20,000 readers to their rolls by offering Palin's book at or below wholesale price for every new subscription, (which is unfathomably unlikely,) they still would only be a drop in the bucket to her tallied sales.
posted by zarq at 3:21 PM on February 1, 2010


Nielsen. :P
posted by zarq at 3:23 PM on February 1, 2010


Most of the Safeways in the area I typically visit Safeways, from what I've seen, have turned into Super Safeways

FTFY
posted by hippybear at 3:35 PM on February 1, 2010


it's pretty standard fare for an author to be able to purchase copies of their book at cost in bulk from the publisher for reselling and gift purposes.

Yeah, if the argument is that she inflated her sales figures by doing this, it doesn't seem to fly. Sounds like she's just buying the books for promo use direct from the publisher - not off the shelf - which won't impact sales figures. Now, I'd be curious if her contract allows a third party - her PAC - to buy the books, or if the PAC had to give the money to her first, so she could buy them herself. I don't know campaign law, so maybe it's a distinction without a difference, but it wouldn't smell very good.
posted by schoolgirl report at 3:36 PM on February 1, 2010


Yeah, thanks, I thought that would be obvious with the "from what I've seen" part.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:36 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Why should this post not be deleted?
posted by Bort at 3:41 PM on February 1, 2010


He said "like him," dude. Those clearly aren't liberals like him. They're of an entirely different stripe. And I feel like it takes an active attempt at being disagreeable to interpret his statement another way.

It was pretty clearly a joke, right? I thought it was funny.

Anyway, I don't really care what the excuse is, free gifts or whatever: as far as I'm concerned conservatism is now on the same level as Scientology. I expect to soon see glassy-eyed weirdos from the Palin Org running around LA with dirty rags around their arms.
posted by DecemberBoy at 4:25 PM on February 1, 2010


"it would be organizations like NewsMax, Heritage Foundation, and others that are beneficiaries of wealthy Right wing activists like Scaife, as well as all the various PACs affiliated with these wealthy individuals and the organizations they sponsor. On paper, they would just look like legitimate book buyers (but you'd expect to see much higher than usual volumes of advance and bulk sales)."—saulgoodman

See, I didn't know that.

PAC's being used for propaganda purposes as described in this post, I didn't know that either. I'm not American and all of this is news to me. Those already in the know, what are you crying about?


As for Palin hating - you ought to keep an eye on folks of her ilk, she could have been VP! If that doesn't scare you what some folks with money and an agenda can do in your country...

Ignorance needs to be exposed - that includes how and why publishers pump up units sold, which become best sellers.
posted by alicesshoe at 4:30 PM on February 1, 2010


As for Palin hating - you ought to keep an eye on folks of her ilk, she could have been VP!

Wait, what? I had no idea. Did anyone else know this??
posted by scody at 4:46 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm looking forward to the iPad book store making bestseller list ballot-stuffing easier and more environmentally friendly.
posted by anthill at 4:51 PM on February 1, 2010


Well, it stands to reason. Girl didn't /write/ the damn thing, so she may as well /buy/ most of them.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:23 PM on February 1, 2010


Do we have enough members to make a crazy book a NYT best seller? if so someone needs to step up and we need to try it.
posted by djduckie at 5:29 PM on February 1, 2010


What grocery store are you shopping at that has hardcover books in the checkout aisle as impulse items?

My Stop&Shop in Rhode Island does, for a data point. Not in the actual checkout aisle (if you want to pick that particular nit), but as an aisle cap right next to it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 5:31 PM on February 1, 2010


If I HAD given birth to Palin, she'd have been a lot more articulate. And had better sense than to run for public office with a newborn AND a pregnant daughter.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:31 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Not in the actual checkout aisle (if you want to pick that particular nit), but as an aisle cap right next to it.

I actually did say "near the checkout".

Not that you got that wrong, but I'd thought I throw that out there seeing as how someone else was being pedantic about the specific words I used.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:42 PM on February 1, 2010


I would like to make love to Gov. Palin, because I am perverse.
posted by Mister_A at 5:43 PM on February 1, 2010


Do we have enough members to make a crazy book a NYT best seller? if so someone needs to step up and we need to try it.

I vote we pick that book about Avoiding Large Ships. (Aw crap it's outta print.)
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:09 PM on February 1, 2010


For me, the take home point is this: Sarah Palin spent $60,000.00 of her PAC donor's money on hyping her own book (as no doubt did numerous Scaife-funded conservative book clubs and other Movement Conservative front organizations) and then she pocketed the royalties. When this latest twist in the Palin saga is viewed in the context of the controversies recently swirling around the party-hack co-opted, $549.00 dollar a seat Tea Party event for which she'll be delivering the key note speech, it doesn't look good, and you know, it's all about appearances these days.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:15 PM on February 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


The scandal is not that she's doing this to boost sales numbers: the media buzz, Palin fanboys/fangirls, and right-wing-bulk-book-buying-industrial complex will do that on their own without her help. The story here is that people are donating money to Sarah's PAC in the hope that the donated money will go help Sarah-supported Republican candidates, when in fact the money donated to SarahPAC goes to give money directly to Sarah.
posted by deanc at 8:20 PM on February 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


If they added say, 20,000 readers to their rolls by offering Palin's book at or below wholesale price for every new subscription, (which is unfathomably unlikely,) they still would only be a drop in the bucket to her tallied sales.

No, what Scaife's organizations have done in the past is buy hundreds of thousands of copies of books they wanted to see hit the best seller lists, for "promotional purposes" (you know, whenever The Conservative Book Club of the Month needs a $0.25 bonus selection, or The Weekly Standard or Washington Times needs a book to give away to its new subscribers, or when the American Enterprise Institute throws a thousand dollar a plate soiree as part of a PR campaign to rehabilitate the image of some third-world dictator who suddenly wants to make nice with the West, as Harper's Ken Silverstein writes about). Scaife all by himself has been a major donor to several dozens of the Movement Conservative front organizations, like the Weekly Standard. And the movement benefits from the largess of a lot of other deep pocketed benefactors. (Again, David Brock writes extensively as a former insider about the PR apparatus the movement employs.)
posted by saulgoodman at 8:36 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


XQUZYPHYR: Chill out, my man. Kick back and light up a J. You seem to be taking your opinions way too seriously right now.
posted by saulgoodman at 8:38 PM on February 1, 2010


Do we have enough members to make a crazy book a NYT best seller? if so someone needs to step up and we need to try it.

Heck, a book doesn't even need to exist to get on the best seller list.
posted by plastic_animals at 8:47 PM on February 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


2x what deanc said.
posted by sfts2 at 6:09 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I just want to get something straight for those that don't see the problem with this: if somebody or some group gives thousands of unreported dollars to a PAC or candidate, that is outside the bounds of election law; for shame! When somebody buys up a hundred thousand copies of some crappy book that a candidate wrote, in effect funneling thousands of unreported, laundered dollars into his or her coffers, that is just peachy.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:42 AM on February 2, 2010


3x what deanc said.
posted by ejoey at 7:12 AM on February 2, 2010


what deanc said

Yes, that's great, but do you think those that contributed to the PAC care if the money went to her directly? Wouldn't most have simply written her a check if they could have?
posted by Pollomacho at 8:27 AM on February 2, 2010


Pollomacho: "Wouldn't most have simply written her a check if they could have?"

What exactly would prevent any private citizen from writing Palin a personal check? Anything?

It seems that a PAC is an organization to effect change on some level of government. If you donate to that PAC, you support the stance it takes on some particular issue. You may really like its chair, but that doesn't give the chair carte blanche over the PAC's funds.
posted by boo_radley at 8:43 AM on February 2, 2010


A check written directly to Palin would fall under election law under several categories:

1) for past election debt retirement

2) for a potential future candidacy

3) as governor of a state (it hasn't even been a year since she held office)

4) as the head of a PAC

Interestingly enough, when you pull up some of the arguments that have been made here to exonerate Palin, you find them being made very closely elsewhere.

Here's hotair:

Um … so what? Palin isn’t a candidate for office (yet), and since each book retails for $13.50 on Amazon, that amounts to less than 4700 books — hardly an effort to pull a Dianetics-like dodge and artificially keeping it on bestseller lists.

Here's zarq:

It's retailing for $13.50 at Amazon. At $63,000 that comes to a little over 4,600 copies over a two month period. It sold around a million copies in its first 2 weeks on the market. Even if she had gotten them for $5 each, this purchase wouldn't have made much of a dent in her sales figures.

Here's texas4sarah:

Even if SarahPAC had been able to buy the books at half that price, we would still be talking about less than ten thousand copies -- a drop in the bucket -- of a book that has sold millions of copies.

Zarq:

Also worth noting that when Hillary Clinton's book Living History came out, Bill O'Reilly announced that the DNC had purchased a hundred thousand copies in order to boost sales.

Texas4Sarah:

As Freeper kristann reminds us, the DNC did the same thing with Hillary Clinton's book in 2004 (I am not going to double check that at Free Republic)

Hotair:

Joe Lieberman did the same thing in 2004, when he was a Senator and preparing for a re-election bid.

I'm not picking on zarq here (he's just happens to be the one making them most often here), I just think the arguments are a bit repetitive.
posted by Pollomacho at 9:29 AM on February 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Who?
posted by Smedleyman at 10:59 AM on February 2, 2010


wat
posted by zarq at 11:10 AM on February 2, 2010


Let me clarify a couple of things from a publishing industry perspective.

New York Times numbers only include brick and mortar retail sales. Those numbers do NOT include either author purchases or special sales made directly from the publisher. Other list's numbers generally come from Neilson BookScan which monitors book sales primarily from the book two major distributors, the chains, and the remaining indies. I used to report my own store's sales to BookScan back when I had a store about ten years ago.

If the books were purchased using the Author Copies clause in her contract, she typically wouldn't receive royalties for those sales. In fact, I've never heard of royalties on author purchases. I doubt that has ever occurred. It doesn't really make sense from the publisher's perspective. Those books hurt (saturate) the market for the book. If they were purchased as a special sale, they would very likely only earn her a fraction of her typical royalty. Same reason.

The math here doesn't work. That simply isn't enough money to get her book on any bestseller list.

More can be found here; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bestseller
posted by Toekneesan at 11:15 AM on February 2, 2010


Actually, I'm not as speechless as I thought.

I'm not picking on zarq here

Sure you are. Why else would you have taken the time to link to my comments, and then tried to (I can only assume,) smear me by linking me to a couple of blogs written by Sarah Palin supporters?

(he's just happens to be the one making them most often here), I just think the arguments are a bit repetitive.

And yet you still haven't managed to counter them with anything approaching an intelligent, well-reasoned argument.

Pathetic.
posted by zarq at 11:24 AM on February 2, 2010


But the book hit no. 2 before it was commercially released and hit store shelves. So the book had a nearly 100% rate of pre-release, special order sales at the time it first hit the best seller list?

Don't pretend it's not possible to push a book to the top of the best seller list if you want to, given sufficient funds. It's a practice that's not exactly without precedent.

And another thing I'd point out: Harper-Collins is a Rupert Murdoch owned property. But then, his properties are paragons of integrity, so that's probably irrelevant.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:39 AM on February 2, 2010


I'm not saying it isn't possible. Read the Wikipedia entry which sites the case of The Discipline of Market Leaders. But that was done by going to lots of bookstores and ordering small quantities. That didn't happen here. Bestsellers upon publication are based on the pre-orders at the same stores they survey for the post publication bestsellers. At least they were. The Times' methods are proprietary so there's no way to know for sure.
posted by Toekneesan at 11:52 AM on February 2, 2010


It's all tabloids and Archie comics and pocket-sized horoscope guides and diabetes cookbooks.

Sounds like "Going Rogue" would fit right in.
posted by FatherDagon at 2:55 PM on February 2, 2010


Going Rogue - free crayon with purchase.
posted by porn in the woods at 7:43 PM on February 2, 2010


The NYT Bestseller list is a funny beast.

First, it doesn't account for all sales- just sales coming from certain markets. Some Independent booksellers are very, very influential, and their numbers can make a book a bestseller, even if said title didn't sell more than another title which wasn't represented at that store. It's not at all uncommon for a book that sells fewer copies than another to be higher on the list.

Second, the NYT list won't include a title that a publisher doesn't tell the NYT to watch for. You can sell a million copies of your book in a week, but if the NYT isn't watching for it, it won't list. This happened with Jay Asher's 13 REASONS WHY- which has now been on the chapter book list for something like 53 weeks. Its entire first year, it was selling like whoa, but because the house didn't think it was a lead title, they never told the NYT, who never bothered to list it.

Third, the NYT doesn't care about the number of books sold over time. It cares about how many books you moved during a single period- from Tuesday to Tuesday. If, for example, Metafilter wanted to put my book on the New York Times Children's List this week, you'd probably have to move about 3000 copies. And it wouldn't matter if I sold ZERO copies next week. It's what happens in a single week period that counts. It wouldn't matter if I sold a ZILLION copies at 100 copies a week- it only matters what I sold during a single week.

Earlier in the year takes fewer copies to list. The later in the year, the more you have to sell to list. Again, using children's list numbers- 2500 can get you on the list in January. 4000 can get you on the list in May. 6000 can get you on the list in September. It takes 7500 to get you on the list in December. (Obviously, these numbers change, but these are approximate, based on last year's numbers.)

Fourth, 5000 copies wouldn't begin to crack the adult list. The children's list (with which I am most familiar) usually posts about a third to half as much as the adult list, for each position. There are exceptions-- Stephenie Meyer, Jeff Kinney, Rick Riordan, James Patterson, and Suzanne Collins are regularly selling in the low five figures each week. (10-25k, each.) That's the HIGH end of the children's market, and the very LOW end of the adult market. Sarah Palin would have to have bought probably four times as many copies of her book as she did to buy her way onto the list.

Fifth, Neilsen Bookscan flags bulk buys when they come up. They can tell where the books were purchased, and how many were purchased in a single gulp. It's up to NYT whether to use these numbers in their calculations. As the whole "I'll buy a zillion of my own book and list!" idea has been around almost as long as the list itself, they probably discounted her 2-6000 copies because they were from a single source.

So in conclusion- loathe as I am to defend a nutbag like Sarah Palin- there's no way she bought herself into the NYT Bestseller list with a measly 6000 books.
posted by headspace at 9:30 PM on February 2, 2010


(Also, not relevant to Sarah Palin, but to the way the NYT lists are stratified- the base numbers for listing are relevant to their own category.

You have to sell more paperbacks to list than you do hardbacks. You have to sell more of a single title in a week to hit the series list than you do just the individual list. You have to sell more of an adult title to list than you do a children's title.

Some titles- and no one knows how, or why, are eventually "retired" from the list. If the NYT didn't do this, WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, GOODNIGHT MOON, THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR, THE CAT IN THE HAT, and GO ASK ALICE would be on the NYT Bestseller list every single week.

Personally, I think that's awesome, but I love Maurice Sendak and Dr. Seuss.)
posted by headspace at 9:36 PM on February 2, 2010


First of all, zarq, I'm not trying to smear anyone, really. I looked at the arguments in this thread that tended to exonerate Palin's actions and I looked at what Palin supporters were writing in other sites. I found them to be interestingly similar and I thought I would post that here. As you seem to have taken the most vocal stance, your comments came up most often, that is all, really. I truly, in all honestly, did not intend to single you out and I probably should have selected comments from others as well to avoid this appearance. I was lazy. This was wrong. I am sorry. Your like or dislike of a particular political stance is not a measure of who you are, well, OK maybe if you were taking a pro-Hitler stance, that would be different, but you are welcome in my book to defend Palin if you would like and you shouldn't take my resistance to that as a personal affont.

Now, as to the statements themselves, I don't find them to be actual arguments. Just to clarify what I mean:

Stating that PAC sales were a drop in the bucket of overall sales does not refute the fact that there were thousands of PAC sales. Just as "I was only driving a little over the limit" does not dispute the fact that you were in fact speeding and probably won't convince the trooper not to write you a ticket. Those are mitigating factors, not exonerating factors.

Stating that Hillary Clinton or Joe Lieberman did it too does not refute that there were thousands of PAC sales nor does it make Palin's actions correct. When Clinton or Liberman did it, it was wrong as well, they should be ashamed. Again, just because an action is common does not make it correct legally or morally. It's the old time tested "if everybody jumped off a cliff" trope that countless mothers have used to counter this "argument" by teenagers. Just because the other party does it does not make it right. Commonality of the offense could again be a mitigating factor, but it is not going to get you off.

As to your argument that the publisher would not be willing to take an upfront loss, I think I spoke to that one (albeit perhaps in my poor way). A short term loss that results in a long term, larger gain is called an investment. Harper-Collins would be glad to boost the pre-orders on a book in order to boost the chance that it gets onto the best sellers lists before it even hits shelves, even if they have to wholesale those books to a bunch of PACs. That's just good business. What do they care about the election law ethics of that action, that is for the PAC to worry about.

Finally, the reason I find it interesting that the same arguments come up is because of the nature of the relationship between politics and the media in 2010. It seems that the web and the proliferation of personal soapboxes should have diversified the field, but instead we see astroturfing and repeated talking points (from all sides). This post itself has cropped up on blogs from left to right. We see fake letters to the editors of local newspapers getting cut and pasted under the names of local residents. I don't know where these things are coming from. You could have thought them all up by yourself, that is not a stretch of the imagination by any means. You might have read or heard and absorbed them elsewhere. Hell, zarq, you may be Sarah Palin's sockpuppet out astroturfing for all I know! I just found it interesting that the same things crop up in other web forums and thought I'd point that out on a site about stuff found on the web.

As the whole "I'll buy a zillion of my own book and list!" idea has been around almost as long as the list itself, they probably discounted her 2-6000 copies because they were from a single source.

What if the pre-orders were spread across several PACs?

Regardless, it was a drop in the bucket of sales, that is true. She has a lot of fans. Did the PAC comps get the book listed? Probably not. Did it put money directly into Palin's pocket that might have not been completely ethically put there? Perhaps, and that is what I have a problem with.
posted by Pollomacho at 6:56 AM on February 3, 2010


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