Pastor reportedly buys his way onto New York Times bestseller list(Read article summary)
Mark Driscoll reportedly paid the firm ResultSource Inc. hundreds of thousands of dollars to secure a place on the NYT bestseller list for his book. It's only the latest story of companies who will work to ensure a book makes it onto a bestseller list.
Aspire to see your book land on the New York Times bestseller list?
With a couple hundred thousand dollars and the services of an enterprising ‚Äď if dubious ‚Äď marketing outfit, you can.
That‚Äôs according to new reports outlining how Mark Driscoll, an evangelical pastor, paid $210,000 to ResultSource Inc., a professional firm in the business of making bestsellers. The result? Driscoll‚Äôs book, ‚ÄúReal Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Friendship, and Life Together,‚ÄĚ which he wrote with his wife Grace, skyrocketed onto the New York Times bestseller list before dropping abruptly off.
It‚Äôs not the first time we‚Äôve heard of, or reported on, this practice. The Wall Street Journal broke the story about ResultSource in 2013, which we reported on in ‚ÄúHow to buy your way onto the bestseller list.‚ÄĚ
"Precisely how [ResultSource] goes about [its business] is unclear," the Wall Street Journal reported at the time.
No longer. A recent report in World Magazine gave a more detailed account about how businesses like ResultSource go about creating bestsellers.
According to the report, Driscoll‚Äôs church, Mars Hill Church, paid some $210,000 to ResultSource and entered into an agreement in October 2011 for the company ‚Äúto conduct a bestseller campaign for [the] book, ‚ÄėReal Marriage‚Äô on the week of January 2, 2012. The bestseller campaign is intended to place ‚ÄėReal Marriage‚Äô on the New York Times bestseller list for the Advice How-to list.‚ÄĚ¬†
As it so happens, ‚ÄúReal Marriage‚ÄĚ led the Times‚Äô hardcover advice bestseller list on Jan. 22, 2012. The following week, reports the Los Angeles Times, it was gone.
‚ÄúThe spike onto a bestseller list and then disappearance ‚Äď as opposed to an up-and-down arc, or a high debut followed by a decline ‚Äď can indicate something other than typical consumer book-buying behavior,‚ÄĚ the LA Times reports.
Here‚Äôs what ResultSource did to land ‚ÄúReal Marriage‚ÄĚ on one of the most sought-after lists in publishing. It started by placing a large order for a lot of copies of ‚ÄúReal Marriage‚ÄĚ ‚Äď 11,000, to be exact, all in one week. And the company went to great lengths to make it appear the books had been bought by individuals so as to fool book sales talliers like BookScan which exist to ensure bestsellers are legitimate.
According to the World‚Äôs report, "The contract called for the 'author' to 'provide a minimum of 6,000 names and addresses for the individual orders and at least 90 names and address [sic] for the remaining 5,000 bulk orders. Please note that it is important that the makeup of the 6,000 individual orders include at least 1,000 different addresses with no more than 350 per state.'"
It doesn‚Äôt end there. Once it rounded up thousands of supposed purchasers with addresses from across the country, ResultSource made sure the payment systems also appeared diverse and could withstand scrutiny.
According to the agreement, ‚Äú"RSI will use its own payment systems (ex. gift cards to ensure flawless reporting). Note: The largest obstacle to the reporting system is the tracking of credit cards. RSI uses over 1,000 different payment types (credit cards, gift cards, etc)."
That‚Äôs a lot of hoops to jump through ‚Äď not to mention money spent ‚Äď to create a bestseller.¬†
And in the case of ‚ÄúReal Marriage,‚ÄĚ it‚Äôs not simply an issue of an author using dubious means to artificially place his book on the bestseller list ‚Äď it‚Äôs also the case of a religious leader allegedly using his community‚Äôs church funds, to the tune of $210,000, to give his book a one-week boost on the New York Times bestseller list.
‚ÄúWould churchgoing Christians really consider this to be the best possible use of Mars Hill funds?‚ÄĚ asks Seattle‚Äôs alternative weekly ‚ÄúThe Stranger.‚ÄĚ
As World Magazine reporter Warren Cole Smith put it, ‚ÄúWhat we‚Äôre talking about here is a quarter of a million dollars that apparently Mars Hill Church spent‚Ä¶This is a very unusual practice ‚Ä¶ I think many people find the practice distasteful if not immoral.‚ÄĚ
Husna Haq is a Monitor correspondent.